Dating back to the 14th Century, Schloss Frohsdorf nowadays is a magnificent baroque castle.
Discover the history behind the famous castle, and learn about the founders, owners, and the different periods which have shaped the Château Petit Versailles until today.
The history of Château Petit Versailles, Schloss Frohsdorf, goes back to the mid-14th century. The site was first documented in the records of 1350 and referred to as “Krottenhof”, a medieval demesne. The name “Krottenhof” is derived from an old form of the German term “Kröte” (or “Krot(e)”) for toad, alluding to the location of the demesne within the marshlands of the nearby river. This name was used for the manor up until 1673. In those days, it was owned by Rudolf der Klingfurther whose relatives also possessed the citadel of Lanzenkirchen. In 1514, Krottenhof demesne passed into the hands of the Teufel family, after several sales and purchases. In the year 1529, the manor house burnt down nearly completely during the first Siege of Vienna by the Ottoman Turks and was eventually rebuilt by Matthias Teufel.
After the death of Matthias Teufel, his son Christoph inherited the manor house and rebuilt it as a prestigious moated castle in the Renaissance style from 1547 to 1550. Only a small part of the old manor was re-used for the new building. Today the massive tower with the former prison chambers bears testimony to this earlier period. The costly renovation would have been unaffordable were it not for Christoph’s marriage to a very wealthy woman, Susanne Weisspriach. Susanne was a rich heiress and she later also purchased the castles of Katzelsdorf and Pitten.
Christoph had four sons; one of them was Johann Christoph Teufel, who inherited the demesne. A well-travelled man, he even got as far as Persia. In 1609, he converted to the Catholic faith and erected the castle chapel that still exists today; it was consecrated in 1613 by Alfons Requensens y Fendlet, the first suffragan bishop of Vienna. When Johann Christoph’s daughter Apollonia became the heiress, the castle changed hands again and went to Hanns Balthasar, Count of Hoyos. This was the beginning of the era of the Counts of Hoyos at Schloss Frohsdorf, it should last almost two centuries.
Johannes Balthasar, Count of Hoyos, had a weakness for the fine arts and at one occasion even welcomed Emperor Leopold I and his wife Eleonora to Schloss Frohsdorf, precisely in 1681. A great party was held on 22nd July of that year, in homage to the emperor and his wife, who even had her saint’s day on this date, and a Baroque opera was staged in the unique garden theatre of the castle. The musical piece was titled “La rivalità nell’ossequio” and performed by Antonio Draghi, a singer, librettist, and composer from Rimini. The libretto was written by Nicolo Minato, the ballet rehearsed by Dominicus Ventura, and the music for the ballet and entr’actes by Andreas Schmelzer. This theatre all in stone has been preserved in the form of a shell grotto with a cellar and several ancillary rooms. Apart from the stone theatre of Hellbrunn in Salzburg, it is the only one of its kind in Austria. In front of this theatre were an open-air stage and two staircases, and the viewers sat outdoors.
In 1683, the castle burnt down again during the second siege of Vienna, and thus lost its defensive character.
Around 1715, the subsequent owner Ernst Ludwig, Count of Hoyos, had transformed the Renaissance style moated castle into a splendid Baroque palace, based on drawings by Johannes Fischer von Erlach. From this point onward, Frohsdorf became a centre of social, musical, and intellectual life. The castle was refurbished to the greatest luxury, a precious collection of paintings – among others by Titian – adorned the state rooms. Fountains were installed in the park; one of them was recently rediscovered and reactivated. Another owner from the Hoyos family, Count Johann Ernst von Hoyos, founded the first battalion of the reserve forces of Austria. He neither found the time nor money to safeguard his lands. As a result, Schloss Frohsdorf was pillaged and severely damaged during the Napoleonic wars in the early 19th century.
When Napoleon’s youngest sister Caroline Bonaparte, Queen of Naples, purchased the castle, it was bound to see better days. She bought Frohsdorf for 400 000 livres d’or and had it splendidly refurbished and restored. On her flight from Naples, the countess had brought five vessels with her, filled with precious luxury items, absolute gems of art history. These treasures included works by Lorenzo Lotto, Paolo Veronese, or Tintoretto.
