Tag Archives: castle

Czech Republic – Litomyšl Castle

Czech Republic-UNESCO-Zamek Litomysl

Litomyšl Castle was originally a Renaissance arcade-castle of the type first developed in Italy and then adopted and greatly developed in central Europe in the 16th century. Its design and decoration are particularly fine, including the later High-Baroque features added in the 18th century. It preserves intact the range of ancillary buildings associated with an aristocratic residence of this type.

Germany – Schloss Rastatt


Schloss Rastatt is a historical building in Rastatt, Germany. The palace and the Garden were built between 1700 and 1707 by the Italian architect Domenico Egidio Rossi as ordered by Margrave Louis William of Baden.

During the Palatine war of succession the residence of Margrave Louis William of Baden-Baden had been burnt by French troops. A rebuild of the destroyed castle would not have suited the representative needs of the count of Baden. Since he also needed a home for his wife Sibylle Auguste of Saxe-Lauenburg, whom he had married in 1690, he a had a new residence built in place of the former hunting lodge.

During this operation the 1697 hunting lodge was demolished to leave space for the new castle. The village of Rastatt was promoted to city status in 1700 and the Margrave moved here with his court. The residence in Rastatt is the oldest Baroque residence in the German Upper-Rhine area. It was built according to the example of the French Palace of Versailles. During the 19th century the castle was used as headquarters.

The castle was not damaged during World War II. Today the castle is home of two museums, the “Wehrgeschichtliche Museum” (military history) and Erinnerungsstätte für die Freiheitsbewegungen in der deutschen Geschichte (Memorial site for the German liberation movement).

A large staircase with stucco decorations give way to the Beletage. The biggest and most decorated hall is the Ahnensaal (“Ancestral Hall””). It is decorated with numerous frescoes and shows paintings of ancestors and of captured Ottoman soldiers.

France – Chateau de Nacqueville

France-Chateau de Nacqueville


Since building started 500 years ago, the history of the Chateau and Park of Nacqueville has been closely linked to those of the three families who have lived there:

Body text bullet pointthe Grimouvilles in the 16th and 17th centuries

Body text bullet pointthe Mangon family, and their relatives the Barbout de Querquevilles and the de Tocquevilles, in the 18th. and 19th. Centuries, and

Body text bullet pointthe Hersents and their descendants from 1880 to the present day.


In 1510 the ancient Norman family of Grimouville constructed the original building as a fortified manor with a protective wall, 6 metres high. This completely blocked out the view from the manor thus giving the owners of the time no interest in landscaping the surrounding countryside.

Around 1700 the defensive wall was knocked down. With only the postern gate as the remaining reminder of the original defences, the owners had a beautiful view from the Chateau over the valley floor to the ornamental woods beyond.

Only much later, in 183o, did Hippolyte de Tocqueville, whose wife owned the estate, decide to create a true park.

An English landscape gardener was commissioned to design a romantic park, taking in the three small valleys. Within a few years the work had been successfully completed:

Body text bullet pointcreating a lake next to the Chateau and forming ponds, waterfalls and fountains,

Body text bullet pointclearing the main valley and planting it with ornamental trees, flowering shrubs and exotic plants,

Body text bullet pointmoving the entrance drive to lead right up to the Chateau, and

Body text bullet pointextending the woodlands on the surrounding high ground.

These changes so impressed the political philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville, the author of the classic “Democracy in America”, that he wrote to his friend G. de Beaumont in 1857:

“I was, the day before yesterday, at my brother Hippolyte’s house. They have lavished enough money and taste on Nacqueville to make it one of the prettiest places in the world.”



During the 2nd World War, the Chateau and the Park were occupied by the German army and then the Americans, who used the Chateau as an headquarters.

When Marcel Hersent (1895-1971) reclaimed the property in 1946, the whole place was in a disastrous state. Parts of the roof were missing, the interior was in ruins, the park had been devastated and the woods badly damaged. Over the next ten years, he completely restored the Chateau and put the Park and the woods back in order.

Proud of his work, in 1962 he opened the Park and the Chateau to the public.


In 1971, Marcel’s daughter Jacqueline, who had married Francois Azan in 1946, inherited the property. For the next 29 years they dedicated themselves to keeping the estate in perfect order, preserving its harmony and charm.

In 2000, the property passed to their daughter, Florence. With her husband Thierry d’Harcourt and their three children Hildevert, Alban and Quitterie, they left their Australian home of 12 years to settle in Nacqueville and pursue the task of the 18 previous generations who have over 5 centuries been the owners of Nacqueville.


