Once upon a time not so long ago, the new master of Karneid arrived to inspect his property for the first time. Standing at the gate he saw what a fine old place the castle was but also that after hundreds of years of neglect it was in a terrible state of repair. The battlements had collapsed, the walls were crumbling and the furniture had been burnt for firewood. Yet, despite all this he thought he might have the means to make the castle habitable again. Climbing a nearby rock to get a better view he realised to his dismay that the foundations of the entire southeastern part of the castle which were built on the edge of a ravine, had crumbled away. In places the rock underneath the walls had completely collapsed so that whole sections of masonry were hanging in thin air with large, deep cracks in the walls.
The next day the owner summoned a master architect and master builder from Bozen to assess the cost of repairs. These learned men told him that the masonry work would not be very expensive but because of the prevailing high price of timber and the depth of the ravine, the scaffolding required would cost at least 4000 guilders (over €1m today). This news led the owner to consider abandoning Karneid. He was not in a position to pay for proper repairs and did not want the proud old building falling into further disrepair whilst in his possession. As the owner sat alone that evening in a nearby tavern wondering what to do, the old caretaker who still lived in the castle arrived and introduced him to a local mason who was looking for work. The lord laughed wryly and said that there was plenty of work for a mason but sadly no way of doing it. Intrigued the mason asked what the work was.
"The foundations are gone, can you repair them?" the lord asked.
"I should think so" replied the mason.
Expecting him to say, "I need a scaffold," the lord asked asked him, "So, what do you need?"
"Just some time, some limestone and some sand. I can gather the stones myself. When shall I start?"
Astonished the lord told him that if he wanted to attempt the task he could start right away and a few days later left for his estates in the north. On his return a few months later he asked the caretaker if there was any news from the mason.
"Yes, he was here" the caretaker replied.
"What has he done?"
"Well, he seems to have worked hard. Every morning he let himself down on a rope from the windows over the precipice, his apprentice passed him the limestone, sand and stones in a basket and he worked from 5 to 9 in the morning and 4 to 8 in the afternoon all summer. Looks to me like he's done a good job."
The next day the lord of Karneid climbed the hill overlooking the castle and saw that the mason had filled in all the loose masonry, using every cleft of the rock with great skill to repair the walls. Where pieces of the rock face had permanently fallen away he had cleverly underpinned the walls with stone arches. The castle was saved and would last for many hundred of years more. After a few days the mason came calling.
"I came to see if you are satisfied with my work," he said.
"You came because you want your money," the lord said smiling. "What do I owe you?"
"Well, it wasn't an easy job. It's been a hot summer so I had to work early in the morning and late in the evening. I slept in the heat of the day"
"So, how much?"
"It was a tough job." he said, "Is 400 guilders too much?"
Delighted at the price the lord paid the man his money and so it was that a job that all the experts had said would cost at least 4000 guilders was completed by the mason and his apprentice for a tenth of the price.
The next spring a large ominous crack appeared in the wall of the castle on the west side. The experts were summoned again, but this time the mason was also asked to attend. It was decided that to secure the wall a massive iron tie rod and anchor plate would need to be fixed from the outside.
"This time you won't get around using a scaffold," said the experts, "because you can't get enough tension to tighten the anchor plate hanging from a rope." The lord of Karneid then turned to the mason and asked him for his opinion.
"Oh, there are so many clever people here, I'm sure they know better than me" he replied, "But if it were up to me, I'd make a hole in the wall above the anchor plate, climb in, brace myself, tighten the bolt and then fill in the hole afterwards." Everyone laughed, impressed at his ingenuity and that is how the job was done.
A few weeks later spring floods caused extensive damage in the valley below the castle and a bridge crossing the river at the narrowest point was partly swept away. On the lord's advice the mason was given the job of reconstructing the bridge. Once again saving on scaffolding, the mason suspended himself on a rope from a large fir tree growing on the rocky outcrop high above the bridge and began the reconstruction work.
One day the news came that the tree had broken loose, falling with the mason into the river and that his drowned body had been found downstream. So ended the life of the mason of Karneid - a diligent, humble, practical and daring man whose craftsmanship and ingenuity can be admired in the walls of Karneid castle to this day.