Orava Castle, situated on a high rock above Orava river, is considered to be one of the most beautiful castles in Slovakia. The castle was built in the Kingdom of Hungary in the 13th century. Orava Castle stands on the site of an old wooden fortification, built after the Mongol invasion of Hungary of 1241. Its history since then reveals a familiar pattern of construction, destruction, reconstruction, fire, various ownerships and territorial squabbles. The original design was in Romanesque and Gothic style; it was later reconstructed as a Renaissance and Neo-Gothic structure, hugging the shape of the 520-metre spur on which it perches.
In 1370 as part of the Hungarian Kingdom the castle became the center of Árva county. A tetrahedral multi-story towerntury was built here in the 14th century, probably on older foundations, as a donjon – the place of 'last defense' within the castle. After 1474, King Matthew gave orders to build a square and a residence-wing in the Middle Castle. The buildings were situated in front of the castle. In 1534 John of Dubovec obtained the castle and became head of the county. He started to rebuild the castle and to make new fortifications. He ordered the building of a half-round tower in the Upper Castle that in 1539 was followed by two large round fortifications for cannons in the Middle Castle. The middle platform was also configured for cannon firing. In the years 1539 – 1543 John of Dubovec built a five-story palace in the empty space between the tower and the stone wall of the Upper Castle. The Turkish threat was the reason for building these new fortifications. A new gate with a ditch and drawbridge in the Lower Castle was completed in 1543. The Tower of the Archives was built against the castle walls.
After the death of John of Dubovec, his heirs quarreled over the inheritance and the situation became so bad that the castle even became a store-house. It was paid for by the mine owner Ferenc Thurzó. A lot of building activity took place at the castle following this time period. The wooden stairs in the Upper Castle were replaced by stone stairs. The same was done to the stairs between the Middle and the Upper Castle with the drawbridge. A cellar was also dug out of the stone of the castle court and a one-story residence-wing was built in the Lower Castle near the west wall.
György Thurzó also carried out some important repairs. One of the first was the building of a tunnel between both castle gates, above which was formed a large terrace. After this was all done he moved the living-quarters and the building of the Chapel started using parts of some old architecture. The interior furnishing of the Chapel was later arranged in a taste which suited the new owners of the Castle. One of the most well-known features is the Renaissance grave tomb of György Thurzó from the beginning of the 17th century and the Baroque altar from 1751 - 1752.
After the death of Erzsébet Czobor, the widow of György Thurzó, the castle became the property of Thurzó"s daughters, who entrusted its administration to an elected administrator. Because of changes in politics, society and the economy, the castle gradually lost its important functions. Only a few clerks stayed on and the uninhabited and disused parts of the castle gradually deteriorated. The greatest catastrophe affected the castle in 1800, when a gigantic fire destroyed all the wooden parts of the castle. Some objects from the Lower Castle were recovered after the fire because they had been covered by the shingles. However, the objects from the Middle and Upper Castle were not reconstructed until 1861.
To find a use for the historical object, Ödön Zichy, the administrator of the property, organized a foundation which had the aim of founding a regional museum of Orava. The first exhibition took place at the Thurzo Palace in 1868. Nowadays, the Orava Museum is one of the oldest in Slovakia. Its most attractive expositions are those of the Castle Chapel, the Knights" Room, and several rooms with period-style furnishing. Further highlights include the Painting Gallery, the Weapon room, and the scientific, ethnographic and archaeological collections.References:
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.