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Richard Lionheart: Duernstein Ruin, Austria

Richard Lionheart in Austria and Duernstein

Richard Lionheart: King of Crusaders

The story of Richard Lionheart reaches from England to the Middle East. This page recalls his time in Austria and provides travel tips for Dürnstein in Wachau Valley.

Richard’s Austrian Adventure

Richard Lionheart, contemporary imageRichard Lionheart. In December 1192, Richard returned from his Third Crusade. He was exhausted from a long power struggle with his father Henry II and from bloody revolts in his French territories. During his battle in the Holy Land, one of his opponents was Duke Leopold V of Austria. Going back, Richard became shipwrecked at Aquileia in the Northern Adriatic.

He was forced to return on the European continent, and had to cross Austria.

Richard went disguised as a Knight Templar. However, he was eventually captured by supporters of Duke Leopold. They captured him in a tavern in the 3rd district, Erdberg (Erdbergstrasse 41/ Schwalbengasse 17). His king-like behaviour had been spotted. However, it was not Leopold who pulled

the strings behind this capture. He acted on behalf of Roman-German Emperor Henry VI, and King Philipp August of France. The two rulers had a series of political motives and wanted revenge for some incidents during the Crusades.

Richard Lionheart: capture in ViennaRichard Lionheart was supported by his subordinates and the Pope in Rome. Emperor Henry VI and French King Philipp II were among his most powerful enemies.

The ransom for Richard Lionheart was handsome: Emperor Henry VI received some 12 tons of silver, along with a series of politically motivated deals, in exchange for Richard. Historians assume that in addition, Count Leopold V received around 11 tons of silver for his service.

After the treaty was signed, Emperor Henry’s men transferred Richard Lionheart to German Trifels Castle in Western Germany (Rhineland-Pfalz). He continued his imprisonment there. Richard himself rejected all clauses of the treaty. Eventually, his enemy King Philipp II offered to pay and fulfill the treaty in exchange for Richard. Finally, Richard’s mother Eleonore of Aquitaine made the ransom was made available. She had sold all of Richard’s goods and more to fund the huge sum.

Visit Dürnstein Prison In Wachau Valley

Richard Lionheart: Duernstein ruinRichard Lionheart. Nowadays, the Lionheart legend is alive in Dürnstein, a tiny village on the Danube in Wachau Valley (Austria). Richard Lionheart had been imprisoned there for 14 months. I have visited the ruin of Dürnstein castle several times. If you take a brisk walk, you take 15 and 20 minutes to arrive. The historic atmosphere is amazing. On top, you get an excellent view over UNESCO World Heritage Site Wachau and the Danube.

Day trips from Vienna: Wachau Valley tour (small group mini van, wine tasting); Wachau tour (wine tasting and bike tour)

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