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:
Dating from the 15th century, Kisimul is the only significant surviving medieval castle in the Outer Hebrides. It was the residence of the chief of the Macneils of Barra, who claimed descent from the legendary Niall of the Nine Hostages. Tradition tells of the Macneils settling in Barra in the 11th century, but it was only in 1427 that Gilleonan Macneil comes on record as the first lord. He probably built the castle that dominates the rocky islet, and in its shadow a crew house for his personal galley and crew. The sea coursed through Macneil veins, and a descendant, Ruari ‘the Turbulent’, was arrested for piracy of an English ship during King James VI’s reign in the later 16th century.
Heavy debts eventually forced the Macneil chiefs to sell Barra in 1838. However, a descendant, Robert Lister Macneil, the 45th Chief, repurchased the estate in 1937, and set about restoring his ancestral seat. It passed into Historic Scotland’s care in 2000.
The castle dates essentially from the 15th century. It takes the form of a three-storey tower house. This formed the residence of the clan chief. An associated curtain wall fringed the small rock on which the castle stood, and enclosed a small courtyard in which there are ancillary buildings. These comprised a feasting hall, a chapel, a tanist’s house and a watchman’s house. Most were restored in the 20th century, the tanist’s house serving as the family home of the Macneils. A well near the postern gate is fed with fresh water from an underground seam. Outside the curtain wall, beside the original landing-place, are the foundations of the crew house, where the sailors manning their chief’s galley had their quarters.