Kežmarok Castle dates from 1463. It was built for the defence the town on the site of the medieval community of Svätá Alžbeta (St. Elisabeth). The original castle was built in the Gothic style with thick walls and massive bastions. The castle gained its contemporary Renaissance form after extensive rebuilding which proceeded in various stages in the years 1572, 1575, 1583, and 1624. The last phase was completed by Šebastián Thököly, the founder of the famous family, who invited renowned Italian stonemasons, bricklayers and painters to change the original stronghold into a representative family mansion. The buildings in the castle courtyard were equipped with Renaissance arcades, its sumptuous halls were adorned with wall paintings, and the interior of the castle chapel was renewed in the Early-Baroque style.
Curiosity and courage were properties the noble Princess Beata Laská of Kežmarok Castle certainly possessed. Otherwise she would never have set out on a trip accompanied by several burghers from Kežmarok to the not too distant Snow Mountains (today called the Tatras) in 1565. When the princess returned three days later, after having visited Zelené pleso lake, her angry husband was waiting for her at the gate of the castle. He decided to have the Princess interned in the strongest tower where she passed six long years in extremely hard conditions. The only relief for the unfortunate princess was that the tower had two small windows, one overlooking her beloved Snow Mountains, and the other through which she was given food.
In 1931, the first exposition of the regional Museum of Kežmarok was opened in a part of the castle compound. After general repairs to the castle that took place in the years 1962-1985, its collections were expanded. Visitors can see many expositions and theatre performances in summer nights at the Castle.References:
The St Sophia's Cathedral was built between 1045-1050 inside the Novgorod Kremlin (fortress). It is one of the earliest stone structures of northern Russia. Its height is 38 m. Originally it was taller, for during the past nine centuries the lower part of the building became concealed by the two-metre thick cultural layer. The cathedral was built by Prince Vladimir, the son of Yaroslav the Wise, and until the 1130s this principal church of the city also served as the sepulchre of Novgorodian princes. For the Novgorodians, St Sophia became synonymous with their town, the symbol of civic power and independence.
The five-domed church looks simpler but no less impressive than its prototype, the thirteen-domed St Sophia of Kiev. The cathedral exterior is striking in its majesty and epic splendour evoking the memories of Novgorod's glorious past and invincible might. In the 11th century it looked more imposing than now. Its facade represented a gigantic mosaic of huge, coarsely trimmed irregular slabs of flagstone and shell rock. In some places (particularly on the apses), the wall was covered with mortar, smoothly polished, drawn up to imitate courses of brick or of whitestone slabs, and slightly coloured. As a result, the facade was not white, as it is today, but multicoloured. The play of stone, decorative painting and the building materials of various texture enhanced the impression of austere simplicity and introduced a picturesque effect.
The two-storied galleries extend along the building's southern, western and northern sides, with a stair-tower constructed at the north-eastern corner. The cathedral has three entrances - the southern, western and northern, of which the western was the main one intended for ceremonial processions. A gate standing at the entrance is known as the Sigtuna Gate (mid-12th century); according to legend, it was brought from the Swedish town of Sigtuna in 1187. The second name of the gate derives from the town of Magdeburg, where it was made. The two leaves are decorated with biblical and evangelical scenes in cast bronze relief. In the lower left corner there are portraits of the craftsmen who created this superb specimen of medieval Western European bronze-work. An inscription in Latin gives their names, Riquin and Weissmut. The small central figure - judging from an inscription in Slavonic - is a representation of the Russian master craftsman Avraam, who assembled the gate.
There is yet another bronze gate in the cathedral, called the Korsun Gate. Made in the 11th century in Chersonesos, Byzantium, it leads from the southern gallery into the Nativity Side-Chapel. Legend has it that the gate was handed over to Novgorod as a gift of Prince Yaroslav the Wise (c. 978 - 1054).
The interior of the cathedral is as majestic as its exterior. It is divided by huge piers into five aisles, three of which end in altar apses. In the south-western corner, inside the tower, there is a wide spiral in relatively small, modest buildings of the 12th - 16th centuries.