Wiener Neustadt is a city located south of Vienna, in the state of Lower Austria, in north-east Austria. It is a self-governed city and the seat of the district administration of Wiener Neustadt-Land. The city is the site of one of the world's oldest military academies, the Theresian Military Academy, which was established by Empress Maria Theresa of Austria in 1752 to train officers for the Austrian army.
The area once belonged to the County of Pitten, which had been inherited by Margrave Ottokar III of Styria in 1158. After the dynasty of the Otakars became extinct with the death of his son Ottokar IV, the Duchy of Styria passed to the Austrian House of Babenberg according to the Georgenberg Pact. Duke Leopold V of Austria established the town in 1194 and financed the construction of a fortress close to the Hungarian border with the ransom paid for the English king Richard the Lionheart, whom he had previously captured and held as a hostage at Dürnstein Castle. In 1241, a small Mongol squadron raided Neustadt during the Mongol invasion of Europe.
Wiener Neustadt, meaning more or less New Vienna ("Viennese Newtown"), gained important privileges given to the city in order to enable it to prosper. It remained a part of Styria, which after the 1278 Battle on the Marchfeld fell to the House of Habsburg and in 1379 became a constituent duchy of Inner Austria. In the 15th century, Wiener Neustadt experienced a population boom, when Emperor Frederick III of Habsburg took up a residence here and established the Diocese of Wiener Neustadt in 1469. His wife, Eleanor of Portugal, died in Wiener Neustadt in 1467. The Wappenwand (coat-of-arms wall) at the local castle displays the coats of arms of his possessions in the middle. His son Maximilian I maintained his court in Wiener Neustadt and is buried here at St. George's Cathedral. The town then also had a significant Jewish commune with Rabbi Israel Isserlin as its most notable member, until all Jews were expelled by order of Emperor Maximilian I in 1496.
Habsburg's long-time rival King Matthias Corvinus of Hungary conquered the city in August 1487 after having laid siege to it for two years. According to legend he dedicated the magnificent Corvinus Cup to the inhabitants after his victory. Maximilian I managed to reconquer his native city in 1490. During the 16th century, Wiener Neustadt lost its status as imperial residence and much of its importance. However, it still fulfilled its function as bulwark against the Turks and the Kuruc.
In the 19th century the city became an industrial town, especially after the opening of the Austrian Southern Railway in 1841. In 1909, the "first official Austrian airfield" was inaugurated north of the city. It served as a training ground for the flight pioneers Igo Etrich, Karl Illner and Adolf Warchalowski, who conducted their tests there.
During World War II, strategic targets in Wiener Neustadt, including the marshalling yards, the Wiener Neustädter Flugzeugwerke (WNF) factory, and two Raxwerke plants which used forced laborers imprisoned at Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp, were repeatedly bombed. Bombing operations such as Operation Pointblank left only 18 of 4,000 buildings undamaged.