Retz is located in the north western Weinviertel in Lower Austria. The municipality’s area covers 45,01 km². 11.83 percent of this area is forested. Cadastral municipalities are Hofern, Kleinhöflein, Kleinriedenthal, Obernalb, Retz and Unternalb.
In the area around the present-day Anger (Meadow) of Retz a village was formed, which was first mentioned in 1180 as „Rezze“ (Slavic; meaning small creek). Rudolf von Habsburg awarded Count Berthold of Rabenswalde (1278–1312) shire and sovereignty of Hardegg as a fiefdom. The count did not stay for long in Hardegg, and moved to Retz, where he founded the monastery of the Dominican Order (called Dominikanerkloster). The monastery was finished in 1295. Finally he founded the city of Retz around 1300. Around 1343 the preacher Franz von Retz was born. He reformed the Dominican Order, taught at the University of Vienna, was their Dean for five times, and also represented the university at the Council of Pisa. He died on September 8, 1427, in Vienna.
In 1425, the Hussites conquered Retz (November 25), and only a few days later, Schrattenthal and Pulkau. The city was destroyed and many people were killed. A chronicle from Klosterneuburg reported of 6000 captives, among them Count Heinrich of Maidburg (Hardegg), who were led to Prague. Nearly 8000 men were said to be slain and over 30 Catholic churches destroyed. In 1431 the Hussites came to raid Retz for a second time.
In 1467 the Burgerspitalkapelle (“Citizens’ Hospital Chapel”), located between the Verderberhaus and the Znaimer Tor,was consecrated. It was secularized in 1783. Today it serves as a museum for the South Moravian gallery.
After the reconstruction of the city Retz was conquered by Matthias Corvinus on October 10, 1486, after a six-day siege. Until 1492 Retz belonged to his dominion. During that time the city received the privileges concerning the trade of wine which were responsible for its future wealth. Also as a consequence of these privileges the huge and multi-storied wine cellar system was built. Today it is used for guided tours and serves as the location for a Christmas market during Advent.
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