Medieval castles in Slovakia

Oponice Castle Ruins

Oponice Castle was probably built in the second half of the 13th century by son Peter from the Csák clan. The castle was first mentioned in 1300 as 'Oponh'. Until the death of Máte Csák of Trencsén in 1321, Oponice Castle guarded part of his wide domain in the central Nitra area. The castle was later administered by the royal exchequer until it was passed in 1392 into the hereditary p ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Oponice, Slovakia

Blh Castle Ruins

Blh (Velky Blh) castle was built in the 13th century. In 1323 it was renovated in the Gothic style and in 1483 it was extended and fortifications were added. It played an important role at the times of Turkish invasion. It was destroyed in 18th century.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Veľký Blh, Slovakia

Brekov Castle Ruins

Brekov Castle was built in the the 13th century on the site of an older fort from the Great Moravian period. In time of the Rebellion of Estates in the 17th century, one or another fighting party repeatedly damaged it. It decayed in the late 17th century and only part of its walls and some domes survive.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Brekov, Slovakia

Pustý Castle Ruins

Pustý hrad is a castle whose ruins are located on a forested hill. With an area of 76,000 m² it is arguably one of the largest medieval castles in Europe. The original name was Zvolen Castle or Old Zvolen; Pustý hrad (meaning 'deserted castle') is a much later name used to distinguish the ruin from the present-day Zvolen Castle. Pustý hrad consists of two parts, the Upper Castle and the ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Zvolen, Slovakia

Divín Castle Ruins

Ruins of the medieval Divín Castle can be seen above the village. The castle was built by the end of the 13th century and it played an important role as an anti-Turkish fort in the 16th century. Its ill-famed owner Imrich Balassa, robber knight seated here in the 17th century and undertook assaults in its environs. After his death, the Castle was conquered by the Imperial troops in 1683 and fell in decay. Only part ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Divín, Slovakia

Dobrá Voda Castle Ruins

The Dobrá Voda castle was built on the site of an earlier castle in the first quarter of 13th century in the mountainous terrain on one of the roads that cross the crest of a small Carpathian Mountains. It was first time mentioned in 1263. In ancient times, the castle formed an elongated structure of the palace, which was close to both sides of the four-sided tower, a palace located on the southeast side of the ass ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Dobrá Voda, Slovakia

Hajnácka Castle Ruins

Hajnáčka castle was built in the Gothic style against the Mongol invasion in the mid-1200s. Later, in the mid-15th century, the construction was finished. Hajnáčka was the seat of important feudal lords. In 1545 the castle was besieged and conquered by Ottomans. At the end of the 16th century and the first third of the 17th century castle was an important part of the anti-Turkish defensive line. Ne ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Hajnácka, Slovakia

Hodejov Castle Ruins

Hodejov castle was built in 13th century and destroyed by Osmans in 1571. Today only some ruins remain.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Hodejov, Slovakia

Ilava Castle

Ilavský castle dates from the turn of the 11th - 12th century. It was probably founded by Knights Templars and later it served as a monastery. The first document of the castle dates from 1446. The state administration established a state prison in the castle, which, in a new form, has remained there until the present day. There was also a concentration camp during World War II.
Founded: c. 1100 | Location: Ilava, Slovakia

Jasenov Castle Ruins

At the turn of the 13th and 14th centuries Jasenov castle belonged to the noble man Peter from Bačkov. He was formerly an ally of the king, Charles Robert, during the period of struggle with the family of Omodejs (of the Abov county). Later, because Peter turned agains the king and tried to murder him, his property was thus entirely confiscated and in 1317 most of it given to the faithful Philip Drugeth. Since then i ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Jasenov, Slovakia

Lednica Castle Ruins

Lednica castle ruins stand on the picturesque Lednické bralo rock. The site is perhaps the most inaccessible one among the castles in Slovakia. The castle was built at the end of the 13th century and it was the seat of the Lednice estate. Imperial troops destroyed it at the beginning of the 18th century. Only the remains of walls survive. The legend says that the spirit of the beautiful lady of the castle Katarína walk ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Lednica, Slovakia

Liptov Castle Ruins

Liptov castle is the highest situated castle in Slovakia, located in the height of 993 metres. The first written record about the Liptov castle comes from 1262. Liptov castle was a royal castle in the past and its duty was to protect the borders of the country. Now you can admire the beauty of Liptov from there, but also rich archeological exposition in the nature.
Founded: 1262 | Location: Ružomberok, Slovakia

