All those interested in gaining more knowledge about the world history will be pleased to learn that in the heart of Austria lies one such marker of historical times. So if you are in this country do not hesitate to visit the Wachau region where the ruins of the Durnstein Castle are found.
While not much is left of the castle, except a desolate image of a once glorious edifice, the location bears touristic importance due to the historical weight it carries. It is said that the King of England, Richard the Lionheart was captured in 1193 by the Duke of Austria Leopold V and held prisoner in this castle, until he was rescued by his faithful minstrel Blondel de Nesle.
Upon reaching the castle, you will first get to see the picturesque town of Durnstein which is surrounded by hills, thus entering into a tranquil setting where all the worries seem to be left behind. While the entire region has a lot to offer, it is the solitary castle which mesmerizes the tourists. It seems to spring from the rocks and reign over the valley. It is impossible to describe the image you are given the privilege of admiring once you ascend to the ruins. A feeling of liberation seems to take hold of your being.
History and Legend
Richard Lionheart did not manage to come out successful in the Crusade and he was on his way back to England when Leopold’s army captured him. He considered that a journey over land would be less dangerous than one over the sea, where there was a higher risk of being captured either by pirates or by his archenemy King Philippe Auguste of France. But luck was not on his side as he fell to the hands of Leopold.
The Austrian Duke was a little baffled about what to do with the royal hostage so he kept him locked in the Durnstein Castle until a decision was to be taken about the future of this inmate. Leopold, in alliance with Henry IV, was planning to receive a huge ransom if Richard was to be set free.
It is here that the historical reality ceases and in its place comes the legendary rescue conducted by Richard’s troubadour. He had managed to escape the ambush in which his king was caught and he fled to England where he informed the people about the king’s terrible fate.
There were numerous attempts to discover where Richard was held captive but none had succeeded. Blondel then took it upon himself to find his master. He came up with an intelligent plan which would undoubtedly unveil the whereabouts of Richard the Lionheart.
He and Richard were the only two people acquainted with a specific song, so Blondel decided to sing this tune near each grand castle in the hopes that his master will give a response. Legend has it that, upon beginning the song near Durnstein Castle, the voice of Richard came through, singing the second verse. The story goes on with mentioning how Blondel came to Richard’s rescue, helping him escape his imprisonment.
But the reality was that the English army succeeded in tracing down their king and that the capturers negotiated his freedom.
Even if the events have been documented and there is an evident inaccuracy in the legend presented above, this makes a good story nonetheless as it stresses out important traits such as friendship and loyalty. Just to understand the importance of these aspects, characteristic of human nature, it is enough to think that the legend has survived the passage of time, being transmitted from generation to generation.
Such moving stories, but also the historical events that took place within the walls of the edifice, make the Durnstein Castle such an important tourist attraction. It is precisely this that urges tourists to climb up the rocky path and admire the remains of the castle, but also the valley below.