Oberhaus and Niederhaus Castle - Passau



    Pen and Ink Sketch with Watercolor - Erwin Weber - 1985


The bishops' citadel was built on a ridge between the Danube and Ilz Rivers in Passau to suppress the townspeople. Whereas, the Ilz River has its source in the Bavarian Forest, the Danube originates in the Black Forest in Germany, becomes navigable in Regensburg, joins the Inn and Ilz Rivers in Passau, flows past Vienna, Austria, past Budapest in Hungary, through Belgrade in Yugoslavia, along the border of Romania and Bulgaria and empties into the Black Sea.

After the bishops of Passau became secular princes in addition to their ecclesiastical status in 1217, they constructed Oberhaus and Niederhaus Castle on St. George's Mountain to defend the city against an attack by the Turks and protect themselves against the citizens who demanded imperial freedom from the yoke of secular and ecclesiastical princes. The current appearance of the castle reflects the fortification construction of the 16th and 17th centuries.

Visitors to the Oberhaus castle have an opportunity to study six centuries of castle construction. The west wall with its gate decorated with weapons was built according to French fortress construction from 1674 to 1723. The former blacksmith shop at the castle built in 1597 is currently a youth hostel. The massive round bastion has an observation tower on which is mounted the "Passauer Tölpel" or the "Passau Fool". It once severed as a gargoyle on the Stephan's Cathedral in Old Town Passau. From here there is a dramatic view of the confluence of the rivers Inn, Ilz and Danube, Austria, the Bavarian Forest, and the Alps. There is a camping site on the east end of the castle with a fountain dating back to 1555. The castle chapel, with its important Early-Gothic frescos, was constructed in the 13th century.

The rooms in the castle include several museums. Among them is the historic city museum with it new gallery, the bishops museum with sculptures and painting from the 13th to the 16th century, the filial gallery with paintings by Rubens, Van Dyke and Veronese, the lower Bavarian Fire Department Museum, the Bohemian Forest Museum, and the torture chamber from the Middle Ages. The museums give the visitor an authentic glimpse into life of the region for the last 2500 years. There is pottery from the days of the Celts, bronze statues from the days of the Romans, suits of armor, spears and lances from the Middle Ages, and cannons used for the defense of Oberhaus Castle. Weber sketched the castle in 1985.