The Livonian Order's stone castle is the oldest building in Dobele, and a national architectural monument. It was built on the site of an ancient Semigallian timber fortress from 1335 to 1339. A church was built and a park was laid out later.
This land hosted a settlement of Dobele's most ancient inhabitants – the Semigallians as early as 1000 years B.C. Surrounded by the ancient town, there stood a timber fortress, one of the administrative centres of ancient Semigallians. The castle has been mentioned several times in the Livonian Rhymed Chronicle telling about the 13th century battles between the locals and the German crusader knights. Between 1279 and 1289, Dobele castle withstood six enemy attacks. In 1289, the Semigallians burnt down their fortress and left, undefeated, for Rakte in Lithuania.
Until 1562, the castle was headquarters for the chief of the garrison and also the Komtur, commander of the district. During the period of the Duchy of Courland and Semigallia, several commanders were in charge of the castle, the last one being Christoph Georg von Ofenberg. After 1729, the castle built by the Order was abandoned and gradually fell in ruins. Works for the conservation of the ruins started were launched in 2002.References:
Hochosterwitz Castle is considered to be one of Austria's most impressive medieval castles. The rock castle is one of the state's landmarks and a major tourist attraction.
The site was first mentioned in an 860 deed issued by King Louis the German of East Francia, donating several of his properties in the former Principality of Carantania to the Archdiocese of Salzburg. In the 11th century Archbishop Gebhard of Salzburg ceded the castle to the Dukes of Carinthia from the noble House of Sponheim in return for their support during the Investiture Controversy. The Sponheim dukes bestowed the fiefdom upon the family of Osterwitz, who held the hereditary office of the cup-bearer in 1209.
In the 15th century, the last Carinthian cup-bearer, Georg of Osterwitz was captured in a Turkish invasion and died in 1476 in prison without leaving descendants. So after four centuries, on 30 May 1478, the possession of the castle reverted to Emperor Frederick III of Habsburg.
Over the next 30 years, the castle was badly damaged by numerous Turkish campaigns. On 5 October 1509, Emperor Maximilian I handed the castle as a pledge to Matthäus Lang von Wellenburg, then Bishop of Gurk. Bishop Lang undertook a substantial renovation project for the damaged castle.
About 1541, German king Ferdinand I of Habsburg bestowed Hochosterwitz upon the Carinthian governor Christof Khevenhüller. In 1571, Baron George Khevenhüller acquired the citadel by purchase. He fortified to deal with the threat of Turkish invasions of the region, building an armory and 14 gates between 1570 and 1586. Such massive fortification is considered unique in citadel construction.
Since the 16th century, no major changes have been made to Hochosterwitz. It has also remained in the possession of the Khevenhüller family as requested by the original builder, George Khevenhüller. A marble plaque dating from 1576 in the castle yard documents this request.
A specific feature is the access way to the castle passing through a total of 14 gates, which are particularly prominent owing to the castle's situation in the landscape. Tourists are allowed to walk the 620-metre long pathway through the gates up to the castle; each gate has a diagram of the defense mechanism used to seal that particular gate. The castle rooms hold a collection of prehistoric artifacts, paintings, weapons, and armor, including one set of armor 2.4 metres tall, once worn by Burghauptmann Schenk.