Spis Castle - History and Facts | History Hit

Spis Castle

District of Levoca, Region of Presov, Slovakia

Spis Castle is Slovakia’s most famous castle ruin and one of the largest castle complexes in Europe.

Antara Bate

08 Jul 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Spis Castle

Occupying a hill site inhabited since before 5000BC, Spis Castle (Spišský hrad) is said to be Slovakia’s most famous castle ruin and is now among the largest castle complexes on the continent, covering over 4 hectares.

Spis Castle history

Whilst a first incarnation Spis Castle was begun in the 12th century, this collapsed due to tectonic shifts. It was thus in the early 13th century that the Spis Castle we see today has its roots, built in anticipation of Tatar incursions.

A Gothic renovation during the second half of the 15th century, under the nobleman Štefan Zápoľský, paved the way for prestigious courtly life. As the threat of invasion lessened, Spiš Castle became a place for balls and upper-class hobnobbing, and much less of a strategic fortification. Details like the castle’s Gothic-style windows are an example of harmony between defensive and decorative design.

After a fire in 1780, the castle began to fall to ruin. Restoration began in earnest during the 1970s, propelling Spiš Castle to fame. Included on Unesco’s World Heritage list in 1993, today it is one of Slovakia’s most popular attractions.

Over the next few hundred years, Hungarian noble families controlled the castle, converting it from a fortress into a palatial home. All of these changes have meant that Spis Castle is endowed with a wealth of architectural influences, including Romanesque and Gothic as well as structures from a variety of time periods. For example, many of the existing buildings were constructed during the 15th century.

Spis Castle today

Eventually abandoned and much of it destroyed by a fire in 1780, the remains of Spis Castle were declared a National Cultural Monument in 1961 and a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1993.

Several movies like Dragonheart (1996), Phoenix, Kull the Conqueror, The Lion in Winter or The Last Legion were filmed here.

In the archeological part of the exhibit you can see findings from the Stone Age until the Middle Ages. Roman coins were also find inside narrow dark cave under the castle.

Castle’s bedroom, washroom, armory, chapel and torture room are also interesting parts of the exposition.

Getting to Spis Castle

Spiš Castle is 1km east of Spišské Podhradie, off the D1 highway or about an hour’s uphill hike from the village. From the (free) car park, there is a steep 10-minute walk to the castle entrance.

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