The history of the Bratislava Castle goes back to Celtic and Roman times as the castle hill had a strategical position at the crossroads of important commercial routes. In the BC era there was a Celtic oppidum on the hill, replaced several centuries later by Roman bordering fortress.
The first written mention comes from 907, in which it is referred to as Pressalauspruch. The eras of the Principality of Nitra and Great Moravia are documented by the remains of an Old Slavic fortress with a three-nave Basilica. With several redevelopments and modifications, the principal Slovak castle changed gradually to a Middle Age castle and from the middle of 11th century also a zhupan castle. For some time it served as the repository for the coronation jewels and it later became the coronation castle. A priory, canonry with school and the Church of Sacrosanct Messiah were all constituted there. Written evidence confirms that there was a residential Roman tower with separate walls and defense towers. Despite redevelopments, the Crown Tower, one of these defense towers, has been preserved until present times.
From 1427, during the era of king Sigismund of Luxembourg, the look of the castle began to change radically, with redevelopment giving it today’s character of a block monumental building. The Emperor gave the order to demolish almost all the existing buildings and, step-by-step, the large two-storey representative gothic palace was built with a ground plan in the shape of a trapezium. The only remaining original object was the south-western defense tower known as the Crown Tower, which is still present. Two entrance gates to the castle area were also created in this period, of which only the eastern one, the so-called Sigismund’s Gate, was preserved. Rich, two-coated architecture with challenging masonry of the gate in the shape of a donkey’s back and meshed arch in the passage have classed it between centres of building evolution in the Danubian area and they are a good example of the architectural variety in that period.
The current set-up of the castle, with a regular quadrilateral ground plan around the main courtyard, is the result of architectural movement in the Renaissance and early Baroque eras. After the Battle of Mohács in 1526 the castle became the coronation residence of Ugrian kings, who had been dislodged from their original centre of the Ugrian Empire in Budín by the Turkish army.
Redevelopments of the castle were not directed just at the improvement of its fortification but also its modernisation. During the redevelopment in the first half of the 17th century another storey was added to the palace, another two more towers were added to the two original ones, and the interior and elements of defense were redesigned. New bastions were built on the southern fortification of the castle and Leopold’s Gate was added in 1674.
The golden age of the Bratislava Castle came during the reign of Maria Theresa. The idea behind its development, based on projects by significant French, Italian and Austrian architects, was orientated towards only one goal: to make the castle, as a representative residence of the Habsburg Monarchy, equal to the leading European courts.
A new staircase was built in the western residence of the castle. Large changes, with the application of luxury and period style, however, took place in the larger area of the castle. A new palace, named Teresianum, was added near the eastern wing of the old palace, which was used mainly as accommodation for the monarch’s family.
A picture gallery, library and valuable collections were set up there, particularly the graphic cabinet of Governor Albert Tešínsky, known as Albertina, which was later transferred to Vienna, where it remains. Large areas of the yard were cultivated by the development of new terraces, French gardens, orangeries, summer and winter riding schools and stables in which rare varieties of horses were kept.
After the death of Maria Theresa, the Bratislava Castle declined markedly. Joseph II, Maria Theresa’s son and the successor to the throne, established a training centre and seminar for the catholic clergy where important intellectuals of that period, such as Anton Bernolák, studied. At the beginning of the 19th century, in the era of the Napoleonic Wars, the castle served as military barracks and that proved fatal. Due to the fault of a military crew in 1811, the castle burned down and for more than 140 years it was just a deteriorating ruin.
After several attempts to resurrect the castle, a decision was made in 1953 regarding its large-scale restoration, with the concept prepared by architects Alfréd Piffl and Dušan Martinček. After its restoration, the castle gained the shape it had after the so-called Theresian redevelopment at the end of the 18th century. In 1961, Bratislava Castle was named as a national cultural heritage building.
Do you find the new illumination of the Bratislava Castle attractive?