Vranov nad Dyjí castle was first mentioned by Cosmas of Prague in 1100 as a border sentry castle. It was built by the Dukes of Bohemia to defend the southern border of Moravia against raids from the neighbouring Austrian March. Until 1323 the castle was in royal hands but in that year king John of Bohemia pawned Vranov to a powerful Bohemian nobleman, the viceroy Jindřich of Lipá.
In 1421, during the disturbances of the Hussite Wars the Bohemian noble family of Lichtenburg took control of the castle and the contiguous market town. In 1499 it definitely passed on to Lichtenburgs as hereditary possession by the king Vladislaus II of Bohemia and Hungary. The Lichtenburg family held Vranov for almost a century, until 1516.
In the 16th century, Vranov frequently changed the holders. Probably the most significant owners were lords from the Bavarian family of Althann, cousins of the Princes of Belmonte. Wolf Dietrich of Althann purchased the castle in 1614. Nevertheless seven years later the manor was confiscated due to his participation in the rebellion of the Bohemian Estates. The confiscated castle was consequently sold to one of the Albrecht of Valdštejn's generals, Johann Ernst of Scherfenberg.
Michael Johann II Althann recovered the Vranov estate for the family in 1680. He commissioned the famous Austrian architect Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach to design a grand hall, known as ‘the Hall of the Ancestors’ in the Baroque style as a memorial to his Althann ancestors. It was built between 1687 and 1695. It’s an oval construction surmounted by an imposing cupola and became a dominant feature of Vranov. An Austrian sculptor, Tobias Kracker, created large statues of the ancestors in niches around the walls and another Austrian artist, Johann Michael Rottmayr, painted an allegorical glorification of the Althann family in the cupola. To complement the Hall of the Ancestors with a spiritual element, Fischer von Erlach designed a Baroque chapel, the Chapel of the Holy Trinity, which incorporated an Althann family vault. The richly decorated chapel was built in two years (1699 and 1670). After the death of Michael Johann II Althann more grand buildings were constructed, completing the transformation of the original castle complex into an up-to-date Baroque chateau.References:
Heraclea Lyncestis was an ancient Greek city in Macedon, ruled later by the Romans. It was founded by Philip II of Macedon in the middle of the 4th century BC. The city was named in honor of the mythological hero Heracles. The name Lynkestis originates from the name of the ancient kingdom, conquered by Philip, where the city was built.
Heraclea was a strategically important town during the Hellenistic period, as it was at the edge of Macedon"s border with Epirus to the west and Paeonia to the north, until the middle of the 2nd century BC, when the Romans conquered Macedon and destroyed its political power. The main Roman road in the area, Via Egnatia went through Heraclea, and Heraclea was an important stop. The prosperity of the city was maintained mainly due to this road.
The Roman emperor Hadrian built a theatre in the center of the town, on a hill, when many buildings in the Roman province of Macedonia were being restored. It began being used during the reign of Antoninus Pius. Inside the theatre there were three animal cages and in the western part a tunnel. The theatre went out of use during the late 4th century AD, when gladiator fights in the Roman Empire were banned, due to the spread of Christianity, the formulation of the Eastern Roman Empire, and the abandonment of, what was then perceived as, pagan rituals and entertainment.
In the early Byzantine period (4th to 6th centuries AD) Heraclea was an important episcopal centre. A small and a great basilica, the bishop"s residence, and a funerary basilica and the necropolis are some of the remains of this period. Three naves in the Great Basilica are covered with mosaics of very rich floral and figurative iconography; these well preserved mosaics are often regarded as fine examples of the early Christian art period.
The city was sacked by Ostrogoth/Visigoth forces, commanded by Theodoric the Great in 472 AD and again in 479 AD. It was restored in the late 5th and early 6th century. When an earthquake struck in 518 AD, the inhabitants of Heraclea gradually abandoned the city. Subsequently, at the eve of the 7th century, the Dragovites, a Slavic tribe pushed down from the north by the Avars, settled in the area. The last coin issue dates from ca. 585, which suggests that the city was finally captured by the Slavs. As result, in place of the deserted city theatre several huts were built.
The Episcopacy Residence was excavated between 1970 and 1975. The western part was discovered first and the southern side is near the town wall. The luxury rooms are located in the eastern part. The 2nd, 3rd and 4th rooms all have mosaic floors. Between the 3rd and 4th rooms there is a hole that led to the eastern entrance of the residence. The hole was purposefully created between the 4th and 6th century.