Germany – Eltz Castle


Burg Eltz is a medieval castle nestled in the hills above the Moselle River between Koblenz and Trier, Germany. It is still owned by a branch of the same family that lived there in the 12th century, 33 generations ago. The Rübenach and Rodendorf families’ homes in the castle are open to the public, while the Kempenich branch of the family uses the other third of the castle. The Palace of Bürresheim (Schloss Bürresheim), the Castle of Eltz and the Castle of Lissingen are the only castles on the left bank of the Rhine in Rhineland-Palatinate which have never been destroyed.

Czech Republic – UNESCO WHS – Gardens and Castle at Kroměříž

Kroměříž stands on the site of an earlier ford across the River Morava, at the foot of the Chriby mountain range which dominates the central part of Moravia. The gardens and castle of Kroměříž are an exceptionally complete and well-preserved example of a European Baroque princely residence and its gardens.


The history of Kromeríz began with the establishment of a settlement in the floodplain of the Morava river in the 9th century AD during the Greater Moravian Period. By the 12th century, when it belonged to the Bishopric of Olomouc, the original fortified site had disappeared. It did not achieve the status of a fortified town again until the mid-13th century, when a Gothic fort was constructed. The town prospered in the succeeding centuries, becoming the centre of the organization of vassals of the episcopal domains.

In 1497 the wealthy and well-connected Stanislav Thurzo became Bishop of Olomouc. He set about reconstructing and modernizing his castle at Kromeríz. At first this work was carried out using the Late Gothic style of the period, but Renaissance elements began to filter in as the work progressed. Bishop Thurzo also established a garden, comprising orchard, kitchen garden, and flower garden, which was praised by King Vladislav II when he visited Kromeríz in 1509.

Thurzo’s successors made minor modifications and additions to his castle. The castle suffered grievously in the Thirty Years’ War when the town was sacked by the Swedish army in 1643, a disaster followed by an outbreak of plague two years later. It was not until Count Karel Liechtenstein-Castelcorn became Bishop of Olomouc in 1664 that the town’s fortunes began to change. He wanted the town where he lived to have an aristocratic air, and so he undertook many building projects, as well as compelling the burghers to renew their buildings and equipment.

He brought in the talented Imperial civil engineer and architect Filiberto Lucchese, who designed an entirely new Pleasure Garden (Lustgarten) for him after having brought the ruined castle back into a habitable state. When Lucchese died in 1666, his work was taken over by his successor as Imperial architect, Giovanni Pietro Tencalla; the work on the Garden was not completed until 1675.

Once the garden was finished Tencalla’s attention turned to the design and construction of a magnificent episcopal castle and residence. This was to be his masterpiece, in the tradition of the north Italian Baroque school of Genoa and Turin. Nonetheless, it respected its Gothic predecessor, elements of which were blended into the new complex. Meanwhile, Bishop Karel was furnishing the interiors, creating a picture gallery that contained many masterpieces.

The castle was affected by the fire that swept through the town in March 1752. Bishop Leopold Bedrich Eghk oversaw the restoration, bringing in artists and craftsmen to carry out the work, notably the Viennese painter Franz Anton Maulbertsch and the Moravian artists Josef Stern.
The see was raised to an archbishopric in 1777 and the first archbishop, Colloredo-Waldsee, was responsible for the restyling of the Castle Garden in accordance with the romantic approach of the late 18th century. The Pleasure Garden, however, preserved its Baroque geometrical layout. The work on the Castle Garden continued well into the 19th century, with the construction of arcades, bridges, and even a model farmstead. Much of this was carried out under the supervision of the architect Antonín Arche between 1830 and 1845.



Germany – Wartburg Castle


Wartburg Castle blends superbly into its forest surroundings and is in many ways ‘the ideal castle’. Although it has retained some original sections from the feudal period, the form it acquired during the 19th-century reconstitution gives a good idea of what this fortress might have been at the height of its military and seigneurial power. It was during his exile at Wartburg Castle that Martin Luther translated the New Testament into German.

The legendary creation of Wartburg Castle is attributed to Count Ludwig der Springer. The first steps in its construction were taken in 1067, following the troubles caused by the Investiture Contest, troubles which encouraged the birth of feudalism. The castle is mentioned for the first time in 1080 as a strategic base, one of the key points in the early years of Ludovician sovereignty. This sovereignty grew more firmly established during the first half of the 12th century. Raised to the dignity of landgraves, the Ludovicians supported the policies of the Stauffen emperors. The building of the palace in the second half of the 12th century illustrates their status as Princes of the Empire. Towards the end of the 12th century, a literary court developed at Wartburg castle, attracted by Landgrave Hermann I, who surrounded himself with poets and musicians. The poetry of Walther von der Vogelweide describes the brilliant society life which gave rise to the episode of the singers’ tourney at Wartburg Castle, a romanticized version of which inspired Richard Wagner’s opera, Tannhäuser.

