Burghauptmannschaft Österreich’s roots lie in the function of former burgraves that used to act as administrators in the Middle Ages: "frz. bo(u)rgrave, latinisiert burgravius, burgiographus, bulgravius, burclavius für praetor, praefectus, praepositus, quaestor curialis vel decurialis"(1), engl. governor (a.k.a keeper, captain) of the Castle, ital. burgravio, span. burgrave. In Antiquity, this function was held by the Roman praefectus castrorium (2). They served as military commanders and acted as administrator and judges in their ecclesiastical territories.


Initially, burgraves used to be relatives of counts, to whom either a secular or ecclesiastical sovereign allowed to take a mortgage for a territory, which often included a settlement and its surrounding area. This granted them territorial rights as well, (3) which made it possible for them to gain influence within the Holy Roman Empire, e.g., the castle shire of Nuremberg (4). Starting in the 12th century, counts located in Bavaria and Austria were increasingly being replaced by civil servants, who were, however, allowed to keep the official title "burgrave". When city officials also took on military tasks in the late Middle Ages, the official designation is no longer clearly delimited from that of a "city commandant" or "city governor" (Stadtkommandant or Stadthauptmann). During the 16th century, the sole purpose of a burgrave, a sovereign official, was to safeguard the royal castle.(5)

During the reign of Emperor Frederick III (1452–1493), the history of the Viennese Castle was coined by the civil war, the temporary takeover by the estates and the conquest of Mathias Corvinus (1458–1490), King of Hungary, between 1485 and 1490. (6) Until then, it had not served yet as imperial residence. In fact, it was not until the reign of Emperor Ferdinand I (1558–1564) that Vienna became, once again, the city of residence to the royal family.

For this period of time, it is not clear who was appointed burgrave. However, there seems to be evidence that Hans Aphaltrer took this office in 1530, while at the same time being city governor of Vienna.(7) Individual documents recorded in previous years show names of other officials such as Niklas Barczal of Döbre (1443) and Cristoff of Hohenveld (1492).(8) Some publications refer to Burgrave Michael of Maidburg, Count of Hardegg and Retz (died in 1483) as burgrave of Vienna.(9) There is no official confirmation, however, since it cannot be ruled out that his existing title as Burgrave of Maidburg (Magdeburg) may have caused a possible mix-up in this case.(10) There is no certificate of appointment included.

A resolution by Maria Theresa (1740-1780) dating back to September 23rd, 1750, entailed considerable changes for the office: the Empress gave orders to eliminate the office of "highest ranked burgrave" (Oberstburggraf) and, at the same time, put Andreas Pögle (1750-1767) in office as superintendent of the castle (Burginspektor). Eventually, the office of burgrave remained and the office of castle superintendent was equated to it. The castle administration was led by both in a consular way henceforth. When different influences in regards to the supreme offices at court (primarily the offices of the lord chamberlain and other finance officers) increased so much that they became a hindrance to the offices’ execution, the office of burgrave had to be dissolved in 1793.(11) Castle superintendent Andreas Pögle was in charge when the fire protection code was newly regulated during a court conference in 1753. The conference was held under the chairmanship of the supreme office of the court, Supreme Court Marshal (Obersthofmarschall) Karl Maximilian, Prince of Dietrichstein (1702-1784), accompanied by the general construction director of the court, Jadot Baron de Ville-Issey (1710-1761), and, for the first time, the whole court was included.(12) Other responsibilities of the castle superintendent comprised maintaining peace and public order as well as on-duty service at the court quarters.

The office of castle superintendent went through new substantial changes under the Adjutant General of Emperor Karl Ludwig Graf von Grünne (1808–1884) between 1849 and 1851 due to the reform of the royal household. Its order was declared on April 26th, 1849. This order stated that the Imperial Furniture Authority (Hofmobilienamt) and the General Construction Office were to be dissolved and their tasks divided amongst the superintendents and the Schlosshauptmannschaften (castle administration). At the same time, the Emperor appointed Ludwig Montoyer to be the new Schlosshauptmann (captain) for the areas of Schönbrunn and Hetzendorf and Franz Schücht to be the new Schlosshauptmann (captain) for the areas of Laxenburg and Baden. Ludwig Wagner remained in office as castle superintendent until he passed away and was succeeded by Ludwig Montoyer as Burghauptmann on September 7, 1850, whose administrative area comprised, among others, the actual court buildings, the Imperial theater, the municipal riding school, the Stallburg Wing (Imperial Stables), the Imperial Library, the building housing cabinets dedicated to natural sciences, coin collections and antiques, the theater (Kärntnertor Theater), the glass buildings in today’s castle garden, the ball building and the imperial hospital building.(13) It remained this way until the end of the Habsburg monarchy in 1918.

