Freistadt Castle was built, together with its bergfried, between 1363 and 1398, and was used to reinforce the fortifications of the town of Freistadt. Today the castle houses the tax office and the Mühlviertel Castle Museum.
The building of the castle was begun in 1363 in order to bolster the town's fortifications, Duke Rudolph IV the Founder issuing the orders for its construction. Until it was completed, all the manner of estates within the jurisdiction (Landgericht) of Freistadt were taxed: homes, land, fiefs and farmsteads. After Rudolph's death in 1365, his brothers, Leopold and Albert, continued with the work, and in 1397/98 the new castle and its bergfried were finished. Several improvements continued until 1440 and, in the late 15th century, the height of the bergfried was raised.
The schloss replaced the old castle in Salzgasse street, the Altenhof. From then on the new castle was used by the territorial princes as an administrative centre for the Barony and District of Freistadt and as the residence of the lord's Pfleger. The other district office for the Barony of Freistadt was Schloss Haus (from the 18th century). With the simultaneous expansion of the remaining fortifications, the castle strengthened the defensive capability of the town. Nevertheless, the castle was the weakest point in its lines of defence.
Entry to the castle was achieved then as now in two ways. On one side, access was gained through a gateway to the main courtyard and, on the other, through another gateway at the end of the Schlossgasse leading from the Böhmergasse into the outer courtyard. The castle itself was further separated from the town by a moat and drawbridge. Even the adjoining townhouses were not allowed to have a door into the outer courtyard. The castle was also protected from the town and possible attacks from that direction.
During the Hussite Wars and the numerous border feuds of the 15th century the castle acted as a strong bulwark at the edge of the town. In the 16th century it was significantly remodelled, the plans for the rebuilding of the south wing in 1588 being drawn up by architects Antonio Cerisora, Ambrosio Solari and Mert Pogner. Around 1594 the castle acted as a refuge for the surrounding population during the Turkish Wars. Only once was the castle plundered by besieging troops, in 1626, when rioting peasants captured the town and the castle. The castle's governor and three Capuchin monks were locked in the castle chapel and mistreated. Liturgical objects were stolen and all the boxes and chests broken open and looted.
In the course of time there was also opposition between the town and the castle. One sticking point was a 'back door' (Hintertürl) that led from the castle into the zwinger and over the town moat out of the town; something that had been planned even at the design stage. This enabled residents of the castle to leave the town incognito, but the gate also posed a security risk, which is why it had been bricked up in the 15th century. In 1584, Hans Christoph von Gera pressed for the opening of the gate by drawing attention to the lack of escape during the two great fires of 1507 and 1516. Finally the territorial prince ruled in favour of the town and that the gate should be left walled up.References:
The Church of Saint Demetrius, or Hagios Demetrios, is the main sanctuary dedicated to Saint Demetrius, the patron saint of Thessaloniki. It is part of the site Palaeochristian and Byzantine Monuments of Thessaloniki on the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO since 1988.
The first church on the spot was constructed in the early 4th century AD, replacing a Roman bath. A century later, a prefect named Leontios replaced the small oratory with a larger, three-aisled basilica. Repeatedly gutted by fires, the church eventually was reconstructed as a five-aisled basilica in 629–634. This was the surviving form of the church much as it is today. The most important shrine in the city, it was probably larger than the local cathedral. The historic location of the latter is now unknown.
The church had an unusual shrine called the ciborium, a hexagonal, roofed structure at one side of the nave. It was made of or covered with silver. The structure had doors and inside was a couch or bed. Unusually, it did not hold any physical relics of the saint. The ciborium seems to have been a symbolic tomb. It was rebuilt at least once.
The basilica is famous for six extant mosaic panels, dated to the period between the latest reconstruction and the inauguration of the Byzantine Iconoclasm in 730. These mosaics depict St. Demetrius with officials responsible for the restoration of the church (called the founders, ktetors) and with children. An inscription below one of the images glorifies heaven for saving the people of Thessalonica from a pagan Slavic raid in 615.
Thessaloniki became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1430. About 60 years later, during the reign of Bayezid II, the church was converted into a mosque, known as the Kasımiye Camii after the local Ottoman mayor, Cezeri Kasım Pasha. The symbolic tomb however was kept open for Christian veneration. Other magnificent mosaics, recorded as covering the church interior, were lost either during the four centuries when it functioned as a mosque (1493–1912) or in the Great Thessaloniki Fire of 1917 that destroyed much of the city. It also destroyed the roof and upper walls of the church. Black-and-white photographs and good watercolour versions give an idea of the early Byzantine craftsmanship lost during the fire.
Following the Great Fire of 1917, it took decades to restore the church. Tombstones from the city"s Jewish cemetery - destroyed by the Greek and Nazi German authorities - were used as building materials in these restoration efforts in the 1940s. Archeological excavations conducted in the 1930s and 1940s revealed interesting artifacts that may be seen in a museum situated inside the church"s crypt. The excavations also uncovered the ruins of a Roman bath, where St. Demetrius was said to have been held prisoner and executed. A Roman well was also discovered. Scholars believe this is where soldiers dropped the body of St. Demetrius after his execution. After restoration, the church was reconsecrated in 1949.