Neunkirchen in Lower Austria:
Industrial Town with Historic Core
Neunkirchen is a town in Lower Austria, south of Vienna and not too far from Wiener Neustadt. It has a population of approximately 12,000 residents. Within Austria, Neunkirchen is usually regarded to be a significant settlement due to its industries. This is the main reason why Neunkirchen is ignored by domestic and international tourists alike – which is somewhat unfair, since historic town and industrial / commercial areas are fairly well segregated. Neunkirchen itself has its charming sides, fed by its centuries of history before the town turned into an economic powerhouse for Lower Austria. Neunkirchen is also a county town (Bezirkshauptstadt), which makes it not only an economic, but also an administrative and educational centre for the region.
In terms of sightseeing attractions, start your tour with the Heimatmuseum or town museum. Other museums (of local interest) are the Motorradmuseum or motorcycle museum and the Kulturzentrum Am Stiergraben, which is a combination of community centre and exhibition venue.
More appealing might be the parish church of Maria Himmelfahrt, a highly unusual church with thick, fortress-like walls. The written record for the church dates back to 1094. The previously existing Romanesque parish church was very large and small parts of it are preserved today. The current church mostly dates back to the 14th century. In the 16th century, the parish church was fortified and served as a bastion against the advancing Turks throughout this and the following two centuries. Since 1548, the Counts of Hoyos were the landlords of Neunkirchen and its parish church.
Key-Attractions of Neunkirchen
It was the Hoyos family who donated the Rococo interiors of the parish church, thereby messing up the composition even more. In 1630, Count Hans Balthasar von Hoyos endowed a Minorite monastery in Neunkirchen. Instead of building a monastic church, the Minorite monks used the parish church and only built a convent. After a devastating fire in 1907, the parish church was refurbished and altered slightly. The four bells (a fairly high number for an "ordinary" parish church) were crated in 1951.
The Rathaus City Hall is testimony for a Historicist crime of 1889. The former Baroque building was demolished and a pompous, new Rathaus was built in the state of the day. Luckily, a bomb hit the building in the course of WWII and left only ruins. It was re-built between 1948 and 1950, the architect in charge was Leo Kammel. There is a sgraffito painting by Karl Steiner and Fritz Weninger.
Note also the Pestsäule or Trinity Column. It is 14 metres high and was built to commemorate the victims of an epidemic of the bubonic plague in 1713. The artists Michael Hackhofer and Andreas Schellauf built the column until 1725. A very significant Lutheran church was built in 1862 by the architect Hans Petschnig, who drew inspirations from brick churches of Northern Germany. The market square of Neunkirchen and Holzplatz square is worth a walk, it comes with a nice array of 17th and 18th century town houses.
Green Attractions of Neunkirchen: Parks & Beyond
For green attractions, see the Stadtpark, which was opened in 1903, the Spitalspark or the Peterswald, a wood with hiking and jogging paths. Neunkirchen has four cemeteries: One for the city (Stadtfriedhof), one for its surroundings (Landgemeindefriedhof), a Jewish cemetery (historic) and a Soviet one (obviously, also historic – for soldiers and POWs of WWII).
Finally, let me say a few brief words on the history of Neunkirchen: The area around modern Neunkirchen has been populated since Neolithic days; the Romans made it a prosperous trade region, which connected the Danube area with the Alps. In the early Middle Ages, a settlement with a parish church developed and was called "bei der niuwen kirchen" ("at the new church") – the link with the contemporary name Neunkirchen is obvious. In the Middle Ages, Neunkirchen had market and minting privileges, but these were deferred to Wiener Neustadt after its foundations (do read my article on this town – the circumstances of its foundation are fun).
Modern & Recent History of Neunkirchen
Despite of a hard position against Wiener Neustadt, Neunkirchen did pretty well under the guidance of the Hoyos family, note the foundation of the Minorite monastery in the 1630ies. The church was fortified (see above), but nonetheless, Neunkirchen sacked and severely damaged by the Turks in 1683. The fixed church and convent were among the few buildings that survived a great fire in 1752. The 18th century was shaped by epidemics of the bubonic plague (once again, see above). In the 19th century, Viennese and Swiss entrepreneurs discovered Neunkirchen and many factories were founded.
Especially in the second half of the 19th century, the town expanded like crazy. In 1920, Neunkirchen was elevated to the rank of a city. Despite of severe damages to the infrastructure as a result of WWII and Soviet occupation, Neunkirchen recovered rapidly after 1955. Today, the area – including Wiener Neustadt – is not only among the most densely populated in Austria, but also economically highly successful.