The Burghauptmann was responsible for other tasks as well. According to a newspaper article, the former office holder Ferdinand Kirschner (1821–1896) was also a member of the court committee, which was sent to Mayerling Castle after crown prince Rudolf’s (1858–1889) death on January 30 of 1889, to find his last will and to organise transportation of the deceased’s body back to Vienna. Burghauptmannschaft always kept a metal coffin ready for the event of an untimely death within the imperial family, which, unfortunately, was the case here. (14)

Soon, the large extend of the challenge involved became very clear, as art historian Dagobert Frey (1883–1962) said:
"[…] The most important task, which requires multifaceted consideration, is the usage and utilization of court buildings. Sudden necessity tends to knock on the door relentlessly, frugality is urgently advised and precipitancies are often unavoidable. A building structure dies when it is alienated from its purpose. The only option left here is compromise and, therefore, it inevitably must remain [nothing but] patchwork."(16)

In the early years of the First Republic, the imperial building structures remained under the administration of the so-called Hofärar, and therefore state property under the head of division, Eugen Beck-Mannagetta (1861–1943).(17) After 1922, the departments were taken up by the Federal Ministry for Trade and Commerce, Industry and Buildings. In 1936, Karl Walbinger succeeded Emanuel Karajan as Burghauptmann and remained in this office even after the Anschluss, in which Nazi Germany annexed Austria in 1938.

Burghauptmannschaft’s tasks were transferred to the Reich building authority Vienna Inner City I/II (Schmidt and Walbiner) as well as to the castle administration (Koppensteiner). These were subordinate departments of Department V ("Construction") of the Agriculture Office for the Defense Economic District XVII (under the direction of Förster. It was subject to the Reich governor (Baldur of Schirach (1940–1945)) of Vienna. (18)

In the Second Republic, the office of Burghauptmannschaft was integrated in the Federal Ministry for Trade and Reconstruction, the predecessor of the Federal Ministry for Digital and Economic Affairs, and became a subordinate department of the Federal Building Authority (Bundeshochbauamt). Hofrat Paul Neumann was appointed head of the re-established Burghauptmannschaft in Vienna.

As a result of the reorganisation of the former Federal Building Construction Department in 2001, most tasks were outsourced or privatised. Burghauptmannschaft remained the only public entity to be assigned all properties and buildings owned by the Federal Republic of Austria which are deemed to constitute our cultural and historic heritage. This comprises, among others, the Imperial Palace Vienna as well as the museums of natural and art history (Naturhistorisches Museum, Kunsthistorisches Museum), the Federal Chancellery, the Government Building at Stubenring Road (former War Ministry) and several palaces in Vienna, not to mention the Imperial Palace Innsbruck and the former concentration camp Mauthausen.

Therefore, Burghauptmannschaft was renamed "Burghauptmannschaft Österreich". Its scope of duties is laid down in section 22 Federal Property Act (Bundesimmobiliengesetz). At present, around 150 staff work for the authority, which is headed by Burghauptmann Reinhold Sahl.

