Wallenstein palace is the first large secular palace of the Baroque era. The original Palace was built in years 1623-1630 by Albrecht von Wallenstein, Duke of Mecklenburg (1583-1634), who made his name and fortune as the Commander-in-Chief of the Imperial forces in the Thirty Years War. Emperor Ferdinand II feared Albrecht of Wallenstein’s calculating mind and had him assassinated in 1634 in the town of Eger (now Cheb). He lived in the palace for only a year before his death. His widow sold it to his nephew and it remained in the Wallenstein family until 1945. After the Second World War, the palace became Czechoslovak state property and was renovated to house government offices. Today, the Senate of the Czech Republic operates out of the main palace buildings. The Riding School is used as a branch of the National Gallery in Prague. The challenging restoration of the main building began in mid-1999. The most valuable parts of this building in historical and artistic terms are the Main Hall, the Knights' Hall, the Antechamber, the Audience Hall and the Mythological and Astronomical Corridors.
The main wing of Wallenstein palace was largely a reconstruction of the Trcka residence. It incorporates both late renaissance and Nordic mannerism which is expressed in the portals and Netherlandish dormer-windows. Initially, in keeping with the architectural style, the Main Hall was decorated with tapestries and furniture ordered from Italy and the Netherlands. Much of the original furnishings were looted either in 1648 by the Swedes or 1742 by the French.
The west wing of the complex hosts the Main Hall, that rises to the height of two stories. The Duke is depicted, in the middle ceiling fresco as the god of war, Mars, riding in a war chariot drawn by a team of horses. In the painting, the Duke is holding the reins of four horses while Mars is usually seen only holding three horses. The stucco work depicting weapons, war trophies and musical instruments were probably made by Santino Galli and Domenico Canevalle. When the wing was built, it was the second largest hall after the Spanish hall of Prague Castle with an area of 288 meters squared and a height of 10.5 meters. This is original façade was altered in the mid nineteenth century to include marble portals from the Cerninsky palace and the entire hall was rebuilt as a barracks.
Originally tile stoves placed in each room heated the palace. The tile in the Antechamber was used later to line the fireplace. Guests waited in the antechamber to be granted audience with the Duke. Due to an adaptation in the 19th century, it is a kind of Mirror Hall with two Venetian mirrors made in the 18th century on the Italian island of Murano. The only objects original to the room are a set of four chests used by the Duke to hold his wardrobe. They are Italian chests made around the turn of the 17th century.
The palace chapel is two stories high and richly decorated with scenes from the legend of St Wenceslas. Cabinet-maker and woodcarver Arnošt Jan Heidelberger constructed the chapel altar in 1630. Its construction marked the first Baroque monument of its kind in Prague and the beginning of the Baroque age in the Czech lands.
The garden was created at the same time as the Wallenstein Palace in the early 17th century, in the lower part of the Malá Strana District. It displays a fine example of Mannerist layout and decoration, with very diverse sections. It is dominated by an aisle lined with bronze sculptures, an impressive Sala Terrena and an amazing artificial grotto.References:
Hochosterwitz Castle is considered to be one of Austria's most impressive medieval castles. The rock castle is one of the state's landmarks and a major tourist attraction.
The site was first mentioned in an 860 deed issued by King Louis the German of East Francia, donating several of his properties in the former Principality of Carantania to the Archdiocese of Salzburg. In the 11th century Archbishop Gebhard of Salzburg ceded the castle to the Dukes of Carinthia from the noble House of Sponheim in return for their support during the Investiture Controversy. The Sponheim dukes bestowed the fiefdom upon the family of Osterwitz, who held the hereditary office of the cup-bearer in 1209.
In the 15th century, the last Carinthian cup-bearer, Georg of Osterwitz was captured in a Turkish invasion and died in 1476 in prison without leaving descendants. So after four centuries, on 30 May 1478, the possession of the castle reverted to Emperor Frederick III of Habsburg.
Over the next 30 years, the castle was badly damaged by numerous Turkish campaigns. On 5 October 1509, Emperor Maximilian I handed the castle as a pledge to Matthäus Lang von Wellenburg, then Bishop of Gurk. Bishop Lang undertook a substantial renovation project for the damaged castle.
About 1541, German king Ferdinand I of Habsburg bestowed Hochosterwitz upon the Carinthian governor Christof Khevenhüller. In 1571, Baron George Khevenhüller acquired the citadel by purchase. He fortified to deal with the threat of Turkish invasions of the region, building an armory and 14 gates between 1570 and 1586. Such massive fortification is considered unique in citadel construction.
Since the 16th century, no major changes have been made to Hochosterwitz. It has also remained in the possession of the Khevenhüller family as requested by the original builder, George Khevenhüller. A marble plaque dating from 1576 in the castle yard documents this request.
A specific feature is the access way to the castle passing through a total of 14 gates, which are particularly prominent owing to the castle's situation in the landscape. Tourists are allowed to walk the 620-metre long pathway through the gates up to the castle; each gate has a diagram of the defense mechanism used to seal that particular gate. The castle rooms hold a collection of prehistoric artifacts, paintings, weapons, and armor, including one set of armor 2.4 metres tall, once worn by Burghauptmann Schenk.