Today an important industrial base and centre of communication, Wiener Neustadt in southern Lower Austria can boast of having once been an imperial residence. Emperor Frederick III made the city his favourite seat.
Wiener Neustadt was founded by the Babenbergs and in the Middle Ages belonged to Styria. Frederick III, a scion of the Styrian line of the Habsburgs, may justifiably be called the second founder of the city: under his rule Wiener Neustadt experienced a huge upswing.
He preferred Wiener Neustadt as his residence because in Vienna he was confronted by fierce resistance from the citizenry. In commemoration of the loyalty of the Wiener Neustadt citizenry, the city named itself the ‘Allzeit getreue’ – the forever loyal city. From the time of Frederick’s coronation in 1452 to his death in 1493, Wiener Neustadt was the official residence of the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.
Numerous projects were undertaken to underscore the city’s new significance, one of which was the extension of the old Babenberg citadel. The most important monument of Frederick III’s era in the vicinity of the castle is the Church of St George with the famous armorial wall. Furthermore, Frederick enhanced the standing of the city by elevating Wiener Neustadt to a bishopric in 1469. A miniature diocese was formed, encompassing no more than the city itself. The former city parish church (‘Liebfrauenkirche’ – the Church of Our Lady) now became a cathedral and was opulently refurbished.
Another foundation of Frederick’s was the Neukloster, an unusual (because of its urban location) Cistercian monastery, where his consort Eleonora of Portugal is interred. The ledger of her tomb is one of the most outstanding artworks of the late Gothic age in Austria. Frederick left his personal symbol, the sequence of letters AEIOU, on all edifices founded on his initiative.
Wiener Neustadt was conquered by Frederick’s arch-enemy Matthias Corvinus in 1487; Frederick was forced to relocate his Court to Linz, where he died in 1493.
Under his son Maximilian I, born here in 1459, Wiener Neustadt again lost its status as an imperial residence. Yet we find the grave of the ‘last of the knights’ here (and not in Innsbruck, where his cenotaph with its famous ‘Schwarzer Mander’ or black bronze statues is situated). As a sign of humility he ordered that after death his teeth should be pulled and his hair shorn.
He is interred directly in front of the main altar of St George’s Church in the castle, so that the priest celebrating Mass would stand above his breast.