Zülpich Castle origins may be traced to a Roman castrum. The present site was built in the late 14th century as a symbol of sovereignty and outpost of the archbishops of Cologne against the County of Jülich.
Razed by French troops at the end of the 17th century, the ruins of the lowland castle ended up in private hands. The Zülpich manufacturing family of Sieger opened a schnaps distillery in the castle until 1870 that operated until the 1980s. In the Second World War it was badly damaged, was partly rebuilt in the 1950s and acts today as a tourist information bureau and home of the Zülpich History Society.
Zülpich Castle is a modest brick building with an almost rectangular plan with high towers at the corners. It is one of the classic quadrangular castles of a type ideal for the Late Middle Ages. Its austere-looking defences are almost entirely devoid of architectural features and underline its fortress-like character which befits its location at the southwestern corner of the medieval town of Zülpich and its incorporation into the town's fortifications.
The enclosed quadrangular structure was originally surrounded by a moat. At its southern, western and eastern corners are round towers that were all once four storeys high. In the north and at right angles is a square tower measuring 10×10 metres with corner ashlars that is the only survivor of an older castle. The present appearance dates the 17th century. The two full-height round towers are topped by protruding, open fighting platforms with brick battlements. All the round corner towers once had residential rooms with fireplaces and garderobes. The western tower facing the town also acted as a dungeon.
The four wings were formerly two-storey residential ranges with high basement vaults. Today only the thick outside walls have survived. The remaining structure of the present-day wing dates to a later period because the original roofs and interior walls from the 17th century have not survived.
The best preserved exterior wall is on the southeast side with the main gate made from carefully cut bunter sandstone ashlars to which the drawbridge used to lead. Above the portal are two, angled coats of arms whose details were probably destroyed by French soldiers in 1794. They used to depict the arms of Frederick of Saarwerden and probably the Archbishopric of Cologne.References:
From its origin as a small stronghold built by the ancient Illyrian tribe Dalmatae, becoming a royal castle that was the seat of many Croatian kings, to its final development as a large fortress during the Ottoman wars in Europe, Klis Fortress has guarded the frontier, being lost and re-conquered several times. Due to its location on a pass that separates the mountains Mosor and Kozjak, the fortress served as a major source of defense in Dalmatia, especially against the Ottoman advance, and has been a key crossroad between the Mediterranean belt and the Balkan rear.
Since Duke Mislav of the Duchy of Croatia made Klis Fortress the seat of his throne in the middle of the 9th century, the fortress served as the seat of many Croatia"s rulers. The reign of his successor, Duke Trpimir I, the founder of the Croatian royal House of Trpimirović, is significant for spreading Christianity in the Duchy of Croatia. He largely expanded the Klis Fortress, and in Rižinice, in the valley under the fortress, he built a church and the first Benedictine monastery in Croatia. During the reign of the first Croatian king, Tomislav, Klis and Biograd na Moru were his chief residences.
In March 1242 at Klis Fortress, Tatars who were a constituent segment of the Mongol army under the leadership of Kadan suffered a major defeat while in pursuit of the Hungarian army led by King Béla IV. After their defeat by Croatian forces, the Mongols retreated, and Béla IV rewarded many Croatian towns and nobles with 'substantial riches'. During the Late Middle Ages, the fortress was governed by Croatian nobility, amongst whom Paul I Šubić of Bribir was the most significant. During his reign, the House of Šubić controlled most of modern-day Croatia and Bosnia. Excluding the brief possession by the forces of Bosnian King, Tvrtko I, the fortress remained in Hungaro-Croatian hands for the next several hundred years, until the 16th century.
Klis Fortress is probably best known for its defense against the Ottoman invasion of Europe in the early 16th century. Croatian captain Petar Kružić led the defense of the fortress against a Turkish invasion and siege that lasted for more than two and a half decades. During this defense, as Kružić and his soldiers fought without allies against the Turks, the military faction of Uskoks was formed, which later became famous as an elite Croatian militant sect. Ultimately, the defenders were defeated and the fortress was occupied by the Ottomans in 1537. After more than a century under Ottoman rule, in 1669, Klis Fortress was besieged and seized by the Republic of Venice, thus moving the border between Christian and Muslim Europe further east and helping to contribute to the decline of the Ottoman Empire. The Venetians restored and enlarged the fortress, but it was taken by the Austrians after Napoleon extinguished the republic itself in 1797. Today, Klis Fortress contains a museum where visitors to this historic military structure can see an array of arms, armor, and traditional uniforms.