Zvíkov, often called 'the king of Czech castles', is located at the junction of the Vltava and Otava rivers. It stands on a difficult-to-access and steep promontory above the confluence of the Vltava and Otava rivers. The castle is one of the most important early-Gothic castles in Czech lands.
The area was inhabited as early as prehistoric times, when the Celts built a fort here in the 1st century AD. The current castle was built in the first half of the 13th century, most probably on the orders of King Přemysl Otakar I, but the exact date is not known. The first written mention of the castle comes from year 1234 and owned by the Kings of Bohemia.
Originally a small complex, the castle was continuously extended until 1278. After the Přemyslid dynasty died out in 1306, Zvíkov became property of the Rožmberk family. After 1337 the settlement under the castle has been fortified, as a part of thorough repairs. Its fortifications were so strong that even the Hussites, during the Hussite Wars, besieged it for four months in 1429, but found it a tough nut to crack and failed to take it. To protect against heavy artillery its walls were further strengthened.
Although Emperor Charles IV placed it on a list of royal castles not to be pawned, his successors ignored his decree and by 1431 it was in the possession of the Rožmberk dynasty. At the start of Thirty Years' War Zvíkov was owned by a rebellious Protestant nobleman whose garrison of 140 men successfully defended the castle against 4,000 Habsburg troops in 1618. The defendants agreed to capitulate to the Emperor's forces only in October 1622. Subsequently, it was looted and devastated. During the 1640s the Švanberks modified the palace and extended it in Renaissance style.
After the damaged inflicted by the war, Zvíkov was restored, but its glory was long gone and the castle served only for farming purposes. A fire accelerated the deterioration of its buildings in 1751. Thus a once-important seat of Czech kings it had become an almost ruin by the 1840s, at which time the Schwarzenbergs, owners of the ruin, invested huge sums in a thorough reconstruction, which restored the heart of the castle to its former glory.
At the end of 17th century it ceased to have military value and was used as granary. The decline continued and in 1751 fire damaged a large part of the palace. In 1780 the chapel was deconsecrated. The facade of the palace collapsed in 1829 and between 1880 and 1902 the castle was reconstructed, only to be confiscated by the state in 1947.
The Orlík Dam, which was built between 1954 and 1962 and named after Orlík Castle, deluged the castle downtown and made Zvíkov easily accessible. Major restorations between 1970 and 1980 concentrated on the palace.
The oldest part of Zvíkov is a massive prismatic residential tower named Hlízová with palace buildings built on its sides. During the reign of Ottokar II of Bohemia, a palace named Královský (King's Own) was built and this ground plan has been preserved until today. The new palace was built in lavish style and its parts were connected by monumental arcade.
After 1473, Bohuslav of Svamberk commissioned mural decorations in the Chapel of St. Wenceslaus, which belongs to the masterpieces of early-gothic Czech architecture. The walls display the patron saints of Bohemia, the Virgin Mary the Protector, the Suffering Christ and the Martyrdom of St. Erasmus. The fortification was extended with Hláska, large 32-metre high tower on the south side. The castle has two gates.
The castle has its own ghost, Zvíkov's imp, and had inspired several painters and writers like the theatrical comedy Zvíkovský rarášek by Ladislav Stroupežnický. Today, Zvíkov (opened from Spring to Autumn) is hiking attraction and serves as a place of art exhibitions and stage plays.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.