Cornštejn Castle stands on a strategic location, surrounded by magnificent landscape of the Dyje (Thaya) River Valley. It was built on royal demesne land which was subordinated to Bítov Castle and which was pawned and later (1308) granted as a fief to the noble family of Lichtenburg. In the 1320s Raimund of Lichtenburg, King Wenceslaus II’s favourite, decided to strengthen the security of Bítov Castle and the road connecting Bítov with Vranov Castle by building Cornštejn.
Originally a small Gothic noble residence with a Courtyard, a high enclosing wall and a palace (guarded by a high shield-wall) gradually developed into a large medieval fortress. In the latter half of 14th century Henry of Lichtenburg built a pre-wall around the whole castle, which is how the Upper Bailey came to being. In the first third of 15th century Albrecht and John of Lichtenburg and Zornstein erected another palace on the other side of the Courtyard and established the Lower Ward with barracks and some other buildings, surrounded by a new ring of curtain walls with two new gates and two bastions.
In 1422 the castle was besieged by the Hussite troops, which afterwards made the lords of the castle fortify the dangerous strategic hill south of Cornštejn with a detached outwork. Cornštejn was again sieged eleven months by King George of Bohemia in 1463. However, Cornštejn turned out to be impossible to be stormed in a few days. King George punished Hynek and confiscated the castle. Cornštejn was subsequently granted to Wolfgang Kraiger of Kraigk who reconstructed the castle and modernised both the palaces. His sons Lipolt and Henry then built an up-to-date advanced fort on the rocky platform south of the castle, reflecting latest trends in artillery warfare. After 1526 the castle got back into the hands of the Lichtenburgs of Bítov. In 1542 the Moravian Estates ordered that Cornštejn be repaired and improved so as to withstand a possible Turkish assault. Fortunately, the Ottoman army never made it to southern Moravia, and Cornštejn was spared.
However, the time of medieval castles was over by the late 16th century and there was no need to maintain Gothic fortresses any longer. After the Lichtenburgs died out in 1576, the new owners – Streuns of Schwarzenau abandoned the castle and may well have got all roofs removed (so as not to pay tax). Thus Cornštejn began to fall into ruin and none of the noble families that owned the castle after the Streuns (1617 Jankovský of Vlašim, 1788 Counts von Daun, 1912 the Haases von Hasenfels) would change anything about it. In 1945, Cornštejn was confiscated from the Haases and nationalised. In the early 1970s two thirds of the castle were reconstructed by the Monument Preservation Institute, Brno. The castle ruins have been stabilised and since 1998 open to public.References:
Derbent is the southernmost city in Russia, occupying the narrow gateway between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains connecting the Eurasian steppes to the north and the Iranian Plateau to the south. Derbent claims to be the oldest city in Russia with historical documentation dating to the 8th century BCE. Due to its strategic location, over the course of history, the city changed ownership many times, particularly among the Persian, Arab, Mongol, Timurid, Shirvan and Iranian kingdoms.
Derbent has archaeological structures over 5,000 years old. As a result of this geographic peculiarity, the city developed between two walls, stretching from the mountains to the sea. These fortifications were continuously employed for a millennium and a half, longer than any other extant fortress in the world.
A traditionally and historically Iranian city, the first intensive settlement in the Derbent area dates from the 8th century BC. The site was intermittently controlled by the Persian monarchs, starting from the 6th century BC. Until the 4th century AD, it was part of Caucasian Albania which was a satrap of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. In the 5th century Derbent functioned as a border fortress and the seat of Sassanid Persians. Because of its strategic position on the northern branch of the Silk Route, the fortress was contested by the Khazars in the course of the Khazar-Arab Wars. In 654, Derbent was captured by the Arabs.
The Sassanid fortress does not exist any more, as the famous Derbent fortress as it stands today was built from the 12th century onward. Derbent became a strong military outpost and harbour of the Sassanid empire. During the 5th and 6th centuries, Derbent also became an important center for spreading the Christian faith in the Caucasus.
The site continued to be of great strategic importance until the 19th century. Today the fortifications consist of two parallel defence walls and Naryn-Kala Citadel. The walls are 3.6km long, stretching from the sea up to the mountains. They were built from stone and had 73 defence towers. 9 out of the 14 original gates remain.
In Naryn-Kala Citadel most of the old buildings, including a palace and a church, are now in ruins. It also holds baths and one of the oldest mosques in the former USSR.
In 2003, UNESCO included the old part of Derbent with traditional buildings in the World Heritage List.