Friday, August 24, 2012

10 Most Fascinating Castles and Palaces

1. The Potala Palace: Tibet's greatest monumental structure

Originally built by King Songtsen
Gampo in the seventh century, Potala Palace is located on the Red Hill
of Lhasa, Tibet. Destroyed by lightning and war, Potala Palace had been
rebuilt by the Fifth Dalai Lama in 1645. Since then, Potala Palace has
become the seat of Dalai Lamas and also the political center of Tibet.
The thirteenth Dalai Lama extended it to the present size, 117 meters
(384 ft) in height and 360 meters (1,180 ft) in width, covering an area
of more than 130, 000 sq meters (about 32 acres). Mainly comprised by
the White Palace (administerial building) and the Red Palace (religious
building), Potala Palace is famous for its grand buildings, complicated
constructions, devotional atmosphere and splendid artworks. More after
the break...



upon Marpo Ri hill, 130 meters above the Lhasa valley, the Potala
Palace rises a further 170 meters and is the greatest monumental
structure in all of Tibet. Early legends concerning the rocky hill tell
of a sacred cave, considered to be the dwelling place of the Bodhisattva
Chenresi (Avilokiteshvara), that was used as a meditation retreat by
Emperor Songtsen Gampo in the seventh century AD. In 637 Songtsen Gampo
built a palace on the hill. This structure stood until the seventeenth
century, when it was incorporated into the foundations of the greater
buildings still standing today. Construction of the present palace began
in 1645 during the reign of the fifth Dalai Lama and by 1648 the
Potrang Karpo, or White Palace, was completed. The Potrang Marpo, or Red
Palace, was added between 1690 and 1694; its construction required the
labors of more than 7000 workers and 1500 artists and craftsman. In 1922
the 13th Dalai Lama renovated many chapels and assembly halls in the
White Palace and added two stories to the Red Palace. The Potala Palace
was only slightly damaged during the Tibetan uprising against the
invading Chinese in 1959. Unlike most other Tibetan religious
structures, it was not sacked by the Red Guards during the 1960s and
1970s, apparently through the personal intervention of Chou En Lai. As a
result, all the chapels and their artifacts are very well preserved.Via

2. Mont Saint-Michel: a Medieval Castle on a Small Island

Le Mont-Saint-Michel (English: Saint
Michael's Mount) is a rocky tidal island and a commune in Normandy,
France. It is located approximately one kilometre off the country's
north coast, at the mouth of the Couesnon River near Avranches. The
population of the island is 41.


In prehistoric times the bay was
land. As sea levels rose erosion shaped the coastal landscape over
millions of years. Several blocks of granite or granulite emerged in the
bay, having resisted the wear and tear of the ocean better than the
surrounding rocks. These included Lillemer, the Mont-Dol, Tombelaine and
Mont Tombe, later called Mont-Saint-Michel.

Tidal island

Mont-Saint-Michel seen from Spot Satellite

Mont-Saint-Michel was previously
connected to the mainland via a thin natural land bridge, which before
modernization was covered at high tide and revealed at low tide. This
has been compromised by several developments. Over the centuries, the
coastal flats have been polderised to create pasture. Thus the distance
between the shore and the south coast of Mont-Saint-Michel has
decreased. The Couesnon River has been canalised, reducing the flow of
water and thereby encouraging a silting-up of the bay. In 1879, the land
bridge was fortified into a true causeway. This prevented the tide from
scouring the silt round the mount.

At low tide surrounded by mud flats - seen from the air

On 16 June 2006, the French
prime minister and regional authorities announced a €164 million project
(Projet Mont-Saint-Michel) to build a hydraulic dam using the waters of
the river Couesnon and of tides that will help remove the accumulated
silt deposited by the uprising tides, and to make Mont-Saint-Michel an
island again. It is expected to be completed by 2012.

The construction of the dam is
now complete (it was inaugurated in 2009), but the project also includes
the destruction of the causeway that was built on top of the small land
bridge and enlarged, to join the island to the continent, but also used
as a parking for visitors. It will be replaced by an elevated light
bridge, under which the waters will flow more freely, and that will
improve the efficiency of the now operational dam, and the construction
of another parking on the continent. Visitors will have to use small
shuttles to cross the future bridge which will be still open to walking
people and unmotorized cycles. Via Link

3 Predjamski Castle: Integrated in a Cave

Castle' (Slovene: Predjamski grad or Grad Predjama, German: Höhlenburg
Lueg, Italian: Castel Lueghi) is a Renaissance castle built within a
cave mouth in southwestern Slovenia. It is located approximately 11
kilometres from Postojna.

