The mighty Ptuj Castle was built in the mid-12th century, when it was constructed to defend against the Hungarians. The oldest written record about the castle is by the chronicler of the Salzburg archbishop Konrad I, who occupied this position from 1106 to 1147. The old chronicler wrote that Konrad I had the castle rebuilt on the site of the old demolished one. That means that even before the 12th century, there was a constructed castle. What remains of it is the west tower, which belongs, according to the architecture, to the 10th or even the 9th century. In that period, there were most probably other buildings on the slope rising above Ptuj and belonging to the Salzburg archbishops, but no material evidence has been found so far.
The castle buildings were during all those centuries surrounded by ramparts, as the Ptuj castle was considered until the end of Turkish invasions as one of the mightiest fortresses in this part of the country. Of the defence system before the 16th century remain the west tower, some parts of the actual walls, both south towers and the north one. Ptuj was one of the bordering towns and the provincial government of Styria had decided to fortify the south border to resist Turkish invasions.
Other major construction works were commissioned by the Leslies and carried out at the end of the 17th century. The Romanesque palatial building was reconstructed, and the northeast wing was rebuilt. The most distinguished rooms were situated in both castle wings. Ceilings in the south wing were decorated with stucco. The actual Knights' Hall and the castle chapel, both situated in the north wing, are both two storeys high. In 1664, the former stables were built.
The last Lord of Ptuj, Friedrich IX, died in 1438. His tombstone made of red marble from Salzburg, is built in the ground floor of the castle, where it was brought from a devastated Dominican church.
From 1480 to 1490, Ptuj and the castle were in the hands of Magyars, who had to pass on the occupied area to the German Emperor Maximilian in 1490. The latter kept the town and the castle until 1511, and then sold them back to the Archbishops of Salzburg. Already in 1555, the Archbishop ceded the property to Ferdinand I. The castle remained the property of the provincial prince until 1622, when the Emperor Ferdinand II sold it to the Eggenberg family. In 1634 it became the property of the Thaunhausen family, who donated it to the Jesuits from Zagreb. The latter found themselves in financial troubles and sold the Ptuj castle in 1656 to Walter Leslie, Baron of Balquhane. In 1802 the family Leslie died out, and with the contract by the trust, the castle was attributed to the Dietrichstein family. This family died out in 1858, and thus the castle was judicially confiscated until it would be possible to determine its heir.
Theresia Herberstein, the countess who bought the castle in 1873, literally saved it from ruin. She had all buildings thoroughly renovated and furnished anew. The Herbersteins remained in the castle until 1945. Immediately after World War II, the castle was turned into a museum.References:
From 1239, Raynaud, the Bishop of Quimper, decided on the building of a new chancel destined to replace that of the Romanesque era. He therefore started, in the far west, the construction of a great Gothic cathedral which would inspire cathedral reconstructions in the Ile de France and would in turn become a place of experimentation from where would later appear ideas adopted by the whole of lower Brittany. The date of 1239 marks the Bishop’s decision and does not imply an immediate start to construction. Observation of the pillar profiles, their bases, the canopies, the fitting of the ribbed vaults of the ambulatory or the alignment of the bays leads us to believe, however, that the construction was spread out over time.
The four circular pillars mark the start of the building site, but the four following adopt a lozenge-shaped layout which could indicate a change of project manager. The clumsiness of the vaulted archways of the north ambulatory, the start of the ribbed vaults at the height of the south ambulatory or the choice of the vaults descending in spoke-form from the semi-circle which allows the connection of the axis chapel to the choir – despite the manifest problems of alignment – conveys the hesitancy and diverse influences in the first phase of works which spread out until the start of the 14th century.
At the same time as this facade was built (to which were added the north and south gates) the building of the nave started in the east and would finish by 1460. The nave is made up of six bays with one at the level of the facade towers and flanked by double aisles – one wide and one narrow (split into side chapels) – in an extension of the choir arrangements.
The choir presents four right-hand bays with ambulatory and side chapels. It is extended towards the east of 3-sided chevet which opens onto a semi-circle composed of five chapels and an apsidal chapel of two bays and a flat chevet consecrated to Our Lady.
The three-level elevation with arches, triforium and galleries seems more uniform and expresses anglo-Norman influence in the thickness of the walls (Norman passageway at the gallery level) or the decorative style (heavy mouldings, decorative frieze under the triforium). This building site would have to have been overseen in one shot. Undoubtedly interrupted by the war of Succession (1341-1364) it draws to a close with the building of the lierne vaults (1410) and the fitting of stained-glass windows. Bishop Bertrand de Rosmadec and Duke Jean V, whose coat of arms would decorate these vaults, finished the chancel before starting on the building of the facade and the nave.
Isolated from its environment in the 19th century, the cathedral was – on the contrary – originally very linked to its surroundings. Its site and the orientation of the facade determined traffic flow in the town. Its positioning close to the south walls resulted in particuliarities such as the transfer of the side gates on to the north and south facades of the towers: the southern portal of Saint Catherine served the bishop’s gate and the hospital located on the left bank (the current Préfecture) and the north gate was the baptismal porch – a true parish porch with its benches and alcoves for the Apostles’ statues turned towards the town, completed by an ossuary (1514).
The west porch finds its natural place between the two towers. The entire aesthetic of these three gates springs from the Flamboyant era: trefoil, curly kale, finials, large gables which cut into the mouldings and balustrades. Pinnacles and recesses embellish the buttresses whilst an entire bestiary appears: monsters, dogs, mysterious figures, gargoyles, and with them a whole imaginary world promoting a religious and political programme. Even though most of the saints statues have disappeared an armorial survives which makes the doors of the cathedral one of the most beautiful heraldic pages imaginable: ducal ermine, the Montfort lion, Duchess Jeanne of France’s coat of arms side by side with the arms of the Cornouaille barons with their helmets and crests. One can imagine the impact of this sculpted decor with the colour and gilding which originally completed it.
At the start of the 16th century the construction of the spires was being prepared when building was interrupted, undoubtedly for financial reasons. Small conical roofs were therefore placed on top of the towers. The following centuries were essentially devoted to putting furnishings in place (funeral monuments, altars, statues, organs, pulpit). Note the fire which destroyed the spire of the transept cross in 1620 as well as the ransacking of the cathedral in 1793 when nearly all the furnishings disappeared in a « bonfire of the saints ».
The 19th century would therefore inherit an almost finished but mutilated building and would devote itself to its renovation according to the tastes and theories of the day.