In 1178, Ferdinand II of León donated the Ponferrada city to the Templar order for protecting the pilgrims on the Way of St. James who passed through El Bierzo in their road to Santiago de Compostela. Their castle was originally a hill-fort and later a Roman citadel. Templar knights took possession of the fortress and reinforced and extended it to use it as an inhabitable palace.
However, the Templars were only able to enjoy the use of their fortress for about twenty years before the order was disbanded and its properties confiscated in 1311. Several noble houses fought over the assets until Alfonso XI allotted them to the Count of Lemos in 1340. Finally the Catholic Monarchs incorporated Ponferrada and its castle into the Crown in 1486. Most of the walls were removed and used in local construction projects.
The building has an irregular square plan and the outstanding features are, above all, the entrance which involves crossing the moat on a drawbridge and, further on, two large towers with crenellations joined by an arch. Its twelve original towers reproduced the shapes of the constellations.References:
The Beckov castle stands on a steep 50 m tall rock in the village Beckov. The dominance of the rock and impression of invincibility it gaves, challenged our ancestors to make use of these assets. The result is a remarkable harmony between the natural setting and architecture.
The castle first mentioned in 1200 was originally owned by the King and later, at the end of the 13th century it fell in hands of Matúš Èák. Its owners alternated - at the end of the 14th century the family of Stibor of Stiborice bought it.
The next owners, the Bánffys who adapted the Gothic castle to the Renaissance residence, improved its fortifications preventing the Turks from conquering it at the end of the 16th century. When Bánffys died out, the castle was owned by several noble families. It fell in decay after fire in 1729.
The history of the castle is the subject of different legends. One of them narrates the origin of the name of castle derived from that of jester Becko for whom the Duke Stibor had the castle built.
Another legend has it that the lord of the castle had his servant thrown down from the rock because he protected his child from the lords favourite dog. Before his death, the servant pronounced a curse saying that they would meet in a year and days time, and indeed precisely after that time the lord was bitten by a snake and fell down to the same abyss.
The well-conserved ruins of the castle, now the National Cultural Monument, are frequently visited by tourists, above all in July when the castle festival takes place. The former Ambro curia situated below the castle now shelters the exhibition of the local history.