Bezděz Castle construction began before 1264 by order of Přemysl Otakar II. It was one of the most important royal castles in the Czech lands until its destruction in the Thirty Years' War.
A year after Přemysl’s death, the castle Bezděz, which was still unfinished, became the place of imprisonment of Queen Kunhuta and her underage son Václav II (or Wenceslas II), kept under lock and key in very spartan conditions by Wenceslas's guardian Ota Braniborský, Margrave of Brandenburg, after the Battle on the Marchfeld. The boy, only 6 or 7 at the time, remained there alone when his mother escaped under a pretext and it is widely accepted that the place left its mark on him. As an adult, and ruling monarch, he returned to Bezděz to order the construction of a chapel, one of the best preserved areas of the castle today.
The castle complex was completed during the reign of Wenceslas II, who used the local forests very frequently for hunting and relaxation. It served for this purpose until the Thirty Years' War when, as part of the round of confiscations after the Battle of the White Mountain, it fell into the hands of Albrecht of Wallenstein. The famous general started turning the castle into a fortress in 1623, but then halted the construction work. In 1627 he decided that it should be rebuilt into a monastery for the Benedictines from Montserrat, who later brought a copy of the Virgin of Montserrat (the Black Madonna) in 1666, making the castle a pilgrimage site for years to come.
In 1686 Stations of the Cross were built along the path to the castle and the whole complex served for religious purposes until 1785, when the monastery was dissolved on the orders of Josef II. Pilgrimages were banned and the castle became forlorn, slowly becoming dilapidated. The Romantic Movement's passion for medieval monuments helped preserve the castle, which is a sole preserved example of an unaltered castle of the 13th century.
Parts that are accessible to visitors are the castle precincts including the royal palace, burgrave's house and the unique early Gothic Chapel. The castle tower offers a stunning view of the surrounding landscape. The castle’s romantic silhouette gave rise to many legends and inspired a great number of writers, artists and composers, the most famous of whom included the poet Karel Hynek Mácha and the composer Bedřich Smetana.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.