Hammershus is Northern Europe's largest medieval fortification, situated 74 metres above sea level. Erected in the 13th century, it was long believed that the castle was built as a private residence for the archbishop of Lund. However, new evidence found at the ruins of the castle suggests it was constructed in the beginning of the century as a royal residence for Valdemar II of Denmark and a base for the Danish crusades, according to Kjeld Borch Westh, superintendent of the National Museum of Denmark.
During a number of successive struggles between the kings of Denmark versus the Archbishopric, the fortress, serving as a refuge for the Archbishops, e.g. Jens Grand, was conquered by the king's army on a number of occasions, e.g. 1259, 1265, 1319, and 1325. In 1521, it was taken by king Christian II who used it to imprison Bishop Jens Andersen Beldenak of Funen. The fortress was conquered by forces of Lübeck the same year.
In 1658, Hammershus was occupied by Swedish forces but a rebellion on the island terminated the Swedish rule. The rebels led by Jens Pedersen Kofoed shot the Swedish commandant Johan Printzenskiöld and the Danish peasants traveled to Copenhagen to return the island to the king of Denmark. Corfitz Ulfeldt and his wife Leonora Christina were imprisoned in Hammershus 1660–1661, and the fortress was used as a prison on several other occasions.
The fortress was partially demolished around 1750 and is now a ruin. It was partially restored around 1900.
The fortification consists of the base castle residence and accompanying Mantel Tower, and includes a great stonewall stretching 750 metres around the castle grounds. Bricks found at the tower during the renovation led Westh and other experts to revise their theory on when the structure was originally constructed, moving back the date from around 1255 to the beginning of the century, when Valdemar became king.
Visitors to Hammershus have a spectacular view of the coastline and the sea surrounding Bornholm. South of the castle is a deep valley, water filled hollows, and dense forest. There are numerous points before arriving at castle where enemies could be stopped. The castle was built with box-like rooms surrounded by rings of fortifications. Each provided an additional layer of protection from invaders. Two natural spring ponds provided fresh drinking water on the side of the castle. Hammershus Fortress features a 750-metre-long perimeter wall and features a grand tower called the "mantel" tower.References:
The Beckov castle stands on a steep 50 m tall rock in the village Beckov. The dominance of the rock and impression of invincibility it gaves, challenged our ancestors to make use of these assets. The result is a remarkable harmony between the natural setting and architecture.
The castle first mentioned in 1200 was originally owned by the King and later, at the end of the 13th century it fell in hands of Matúš Èák. Its owners alternated - at the end of the 14th century the family of Stibor of Stiborice bought it.
The next owners, the Bánffys who adapted the Gothic castle to the Renaissance residence, improved its fortifications preventing the Turks from conquering it at the end of the 16th century. When Bánffys died out, the castle was owned by several noble families. It fell in decay after fire in 1729.
The history of the castle is the subject of different legends. One of them narrates the origin of the name of castle derived from that of jester Becko for whom the Duke Stibor had the castle built.
Another legend has it that the lord of the castle had his servant thrown down from the rock because he protected his child from the lords favourite dog. Before his death, the servant pronounced a curse saying that they would meet in a year and days time, and indeed precisely after that time the lord was bitten by a snake and fell down to the same abyss.
The well-conserved ruins of the castle, now the National Cultural Monument, are frequently visited by tourists, above all in July when the castle festival takes place. The former Ambro curia situated below the castle now shelters the exhibition of the local history.