Sigmaringen Castle was first mentioned in the year 1077 in the chronicles of Petershausen monastery. The oldest parts of the castle are concealed beneath the alterations made during the 17th and the 19th centuries. The secret of the earliest settlement built on this defendable rock will never be fully revealed: large-scale excavation work would be necessary, which the extensive land development renders impossible. Judging from the many Roman remains unearthed in the area around Sigmaringen, the 12th century keep known as the 'Roman Tower' could be traced back to a Roman predecessor.
The castle remains that have been preserved (gate, great hall and keep) date back to the Staufer period around 1200. The castle remains were integrated into subsequent buildings. The foundations of the castle buildings are to a large extent identical to the surrounding castle wall.
These remains give us a good idea of how the castle might have looked during the 12th century. With defence in mind, the castle had pyramid and single pitch roofs with several towers and gates. The round window openings and friezes in the solid walls made the castle an artistic highlight of the Upper Danube valley.
No building remains of note have been left behind from the 13th and 14th centuries. Only in the 15th century did a new building period begin at the castle under the eminent and architecturally-minded Count of Werdenberg. The Werdenbergs expanded the building to the north-east. Only the lintel engraved with the year 1498, which is part of the Swedish Tower, now remains. A few years later, the building was expanded to the west.
The third building period began during the time of Count Charles II of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen (1576-1606). Under the supervision of master builder Hans Alberthal of Dillingen, the castle underwent widescale transformation between 1627 and 1630 and went from being a castle to being a Renaissance château.
In around 1650, the two separate buildings from the Werdenberg period were brought together under one roof by master builder Michael Beer of Au in the Bregenz Forest.
Only minor renovation and building work was carried out during the 18th century. The ancestral hall was established within the castle in 1736 (renovated in 1879). During the years 1860/1880, neo-Gothic style changes were made under royal master builder Josef Laur. The castle was extensively redesigned following the great fire of 1893 during which almost the entire castle was destroyed. The work was carried out by royal architect Johannes de Pay and primarily by Munich architect Emanuel von Seidl in a historicist or eclectic style.
The Portuguese Gallery, which encloses the inner courtyard of the castle on the side facing the city, was completed in 1902 and marked the end of this period of alterations.References:
From its origin as a small stronghold built by the ancient Illyrian tribe Dalmatae, becoming a royal castle that was the seat of many Croatian kings, to its final development as a large fortress during the Ottoman wars in Europe, Klis Fortress has guarded the frontier, being lost and re-conquered several times. Due to its location on a pass that separates the mountains Mosor and Kozjak, the fortress served as a major source of defense in Dalmatia, especially against the Ottoman advance, and has been a key crossroad between the Mediterranean belt and the Balkan rear.
Since Duke Mislav of the Duchy of Croatia made Klis Fortress the seat of his throne in the middle of the 9th century, the fortress served as the seat of many Croatia"s rulers. The reign of his successor, Duke Trpimir I, the founder of the Croatian royal House of Trpimirović, is significant for spreading Christianity in the Duchy of Croatia. He largely expanded the Klis Fortress, and in Rižinice, in the valley under the fortress, he built a church and the first Benedictine monastery in Croatia. During the reign of the first Croatian king, Tomislav, Klis and Biograd na Moru were his chief residences.
In March 1242 at Klis Fortress, Tatars who were a constituent segment of the Mongol army under the leadership of Kadan suffered a major defeat while in pursuit of the Hungarian army led by King Béla IV. After their defeat by Croatian forces, the Mongols retreated, and Béla IV rewarded many Croatian towns and nobles with 'substantial riches'. During the Late Middle Ages, the fortress was governed by Croatian nobility, amongst whom Paul I Šubić of Bribir was the most significant. During his reign, the House of Šubić controlled most of modern-day Croatia and Bosnia. Excluding the brief possession by the forces of Bosnian King, Tvrtko I, the fortress remained in Hungaro-Croatian hands for the next several hundred years, until the 16th century.
Klis Fortress is probably best known for its defense against the Ottoman invasion of Europe in the early 16th century. Croatian captain Petar Kružić led the defense of the fortress against a Turkish invasion and siege that lasted for more than two and a half decades. During this defense, as Kružić and his soldiers fought without allies against the Turks, the military faction of Uskoks was formed, which later became famous as an elite Croatian militant sect. Ultimately, the defenders were defeated and the fortress was occupied by the Ottomans in 1537. After more than a century under Ottoman rule, in 1669, Klis Fortress was besieged and seized by the Republic of Venice, thus moving the border between Christian and Muslim Europe further east and helping to contribute to the decline of the Ottoman Empire. The Venetians restored and enlarged the fortress, but it was taken by the Austrians after Napoleon extinguished the republic itself in 1797. Today, Klis Fortress contains a museum where visitors to this historic military structure can see an array of arms, armor, and traditional uniforms.