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:
The Externsteine (Extern stones) is a distinctive sandstone rock formation located in the Teutoburg Forest, near the town of Horn-Bad Meinberg. The formation is a tor consisting of several tall, narrow columns of rock which rise abruptly from the surrounding wooded hills. Archaeological excavations have yielded some Upper Paleolithic stone tools dating to about 10,700 BC from 9,600 BC.
In a popular tradition going back to an idea proposed to Hermann Hamelmann in 1564, the Externsteine are identified as a sacred site of the pagan Saxons, and the location of the Irminsul (sacral pillar-like object in German paganism) idol reportedly destroyed by Charlemagne; there is however no archaeological evidence that would confirm the site's use during the relevant period.
The stones were used as the site of a hermitage in the Middle Ages, and by at least the high medieval period were the site of a Christian chapel. The Externsteine relief is a medieval depiction of the Descent from the Cross. It remains controversial whether the site was already used for Christian worship in the 8th to early 10th centuries.
The Externsteine gained prominence when Völkisch and nationalistic scholars took an interest in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This interest peaked under the Nazi regime, when the Externsteine became a focus of nazi propaganda. Today, they remain a popular tourist destination and also continue to attract Neo-Pagans and Neo-Nazis.