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Help, the Turks are coming!


Why the medieval fortified church was built into a castle .
An enormous effort. Was it worth it?



Oswaldikirche Tendlerskizze


How does the saying go? “Extraordinary circumstances demand extraordinary measures”. And that doesn’t only apply to today.

We find ourselves in the 15th century, and construction of the church is in full gear. You can see the workers before you, chiseling away at the stones, doing carpentry, and busily moving building materials around.

Amid this bustle of activity, a decree comes from the emperor in 1482: Friedrich III gives the order to fortify the two market towns of the “Eisenärtzt”, in other words Innerberg (today’s Eisenerz) and Vordernberg.

And what happens? They begin to strengthen the former cemetery walls, which already stood around the church, and extend them to create a ringed wall.

Yet that was just the beginning!

Skizze Gfall1968

Die einstige Wehrkirchenanlage um 1500 nach einer Skizze von Albrecht Gfall 1968

Help, the Turks are coming!

In 1529, the Turks advance towards Vienna and, from this point on until the mid 1630’s, the fortified church grows into a mighty castle refuge. The east gate is strengthened by means of a gatehouse and a ditch before it, while the walls are raised and further strengthened, with arrow slits and machicolations added. Wooden battlements are built, the former west entrance is walled up, and access from the north is defended by means of a mighty barbican with two imposing semicircular towers and a pincer gate.

But that was still not all: Within the walls, a well was dug in order to supply the populace with water in the event of siege. Finally, so that people could “answer the call of nature”, a latrine was created in a bay along the wall – also complete with an arrow slit, of course.

Skizze Gfall1968 Wehranlage


And so, the former fortified church was transformed into a castle refuge, well equipped to protect the locals from attack and siege. However, the Turks never came.

Castle protection from the bishop

If you now think that our castle bastion never saw “action”, you would actually be quite mistaken. Even while the Turkish threat was still very real, Protestantism was spreading out across Austria, and was quickly adopted by the mine owners and miners of Innerberg – to the point that, by the mid 16th century, Innerberg was predominantly Protestant and the fortified church castle was firmly in the hands of Lutherans. Just 50 years later, however, the Counter Reformation was being pursued with full force. Yet the Protestant citizens of Eisenerz initially “dug in” against Martin Brenner, the bishop of Seckau at that time, until, with the support of Ferdinand II and a force of 316 well-armed men, he ultimately compelled them to surrender. As a consequence, the majority of the people of Innerberg reverted to the Catholic confession, while those who refused to renounce Lutheran teachings were exiled

Southern defensive wall falls into disrepair

For centuries, the walls ringing the church castle withstood external influences. And yet, on Easter Saturday in 1967, a 35-meter segment of the southern wall collapsed.

voreinsturz einsturz 

 Wiederaufbau Suedmauer

Three years later, reconstruction had been completed.


Today, the church-castle of St. Oswald is one of the biggest fortified churches still preserved in Austria!


Opening Hours

Ostern - Advent
9:00 Uhr - Dämmerung

Advent – Ostern geschlossen

(Führungen und Öffnung auf Anfrage)

Röm. kath. Pfarramt Eisenerz
Lindmoserstraße 2
8790 Eisenerz
Tel.: 03848/2267


The Fortified Church of St. Oswald

Association for the Preservation of the St. Oswald Fortifications and Parish Church

c/o Obmann Ing. Gregor Ruckhofer
Krumpentalerstraße 2
8790 Eisenerz


Verein zur Erhaltung der Wehranlage und Pfarrkirche St. Oswald
IBAN: AT62 3846 0000 0604 7500

Purpose of payment: Wehrkirchenanlage St. Oswald in Eisenerz