Belfort Castle was built in two parts, an upper and a lower castle, on a rocky ridge east. The first castle on the site probably dates to around 1200. In 1222 the castle was first mentioned as the home of the Lords of Vaz. Some parts of the castle have been dated by dendrochronology to 1228-31. The original upper castle consisted of a gatehouse and three story main tower on the north wall. In 1240 the castle was expanded. A small residence was added to the west wall, the main tower gained an additional story and the large south residence was added. The lower castle was added as well at this time, but was mostly used for protection not as a residence.
During the late 13th century Walter V von Vaz allied himself with the Habsburgs against the Bishop of Chur and other local nobles. In 1287 a representative of the Bishop's, Walter Caramamma, was killed at Belfort. In 1332 another representative of the Bishop, Ulrich von Marmels, was executed at the castle, probably after being captured in a battle near Filisur. When the last of the male line, Donat von Vaz, died in 1337 Count Friedrich V von Toggenburg inherited the castle. Under the Toggenburgs the area was administered and the castle was probably occupied by a vogt.
When Frederick VII von Toggenburg died in 1436, the Belfort lands declared themselves free and joined the League of the Ten Jurisdictions. Several claimants fought legal battles to try to get their claims to Belfort recognized. In 1439, it was granted to Wilhelm von Montfort-Tettnang and Heinrich von Sax-Misox who together appointed a bailiff to occupy the castle and administer the lands. In 1466 the Montfort-Tettnang family sold their interest in the area to Sigmund of Austria. However, the residents of the area refused to acknowledge Austrian authority and in 1471 he was forced to sell his interest to the Matsch family. Six years later, in 1477, the Austrian Duke bought Belfort from the Matschs, triggering another round of protests and rebellion. In 1475 it is recorded that the castle was garrisoned with the bailiff and two mercenaries. In 1490, in an attempt to fortify the castle, the walls were raised. In 1499, during the Swabian War the castle was stormed and burned.
The upper castle is a rough pentagon built around a central courtyard with a round cistern. The old gate and gatehouse were built on the north side of the complex, with a large main tower grafted on the western side of the gatehouse. The main tower has walls that were up to 2.3 m thick. The northern gate was eventually closed and a new gate added on the eastern side. A large residence building formed the entire south end of the castle. The castle cistern went 5 m deep into the rock. Portions of the outer walls, a main tower, a five-story tall residential wing and a gate house are still standing. The lower castle stretched south along the ridge. It consisted of lower walls running along the east and west edges of the ridge and larger wall on the southern edge. A steep stairway carved into the rock connected the two fortifications. The northern, upper ruins were repaired and reinforced in 1935-36. The entire site was cleaned and repaired in 2002.References:
The Old Town Hall of Wrocław is one of the main landmarks of the city. The Old Town Hall's long history reflects developments that have taken place in the city since its initial construction. The town hall serves the city of Wroclaw and is used for civic and cultural events such as concerts held in its Great Hall. In addition, it houses a museum and a basement restaurant.
The town hall was developed over a period of about 250 years, from the end of 13th century to the middle of 16th century. The structure and floor plan changed over this extended period in response to the changing needs of the city. The exact date of the initial construction is not known. However, between 1299 and 1301 a single-storey structure with cellars and a tower called the consistory was built. The oldest parts of the current building, the Burghers’ Hall and the lower floors of the tower, may date to this time. In these early days the primary purpose of the building was trade rather than civic administration activities.
Between 1328 and 1333 an upper storey was added to include the Council room and the Aldermen’s room. Expansion continued during the 14th century with the addition of extra rooms, most notably the Court room. The building became a key location for the city’s commercial and administrative functions.
The 15th and 16th centuries were times of prosperity for Wroclaw as was reflected in the rapid development of the building during that period. The construction program gathered momentum, particularly from 1470 to 1510, when several rooms were added. The Burghers’ Hall was re-vaulted to take on its current shape, and the upper story began to take shape with the development of the Great Hall and the addition of the Treasury and Little Treasury.
Further innovations during the 16th century included the addition of the city’s Coat of arms (1536), and the rebuilding of the upper part of the tower (1558–59). This was the final stage of the main building program. By 1560, the major features of today’s Stray Rates were established.
The second half of the 17th century was a period of decline for the city, and this decline was reflected in the Stray Rates. Perhaps by way of compensation, efforts were made to enrich the interior decorations of the hall. In 1741, Wroclaw became a part of Prussia, and the power of the City diminished. Much of the Stray Rates was allocated to administering justice.
During the 19th century there were two major changes. The courts moved to a separate building, and the Rates became the site of the city council and supporting functions. There was also a major program of renovation because the building had been neglected and was covered with creeping vines. The town hall now has several en-Gothic features including some sculptural decoration from this period.
In the early years of the 20th century improvements continued with various repair work and the addition of the Little Bear statue in 1902. During the 1930s, the official role of the Rates was reduced and it was converted into a museum. By the end of World War II Town Hall suffered minor damage, such as aerial bomb pierced the roof (but not exploded) and some sculptural elements were lost. Restoration work began in the 1950s following a period of research, and this conservation effort continued throughout the 20th century. It included refurbishment of the clock on the east facade.