Devín Castle is a national cultural monument of Slovakia and one of the oldest fortifications in the country. Owing to its strategic position, the cliff (altitude of 212 meters) at the confluence of the Danube and Morava rivers was an ideal place for a fort. Its owner could control the important trade route along the Danube as well as one branch of the Amber Road. That is why the site has been settled since the Neolithic and fortified since the Bronze and Iron Age.

Devín castle likely is first mentioned in written sources in 864, when Louis the German besieged Prince Rastislav in one of the frequent wars between the Franks and Great Moravia respectively in the 'castle of Dowina'. During the Moravian period, a Christian church had been built in the complex.

In the 13th century, a stone castle was built to protect the western frontier of the Hungarian Kingdom whose existence was documented in 1271 and a reference to a castelanus de Devin appeared in 1326. Between 1301 and 1323, the castle was held by the Dukes of Austria who granted it to Otto von Tellesbrunn. In 1323, the dukes transferred Pozsony county back to King Charles I of Hungary and Devín Castle became the possession of the heads (ispáns) of the county. In 1385, the castle was occupied by Margrave Jobst of Moravia who held it until 1390 when King Sigismund of Hungary redeemed it and gave it to duke Stibor of Stiboricz. After that, the king mortgaged Devín Castle to an Austrian knight, Lessel Hering who transferred the castle to Nicholas II Garay (the Palatine of the kingdom) in 1414. Around 1444, King Frederick IV of Germany occupied the castle but he granted it to Ladislaus II Garay already in 1450.

A palace was added in the 15th century. Fortification was reinforced during wars against the Ottoman Empire. The Castle was never taken, but after the Hungarian Kingdom joined the Habsburg Monarchy and the Ottomans were finally defeated, it ceased to be an important border fortress and was no longer used by the military. Stephen Báthory got the castle by the king as a donation. But according to Stephen Báthory was Keglević the owner of the castle. Keglević pawned the castle for 40,000 guilders to the Palocsai family and spent the money. In 1609, Matthias II confirmed that Keglević still was the owner of the castle, but Keglević did not have the money to take the castle out of pledge from the Palocsai family. Nearly 100 years later in 1635 Palatine Pál Pálffy took the castle out of pledge from the Palocsai family. The last owners of the Devín Castle were the Counts of the Pálffy family. Only in 1809, after the Siege of Pressburg, was the castle (still considered a threat) destroyed by the retreating forces of Napoleon I of France. Napoleon and Leopold Pálffy negotiated then and they both agreed that Vienna is supplied with products by Pálffy.

Since the 19th century as its history inspired several Romantic poets, followers of Ľudovít Štúr, Devín has become an important national symbol for the Slovaks. It featured both on the reverse of the former 500 Czechoslovak koruna banknote and the 50 Halierov coin of the Slovak currency.

The castle stands just inside Slovak territory on the frontier between Slovakia (previously part of Czechoslovakia) and Austria. The border runs from west to east along the Morava River and subsequently the Danube. Prior to 1989, the Iron Curtain between the Eastern Bloc and the West ran just in front of the castle. Although the castle was open to the public, the area surrounding it constituted a restricted military zone, and was heavily fortified with watchtowers and barbed wire. After the Velvet Revolution the area was demilitarised.

The most photogenic part of the castle is the tiny watchtower, known as the Maiden Tower. Separated from the main castle, it balances perilously on a lone rock and has spawned countless legends concerning imprisoned lovelorn daughters leaping to their deaths.

Inside, the castle is a sprawling landscape of walls, staircases, open courtyards and gardens in various states of repair. They are all, however, made readily accessible by a continuing restoration and archaeological project conducted since the borough of Devín was reclaimed from Nazi Germany which had annexed it shortly before World War II.

References:

Comments

Your name

Website (optional)



User Reviews

Powered by Google

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Bergenhus Fortress

Bergenhus fortress is one of the oldest and best preserved castles in Norway. It contains buildings dating as far back as the 1240s, as well as later constructions built as recently as World War II. The extent of the enclosed area of today dates from the early 19th century. In medieval times, the area of the present-day Bergenhus Fortress was known as Holmen (The islet), and contained the royal residence in Bergen, as well as a cathedral and several churches, the bishop's residence, and a Dominican monastery. Excavations have revealed foundations of buildings believed to date back to before 1100, which might have been erected by King Olav Kyrre. In the 13th century, until 1299, Bergen was the capital of Norway and Holmen was thus the main seat of Norway's rulers. It was first enclosed by stone walls in the 1240s.

Of the medieval buildings, a medieval hall and a defensive tower remain. The royal hall, today known as Haakon's Hall, built around 1260, is the largest medieval secular building in Norway. The defensive tower, known in the Middle Ages as the keep by the sea, was built around 1270 by King Magnus VI Lagabøte, and contained a royal apartment on the top floor. In the 1560s it was incorporated by the commander of the castle, Erik Rosenkrantz, into a larger structure, which is today known as the Rosenkrantz Tower.

In the Middle Ages, several churches, including the Christ Church, Bergen's cathedral, were situated on the premises. These however were torn down in the period 1526 to 1531, as the area of Holmen was converted into a purely military fortification under Danish rule. From around this time, the name Bergenhus came into use. Building work on the Christ Church probably started around 1100. It contained the shrine of saint Sunniva, the patron saint of Bergen and western Norway. In the 12th and 13th centuries it was the site of several royal coronations and weddings. It was also the burial site of at least six kings, as well as other members of the royal family. The site of its altar is today marked by a memorial stone.

In the 19th century, the fortress lost its function as a defensive fortification, but it was retained by the military as an administrative base. After restoration in the 1890s, and again after destruction sustained during World War II, Bergenhus is today again used as a feast hall for public events. During World War II, the German navy used several of its buildings for their headquarters, and they also constructed a large concrete bunker within the fortress walls. The buildings, including the Haakon's Hall, were severely damaged when a Dutch ship in the service of the German navy, carrying approximately 120 tons of dynamite, exploded on 20 April 1944 in the harbour just outside the fortress walls, but the buildings were later restored.

Bergenhus is currently under the command of the Royal Norwegian Navy, which has about 150 military personnel stationed there. The fortifications Sverresborg fortress and Fredriksberg fortress also lie in the centre of Bergen. Haakon's Hall and the Rosenkrantz Tower are open for visits by the public. Koengen, the central part of Bergenhus Fortress is also known as a concert venue.