The ruins of Spiš Castle (Spišský hrad) is one of the largest castle sites in Central Europe. It was included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1993 (together with the adjacent locations of Spišská Kapitula, Spišské Podhradie and Žehra).
Spiš Castle was built in the 12th century on the site of an earlier castle. It was the political, administrative, economic and cultural centre of Szepes County of the Kingdom of Hungary. Before 1464, it was owned by the kings of Hungary, afterwards (until 1528) by the Zápolya family, the Thurzó family (1531–1635), the Csáky family (1638–1945), аnd (since 1945) by the state of Czechoslovakia then Slovakia.
Originally a Romanesque stone castle with fortifications, a two-story Romanesque palace and a three-nave Romanesque-Gothic basilica were constructed by the second half of the 13th century. A second extramural settlement was built in the 14th century, by which the castle area was doubled. The castle was completely rebuilt in the 15th century; the castle walls were heightened and a third extramural settlement was constructed. A late Gothic chapel was added around 1470. The Zápolya clan performed late Gothic transformations, which made the upper castle into a comfortable family residence, typical of late Renaissance residences of the 16th and 17th centuries. The last owners of the Spiš Castle, the Csáky family, abandoned the castle in the early 18th century because they considered it too uncomfortable to live in. They moved to the newly built nearby village castles/palaces in Hodkovce near Žehra and Spišský Hrhov.
In 1780, the castle burned down. It is not known how it burned down, but there are a few theories. One is that the Csáky family purposely burned it down to reduce taxes (no roofs back then meant no taxes). Another is that it was stuck by lightning, which started the fire. A third is that some soldiers there were making moonshine and managed to burn the castle. Whatever the case, after the fire, the castle was no longer occupied and began to fall into disrepair. The castle was partly reconstructed in the second half of the 20th century, and extensive archaeological research was carried out on the site. The reconstructed sections house displays of the Spiš Museum and things inside it, such as torture devices used in the castle.References:
The Château du Haut-Koenigsbourg is situated in a strategic area on a rocky spur overlooking the Upper Rhine Plain, it was used by successive powers from the Middle Ages until the Thirty Years' War when it was abandoned. From 1900 to 1908 it was rebuilt at the behest of the German kaiser Wilhelm II. Today it is a major tourist site, attracting more than 500,000 visitors a year.
The first records of a castle built by the Hohenstaufens date back to 1147. The fortress changed its name to Koenigsburg (royal castle) around 1157. The castle was handed over to the Tiersteins by the Habsburgs following its destruction in 1462. They rebuilt and enlarged it, installing a defensive system designed to withstand artillery fire.
The fortification work accomplished over the 15th century did not suffice to keep the Swedish artillery at bay during the Thirty Years War, and the defences were overrun.