Kasteel Wittem, now a national listed monument, was probably built in the 11th century. The oldest records in which the castle is mentioned date from 1125. The next century the castle was owned by the knights of Julémont. They started to call themselves Lords of Wittem. A title that was assumed by later owners. During their ownership in 1286, Reinoud, Count of Gelre, tried in vain to take the castle by surprise. In the early 15th century the castle was considerably enlarged until it consisted of a powerful stronghold with 7 towers and two moats spanned by bridges. Every bridge was equipped with a gate building.
The following successive owners of the castle were the knights of the Van Scavendriesch family and the Van Cosselaer family. In 1466 the castle was sold to Diederik van Pallant. In 1520 Emperor Charles V elevated Wittem to a Barony, probably as a reward for his sojourn at the castle on his journey to Aix-la-Chapelle for his coronation.
At the beginning of the 80-Years War Wittem Castle was confiscated by the Spanish under the Duke of Alva. His troops were expelled, in 1568, by the mercenary troops of William the Silent, Prince of Orange. Next William left to Maastricht to also free that city from the Spanish. When he didn't succeed he returned to Wittem Castle only to find it again taken by Spanish troops. Yet again he drove them out. In 1569 the Spanish returned again after which they destroyed the castle.
The castle was restored and enlarged in 1611, with compensation money for the war damages, by the Van Pallant family. In 1639 ownership of the castle transferred to the Counts of Waldeck Pyrmont. In 1678 they again had to restore the damage done to the castle, this time by French troops garrisoned in Maastricht.
In 1714 Count Ferdinand von Plettenberg became the last noble owner of the castle. When he came to the castle it already was in a dilapidated state. In 1794, after the French Revolution, the ruinous castle was taken from the count and sold to Simon Merckenbach. His family restored the castle to its present state and made it habitable again. In 1958 the castle was sold and is since being used as a hotel-restaurant.
The present building forms just a small part of the medieval castle. It consists of a round corner tower with two wings. In the farm buildings belonging to the castle are also parts of remaining medieval walls.References:
Derbent is the southernmost city in Russia, occupying the narrow gateway between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains connecting the Eurasian steppes to the north and the Iranian Plateau to the south. Derbent claims to be the oldest city in Russia with historical documentation dating to the 8th century BCE. Due to its strategic location, over the course of history, the city changed ownership many times, particularly among the Persian, Arab, Mongol, Timurid, Shirvan and Iranian kingdoms.
Derbent has archaeological structures over 5,000 years old. As a result of this geographic peculiarity, the city developed between two walls, stretching from the mountains to the sea. These fortifications were continuously employed for a millennium and a half, longer than any other extant fortress in the world.
A traditionally and historically Iranian city, the first intensive settlement in the Derbent area dates from the 8th century BC. The site was intermittently controlled by the Persian monarchs, starting from the 6th century BC. Until the 4th century AD, it was part of Caucasian Albania which was a satrap of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. In the 5th century Derbent functioned as a border fortress and the seat of Sassanid Persians. Because of its strategic position on the northern branch of the Silk Route, the fortress was contested by the Khazars in the course of the Khazar-Arab Wars. In 654, Derbent was captured by the Arabs.
The Sassanid fortress does not exist any more, as the famous Derbent fortress as it stands today was built from the 12th century onward. Derbent became a strong military outpost and harbour of the Sassanid empire. During the 5th and 6th centuries, Derbent also became an important center for spreading the Christian faith in the Caucasus.
The site continued to be of great strategic importance until the 19th century. Today the fortifications consist of two parallel defence walls and Naryn-Kala Citadel. The walls are 3.6km long, stretching from the sea up to the mountains. They were built from stone and had 73 defence towers. 9 out of the 14 original gates remain.
In Naryn-Kala Citadel most of the old buildings, including a palace and a church, are now in ruins. It also holds baths and one of the oldest mosques in the former USSR.
In 2003, UNESCO included the old part of Derbent with traditional buildings in the World Heritage List.