Porcia castle and the Museum of Folk Art and Tradition

Birgit Stegbauer


The Renaissance style had already been in vogue for more then 100 years in Italy when it was first used for a building in the Alpine region. Porcia Castle at Spittal/Drau is not only one of the very early examples, but also one of the most elaborate Renaissance buildings outside Italy. Today Porcia Castle is owned by the city of Spittal and houses, amongst other things, the Museum of Folk Art and Tradition - one of Carinithia's finest museums!


Isn't it curious: A Spanish nobleman, Count Gabriel of Salamanca, who served as a treasurer to the Habsburg emperor Ferdinand I, bought the county of Ortenburg on the border of Carinthia in 1524. However, he decided not to reside at Ortenburg castle. Instead he chose Spittal, a small market town within his county, to be his home. A new castle was built - it was to become the first complete Renaissance building in the Habsburg Empire. Its construction began in 1534.


When Gabriel of Salamanca died in 1539, the site was still not complete and his heirs were obliged by testamentary order to continue the work. It was finally completed around 1597/1598, a good sixty years after construction began. Considering this fact, it is astonishing how utterly uniform the general appearance of the castle is. It is known that an architectural model of the castle did exist and also that every further construction had to be based on that model. It is, however, not known which architect created the model, although it is generally linked to an Upper Italian master.


The castle has four wings with three floors in each. Only the front entrance is accented with a richly decorated main portal and pseudo-loggias. The castle has two round towers and encloses a three-floored arcade court that contains a large crest of the Porcia family. The building shows some elements which are typical for a castle, others typical for a palace; the literature often discusses this "hybrid" like status of Porcia castle. The visitor will search in vain for any interior decoration of the castle, such as frescos. Only one room in the whole castle has stuccoed ceilings.


Unfortunately the Counts of Salamanca-Ortenburg did not have time to live in their new ancestral seat as the family died out in 1620. It was 1662 when the county, including the castle at Spittal, came into the possession of the Porcia, a princely House from Friaul. They gave their name to the castle where they resided until 1918. The castle furnishings were sold off in 1930, so that only a few pieces have survived and these can now be seen in the so-called "Fürstenzimmer" at the Museum of Folk Art and Tradition.


The Museum of Folk Art and Tradition is a true treasure among Carinthia's museums. Its folkloristic collections document the poor life and hard work of the simple people in the Alpine region. To reach that aim, rural living spaces were rebuilt within the museum, with walls, tools and wooden machines on display. There are insights to mining and handicrafts; also covered are religious traditions and developments in education. Amongst other things the visitor walks through a real classroom dating from around 1900.


The body responsible for the museum is the society "Bezirksheimatmuseum Spittal/Drau e.V.", which means that the museum is managed under private law. It has been honoured several times for its innovative work and hands-on-concepts.


Schloss Porcia, 9800 Spittal/Drau: information regarding the museum and opening hours is available here. Don't forget your Kärnten Card.



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