(1) Burggraf, in: Preußische Akademie der Wissenschaften (ed.), Deutsches Rechtswörterbuch. Wörterbuch der älteren deutschen Rechtssprach, vol. 2 (Weimar 1932–1935) Sp. 624-625, online: http://drw-www.adw.uni-heidelberg.de/drw-cgi/zeige?index=lemmata&term=burggraf (07.07.2017).
(2) Smith, William (ed.), Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (London 1850) 952.
(3) See Burggraf, in: Grimm, Jacob, Grimm, Wilhelm, Deutsches Wörterbuch, vol. 2 (Leipzig 1854)  Sp. 543, online:  http://www.woerterbuchnetz.de/cgi-bin/WBNetz/wbgui_py?sigle=DWB&lemid=GB13242&mode=Vernetzung&hitlist=&patternlist=&mainmode= (07.07.2017).
(4) Spälter, Otto, Nürnberg, Burggrafschaft, published on 04.10.2010, online: Historisches Lexikon Bayerns, http://www.historisches-lexikon-bayerns.de/Lexikon/Nürnberg, Burggrafschaft (07.07.2017).
(5) Mann, Ludwig, Die Geschichte der Burghauptmannschaft Wien (Univ.Diss., Vienna 1950) 2-4.
(6) Csendes, Peter, Vom späten 14. Jahrhundert bis zur Ersten Wiener Türkenbelagerung (1529), in: Csendes, Peter, Opll, Ferdinand (Hrsg.), Wien. Geschichte einer Stadt, vol. 1, Von den Anfängen bis zur Ersten Türkenbelagerung (Vienna/Cologne/Weimar 2001) 154–198.
(7) Mann, Burghauptmannschaft, 8–16.
(8) Obermaier, Walter, Die Wiener Hofburg im Spätmittelalter (Univ.Diss., Vienna 1967) 183, 271.
(9) Trenkler, Thomas, Die Hofburg Wien. Geschichte-Gebäude-Sehenswürdigkeiten (Wien 2004) 16; Schwarz, Mario (ed.), Die Wiener Hofburg im Mittelalter. Von der Kastellburg bis zu den Anfängen der Kaiserresidenz (Veröffentlichungen zur Bau- und Funktionsgeschichte der Wiener Hofburg, Rosenauer, Artur (ed.), vol. 1 (Vienna 2015) 396.
(10) Vgl. Wurzbach, Constantin, Biographisches Lexikon des Kaiserthums Oesterreich, vol. 7 (Vienna 1861) 354, online: austrian literature online, http://www.literature.at/viewer.alo?objid=11810&viewmode=fullscreen&scale=3.33&rotate=&page=359 (07.07.2017).
(11) Mann, Burghauptmannschaft, 198-202.
(12) Ebd. 206–211.
(13) Ebd. 327–340.
(14) "Die Wahrheit über Mayerling. Der Tod des Kronprinzen Rudolf und der Baronesse Mary Vecsera. Aus den nachgelassenen Papieren des Sektionschefs Dr. Heinrich Freiherrn v. Slatin", Neues Wiener Tagblatt, No 224, Sonntagsbeilage, 15 August 1931, 22, online: Austrian Newspapers Online, http://anno.onb.ac.at/cgi-content/anno?aid=nwg&datum=19310815&seite=21&zoom=33 (07.07.2017).

(15) Staatsgesetz 209 of 03 April 1919, published in the National Gazette of the Republic of German-Austria on 10 April 1919, online: ALEX Historische Rechts- und Gesetzestexte Online, http://alex.onb.ac.at/cgi-content/alex?aid=sgb&datum=19190004&seite=00000513 (07.07.2017).
(16) Frey, Dagobert, Die Verstaatlichung und Inventarisierung des Habsburg-Lothringischen Kunstbesitz, in: Mitteilungen des Staatsdenkmalamtes, 1, 1–3 (1919).
(17) Beck-Mannagetta, Christian, Die Lebenserinnerungen des Eugen Beck-Mannagetta. Zusammengestellt nach seinen Tagebüchern, Geschäftsnotizen und Manuskripten sowie Akten und Dokumenten und mit Bildern versehen (Univ.Diss., Vienna 2010), online: austria forum, https://austria-forum.org/web-books/dielebenserinnerungende2003iicm (07.07.2017).
(18) Lehmanns Allgemeiner Wohnungs-Anzeiger nebst Handels- und Gewerbe-Adreßbuch für die Bundeshauptstadt Wien (Vienna 1921/22-1942), online:  wienbibliothek digital, http://www.digital.wienbibliothek.at/wbrobv/periodical/titleinfo/5311 (07.07.2017).