In 1221 Landgrave Ludwig IV, the son of Hermann, married Elizabeth of Hungary. Widowed in 1227, Elizabeth devoted herself to charitable works to which the Landgrave’s family took exception. Driven out of Wartburg Castle with her three children, she founded a hospital in Marburg and lived her life by Franciscan principles. She was canonized in 1235, four years after her death.

Heinrich Raspe IV, the brother of Ludwig IV, succeeded him and, espousing the Pope’s cause, was appointed King of Germany on the initiative of Innocent IV. His death in 1247 ended the Ludovician dynasty.

The Margrave of Wettin, Heinrich von Meissen, took possession of Wartburg Castle. Over the next century, the site was to receive a series of new buildings. The transfer of the seat of power to Gotha and subsequently to Weimar at the beginning of the 15th century marked the beginning of the castle’s decline.

Under the protection of the Prince Elector of Saxony, Martin Luther stayed at Wartburg Castle in secret. Here he devoted himself to literature, producing a considerable body of work attested by his correspondence, from which many letters have survived. It was at Wartburg Castle that he made his translation of the New Testament into German. His exile came to an end in March 1522 and by the end of the 16th century, the memory of Luther was already attracting large numbers of pilgrims.

From the 16th century onwards, the castle was kept more or less in a state of repair: though abandoned as a seat of power, its strategic importance was nonetheless highlighted several times. The events that had taken place there, and in particular the memory of St Elizabeth and of Luther, were also arguments for its preservation, but neglect gradually led to inevitable dilapidation, which was almost total by the end of the 18th century. Goethe paid a visit in 1777 and made a drawing of the ruin which shows only the palace remaining partially intact. The poet suggested the creation of a museum, justified by the ever-growing numbers of pilgrims. After the Napoleonic wars, a national sentiment emerged which revelled in the image of ancient Germany as symbolized by Wartburg Castle.

In 1817, the students’ associations organized an event which set the seal on this tendency, further confirmed by the revolution of March 1848. Wartburg Castle was to remain the headquarters of students’ associations for the whole of Germany.

In the first half of the 19th century, on the initiative of the Grand Duke of Saxony, the entire site was completely renovated: the remains of the palace were raised from their ruins, the curtain wall restored, and the remainder of the buildings reconstructed under the supervision of architect Hugo von Ritgen. The large part necessarily played by assumptions in the reconstruction have rather more to do with the romantic imagination than with historical reality. The involvement of renowned artists such as Moritz von Schwind, particularly in his illustration of the life of St Elizabeth, underlines the symbolic nature of the site.

This allegorical monument was for a short time the object of attention from the Nazi regime, but no event of importance was held there over the period, apart from the subjection of the students’ associations to the principles of the regime.

In 1945, the bombing of Eisenach spared Wartburg, although the castle was later pillaged by Soviet troops. The German Democratic Republic made Wartburg Castle a national monument, major restoration work was carried out, and numerous commemorative ceremonies were held in connection with the religious connotations and symbolic value of the monument.

Since the reunification of Germany, restoration work has concentrated primarily on the interiors and on the problems of preserving the stonework on the palace facades.


Luxembourg – Chateau de Bourscheid

Bourscheid castle is located on an isolated promontory, accessible only from the north-west, 150 meters above the level of the river Sûre and 370 meters above sea level. Even today the ruins testify of an impressive fortification covering a surface of 12.000 square meters (151 meters long, 53 meters wide) and surrounded by a massive ring wall with 11 watchtowers. Bourscheid is an excellent example of the medieval castle tradition.

The centre of the enclosure came into being around the year 1000 when a stone construction replaced an earlier wooden defense structure. Archaeological excavations have yielded traces of Ottonian, Carolingian, Merovingian end even Roman times. Initially, the little square near the tower with its “palas” and chapel was surrounded by a circular wall with at least 4 towers. Only the tower and the circular wall remain of this first construction dating from the romanesque period. The manifold building ornaments in the form of ears (“opus spicatum”) are a characteristic of this part of the castle.

Shortly after the year 1350 the extensive circular wall was begun. It was finished in 1384, the same year in which the Stolzemburger house in the lower area of the castle was erected (notice the fine basement in gothic style). As the circular wall with its 8 towers now offered better protection to the core of the castle, the “palas” in the upper area was increased to a height of at least 10 meters, which corresponds to 4 storeys. A bakery-house was added on the top of a two-level dungeon hewn into the naked rock. The warden’s house with its two towers formed the entrance to this castle.

Behind the gateway, which was built only after 1477, a ditch protected by 4 towers barred the access to the upper and the lower castle. Truly a great fortification! The square in front of the exterior gate was protected by palissades. In this area stood the lime tree under which justice was said.

