Ljubljana Castle stands above the downtown of Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. Originally a Medieval fortress, probably built in the 11th century and rebuilt in the 12th century, it acquired its present outline with an almost complete overhaul in the 15th century, whereas the majority of the buildings date to the 16th and 17th centuries. At first a defense structure and since the first half of the 14th century the seat of the lords of Carniola, it was since the early 19th century used as a penitentiary, then in the first half of the 20th century as a residential complex and in the latest times as a tourist attraction and a major cultural venue.
According to archeological surveys, the area of the present castle has been settled continuously since 1200 BC, when the first settlements and later fortifications were built. The hill summit probably became a Roman army stronghold after fortifications were built in Illyrian and Celtic times.
The first castle is believed to have been a wooden and stone fortification built in the 11th century. The oldest written mention of Ljubljana Castle probably dates to the second half of 1161.
Until 1144 the castle became property of the House of Sponheim. In 1256, Ljubljana Castle was mentioned in a document as the most important castle of the rulers of Carniola. In the late 1270, it was conquered by King Ottokar II of Bohemia. In 1278, after the defeat of Ottokar, it became property of Rudolph of Habsburg.
In the 15th century it was almost completely demolished and rebuilt with a complete wall and towers at the entrance, where a drawbridge was placed. A chapel was also built at that time. In the 16th and 17th centuries, other objects were gradually built. The castle's purpose was to defend the empire against Ottoman invasion as well as peasant revolt.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, the castle became an arsenal. In 1797 the town of Ljubljana and the castle were occupied for the first time by the French army, and again in 1809. In the period of the Illyrian Provinces, the castle was used as barracks and a military hospital. In 1815, back in the Austrian Empire, it became a prison, which it remained until 1895, with a hiatus between 1848 and 1868, resuming that function during World War II. The castle's Viewing Tower dates to 1848; this was inhabited by a guard whose duty it was to fire cannons warning the city in case of fire or announcing important visitors or events.
Because it was not a home of a ruler or another important noble person and because a fortification in the area was no longer required, the castle started to lose its importance. The maintenance costs were too high so the castle began to crumble. In the 19th century, the castle was redesigned partially as a prison and partially as a military stronghold, making it less popular among the citizens. Several famous people were jailed in the castle, including the Italian revolutionary Silvio Pellico, the Hungarian Prime Minister Lajos Batthyany and the Slovene author Ivan Cankar.
In 1905, the castle was bought by Municipality of Ljubljana for 60,200 Kronen, on the explicit wish of the mayor, Ivan Hribar, who planned to establish a city museum in it. The plan was however not carried out. Instead, the city decided to settle poor families into it. The residents stayed there until 1963, when preparations for renovation of the castle began. The remains of the fortifications on Castle Hill were reworked in the 1930s a promenade called Šance, designed by the Slovenian architect Jože Plečnik.
Extensive renovation works commenced in the late 1960s lasting more than 35 years. In the 1990s, the castle began to be used as a place for weddings and cultural events. In 1974, a monument by the sculptor Stojan Batič dedicated to the Slovene peasant revolts was erected in the vicinity of the castle. The funicular railway to the top of Castle Hill, was built in 2006 and began service on 28 December 2006.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.