History of the castle

The castle was first mentioned
in the year 1274 with the German name Luegg, when the Patriarch of
Aquileia built the castle in Gothic style. The castle was built under a
natural rocky arch high in the stone wall to make access to it
difficult. It was later acquired and expanded by the Luegg noble family,
also known as the Knights of Adelsberg (the German name of Postojna).

The legend of Erazem of Predjama

The castle became known as the
seat of Knight Erazem Lueger (or Luegger), owner of the castle in 15th
century, and a renowned robber baron. He was the son of the Imperial
Governor of Trieste, Nikolaj Lueger. According to legend, Erazem came
into conflict with the Habsburg establishment, when he killed the
commander of the Imperial army Marshall Pappencheim, who had offended
the honour of Erazem's deceased friend, Andrej Baumkircher of Vipava.
Fleeing from the revenge of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III, Erazem
settled in the family fortress of Predjama. He allied himself with the
Hungarian king Matthias Corvinus, and started to attack Habsburg estates
and towns in Carniola, turning into some kind of local Robin Hood.

The Imperial forces sent the
Governor of Trieste, Andrej Ravbar, to siege the castle. After a long
siege, Erazem was betrayed by one of his men and killed. Via Link

4. Neuschwanstein Castle: the Classic Fairytale's Castle

Castle (German: Schloss Neuschwanstein, lit. New Swan Stone palace,
pronounced [n??'?va?n?ta??n]) is a 19th-century Bavarian palace on a
rugged hill near Hohenschwangau and Füssen in southwest Bavaria,
Germany. The palace was commissioned by Ludwig II of Bavaria as a
retreat and as an homage to Richard Wagner, the King's inspiring muse.
Although public photography of the interior is not permitted, it is the
most photographed building in Germany and is one of the country's most
popular tourist destinations. Ludwig himself named it Neue
Hohenschwangau; the name Neuschwanstein was coined after his death.

The reclusive Ludwig did not
allow visitors to his castles, which he intended as personal refuges,
but after his death in 1886 the castle was opened to the public (in part
due to the need to pay off the debts Ludwig incurred financing its
construction).[citation needed] Since that time over 50 million people
have visited the Neuschwanstein Castle. About 1.3 million people visit
annually, with up to 6,000 per day in the summer. The palace has
appeared in several movies, and was the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty
Castle (1955) at both Disneyland Park and Hong Kong Disneyland.

In 1923 Crown Prince Rupprecht
gave the palace to the state of Bavaria, unlike nearby Hohenschwangau
Castle which was transferred to the private Wittelsbach Trust
(Wittelsbacher Ausgleichfonds), which is administered on behalf of the
head of the house of Wittelsbach, currently Franz, Duke of Bavaria. The
Free State of Bavaria has spent more than €14.5 million on
Neuschwanstein's maintenance, renovation and visitor services since
1990. Via Link

5 Matsumoto Castle: Japan's most fascinating castle

Matsumoto Castle is one of Japan's
finest historic castles. It is located in the city of Matsumoto, in
Nagano Prefecture and is within easy reach of Tokyo by road or rail. The
keep (tenshukaku), which was completed in the late 16th century,
maintains its original wooden interiors and external stonework. It is
listed as a National Treasure of Japan.

Matsumoto Castle is a flatland
castle (hirajiro) because it is not built on a hilltop or amid rivers,
but on a plain. Its complete defences would have included an extensive
system of inter-connecting walls, moats and gatehouses. In 1872,
following the Meiji Restoration, the site, like many former daimyos'
castles, was sold at auction for redevelopment. However, when news broke
that the keep was going to be demolished, an influential figure from
Matsumoto, Ichikawa Ryozo, along with residents from Matsumoto started a
campaign to save the building. Their efforts were rewarded when the
tower was acquired by the city government. In the late Meiji period the
keep started to lean to one side due to neglect coupled with a
structural defect. ( But rumour said that it was because of the curse
Tada Kasuke had put on more than two hundred years before with his last
breath on the execution pole.) A local high school principal, Kobayashi
Unari, decided to renovate the castle and appealed for funds. The castle
underwent "the great Meiji renovation"(1903-1913) thanks to Kobayashi
and others. Half a century later, it underwent another renovation "the
great Showa renovation"(1950-1955). In 1990, the Kuromon-Ninomon (second
gate of the Black Gate) and sodebei (side wall) were reconstructed. The
square drum gate was reconstructed in 1999. There is a plan for
restoring the soto-bori(outer moat) which was reclaimed for a
residential zone. Via Link

6. Hunyad Castle: were Dracula was held prisoner

Hunyad Castle (Romanian: Castelul Huniazilor or Castelul Corvinestilor,
Hungarian: Vajdahunyad vára) is a castle in Transylvanian Hunedoara,
present-day Romania. Until 1541 it was part of the Kingdom of Hungary,
and after the Principality of Transylvania.