The subsequent owner of the castle, Marie Thérèse Charlotte de Bourbon, a daughter of the French royal couple Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette and a niece of Maria Theresia, continued to live in prison in Paris until the Austrian dynasty managed to exchange her for a French prisoner in 1795, after her parents had been executed in the French Revolution. From then on, Countess Manes, as she called herself in Austria, lived at the court of Francis I for a while.
She got married in 1799 to her cousin Louis-Antoine de Bourbon, Duke of Angoulême. However, their marriage remained childless and the couple adopted her nephew Henry V, Count of Chambord and Duke of Bordeaux, at a very early stage. Marie Thérèse was supposed to prepare him for ascension to the French throne. After the duke of Angoulême deceased in 1844, the duchess purchased Schloss Frohsdorf for herself. The Bourbon ownership of Schloss Frohsdorf had a very positive effect on the life of the nearby village: Marie Thérèse Charlotte was very much involved in its social life, and particularly fostered schools. She died on 19th October 1851 at Schloss Frohsdorf.
After her death in 1851, the Count of Chambord (educated by the duchess, and meanwhile married with Maria Theresia Beatrice, Archduchess of Austria-Este since 1846) became the rightful heir to the castle and the overall estate. He brought to a successful end what his aunt had begun, finishing the monastery and school building for girls in 1854, and additionally erecting a school for boys in Frohsdorf. His generosity made him and his wife very popular with the regional population. Countless royalists in France followed the Count of Chambord, and soon a French colony and exile government was installed. The count’s wealth enabled him to lead a sumptuous courtly life in Frohsdorf. Many local residents found work and pay at the castle. The Count of Chambord had around 80 servants who stayed in the castle even at old age and received a lifelong pension. Also their children were educated and taught the French language at the count’s expense.
In 1873, the Count of Chambord was appointed to become King of France. However, he refused to take the oath of allegiance on the tricolour flag, so the coronation never took place and the comital couple spent the summer months at Schloss Frohsdorf (the winter residences being Gorizia and Venice). A passionate hunter, he dedicated the last years of his life to his hobby. When he fell severely ill, Saint John Don Bosco was called to Frohsdorf, in order to pray for his health. After a short period of improvement, he eventually died in 1883 and was buried in the family tomb at Gorizia.
His wife, the Countess of Chambord, carried on with his social engagement and was ready to enlarge the school for boys at Lanzenkirchen. She died soon after the foundation stone was laid in 1886. The demesne was then bequeathed to Don Jaime de Bourbon. His parents, Don Carlos, the duke of Madrid, and Margaret of Parma, received the right of use for the castle. Robert of Parma, a nephew of the Countess of Chambord, was installed as heir of all financial means and movable goods. He completed the new boys’ school building at Lanzenkirchen and was a great benefactor of the village. One of his 23 children from two marriages was Zita of Parma (1892-1989), who was to be Austria’s last empress.
Following the death of his parents, Don Jaime moved to the castle himself. After a costly renovation, the castle chapel was used for Sunday service. Don Jaime died childless and wifeless in 1931 and bequeathed Schloss Frohsdorf to his sister Beatrice de Bourbon, who in turn sold it in April 1941 to the Deutsche Reichspost.
The German Postal Service used the castle as a recreation home for post officers, their mothers and wives.
In 1945 the castle was taken by the Russian occupation forces and heavily damaged. After the Russian troops had left the country in 1955, Schloss Frohsdorf was refurbished from 1961 to 1968. Thereafter, it was used as a school and boarding home for apprentices training as telecommunications technicians.
In 1970 the roof truss of the castle was destroyed after a lightning sparked a fire; it had to be renovated.
The castle chapel was reopened to the public on the centenary of the death of Don Bosco. In subsequent years, services were held there at church fairs and some cultural events took place in the state rooms of the castle.
Since 2004, the building and estate have been owned by Frohsdorf Immobilien AG.
The castle was renovated in the style of a Baroque palace from 2005 to 2015, and is currently for rent as a luxury resort and for various events.