Markušovce Castle Ruins

The castle of Markušovce dates from 1284, but was not used after a fire in 1773.
Founded: 1284 | Location: Markušovce, Slovakia

Sklabina Castle Ruins

The Castle of Sklabiňa was first mentioned in 1242. After 1320, it became the seat of the county administration of Turiec. In 1630, the family of Révay had it adapted and a Renaissance manor house built in its courtyard. It was also fortified then. It remained the seat of the county administration until the mid-18th century. The Renaissance manor house survived until the Second World War. After it burnt in 19 ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Martin, Slovakia

Sulov Castle Ruins

Súľov Castle was built in first third of the 15th century. By it’s size, the castle was very small. Its main function was to protect and watching near by road. After 1550 fire it was rebuilt to its original shape and size. In 1730 the castle heads military garrison. There used to be upper and lower castle. Heavy earthquake damage in 1763 accelerated its final destruction. Fortified formation was found in ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Bytča, Slovakia

Vrsatec Castle Ruins

The original Gothic Vršatec castle from the 13th century was destroyed in time of Rákoczis rebellion in 1706. The legend has that the castellan of this castle cut his leg in order to help his master to escape from the Tartar prison. The ruins provide an excellent view of the whole of central Považie and the valley of the Váh river with the mountains Súľovské and Strážovs ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Pruské, Slovakia

Zniev Castle Ruins

Although the first written mention of the Zniev or Turiec Castle (castrum Turuc) is from 1243, archaeological excavations prove the existence of a fortified settlement as early as the 11th – 12th century. According to a document issued in 1253 by King Bela IV the castle was refortified by Ondrej Forgáč, who apart from other loyal deeds managed to save king´s life after the defeat of the royal army ...
Founded: 1243 | Location: Kláštor pod Znievom, Slovakia

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte

The Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte is a baroque French château built between 1658-1661 for Nicolas Fouquet. It was made for Marquis de Belle Île, Viscount of Melun and Vaux, the superintendent of finances of Louis XIV, the château was an influential work of architecture in mid-17th century Europe. At Vaux-le-Vicomte, the architect Louis Le Vau, the landscape architect André le Nôtre, and the painter-decorator Charles Le Brun worked together on a large-scale project for the first time. Their collaboration marked the beginning of the 'Louis XIV style' combining architecture, interior design and landscape design. The garden's pronounced visual axis is an example of this style.

To secure the necessary grounds for the elaborate plans for Vaux-le-Vicomte’s garden and castle, Fouquet purchased and demolished three villages. The displaced villagers were then employed in the upkeep and maintenance of the gardens. It was said to have employed eighteen thousand workers and cost as much as 16 million livres. The château and its patron became for a short time a focus for fine feasts, literature and arts. The poet La Fontaine and the playwright Molière were among the artists close to Fouquet. At the inauguration of Vaux-le-Vicomte, a Molière play was performed, along with a dinner event organized by François Vatel, and an impressive firework show.

After Fouquet was arrested and imprisoned for life, and his wife exiled, Vaux-le-Vicomte was placed under sequestration. The king seized, confiscated or purchased 120 tapestries, the statues, and all the orange trees from Vaux-le-Vicomte. He then sent the team of artists (Le Vau, Le Nôtre and Le Brun) to design what would be a much larger project than Vaux-le-Vicomte, the palace and gardens of Versailles.

The Marshal Villars became the new owner without first seeing the chateau. In 1764, the Marshal's son sold the estate to the Duke of Praslin, whose descendants would maintain the property for over a century. It is sometimes mistakenly reported that the château was the scene of a murder in 1847, when duke Charles de Choiseul-Praslin, killed his wife in her bedroom, but this did not happen at Vaux-le-Vicomte but at the Paris residence of the Duke.

In 1875, after thirty years of neglect, the estate was sold to Alfred Sommier in a public auction. The château was empty, some of the outbuildings had fallen into ruin, and the famous gardens were totally overgrown. The huge task of restoration and refurbishment began under the direction of the architect Gabriel-Hippolyte Destailleur, assisted by the landscape architect Elie Lainé. When Sommier died in 1908, the château and the gardens had recovered their original appearance. His son, Edme Sommier, and his daughter-in-law completed the task. Today, his descendants continue to preserve the château, which remains privately owned by Patrice and Cristina de Vogüé, the Count and Countess de Vogüé. It is now administered by their three sons Alexandre, Jean-Charles and Ascanio de Vogüé. Recognized by the state as a monument historique, it is open to the public regularly.

