The first castles of the "Crowns of Rivers" project

The first castles of the "Crowns of Rivers" project

Belgrade Fortress (Serbia)

The life at the ridge over the confluence of river Sava and the Danube has lasted for over two millenniums. The  Belgrade Fortress and the Kalemegdan Park together represent a cultural monument of exceptional importance, the area where various sport, cultural and arts events take place. But the history of the Belgrade Fortress is maybe the most turbulent one in whole Europe, caused by  its’ geographical location of strategic importance.

The Fortress controls the access to the Pannonian Basin and the navigation on the Sava and the Danube. It served to guard the border between the Roman Empire and barbarian lands across the Danube and the border between the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires,what explains why it was so often destroyed. The Romans were the first to build a fort at this site in the late 1st century.   

Numerous different crusader armies passed over this territory several times, in 1096, 1147, and in the Third crusade in 1189, Belgrade was the center of Frederick I Barbarossa's army. During the entire 13th century Belgrade was, apart smaller interruptions, in the hands of Hungarians. In 1282, Serbian king Dragutin gave up his throne in favor of his younger brother Milutin, and got a part of Serbian country to govern. Dragutin was married to Katarina, the daughter of Hungarian king Stephen V, from whom he got Mačva with Belgrade to rule over in 1284.  Belgrade remained Serbian until Dragutin’s death in 1316. In March that year, king Milutin took Dragutin’s region and held it until 1319, when Hungarians attacked and conquered Belgrade. Although the later Serbian rulers, tzar Stefan Dušan and duke Lazar fought against Hungarians, Belgrade remained in the Hungarian hands until the beginning of the 15th century.

After the battle of Angora in 1402, Stefan Lazarević, the son of duke Lazar, was given a title of despot by the Byzantine Emperor, while Hungarian king Zsigmond gave him Belgrade to rule over. Thus, in 1404, Belgrade became, in a diplomatic way, for the first time the capital of the Serbian state, and its military, economical and cultural center.  There was a court inside the castle, and the two towers – Nebojša and Bojša, houses of the aristocracy, chapel, library and a treasury. During the reign of despot Stefan Lazarević, both economic and cultural prosperity was evident. After the death of despot Stefan in 1427, Belgrade again fell in the hands of Hungarians, who started to enhance and fortify the fortress, due to the more frequent attacks of the Turkish army.

At the beginning of the 19th century, after the murder of the commander of Belgrade town, Hadzi Mustafa–Pasha, janissary controlled the town and the neighboring villages. Their terror led to national awakening and the First Serbian Uprising in 1804, headed by Karadjordje Petrović. The rebels had taken the town in 1806 and the Fortress in 1807. After the debacle of the Uprising in 1813, the Turks ruled over the Fortress again until they finally left Belgrade. The Turkish commander of Belgrade handed over the keys of the town to prince Mihajlo Obrenović at the Kalemegdan in April 1867. Serbian soldiers replaced Turkish military guards and the flag of Serbia was raised next to the Turkish one. After this period, the importance of the Fortress as military stronghold decreased and the first works on arranging Kalemegdan started in 1869.

During March 1891, the pathways were cut through and the trees were planted; in 1903 the Little Staircase was built, based on the project of Jelisaveta Načić, the first woman architect in Serbia. But in the First World War, all old buildings were ruined, the fortifications  considerably damaged, again.

The park got its present appearance between the two world wars. The first archaeological research started in this period and is still ongoing. The Belgrade Fortress and Kalemegdan were placed under the state protection in 1946.

Buda Royal Castle and Palace (Hungary)

Travelers say that Budapest is the queen of the Danube and her crown is the Royal Palace on the top of the Buda Castle. The Royal Palace of Buda has one of the most beautiful panoramas in Budapest and the most frequented tourist attraction of the country.

It is the part of the Buda Castle District and has been one of Budapest's World Heritage Sites since 1987.

It was bombed during World War II and only partially rebuilt in the 1960s in a "socialist realist" style, which unfortunately only partly resembles to the original building ensemble.

The National Széchényi Library has been located in the palace building in the Krisztinaváros Wing since 1985, as well as the Hungarian National Gallery and the Budapest History Museum. There is also the seat of the President of the Republic and the Prime Minister.

The fortified settlement surrounded by the castle wall on the Castle Hill is called the Castle, which includes the Castle District. To the south of the Castle District is the Royal Palace, the Royal Palace, to the south of the Castle. As there were several palaces in Buda, we can distinguish the palace on the top of the Castle Hill as the Royal Palace of Buda.

The Royal Palace of Buda was the most important ruling center in Hungarian history, especially in the Middle Ages, similarly to the royal seats of Esztergom and Visegrád, which are also on the banks of the Danube.

