During the Early Middle Ages there was a small fort and church on the top of the Thun castle hill. The castle was built between 1180 and 1190 by Duke Berthold V of Zähringen, who constructed the still preserved keep to the level of the Knights' Hall (Rittersaal). The 14 m tall Knights' Hall was built as the centerpiece of a monument to Zähringen power. However, the family never lived in the castle, preferring Burgdorf Castle.
In 1218 it was inherited by the House of Kyburg, who built the upper levels above the Zähringen castle. A quarrel over who would rule the southern Kyburg lands led, in 1322, to Eberhard II von Kyburg murdering his brother Hartmann II at the castle. To protect his newly acquired land from the Habsburgs Eberhard II then sold them to Bern and was promptly given them back as a fief. The Kyburgs ruled over the region for nearly two centuries until a failed raid by Rudolf II on Solothurn, in 1382, started the Burgdorferkrieg. After several decisive Bernese victories the Kyburgs were forced to concede an unfavorable peace. In 1384 Bern bought Thun and Burgdorf, the most important cities of the Kyburg lands. The castle came under Bernese control and became the seat of their local administration.
The massive roof (1430–36) comes from the Bernese period. Due to the lack of residences in the castle, in 1429, an administrative and residential wing was added to the west of the keep, built in late Gothic style, and known as the 'new castle'. The castle was the seat of the local court and since at least the 17th century there was a prison under the roof of the donjon. In 1886 a new prison was built on the castle grounds. Two years later, in 1888, the museum opened in the castle. For a time the jailer was also the ticket seller and guard for the museum.
The castle museum is housed in the five floors of the tower, and includes cultural and historic displays showing the development of the region over some 4,000 years. It is open daily between February and October, and on Sundays only for the rest of the year. The great hall is used for concerts or plays, and can be hired for private events.References:
Derbent is the southernmost city in Russia, occupying the narrow gateway between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains connecting the Eurasian steppes to the north and the Iranian Plateau to the south. Derbent claims to be the oldest city in Russia with historical documentation dating to the 8th century BCE. Due to its strategic location, over the course of history, the city changed ownership many times, particularly among the Persian, Arab, Mongol, Timurid, Shirvan and Iranian kingdoms.
Derbent has archaeological structures over 5,000 years old. As a result of this geographic peculiarity, the city developed between two walls, stretching from the mountains to the sea. These fortifications were continuously employed for a millennium and a half, longer than any other extant fortress in the world.
A traditionally and historically Iranian city, the first intensive settlement in the Derbent area dates from the 8th century BC. The site was intermittently controlled by the Persian monarchs, starting from the 6th century BC. Until the 4th century AD, it was part of Caucasian Albania which was a satrap of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. In the 5th century Derbent functioned as a border fortress and the seat of Sassanid Persians. Because of its strategic position on the northern branch of the Silk Route, the fortress was contested by the Khazars in the course of the Khazar-Arab Wars. In 654, Derbent was captured by the Arabs.
The Sassanid fortress does not exist any more, as the famous Derbent fortress as it stands today was built from the 12th century onward. Derbent became a strong military outpost and harbour of the Sassanid empire. During the 5th and 6th centuries, Derbent also became an important center for spreading the Christian faith in the Caucasus.
The site continued to be of great strategic importance until the 19th century. Today the fortifications consist of two parallel defence walls and Naryn-Kala Citadel. The walls are 3.6km long, stretching from the sea up to the mountains. They were built from stone and had 73 defence towers. 9 out of the 14 original gates remain.
In Naryn-Kala Citadel most of the old buildings, including a palace and a church, are now in ruins. It also holds baths and one of the oldest mosques in the former USSR.
In 2003, UNESCO included the old part of Derbent with traditional buildings in the World Heritage List.