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:
The Externsteine (Extern stones) is a distinctive sandstone rock formation located in the Teutoburg Forest, near the town of Horn-Bad Meinberg. The formation is a tor consisting of several tall, narrow columns of rock which rise abruptly from the surrounding wooded hills. Archaeological excavations have yielded some Upper Paleolithic stone tools dating to about 10,700 BC from 9,600 BC.
In a popular tradition going back to an idea proposed to Hermann Hamelmann in 1564, the Externsteine are identified as a sacred site of the pagan Saxons, and the location of the Irminsul (sacral pillar-like object in German paganism) idol reportedly destroyed by Charlemagne; there is however no archaeological evidence that would confirm the site's use during the relevant period.
The stones were used as the site of a hermitage in the Middle Ages, and by at least the high medieval period were the site of a Christian chapel. The Externsteine relief is a medieval depiction of the Descent from the Cross. It remains controversial whether the site was already used for Christian worship in the 8th to early 10th centuries.
The Externsteine gained prominence when Völkisch and nationalistic scholars took an interest in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This interest peaked under the Nazi regime, when the Externsteine became a focus of nazi propaganda. Today, they remain a popular tourist destination and also continue to attract Neo-Pagans and Neo-Nazis.