The Citadel (Fellegvár) and the Lower Castle The Visegrád double castle system is one of the castles built by Béla IV recognizing the consequences of the Mongol invasion. The fortress preserved its significance until the Turkish invasions.
The Citadel had a multifunctional role: it was protecting the valley of the Danube, it was controlling the main commerical route between Buda and Esztergom, and also served as a custom’s house. The fortress consisted of two parts.
The construction of the Lower Castle started under the reign of Béla IV around 1247. It was unique, as the fortress was not located next to the road differing from the common traditions, but the road was crossing the territory of the castle. The most interesting part of the Lower Castle is the so called Solomon Tower. The Tower was named after a false story, stating that Solomon was guarded in this Tower after loosing in the battle for the throne against King Saint Laszlo and Geza.
This unique Hungarian building was constructed based on a southern-German design. Under the reign of Louis the Great King of Hungary, the famous bell-founder Konrád Gaal was operating in the fortress. Today the Tower is hosting a five-storey museum, introducing the history of Visegrád to its visitors.
In 1246 Béla IV started the construction of the Citadel on an area with outstanding geographical characteristics, by the using the money from the family jewels of his wife, Mária Lascaris to build a refugee for the Dominican Order nuns living on the ’Rabbits Island’ (today’s Margaret Island). At that time the plan of the fortress was triangle-shaped, with two towers.
The Old Tower was erected at a location most at risk, and the Gate Tower protected the southern entrance. The significance of the fortress considerably improved during the Anjou era. Once Charles Robert obtained the fortress from Máté Csák, he moved the royal court here in 1323.
The Visegrád Citadel hosted the famous Royal Summit of Kings, and the first Anjou King died in the castle in 1370. The Saint Crown of Hungary was guarded here. When Louis the Great became the King of Poland in 1370, the Polish crown was also stored in the castle. The palace wings and a new external wall was erected during the Anjou reign. Sigismund of Luxemburg extended the fortification with a third set of walls and carried out several lavish constructions.
Following the Turkish reign, after the liberation of Buda in 1686 the Habsburgs conquered the fortress after a 5-day siege. Due to the dissolution of the border castle system the fortification became unwanted and was left to ruin.References:
German crusaders known as the Livonian Brothers of the Sword began construction of the Cēsis castle (Wenden) near the hill fort in 1209. When the castle was enlarged and fortified, it served as the residence for the Order's Master from 1237 till 1561, with periodic interruptions. Its ruins are some of the most majestic castle ruins in the Baltic states. Once the most important castle of the Livonian Order, it was the official residence for the masters of the order.
In 1577, during the Livonian War, the garrison destroyed the castle to prevent it from falling into the control of Ivan the Terrible, who was decisively defeated in the Battle of Wenden (1578).
In 1598 it was incorporated into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Wenden Voivodship was created here. In 1620 Wenden was conquered by Sweden. It was rebuilt afterwards, but was destroyed again in 1703 during the Great Northern War by the Russian army and left in a ruined state. Already from the end of the 16th century, the premises of the Order's castle were adjusted to the requirements of the Cēsis Castle estate. When in 1777 the Cēsis Castle estate was obtained by Count Carl Sievers, he had his new residence house built on the site of the eastern block of the castle, joining its end wall with the fortification tower.
Since 1949, the Cēsis History Museum has been located in this New Castle of the Cēsis Castle estate. The front yard of the New Castle is enclosed by a granary and a stable-coach house, which now houses the Exhibition Hall of the Museum. Beside the granary there is the oldest brewery in Latvia, Cēsu alus darītava, which was built in 1878 during the later Count Sievers' time, but its origins date back to the period of the Livonian Order. Further on, the Cēsis Castle park is situated, which was laid out in 1812. The park has the romantic characteristic of that time, with its winding footpaths, exotic plants, and the waters of the pond reflecting the castle's ruins. Nowadays also one of the towers is open for tourists.