The castle began to delapidate after the year 1512 when the last member of the Bourscheid family had died. The upper castle was transformed into two dwellings arranged on both sides of the “palas”. One was already deserted by 1626, the other was never permanently inhabited. Yet around 1650 the chapel was enlarged so that it could boast two altars. From that time onward only bailiffs lived in Bourscheid castle, more precisely in the Stolzemburger house, which was rearranged as a residence in 1785, since the “palas” and the chapel in the upper area were threatening to crumble.

The invasion of Luxembourg by French revolutionary troops in 1704-1705 put an end to feudalism. The Bourscheid archives were taken to Gemunden in the Runsruck area of Germany in 1802, the last bailiff deserted the castle in 1803. In 1812 the last owner sold his whole property in Bourscheid and environs.

Bourscheid castle now was in private hands for more than a century and a half. In 1972 the Luxembourg State acquired the ruins, which had been declared a national monument in 1936. While some restauration work had been done since the thirties, the Stolzembourg house was reconstructed after 1972, while archaeological excavations probed into the ancient past of the castle. This restauration work has rendered Bourscheid castle accessible to visitors. The recent publication of the Bourscheid archives substantially enlarges our knowledge of the castle and its former inhabitants.


Ireland – Rock of Cashel

The Rock of Cashel (Carraig Phádraig), more formally St. Patrick’s Rock, it is also known as Cashel of the Kings. Long before the Norman invasion The Rock of Cashel was the seat of the High Kings of Munster, although there is little structural evidence of their time here. Most of the buildings on the current site date from the 12th and 13th centuries when the rock was gifted to the Church. The buildings represent both Hiberno-Romanseque and Germanic influences in their architecture.

The legendary origin of the Rock of Cashel dates back to approximately 432 AD. Now a market town, Cashel was once a center of royal and religious power. According to legend, St. Patrick arrived in Cashel in AD 432 and baptized King Aengus, who became Ireland’s first Christian ruler. During the baptism, the devil hurriedly flew over Ireland and, hindered by the Slieve Bloom Mountains, the flying fiend took an enormous bite out of the stony peaks. After he reached the opposite side of the mountains, the devil spat out his mountainous mouthful and inadvertently formed the Rock of Cashel. The legendary origin of the Rock of Cashel, then, also explains the gap (known as the Devil’s Bite) in the Slieve Bloom Mountains, which can be seen to the north of the rock.
Besides tales explaining the legendary origin of the Rock of Cashel, other stories exist that link this location to the emergence of the shamrock as an Irish symbol. According to legend, during the baptism, St. Patrick plucked a shamrock to explain the mystery of the Trinity and so gave Christian Ireland a powerful new emblem.

Estonia – Episcopal castle of Haapsalu

Haapsalu Castle was built to be the main residence of the Bishop of Saare-Lääne (Ösel-Wiek) bishopric and dates back to the 13th century,the attached Dome church being an impressive example of early Gothic architecture mixed with Romanesque elements. The castle was expanded into its current shape in the 16th century when the outer wall surrounding the castle with its cannon towers was completed. The walls reached a height of 10 meters and were over 1 meter thick. The inside of the walls was equipped with moats and bastions housing cannons.During the Livonian War in the 16th century, which incidentally marked the end of a semi-independent bishopric, the castle was badly damaged. In the 17th century the castle was no longer used as a defense building by the Swedes who now ruled the Province of Estonia. The walls were partially demolished during the Northern War in 1710 at the command of the Russian Czar Peter who took over the rule of Estonia in the 18thcentury, turning the castle in effect into ruins. The western side of the castle houses a picturesque 29 meter Watchtower dating from the13th century, later used as a bell tower. The Dome church attached to the castle was probably built in the1260-s, following the style of the Cistercian Order.
The round baptism chapel on the eastern side of the church was built in the 14th or 15th century and is the site of a famous legend. On moonlight August nights the shape of a Lady in White appears on the inside wall of the chapels the moon shines through the chapel window. This Lady is said to have been a woman who was in love with a cannon, entering the castle against the rules, therefore having been walled in there alive as a punishment.
The church has been restored and it is again in active use by the local congregation of the Estonian Lutheran Church since 1990.

Denmark – Nordborg Castle

Nordborg Castle is a small castle which lies on the southern side of Nordborg Lake in Nordborg on the island of Als in Denmark. The castle premises are currently used as a boarding school.

Nordborg Castle, with its white walls and red roof, has an ideal location on an islet in Nordborg Lake. The castle is surrounded by the small ducal town of Nordborg, which after 1945 was home to many Danfoss employees. There is now no trace of the first castle from the 12th century. But a new castle was built when Nordborg became part of the duchy of Sønderborg under Hans the Younger in 1571. The castle was the seat of the duchy of Nordborg in 1622-69, but it burned down in the 1660s. In 1676, the dukes of Pløn acquired Nordborg and built a new Italian-style castle, which the state took over in 1720. In 1766-72 the land was parceled out and most of the castle was demolished.