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Restoration of the castle
The castle has been hit by time
Bratislava Castle, towering 85 metres above the level of the Danube River, has been part of the city’s panorama for centuries. Its present look is a result of long-term historical, architectural and building development, which ended due to a disastrous fire in 1811 following its baroque Theresian redevelopment. For 140 years, the castle was merely a gradually deteriorating ruin and there were even calls for its demolition and replacement. The most recent restoration of the castle was carried out between 1953 and 1968 and a closer look reveals the impact of time, which is becoming more evident every day.
A much-needed new face
The restoration of the castle started in the 1950s. The first phase, which took approximately 15 years, could be characterised as the physical preservation of the object only. This phase was hampered by limited financial resources, as a result of Slovakia’s political and economical situation and a lack of archival and ground research.
With the formation of the Czech and Slovak federal system, the requirements for the Bratislava Castle changed after 1968. The castle has become a place of national representation and the Slovak National Museum has also placed its exhibits there.
Initially the situation was solved by partial indoor modifications. However, in the early 1980s the need for a second stage became apparent, due the limits apparent in the first stage of the restoration. The completion of this plan will make it possible to fulfill the historical, national, representative, cultural and social importance of Bratislava Castle in the 21st century.
The conceptual goal of the restoration is to bring the palace and its surroundings to the state it was in during the last baroque stage of its historical development before the great fire. At the same time, the restoration should respect and highlight the palace’s historical value, with emphasis on the most important periods - Great Moravia, the Middle Ages and modern history.
Another, equally important goal of the restoration is to achieve a much higher level of attractiveness for visitors to the capital, with year-round use. This should be achieved mainly through access to historical areas that have not been accessible before, the expansion and improved quality of conditions for exhibition activities of the Slovak National Museum, the restoration of some parts of the castle that were damaged by fire, and the improvement of infrastructure and parking facilities.
The restoration of the palace is the main priority
After eight years of planning the restoration, its first stage, the restoration of the palace, started in April 2008. The work on projects for the restoration started in 2001 but the restoration itself was delayed for several years due to a lack of financial resources. The restoration will now be carried out fully, with the external coating, the courtyard and all interiors being restored. The expenses for the total restoration of the palace, its adjacent objects, and other existing or planned objects in the area of the Bratislava Castle may reach €126 million, including VAT (SKK 3.8 billion).
These are the approved expenses, with further costs expected for building and technological parts, projects, surveys, engineering activity, movables, exhibition elements for the requirements of the Slovak National Museum and financial reserves, as well as the total amount of financial resources already drawn for this purpose.
The execution of the entire project will, however, depend on the priorities and possibilities of the national budget. The estimated length of the work is several years.
The main focus is the restoration of the palace, as its current structural and technical condition is quite poor. Following the restoration, many historical premises that have recently only been used for storage or technical purposes will be open to the public. There is a plan to install an exhibition of the history of the Bratislava Castle in the basement and original findings from the Great Moravian period will also be made available. The first floor will still serve the purpose of national representation and will also feature new exhibition premises.
The use of the second floor for the establishment of a picture gallery is just one of many innovations. A new space will be created on the third floor, which will be dedicated to a new representative national historical exhibition of Slovakia and the presentation of the national culture. The attic will be transformed to publicly accessible open depositories of the Slovak National Museum and a lapidary (exhibition of stone artifacts) will be located just below the palace’s Yard of Honour. The well known Treasury exhibition will not be subject to major changes, apart from necessary restoration due to its age.
There will be a new personal elevator installed to enable barrier-free access to all parts of the palace. The courtyard will also get a new look and the facades will be restored to their historically authentic appearance. The original underground passage connecting the palace with the cistern will be made publicly accessible as well, which will be very attractive for visitors.
Brightening up the castle surroundings
The centre of another stage of the renovation is the restoration of other objects in the area of the Bratislava Castle, particularly the northern part. The long-term planned renovation of the Baroque Garden, which vanished after the fire, will have a positive effect in terms of making the area of the castle attractive to visitors. Beneath the garden, there is a plan for the development of a single-storey underground parking garage with a capacity of approximately 200 parking spots, with entrance from Zámocká Street. The underground parking garage should help to solve the problem of the absence of parking spaces around the castle, and it will serve visitors to the castle, the parliament and the adjacent area. Without securing such parking spaces, it will not be possible to revive the area and secure its all-year use for various events.
The orangery, which dates from the times of Maria Theresa, will also be subject to restoration or, more accurately, complete rebuilding. This is a garden pavilion, which will be the venue for intimate social and cultural events in summer and for the hibernation of the garden’s thermophillic plants in winter. There will be a new addition in this area, the building of a winter riding school in its historical appearance with new operational use. This building will be a theatre, approximately 42 metres long, with a capacity of 500 seats, which will host cultural and social events throughout the year. The exhibitional premises of Luginsland Bastion and the parliamentary library in the building of northern walls will be renovated as well. Another alternative is the possibility of the expansion of accommodation facilities for the needs of the National Council of the Slovak Republic in the premises of spare offices.
The upper eastern terrace of the castle area will also undergo changes, with the plan being to improve the presentation of archaeological findings from the Great Moravian era. Displacement of the road to the edge of the slope between the upper and lower terraces will introduce new views to the city as well as the palace. There is an intention to present the remains of the wooden fortification from the Great Moravian period that was preserved under the bastion of Leopold’s gate. New illumination of the Bratislava Castle, including its fortification, will also be part of the restoration. The goal is to make the castle a dominant feature of the capital’s night skyline.