Architecture

The chateau is situated near the northern end of a 1.5-km long north-south axis with the entrance front facing north. Its elevations are perfectly symmetrical to either side of this axis. Somewhat surprisingly the interior plan is also nearly completely symmetrical with few differences between the eastern and western halves. The two rooms in the center, the entrance vestibule to the north and the oval salon to the south, were originally an open-air loggia, dividing the chateau into two distinct sections. The interior decoration of these two rooms was therefore more typical of an outdoor setting. Three sets of three arches, those on the entrance front, three more between the vestibule and the salon, and the three leading from the salon to the garden are all aligned and permitted the arriving visitor to see through to the central axis of the garden even before entering the chateau. The exterior arches could be closed with iron gates, and only later were they filled in with glass doors and the interior arches with mirrored doors. Since the loggia divided the building into two halves, there are two symmetrical staircases on either side of it, rather than a single staircase. The rooms in the eastern half of the house were intended for the use of the king, those in the western were for Fouquet. The provision of a suite of rooms for the king was normal practice in aristocratic houses of the time, since the king travelled frequently.

Another surprising feature of the plan is the thickness of the main body of the building (corps de logis), which consists of two rows of rooms running east and west. Traditionally the middle of the corps de logis of French chateaux consisted of a single row of rooms. Double-thick corps de logis had already been used in hôtels particuliers in Paris, including Le Vau's Hôtel Tambonneau, but Vaux was the first chateau to incorporate this change. Even more unusual, the main rooms are all on the ground floor rather than the first floor (the traditional piano nobile). This accounts for the lack of a grand staircase or a gallery, standard elements of most contemporary chateaux. Also noteworthy are corridors in the basement and on the first floor which run the length of house providing privacy to the rooms they access. Up to the middle of the 17th century, corridors were essentially unknown. Another feature of the plan, the four pavilions, one at each corner of the building, is more conventional.

Vaux-le-Vicomte was originally planned to be constructed in brick and stone, but after the mid-century, as the middle classes began to imitate this style, aristocratic circles began using stone exclusively. Rather late in the design process, Fouquet and Le Vau switched to stone, a decision that may have been influenced by the use of stone at François Mansart's Château de Maisons. The service buildings flanking the large avant-cour to the north of the house remained in brick and stone, and other structures preceding them were in rubble-stone and plaster, a social ranking of building materials that would be common in France for a considerable length of time thereafter.

The main chateau is constructed entirely on a moated platform, reached via two bridges, both aligned with the central axis and placed on the north and south sides. The moat is a picturesque holdover from medieval fortified residences, and is again a feature that Le Vau may have borrowed from Maisons. The moat at Vaux may also have been inspired by the previous chateau on the site, which Le Vau's work replaced.

Gardens

The château rises on an elevated platform in the middle of the woods and marks the border between unequal spaces, each treated in a different way. This effect is more distinctive today, as the woodlands are mature, than it was in the seventeenth century when the site had been farmland, and the plantations were new.

Le Nôtre's garden was the dominant structure of the great complex, stretching nearly a mile and a half (3 km), with a balanced composition of water basins and canals contained in stone curbs, fountains, gravel walks, and patterned parterres that remains more coherent than the vast display Le Nôtre was to create at Versailles.

Le Nôtre created a magnificent scene to be viewed from the house, using the laws of perspective. Le Notre used the natural terrain to his advantage. He placed the canal at the lowest part of the complex, thus hiding it from the main perspectival point of view. Past the canal, the garden ascends a large open lawn and ends with the Hercules column added in the 19th century. Shrubberies provided a picture frame to the garden that also served as a stage for royal fêtes.

From the top of the grand staircase, this gives the impression that the entire garden is revealed in one single glance. Initially, the view consists of symmetrical rows of shrubbery, avenues, fountains, statues, flowers and other pieces developed to imitate nature – these elements exemplify the Baroque desire to mold nature to fit its wishes, thus using nature to imitate nature. The centerpiece is a large reflecting pool flanked by grottos holding statues in their many niches. The grand sloping lawn is not visible until one begins to explore the garden, when the viewer is made aware of the optical elements involved and discovers that the garden is much larger than it looks.