The medieval, luxurious Gothic palace dates from the 14th century. beginning of the 20th century. During the reign of King Louis the Great, Sigismund and King Matthias it was continuously expanded. The most famous - now Renaissance - palace was born in the time of King Matthias in the 15th century. in the middle of the 20th century, whose fame reached Europe. If he stood, his picture would be presented in a single page with Prague's Hradzhin and his modeled Krakowian Wawell in architectural textbooks across Europe.

The decline of the palace began with the Turkish occupation in 1541, and during the almost one and a half centuries of foreign rule it almost completely collapsed. He suffered his final destruction during the liberation of Buda in 1686. During this, the medieval Buda and the Renaissance palace were irretrievably destroyed. The construction of the new palace began in 1715 with Baroque features, which have been continuously developed and expanded throughout the 19th century. Until the end of the 20th century, when Miklós Ybl and Alajos Hauszmann built the new-baroque palace.

The palace was fully explored and discovered between 1948 and 1957, before the reconstruction of the new-baroque palace, which was destroyed in World War II. Following the Second World War, a lengthy debate preceded the rebuilding of the palace: some who had demolished the kingdom-like ruins and others who had dreamed of a university. Finally, restoration work began in 1948 under the direction of László Gerevich, archaeologist and art historian, then director-general of the Budapest History Museum.

Today's Royal Palace is merely a shadow of its former self and resembles its contemporary self only to a large extent. No longer can we find within its walls the splendour that characterized the prewar new-baroque palace. The Hungarian government has included in its national development plan the renewal and reconstruction of the Royal Palace of Budavár. So far, the riding hall and the main guard building on the west side have been rebuilt, the former Castle Theater and the Carmelite Monastery have been rebuilt, the Prime Minister's seat has been completed, and a former Ministry of Defense building at the north entrance of the Royal Palace has been restored. In the next period there will be major changes in the utilization and building complex. However, the tourist, cultural and headquarters functions of the Royal Palace of Buda do remain.

It could be long to list the personal or material presence of the Royal Palace of Budavár in its historical relics. Such are the medieval Hungarian-Czech-Polish royal relations, of which King Louis the Great of Hungary went from Buda to Sandomierz in king-visit. Also, soldiers from 14 European nations took part in the recapture of Buda from the Turks in 1686.

The daughter of the Russian Tsar In the first half of the 20th century, the palatine of Hungary's Habsburg empire became the wife of Emperor Joseph the Emperor, and when the young couple took their seats in the Royal Palace of Buda, huge celebrations took place on March 8, 1800, at the then Castle Theatre oratorio.

We can also mention a number of Chinese contacts: the XV. Celadon ceramics dated to the 20th century, Chinoiserie interiors that appeared in the Baroque palace during the Baroque period and At the beginning of the 20th century, László Hugyecz, a Hungarian architect who shaped the city-scape of Shanghai, learned urban architecture from Frigyes Hauszmann, who still contemplates the outline of the Royal Palace of Buda.

Bratislava Castle (Slovakia)

The royal palace and the grounds of the Bratislava Castle that has stood on the Castle hill for centuries are the symbol of Bratislava and one of the symbols of Slovakia. Their portrait is on the Slovak series of the Euro coins in the value of 10, 20 and 50 Eurocents.

Castle Hill was settles as early as in prehistoric times. Later it became home to Celts who used it as acropolis of the opidum. After the Celts the Slavs arrived. They added a basilica to the fort and the site became a major centre within the Great Moravian Empire. As early as in the 9th century the Castle was the centre of administrative, ecclesiastical and military administration. The first written record about the Castle comes from 907 AD when, on 9 July, the battle between Bavarians and Magyars was waged nearby. Since the record doesn´t mention Great Moravian Empire. The Annals of Salzburg refer to the event as to the Battle beneath the Castle of Brezalauspurc, which is the oldest name of Bratislava. In 1000AD the Kingdom of Hungary emerged to be ruled by Stephan I. he only acquired the Bratislava Castle in 1018, though the wars of succession continued. The Castle became and important frontier fort of Hungary and, at the same time, the seat of the Comes (the Castle proprietor). The Castle remained and ecclesiastic centre until the 13th century. The canonry moved to the city between 1204 and 1221 what brought the dawn of the precursor to St. Martin´s Cathedral. In the 15th century Sigismund of Luxemburg had built a new representative Gothic palace, though the Castle became at the same time a vital anti-Hussite fort. At the time the royal palace acquired the present size and appearance. Emperor Sigismund, however, did not live long to see the completion of the extensive reconstruction of the Castle. The Castle was fortified in response to the Turkish menace in the 16th century. The royal palace was turned into an opulent residence of Emperor Ferdinand I. Habsburg. Led by Paul Pálffy who oversaw the reconstruction from his residence at the street Zámocká ulica, the Castle was adapted between 1635 and 1649 to a military fortress. The royal palace then acquired its characteristics appearance with the four corner towers. The last extensive reconstruction of the Castle occurred during the reign of Maria Theresa. After the Turks were expelled from Hungary and long peace was attained, no massive fortresses were required anymore. Maria Theresa therefore had the Castle rebuilt after 1750 into a representative Baroque residence worthy the great monarch.

