Bled Castle is built on a precipice above the city of Bled in Slovenia, overlooking Lake Bled. According to written sources, it is the oldest Slovenian castle and is currently one of the most visited tourist attractions in Slovenia.
The history of the castle reaches back to 1004 when the German Emperor Henry II gave his estate at Bled to Bishop Albuin of Brixen. At that time, only a Romanesque tower protected by walls stood in the place of the present day castle. The first castle was built in approximately 1011 but the Bishops of Brixen never resided there. This is precisely why the castle has no luxurious halls as the greater emphasis was placed on the defence system.
In the late Middle Ages more towers were built and the fortifications system was improved. Can you imagine entering through the outer walls with the Gothic arch and walking over the drawbridge above the moat. Today, the moat is filled with earth, but the sight is still able to stir up your imagination.
The distinctive feature of the castle is its double structure – the fortified centre part was intended for the residence of feudal lords, whilst the outer part with walls and buildings was intended for the residence of servants. In 1511 the castle was heavily damaged by the earthquake. Later on, the castle was restored and given its present appearance. The castle buildings are decorated with coats-of-arms painted in the fresco technique or carved in stone.
The most interesting of all the preserved buildings is most certainly the Gothic chapel on the upper coutyard, which was consecrated to the Bishops St. Albuin and St. Ingenium. It was built in the 16th century, and was renovated in the Baroque style around 1700, when it was also painted with illusionist frescoes. Next to the altar there are paintings of the donors of the Bled estate, the German Emperor Henry II and his wife Kunigunda. Their portraits can also be seen in the Church of the Assumption on the Bled Island.
The Bled Castle is now arranged as an exhibition area. Display rooms next to the chapel present the ancient history of Bled from the first excavations, and the castle in individual stages of its historical development with furniture, characteristic of those times. Although these pieces are not originally from the Bled Castle, they are important as an illustration of the style of living in the historical periods presented.
During the warm months, the castle courtyard hosts numerous cultural events, from which the Medieval Days, when knights present the medieval life to visitors, are the most appreciated.References:
The St Sophia's Cathedral was built between 1045-1050 inside the Novgorod Kremlin (fortress). It is one of the earliest stone structures of northern Russia. Its height is 38 m. Originally it was taller, for during the past nine centuries the lower part of the building became concealed by the two-metre thick cultural layer. The cathedral was built by Prince Vladimir, the son of Yaroslav the Wise, and until the 1130s this principal church of the city also served as the sepulchre of Novgorodian princes. For the Novgorodians, St Sophia became synonymous with their town, the symbol of civic power and independence.
The five-domed church looks simpler but no less impressive than its prototype, the thirteen-domed St Sophia of Kiev. The cathedral exterior is striking in its majesty and epic splendour evoking the memories of Novgorod's glorious past and invincible might. In the 11th century it looked more imposing than now. Its facade represented a gigantic mosaic of huge, coarsely trimmed irregular slabs of flagstone and shell rock. In some places (particularly on the apses), the wall was covered with mortar, smoothly polished, drawn up to imitate courses of brick or of whitestone slabs, and slightly coloured. As a result, the facade was not white, as it is today, but multicoloured. The play of stone, decorative painting and the building materials of various texture enhanced the impression of austere simplicity and introduced a picturesque effect.
The two-storied galleries extend along the building's southern, western and northern sides, with a stair-tower constructed at the north-eastern corner. The cathedral has three entrances - the southern, western and northern, of which the western was the main one intended for ceremonial processions. A gate standing at the entrance is known as the Sigtuna Gate (mid-12th century); according to legend, it was brought from the Swedish town of Sigtuna in 1187. The second name of the gate derives from the town of Magdeburg, where it was made. The two leaves are decorated with biblical and evangelical scenes in cast bronze relief. In the lower left corner there are portraits of the craftsmen who created this superb specimen of medieval Western European bronze-work. An inscription in Latin gives their names, Riquin and Weissmut. The small central figure - judging from an inscription in Slavonic - is a representation of the Russian master craftsman Avraam, who assembled the gate.
There is yet another bronze gate in the cathedral, called the Korsun Gate. Made in the 11th century in Chersonesos, Byzantium, it leads from the southern gallery into the Nativity Side-Chapel. Legend has it that the gate was handed over to Novgorod as a gift of Prince Yaroslav the Wise (c. 978 - 1054).
The interior of the cathedral is as majestic as its exterior. It is divided by huge piers into five aisles, three of which end in altar apses. In the south-western corner, inside the tower, there is a wide spiral in relatively small, modest buildings of the 12th - 16th centuries.