Mattersburg in the Burgenland:
Rural Gem with Jewish Roots
The small town of Mattersburg in the Burgenland is anything but touristy: 7,000 residents make Mattersburg a significant settlement, and it offers good access to the spa area of Styria and spas in the Burgenland itself - nevertheless, Mattersburg lacks the tourism facilities that towns further in the north of the province have. The main sight of Mattersburg is a train bridge, sort of a viaduct, 150 metres long and 20 metres high, dating back to 1847. Luckily, the Neusiedlersee is within reach - giving Mattersburg a bit more of an actual attraction. More spectacular sights are the many castles of the area, note for example the nearby Burg Forchtenstein.
Mattersburg can look back on a long history, including a significant Jewish heritage. The town was first mentioned in documents dating back to 1202, called "Villa Martini". A castle that was to be found here was demolished in 1294; instead, the previously mentioned Burg Forchtenstein was built. In 1354, Mattersburg got the privileges necessary to hold markets, the basis for later prosperity.
In the 16th century, the Jewish community of Ödenburg was expelled. Most members moved to Mattersburg - back then still called "Mattersdorf - which led to a significant increase of the over-all population. In 1671, Emperor Leopold I banned Jews from the town, but only seven years later, Prince Paul I von Esterhazy invited them to return - for a fee, of course. Since 1678, Mattersburg was considered one of the seven Jewish towns of the Burgenland ("Jüdische Siebengemeinden"). The segregated Jewish settlement was merged with the actual Mattersburg only in 1902. Today, there is still a community called Kirjat Mattersdorf in Israel, commemorating this era.
Mattersburg from 1847 to Today: Move do Modernity
In 1847, a railway was opened that linked Mattersburg with Wiener Neustadt. As part of Hungary, Mattersburg faced a fierce policy of making the population more "Hungarian" after 1898. Children were schooled in Hungarian, German papers were banned and such. After the collapse of the Habsburg Empire as a result of WWI, the Burgenland became the last province of the new republic of Austria in 1921. In 1926, the village was made a city and changed its name from Mattersdorf ("Martin′s Village") into Mattersburg. Soon after the Anschluss in 1938, the Jewish population was expelled or arrested. Approximately 100 Jewish residents of Mattersburg were murdered by the Nazis, mostly in camps.
After the end of WWII, many of the Eastern European slave labourers of the Nazis passed Mattersburg on their way home; this way, typhus was taken to the city. The years after the war were dominated by fixing damages; only after the 1970ies, Mattersburg started to prosper again and when Austria joined the EU in 1995, started to "re-invent" itself with innovative renovation work of the town centre.
Mattersburg is a county town (Bezirkshauptstadt) and therefore, it plays an important role as a centre for schools, administration and traffic. In terms of
sightseeing, limit your visit to the Gothic church ("Wehrkirche") and note its
Baroque interiors; if you are very bored, check out the park of Mattersburg. Otherwise, nature around the town is more attractive and you will find several
nature reserves and theme routes for walking.
Back to "Burgenland Sightseeing Guide"