It is believed to be the place
where Vlad III of Wallachia (commonly known as Vlad the Impaler) was
held prisoner for 7 years after he was deposed in 1462.

The castle is a relic of the
Hunyadi dynasty. In the 14th century, the castle was given to John
Hunyadi Serb, or Sorb by Sigismund king of Hungary as severance. The
castle was restored between 1446 and 1453 by his grandson John Hunyadi.
It was built mainly in Gothic style, but has Renaissance architectural
elements. It features tall and strong defense towers, an interior yard
and a drawbridge. Built over the site of an older fortification and on a
rock above the small river Zlasti, the castle is a large and imposing
building with tall and diversely colored roofs, towers and myriad
windows and balconies adorned with stone carvings.

As one of the most important
properties of John Hunyadi, the castle was transformed during his reign.
It became a sumptuous home, not only a strategically enforced point.
With the passing of the years, the masters of the castle had modified
its look, adding towers, halls and guest rooms. The gallery and the keep
- the last defense tower (called "Ne boisa" = Do not be afraid), which
remained unchanged from Iancu de Hunedoara's time, and the Capistrano
Tower (named after the Franciscan monk from the castle court) are some
of the most significant parts of the construction. Other significant
parts of the building are the Knights' Hall (a great reception hall),
the Club Tower, the White bastion, which served as a food storage room,
and the Diet Hall, on whose walls medallions are painted (among them
there are the portraits of Matei Basarab, ruler from Wallachia, and
Vasile Lupu, ruler of Moldavia). In the wing of the castle called the
Mantle, a painting can be seen which portrays the legend of the raven
from which the name of the descendants of John Hunyadi, Corvinus came.

In the castle yard, near the
chapel built also during Vlad The Third's ruling, is a well 30 meters
deep. The legend says that this fountain was dug by twelve Turkish
prisoners to whom liberty was promised if they reached water. After 15
years they completed the well, but their captors did not keep their
promise. It is said that the inscription on a wall of the well means
"you have water, but not soul". Specialists, however, have translated
the inscription as "he who wrote this inscription is Hasan, who lives as
slave of the giaours, in the fortress near the church".

In February 2007, Hunyad Castle
played host to the British paranormal television program Most Haunted
Live! for a three-night live investigation into the spirits reported to
be haunting the castle. Via Link

7. Malbork Castle: World's Largest Brick Gothic Castle

The Castle in Malbork (German: Die
Marienburg, Polish: Zamek w Malborku) was built in Prussia by the
Teutonic Order as an Ordensburg. The Order named it Marienburg,
literally "Mary's Castle". The town which grew around it was also named
Marienburg, but since 1945 it is again, after 173 years, part of Poland
and known as Malbork.

The castle is a classic example
of a medieval fortress, and is the world’s largest brick gothic castle.
UNESCO listed the castle and its museum as World Heritage Sites in
December 1997 as Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork. It is one of
two World Heritage Sites in the region with origins in the Teutonic
Order. The other is the Medieval Town of Torun, founded in 1231 as the
site of the castle Thorn (Torun).

castle was founded in 1274 by the Teutonic Order during their
government of Prussia and is located on the Southeastern bank of the
river Nogat. It was named Marienburg after the Virgin Mary, patron saint
of the Order.

The Order had been based in
Acre, but when this last stronghold of the Crusades fell, the Order had
to move its headquarters to Venice. In 1309, in the wake of both the
papal persecution of the Knights Templar as well as the Teutonic
takeover of Danzig, the Order under Siegfried von Feuchtwangen moved its
headquarters into the Prussian part of their monastic state. They chose
the Marienburg, conveniently located on the Nogat, in the Vistula
Delta, which allows access by ship.

The castle was expanded several
time to host the growing number of Knights, and became the largest
fortified Gothic building in Europe, featuring several sections and
walls. It consists of three separate sections - the High, Middle and
Lower Castles, separated by multiple dry moats and towers. The castle
once housed approximately 3,000 "brothers in arms", and the outermost
castle walls enclose 52 acres (210,000 m²), four times larger than the
enclosed space of Windsor Castle.

