Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Slovakian Stronghold

Červený Kameň, nestled in the Carpathian Mountains northeast of Bratislava, is one of Slovakia's few surviving castles.

The original structure at Červený Kameň, or 'red rock', was begun in the 13th century by Queen Kunhuta, widow of a Czech king and daughter of Hungarian king, as part of a border-fortification project between old Hungary and the Czech kingdom. Though the castle retained its basic form of a central courtyard and corner towers, the structure changed with successive owners. When the wealthy Augsburg-based Fugger family (bankers for the Hapsburgs) purchased the castle in 1535, they had great plans to develop it as a key trading point along the Danube. Plans by Albrecht Dürer detail a massive Renaissance palace, complete with military fortifications and extensive storage vaults deep with the castle walls. However, before work commenced the castle again changed hands, this time to Mikuláš Pálffy II, in whose family it remained until 1945. The Pálffy family's 18th century Baroque renovations are what remain today.

Remarkably, Červený Kameň, along with nearby Bratislava Castle, escaped bombing in World War II and was declared a state cultural asset and opened to the public in 1949. In 1970 it was elevated to the status of national cultural monument which lead to a government-funded restoration program in 1976. Work has continued, slowly, and since the 1990s additional portions of the castle have been opened to the public.

The castle provides a particularly rare glimpse into the history of the Slovakian nobility through its beautifully restored gardens and interiors that host collections of paintings, decorative arts and firearms. Červený Kameň is maintained as part of the Slovak National Museum.

Images, top to bottom:
Červený Kameň, as it looks today
A 17th century drawing of the castle by Giovanni Battista Morelli
One of the immaculately-restored corridors beneath the castle
A carved-stone stag, symbolic of the Pálffy family, stands guard above the inner bailey

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