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:
Czocha Castle is located on the Lake Leśnia, what is now the Polish part of Upper Lusatia. Czocha castle was built on gneiss rock, and its oldest part is the keep, to which housing structures were later added.
Czocha Castle began as a stronghold, on the Czech-Lusatian border. Its construction was ordered by Wenceslaus I of Bohemia, in the middle of the 13th century (1241–1247). In 1253 castle was handed over to Konrad von Wallhausen, Bishop of Meissen. In 1319 the complex became part of the dukedom of Henry I of Jawor, and after his death, it was taken over by another Silesian prince, Bolko II the Small, and his wife Agnieszka. Origin of the stone castle dates back to 1329.
In the mid-14th century, Czocha Castle was annexed by Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Bohemia. Then, between 1389 and 1453, it belonged to the noble families of von Dohn and von Kluks. Reinforced, the complex was besieged by the Hussites in the early 15th century, who captured it in 1427, and remained in the castle for unknown time (see Hussite Wars). In 1453, the castle was purchased by the family of von Nostitz, who owned it for 250 years, making several changes through remodelling projects in 1525 and 1611. Czocha's walls were strengthened and reinforced, which thwarted a Swedish siege of the complex during the Thirty Years War. In 1703, the castle was purchased by Jan Hartwig von Uechtritz, influential courtier of Augustus II the Strong. On August 17, 1793, the whole complex burned in a fire.
In 1909, Czocha was bought by a cigar manufacturer from Dresden, Ernst Gutschow, who ordered major remodelling, carried out by Berlin architect Bodo Ebhardt, based on a 1703 painting of the castle. Gutschow, who was close to the Russian Imperial Court and hosted several White emigres in Czocha, lived in the castle until March 1945. Upon leaving, he packed up the most valuable possessions and moved them out.
After World War II, the castle was ransacked several times, both by soldiers of the Red Army, and Polish thieves, who came to the so-called Recovered Territories from central and eastern part of the country. Pieces of furniture and other goods were stolen, and in the late 1940s and early 1950s, the castle was home to refugees from Greece. In 1952, Czocha was taken over by the Polish Army. Used as a military vacation resort, it was erased from official maps. The castle has been open to the public since September 1996 as a hotel and conference centre. The complex was featured in several movies and television series. Recently, the castle has been used as the setting of the College of Wizardry, a live action role-playing game (LARP) that takes place in their own universe and can be compared to Harry Potter.