Castle of the Week 108 – Devín Castle, Slovak Republic
Devín Castle is dramatically located on a rocky cliff above the confluence of the Danube and Morava rivers in Slovakia, 7 km from Bratislava. In addition to the protection afforded by the rivers, it is also protected by the Small Carpathians to the North.The area has been settled for a long time, with the oldest artifacts coming from the Baden culture in the New Stone Age, around the 5th to 4th centuries B.C.
The first fortified castle was built on the mound by the Mad’arovce people in the old Bronze Age (c. 1500 B.C.). It next became a cultic center in the Middle Bronze Age. The site was rich with bronze for their military arms.
The Celts occupied the area in the 5th-4th centuries B.C. Next came the La Tene people from the Upper Rhine region who lived there for about 100 years. Their settlements were burnt by Germanic tribes in the early part of the first century.
The Romans were the next on the site, using it as an outpost. Their fortification system on the Danube, of which Devín Castle was a part, was called Limes Romanus. Some of the clay floors and stone and brick walls date back to this era. One relic from Roman times is an iron cross left in a tomb from the 4th century. That date makes it the oldest Christian building north of the Danube. Today the site of the tomb is enclosed. Following the Romans various tribes occupied the castle.
The Slavs are thought to have moved to the castle mound in the 6th century, though the earliest Slavic artifacts date from the 7th century. The 9th century saw a lot of building. The castle was used as a watch fortress with an equestrian military force and was also a royal residence. Moravian Prince Rastislav was besieged in the castle during the 9th century by the East Franconian Sovereign Lewis the German.
More construction occurred in the 13th century, which is when the hexahedral dwelling tower, wall and moat were added. The castle mound has natural caves which were used for storage, and water was supplied by a cistern.
Various additions and improvements were made over the next centuries as the castle changed ownership among different noble families. The Virgin Tower was one such addition. This tower is set atop a high pinnacle near the merging of the Danube and Morava rivers.
By the Baroque period, the noble families who had lived at the castle came to prefer living in more modern, comfortable castles, such as some of the palaces in Bratislava, and the castle was abandoned.
During the Napoleonic wars French soldiers blew up the castle, which sealed its fate. No longer of any practical use, the castle instead became a symbol of national pride and forgotten glory. Today the City Museum of Bratislava administers the castle, and reconstructive and archaeological work is being done.
Write-up and pictures by Kester.