The favourable position of the
castle on the river Nogat and its relatively flat surrounding allowed
for easy access by barges and trading ships, from the Vistula and the
Baltic Sea. During their governance, the Teutonic Knights collected
river tolls on passing ships, as did other castles along the rivers,
imposing a monopoly on the trade of amber. When the city became a member
of the Hanseatic League, many Hanseatic meetings were held at
Marienburg castle. Via Link

8. Palacio da Pena: Oldest Palace inspired by European Romanticism

The Pena National Palace (Portuguese:
Palácio Nacional da Pena) is the oldest palace inspired by European
Romanticism. It is located in the civil parish of São Pedro de
Penaferrim, municipality of Sintra, Portugal. The palace stands on the
top of a hill above the town of Sintra, and on a clear day it can be
easily seen from Lisbon and much of its metropolitan area. It is a
national monument and constitutes one of the major expressions of 19th
century Romanticism in the world. The palace is a UNESCO World Heritage
Site and one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal. It is also used for state
occasions by the President of the Portuguese Republic and other
government officials. Via Link

9. Lowenburg Castle: The Disneyland of the 18th century  Photo Link

Within the Wilhelmshöhe Hill Park
which sits on one end of the city of Kassel, there stands what appears
to be a medieval castle. However, the Löwenburg or “Lion’s Castle” was
ordered to be built by the Landgrave Wilhelm IX from Hessen Kassel (1743
-1821) (later he gained the higher title of Elector Wilhelm I -
Kurfürst Wilhelm I), the Walt Disney of his era, over a period of eight
years between 1793 and 1801 as a romantic ruin. It was carfelully
designed by his royal court building inspector Heinrich Christoph Jussow
(1754 – 1825) who had been trained as an architect and construction
project manager in France, Italy, and England, and who had gone to
England specifically to study romantic English ruins and draw up a plan
for the Landgrave’s garden folly. Today scholars regard Löwenburg Castle
ruins as one of the most significant buildings of its genre, in
addition to being one of the first major neo-Gothic buildings in

What the Landgrave did
here was the eighteenth century equivalent of Disney World Tokyo. It is a
central element of the Wilhlemshöhe castle park which, starting in
1785, the Landgrave transformed into a landscaped garden modeled on the
English pattern, and filled with themed areas – fake Roman aquaducts,
fake English Castle Ruins, fake Grecian temples, and even a fake Chinese
Village. In terms of sheer monumental size, however, the fake
monumental castle ruin of the Löwenburg stands apart from the numerous
antiquated and pseudo-medieval constructions that served as decorative
motifs for landscaped parks in other parts of Europe. Via Link

10. Prague Castle: World's Largest Ancient Castle

Castle (Czech: Pražský hrad) is a castle in Prague where the Czech
kings, Holy Roman Emperors and presidents of Czechoslovakia and the
Czech Republic have had their offices. The Czech Crown Jewels are kept
here. Prague Castle is one of the biggest castles in the world
(according to Guinness Book of Records the biggest ancient castle [1])
at about 570 meters in length and an average of about 130 meters wide.


The history of the castle stretches
back to the 9th century (870). The first walled building was the church
of Our Lady[2]. The Basilica of Saint George and the Basilica of St.
Vitus were founded in the first half of the 10th century. The first
convent in Bohemia was founded in the castle, next to the church of St.
George. A Romanesque palace was erected here during the 12th century. In
the 14th century, under the reign of Charles IV the royal palace was
rebuilt in Gothic style and the castle fortifications were strengthened.
In place of rotunda and basilica of St. Vitus began building of a vast
Gothic church, that have been completed almost six centuries later.
During the Hussite Wars and the following decades the Castle was not
inhabited. In 1485, King Ladislaus II Jagello began to rebuild the
castle. The massive Vladislav Hall (built by Benedikt Rejt) was added to
the Royal Palace. There were also built new defence towers on the
northern side of the castle. A large fire in 1541 destroyed large parts
of the castle. Under the Habsburgs some new buildings in renaissance
style appeared here. Ferdinand I built Belvedere, summer palace for his
wife Anne. Rudolph II used Prague Castle as his main residence. He
founded the northern wing of the palace, with the Spanish Hall, where
his precious artistic collections were exhibited. The Second Prague
defenestration in 1618 began the Bohemian Revolt. During the subsequent
wars the Castle was damaged and dilapidated. Many works from the
collection of Rudolph II were looted by Swedes in 1648, in the course of
the Thirty Years' War. The last major rebuilding of the castle was
carried out by Queen Maria Theresa in the second half of the 18th
century. Ferdinand V, after abdication in 1848, chose Prague Castle as
his home.  



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