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:
Ängsö Castle was first named as "Engsev" in a royal charter by king Canute I of Sweden (r. 1167-1196), in which he stated that he had inherited the property after his father Eric IX of Sweden. Until 1272, it was owned by the Riseberga Abbey, and then taken over by Gregers Birgersson.
From 1475 until 1710, it was owned by the Sparre family. The current castle was built as a fortress by riksråd Bengt Fadersson Sparre in the 1480s. In 1522, Ängsö Castle was taken after a siege by king Gustav Vasa, since its owner, Fadersson's son Knut Bengtsson, sided with Christian II of Denmark. However, in 1538 it was given by the king to Bengtsson's daughter Hillevi Knutsdotter, who was married to Arvid Trolle.
In 1710, the castle was taken over by Carl Piper and Christina Piper. Ängsö Castle was owned by the Piper family from 1710 until 1971, and is now owned by the Westmanna foundation. The castle building itself was made into a museum in 1959 and was made a listed building in 1965. It is currently opened to visitors during the summers.
The castle is a cubical building in four stores made by stone and bricks. The lower parts is preserved from the middle ages. It was redecorated and expanded in the 1630s. The 4th storey as well as the roof is from the expansion of Carl Hårleman from 1740-41. It gained its current appearance in the 1740s.