Trakošćan was built in the 13th century within Croatia's northwestern fortification system, as a rather small observation fortress for monitoring the road from Ptuj to Bednja Valley.
According to a legend, Trakošćan was named after another fortification (arx Thacorum) that was alleged to have stood in the same spot back in antiquity. Another source claims that it was named after the knights of Drachenstein who were in control of the region in early Middle Ages.
The toponym was first mentioned in written records in 1334. It is not known who its owners were in the first years of its existence. As of the end of the 14th century, it was owned by the Counts of Celje, who were in charge of the entire Zagorje County. The family soon became extinct, and Trakošćan shared the fate of their other burgs and estates that were divided and kept changing owners. In these divisions, Trakošćan was, as a whole, first owned by an army leader by the name of Jan Vitovac, then by Ivaniš Korvin, who gave it to his deputy warden Ivan Gyulay. The family kept the castle throughout three generations, and became extinct in 1566, after which the ownership was taken over by the state.
King Maximilian gave the estate to Juraj Drašković (1525–1587) for services rendered, first personally, and then as family heritage. This was how, in 1584, the Drašković family finally came into possession of Trakošćan.
In the second half of the 18th century, when the building of manors was flourishing in Hrvatsko Zagorje, Trakošćan was abandoned. Neglected, it fell quickly into dilapidation. It was only towards the middle of the 19th century that the family became interested once again in its estate, in the Romanticist spirit of return to nature and family traditions. In this spirit, the deputy marshal Juraj V. Drašković turned the castle into a residential manor-house, while the surrounding park was turned into Romanticist pleasure grounds. The generations that followed were staying at the castle from time to time all the way until 1944 when they were forced to emigrate to Austria. Soon after that, the castle became nationalized.
The Museum with collections on permanent display was established in 1953. The castle is today owned by the Republic of Croatia.
The castle itself reveals different phases of building. For several centuries, it used to be a fortification, so that the reconstructions undertaken during that period were functional rather than aesthetic. The facility's essential core is a Romanesque fortification consisting of a housing unit, a small fortified yard, and a massive high tower. The fortification's good location and its observation tower made it safe and easy to defend.
Rapid development of firearms and increasingly threatening Turkish attacks made additional construction and further fortifying urgently necessary. The Drašković family's second generation, Ivan II and Petar, added the western tower, which may be seen from the coat-of-arms and the accompanying inscription.
On the Great Genealogical Tree, the oldest visual presentation from 1668, the facility had three floors, and its basic dimensions could already be discerned. Over the next period, several defense facilities were added around it. At the time, it also had the highest number of inhabitants, as may be seen from the Small Genealogical Tree dating back to 1755. It was in this same century that the outbuildings were erected at the foothills of Trakošćan, and a stone bridge built over the river Bednja.
In the 19th century Trakošćan acquired its present appearance. In the 1840–62 period, during one among the first restoration undertakings in the country, the castle was reconstructed in Neo-Gothic style. This not only altered its exterior, but also finally brought to an end its five centuries long fortification purpose. The reconstruction also included the appearance of Romanticist pleasure grounds by Juraj V. Drašković, after the model of English parks. When the dam was built, the valley turned into a large lake. The uniqueness of style characterizing the facility equally includes the interior and its surrounding landscape. Count Drašković sold Klenovnik Castle, the largest castle in Croatia, then also held by the Draskovich Family in order to fund the restorations.
After the reconstruction, the castle was still inhabited by several generations of the Drašković family that did some additional constructions and adaptations. It was at the time that the northern tower appeared over the entrance, a large shingle cap added to the top of the tower (removed in 1961), and a southwestern vaulted terrace added.
The end of World War II found Trakošćan in a neglected and dilapidated condition, which is why protective architectural and interior decoration works were immediately undertaken. Over the past few years, the castle has once again been undergoing more thorough reconstruction.References:
German crusaders known as the Livonian Brothers of the Sword began construction of the Cēsis castle (Wenden) near the hill fort in 1209. When the castle was enlarged and fortified, it served as the residence for the Order's Master from 1237 till 1561, with periodic interruptions. Its ruins are some of the most majestic castle ruins in the Baltic states. Once the most important castle of the Livonian Order, it was the official residence for the masters of the order.
In 1577, during the Livonian War, the garrison destroyed the castle to prevent it from falling into the control of Ivan the Terrible, who was decisively defeated in the Battle of Wenden (1578).
In 1598 it was incorporated into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Wenden Voivodship was created here. In 1620 Wenden was conquered by Sweden. It was rebuilt afterwards, but was destroyed again in 1703 during the Great Northern War by the Russian army and left in a ruined state. Already from the end of the 16th century, the premises of the Order's castle were adjusted to the requirements of the Cēsis Castle estate. When in 1777 the Cēsis Castle estate was obtained by Count Carl Sievers, he had his new residence house built on the site of the eastern block of the castle, joining its end wall with the fortification tower.
Since 1949, the Cēsis History Museum has been located in this New Castle of the Cēsis Castle estate. The front yard of the New Castle is enclosed by a granary and a stable-coach house, which now houses the Exhibition Hall of the Museum. Beside the granary there is the oldest brewery in Latvia, Cēsu alus darītava, which was built in 1878 during the later Count Sievers' time, but its origins date back to the period of the Livonian Order. Further on, the Cēsis Castle park is situated, which was laid out in 1812. The park has the romantic characteristic of that time, with its winding footpaths, exotic plants, and the waters of the pond reflecting the castle's ruins. Nowadays also one of the towers is open for tourists.