The relocation of the capital of Hungary from Bratislava to Buda brought an end to the golden age of the Castle. In 1784 Joseph II. Founded at the Castle general seminary to train Roman Catholic clergy. The seminary was to play a seminal role and shaping Slovak national consciousness. The Castle later served military purposes. On 28 May 1811 it burned down and turned into a ruin. The site kept deteriorating for 140 years. It general reconstruction began in 1953 and lasted until 1968. In 2008 the second major reconstruction began that gave the Castle the appearance it had in the era of Maria Theresa. The reconstruction of the entire grounds was completed in 2016. The Castle is now the representative venue of the Slovak Parliament. It is also used by the Slovak National Museum for permanent expositions and current exhibitions of the History Museum.

 The Museum of History seated in Bratislava Castle administers and looks after a rich collection of objects. The Museum of History forms an important part of the complex of specialised museums of the Slovak National Museum. Its basic mission is to purposefully acquire, preserve, scientifically and professionally process, use and make available the museum collections, documenting the development of society in Slovakia from the Middle Ages until the present. In this context of the museum’s specialisation, it has a nationwide scope.

Royal Castle in Sandomierz (Poland)

The castle was built in middle of XIV century on the location of the old stronghold dated to XI or XII century, situated on a high loos hill on the left bank of Vistula River. This hill together with the river provided an effective defense against the enemy. Wooden structure from that time was fortified headquarter. In the twelfth century, it was surrounded by earthworks and the moat. In 1138 under the testament of Bolesław III Wrymouth Sandomierz was the district capital of the duchy and the “wooden hause” was promoted to the permanent residence of the dukes of Sandomierz Land. The most important dukes were Henry of Sandomierz, Kazimierz the Just, Boleslaw the Chaste and Leszek the Black.

In the fourteenth century with the foundation of King Casimir III the Great in the place of a “wooden castle” was built stone brick building on the octagonal plan as a defensive tower, and the castle wall in Gothic style. The Sandomierz castle was mentioned as one of 32 others castles build by the King Kazimierz as part of the strengthening of national defense. Sandomierz at the time was one of the most important centers of the state of Poland. The castle became the seat of the royal governors, while often entertaining, among others Polish rulers like Queen Jadwiga and her husband Wladyslaw Jagiello and king Casimir the Jagiellonian, the reign of which approx. 1480 the south tower so-called "hen’s leg" was erected, now the oldest surviving part of the castle.

In the sixteenth century King Sigismund I started reconstruction of the Gothic castle into a Renaissance residence. The work entrusted to the architect Benedict from Sandomierz. Master Benedict rebuilt the existing south wing, east wing was erected and started the construction of the west wing. Reconstruction was commemorated with occasional erectile inscription: "The grace of God Zygmunt the Polish King, Grand Duke of Lithuania, Russian, Prussian, lord and successor anno domini 1520". During the reign of the next king Sigismund II Augustus, work were continued. In the second half of the sixteenth century, the unfinished structure had form as quadrangle renaissance castle, which served as the administrative court and became the seat of local governors. When the King of Poland was John Casimir in 3 of April 1656, the Sandomierz Castle was blown up by the retreating Swedish army. The eastern and southern wings were destroyed. The least damaged was unfinished western wing. At the command of King John III Sobieski that part of the castle was rebuilt in a detached building type of the palace, which survived to this day. Since then, the castle became a public building: office, court and prison.

After the third partition of Poland Austrian invaders change castle to the court and prison. The Russian  prison began in 1825. In 1844 the castle change from the royal palace to a strict classicist architectural forms. In the late nineteenth century semi-circular courtyard of the prison encased as the new wing so called "crescent" in polish “rogal”. In that shape the prison served until 1959.

In the years 1965-1986 was conducted a thorough renovation and restoration. In 1986 due to decision of the City Council, in the castle was settled District Museum in Sandomierz. In 1995-2002 and 2004-2007 were performed works related to the reconstruction and stabilization of the castle hill and revitalization inside the castle.

The most important artifacts in the Museum are: XIII century almost full chess set discovered during archaeological works in Sandomierz and copy of crown of Kazimierz the Great. Art department has unique collection of jewelry with striped flint which is the basis for naming Sandomierz as “World Capital of Striped Flint”