#1: The Potala Palace
(Tibetan: པོ་ཏ་ལ; Wylie: Po ta la; simplified Chinese: 布达拉宫; traditional Chinese: 布達拉宮) is located in Lhasa, Tibet Autonomous Region, China. It was named after Mount Potala, the abode of Chenresig or Avalokitesvara. The Potala Palace was the chief residence of the Dalai Lama until the 14th Dalai Lama fled to Dharamsala, India, after an invasion and failed uprising in 1959. Today the Potala Palace has been converted into a museum by the Chinese.
The building measures 400 metres east-west and 350 metres north-south, with sloping stone walls averaging 3 m. thick, and 5 m. (more than 16 ft) thick at the base, and with copper poured into the foundations to help proof it against earthquakes. Thirteen stories of buildings – containing over 1,000 rooms, 10,000 shrines and about 200,000 statues – soar 117 metres (384 ft) on top of Marpo Ri, the “Red Hill”, rising more than 300 m (about 1,000 ft) in total above the valley floor. Tradition has it that the three main hills of Lhasa represent the “Three Protectors of Tibet.” Chokpori, just to the south of the Potala, is the soul-mountain (bla-ri) of Vajrapani, Pongwari that of Manjushri, and Marpori, the hill on which the Potala stands, represents Chenresig or Avalokiteshvara.
(Photo by MC)
#2: Mont Saint-Michel Castle
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 50.
#3: Predjama Castle
Predjama 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.
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 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 ofTrieste, 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.
(Photo by visitareslovenia)
#4: Neuschwanstein Castle
Neuschwanstein Castle (German: Schloss Neuschwanstein, lit. New Swan Stone palace, pronounced [nɔʏˈʃvaːnʃtaɪ̯n]) is a 19th-centuryBavarian palace on a rugged hill near Hohenschwangau and Füssen in southwest Bavaria, Germany. The palace was commissioned byLudwig 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). 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 Parkand 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.
(Photo by grotsasha)
#5: Matsumoto Castle
Matsumoto Castle (松本城 Matsumoto-jō?) is one of Japan’s finest historic castles. It is located in the city of Matsumoto, inNagano 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.
The castle’s origins go back to the Sengoku period. At that time Shimadachi Sadanaga of the Ogasawara clan built a fort on this site in 1504 which was originally called Fukashi Castle. In 1550 it came under the rule of the Takeda clan and then Tokugawa Ieyasu.
When Toyotomi Hideyoshi transferred Ieyasu to the Kantō region, he placed Ishikawa Norimasa in charge of Matsumoto. Norimasa and his son Yasunaga built the tower and other parts of the castle, including the three towers: the keep and the small tower in the northwest, both begun in 1590, and the Watari Tower; the residence; the drum gate; the black gate, the Tsukimi Yagura, the moat, the innermost bailey, the second bailey, the third bailey, and the sub-floors in the castle, much as they are today. They were also instrumental in laying out the castle town and its infrastructure. It is believed much of the castle was completed by 1593–94.
(Photo by lpq)
#6: Hunyad Castle
The Hunyad Castle (Romanian: Castelul Huniazilor or Castelul Corvineştilor, Hungarian: Vajdahunyad vára) is a castle in TransylvanianHunedoara, 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.
(Photo by ctc)
#7: Malbork Castle
The Castle in Malbork (German: Die Marienburg, Polish: Zamek w Malborku) was built in Prussia by the Teutonic Order as anOrdensburg. 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 Toruń, founded in 1231 as the site of the castle Thorn (Toruń).
(Photo by ordensland)
#8: Palacio da Pena
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.
#9: Löwenburg Castle
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 Germany.
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.
(Photo by Ben)
#10: Prague Castle
Prague Castle (Czech: Pražský hrad) is a castle in Prague where the Czech kings, Holy Roman Emperors and presidents of Czechoslovakia and theCzech Republic have had their offices. The Czech Crown Jewels are kept here. Prague Castle is one of the biggest castles in the world (according toGuinness Book of Records the biggest ancient castle ) 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. The Basilica of Saint Georgeand 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, KingLadislaus 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.
In 1918 the castle became the seat of the president of the new Czechoslovak Republic. The New Royal Palace and the gardens were renovated by Slovenian architect Jože Plečnik. Renovations continued in 1936 under Plečnik’s successor Pavel Janák.
During the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia during World War II, Prague Castle became the headquarters of Reinhard Heydrich, the “Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia”. It is said that he placed the Bohemian crown on his head; old legends say that a usurper who places the crown on his head is doomed to die within a year. Less than a year after assuming power, Heydrich was assassinated.
After the liberation of Czechoslovakia, it housed the offices of the communist Czechoslovak government. During the Velvet Revolution, Alexander Dubček, the leader of Czechoslovakia during the Prague Spring, appeared on a balcony overlooking Wenceslas Square to hear throngs of protesters below shouting “Dubček to the castle!” As they pushed for him to take his seat as president of the country at Prague Castle, he embraced the crowd as a symbol of democratic freedom.
After Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, the castle became the seat of the Head of State of the new Czech Republic. Similar to what Masaryk did with Plečnik, president Václav Havel commissionned Bořek Šípek to be the architect of post-communism Prague Castle’s necessary improvements in particular of the facelift of the Castle’s Gallery of paintings.
(Photo by liberato)