The 13th-century Churburg Castle is one of the most eye-catching Renaissance castles in South Tyrol. The fortress, which perches high above Schluderns is one of the best-preserved castle complexes nationwide and attracts scores of visitors every year with its considerable list of attractions such as the large private armoury and fairy-tale arcades.
The count’s “iron wardrobe” – the armoury
Visitors can admire over 50 tailor-made suits of armour from the Houses of Matsch and Trapp in Churburg armoury – the largest collection of its kind. The artistically-designed armour comes almost entirely from plate makers in Milan or Innsbruck, with two suits particularly catching the eye. This first is one of the oldest preserved plated suits of armour worldwide, which was produced for a Reeve of Matsch in 1365. The second eye-catching suit of armour stands out by virtue of its size – produced in around 1450, it’s some 2.10 metres in height and weighs over 40 kilos!
The arcades – the castle’s fairy tale heart
The arcades on the first floor of the Churburg have been enchanting visitors for years. This Renaissance-era domed structure, complete with 16 marble pillars, towers up above the family tree of castle owners. Aside from its fairy-tale looks, this eye-catching highlight also pays testament to the history of the Reeves of Matsch and the counts of Trapp. The fresco on the south wall of the arcade was painted in around 1580, some 60 years after the domed arcades were built. In around 1700, the family tree was covered up due to the plague and remained hidden together with the other frescos for around 200 years. The pieces were revealed once again in 1910, with the entire arcades painstakingly restored from 1990 onwards.
Another highlight is the beautifully decorated Jakob’s room (“Jakobszimmer”) with neighbouring library commemorating Jakob Trapp VII. He visited the holy land in 1561, a trip which made a great impression on his life. Memorials of his pilgrimage can still be found to this day. There’s a pine wood portrait of the count on show here as well as his felt pilgrim cloak. In addition, the room is decorated with puttos and carved panel ceilings, and displays numerous printed items and a bustard in courting stance – the bird of prey which gives the Trapp family its name. The in-house organ, commission by Jakob VII. in 1559 is another highlight and it’s considered one of the oldest still playable key instruments preserved today.
The ancestral hall (Matscher Saal)
The ancestral hall offers a look back in the history of the Trapp family. The grand ancestral gallery is impressive evidence of the long history of the House of Trapp – there are some 350 years spanning the paintings of Jakob VII, the pilgrim, and Count Gotthard Trapp, grandfather of today’s Count Johannes. Count Gotthard was treasurer in the court of Kaiser Franz Joseph and held a powerful position. The uniform and treasurer’s keys still pay testament to this today.
The old castle chapel
The castle bailey provides access to the old castle chapel, built in Romanesque times. It was, however, deconsecrated in the 16th century and used as a bakery and smokehouse for many years. Yet its valuable contents, such as the sculpture of the Madonna from 1270, the alter painting of a Bohemian fresco artist and two epitaphs, still remain intact to this day.
Across from the bell tower is Jakob’s chapel, which Jakob VII. had built directly after his return from his pilgrimage in 1561. It still serves as the Trapp family’s chapel to this day. In centuries past, this Renaissance-era building was even more important, as the image of the Black Madonna, which now hangs in the sacristy, was a favourite destination for many pilgrims. The two shrine guardians on the altar are another special feature, as they are always visible, regardless of whether the wings of the altar are open or not.
Since 2006, the grounds below the castle have played host to the South Tyrolean Knight Games (“Südtiroler Ritterspiele”) Churburg – Schluderns. This thrilling event allows visitors to watch combat on the battle field, browse a medieval market or find out what camp life was like in those days.
The lineage of Churburg
In 1253, the Bishop of Chur Heinrich IV. of Montfort received the right to build the castle after an arbitration ruling. The name of the castle “Churberch” then first appeared in documents in 1259. The castle complex changed hands into the ownership of the Matsch family in 1297. When the final member of this house died in the early 16th century, the castle was passed on into the hands of the Counts of Trapp, who still own the castle today.
From a Romanesque fortress to a handsome Renaissance castle
The oldest fabric of the fortified structure comes from the Romanesque period. This section of the building includes the keep, the great hall and the curtain wall, all of which are still intact. Its late medieval looks were preserved until the 16th century. However, after the von Trapp Counts gained ownership of the castle, extensive renovation work began in earnest. This phase added residential quarters, kennels, a chapel, bay windows and a terraced garden in the Gothic style. In the second half of the 16th century, the castle was then finally redeveloped into a stunning Renaissance castle.
- Churburg Castle Schluderns is among the 15 best rated Tourist Attractions in Italy.
How to get there
By car: Take the Brenner motorway to Bolzano and follow the SS38 through Merano to the Venosta Valley/ Vinschgau. Continue on the SS38 through Naturns and Latsch until you reach Spondinig. In Spondinig, take the SS40 which leads onwards to Schluderns. There’s free parking for visitors under the castle – which is only a short distance away on foot.
By public transport:The Vinschger Bahn runs between Merano and Mals/Malles. This rail service stops at Schluderns station which is located directly on the town’s high street. It’s around 15 to 20 minutes on foot to the entrance of the Churburg from here.