Directory Image
This website uses cookies to improve user experience. By using our website you consent to all cookies in accordance with our Privacy Policy.

The Dumb Prisoner of Hohenwerfen

Author: Lisa Jeeves
by Lisa Jeeves
Posted: May 26, 2015

When enjoying Austria's beautiful scenery and picturesque castles, it is easy to forget that most castles usually tell another story that is not quite so pretty. One such is in regards to the Hohenwerfen Fortress. This fortress dates back to over 900 years, and is nestled high above the Salzach Valley near Salzburg. Here you can experience the daily shows of eagles, hawks and vultures showing off their hunting skills and see some incredible feats of falconry. If you take one of the guided tours, you will hear about the long history of the fortress - one story, in particular, is very unusual.


In 1760, a peasant called Josef Steinwender was arrested here for holding bible classes using the Lutheran interpretation of the Bible and held prisoner for 22 years. The story behind his arrest goes back a little further. Austria had been widely affected by the Protestant reformation, and by mid 15th century, the country was predominately Protestant with the notable exception of the Catholic Habsburgs. They were the instigating force behind the Counter-Reformation in the 1600s that saw the reinstatement of Catholicism as the dominant religion. There were however, some Lutherans left who used to hold secret meetings - these were very dangerous because of the religious intolerance at the time.

Dumb Prisoner

Josef Steinwender was a simple peasant - married with four children - but he felt moved to preach, teach and convert the people around him. He held secret bible meetings until eventually he was betrayed to the archbishops of Salzburg. Josef went into hiding but he was found and put on trial for his heretical opinions. The court sent him to the Hohenwerfen Fortress, which was also the archbishops hunting base - hence the well-equipped falconry relics found there.

The remarkable thing about Josef is that he refused to answer any of the questions put to him about other Lutherans. He kept completely silent for 22 years until his release, when there was a return to religious toleration. Josef did not even talk to his family when they visited, and when he was finally let go he chose to stay in the fortress – eventually becoming a guard there himself. He became known as The Dumb Prisoner of Hofenwerfen. It's a fascinating story and there are many others you'll hear when you visit this beautiful but austere castle.

Getting There

Once you arrive in Austria – whether by train or plane, the excellent Salzburg airport transportation can get you to your accommodation quickly. You can book in advance so that there is no hanging around when you come through customs and your driver will be waiting for you to whisk you away to your hotel or guesthouse. When booking your Salzburg airport transportation, you will have the option to have a private car or minibus, or you can share a shuttle service. You'll be fresh and relaxed and ready to start discovering this lovely city and its surrounds.

Lukas Johannes is a driver for Shuttle Direct. If you’re looking for Salzburg airport transportation, Shuttle Direct provide pre-booked shuttles to major destinations all over Europe. Wherever you travel, Shuttle Direct can make sure that you don’t miss your car on your holiday abroad.

About the Author

Writer and Online Marketing Manager in London.

Rate this Article
Leave a Comment
Author Thumbnail
I Agree:
Author: Lisa Jeeves

Lisa Jeeves

Member since: Oct 18, 2013
Published articles: 4550

Related Articles