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:
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.