During the 11th century, the Kuenring family came to Austria from the Bavarian-Saxon region and were given large territories near Eggenburg and Gobelsburg as an imperial fiefdom.
In the service of the local Austrian Babenberger prince, they acquired a sizable portion of the Waldviertel in Lower Austria. The Tegernsee Monastery in Bavaria appointed them as bailiffs in the Wachau to guard over the possessions that belonged to the monastery.
Asso von Kuenring acquired the region around present-day Dürnstein, and his grandson, Hadmar I, was the first to create a fortress on the cliffs above the Danube.
In 1192/93, the English King, Richard I (Richard the Lionheart), was held prisoner in the Kuenring Castle by order of the Babenberger Leopold V. A share of Richard’s ransom, that fell to the Kuenring family, was used for the expansion and renovation of the castle and the village of Dürnstein in the 13th and 14th centuries.
In 1347, the estate was divided between the Kuenring brothers Leuthold II and Johann I, and the new village settlement was denoted a city for the first time. In this year, Dürnstein was granted legal status as a municipality by Johann I, and the inhabitants were called citizens.
However, the city of Dürnstein did not receive its coat of arms until 1476, awarded by Emperor Friedrich III.