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Date updated: 03/07/2023

Orava Castle

    Orava Castle

    The majestic Orav Castle (Oravský hrad) is located in northwest Slovakia, on the banks of the river of the same name. It towers above the picturesque scenery as it is situated on a 112 metre high limestone cliff. At any time of year there is a panoramic, picturesque view of the valley landscape and the pretty town of Orava podzamok. The castle is also known as the Eagle's Nest because of its location. Interesting fact: the castle has been used several times as a movie set-piece. It was the setting for the first film about Count Dracula - "NOSFERATU: A Symphony of Terror", as well as the Czechoslovak fairy tale "THE KING OF DRACULA". 

    History of Orava Castle

    Orava Castle

    The Orava (Árva) Castle. Jakob Alt, 1839

    One of Europe's largest castle complexes is built in a variety of architectural styles. Elements of Gothic, Romanesque, Renaissance, Baroque and Romanesque architecture can be seen here. The construction of the complex started in the middle of the 13th century and was completed in the 17th century.

    The first written mention dates back to 1267. A small castle was built on the north-western border of the kingdom as a place of control over the trade routes between Poland and Hungary. A customs post was placed there to collect tribute from merchants who transported goods across the Orava waterways.

    A bright era in the history of the castle began in the 16th century, when on the eve of the Ottoman invasion, local magnate Ferenc Turzo (František I. Turzo) became the owner of the castle. He was fond of luxury and pomp, so he immediately began reconstruction to enlarge the castle. Around 1611, the so-called Lower Castle, the Chapel of St. Michael and the Southern Bastion were added to the castle.

    Interesting fact: In 1616, György Turzo (Juraj VII. Turzo) died, according to his will, the estate and the castle were under the prohibition of division.

    Orava Castle

    The Orava (Árva) Castle. Jakob Alt, 1840

    For this reason, up to 1800 the castle was not governed by the direct heirs of the Turzo family, but by their representatives. Figuratively, there was no one owner, so everyone did not consider himself to be the master. This attitude led to a great fire in 1800. It literally destroyed all the wooden buildings. The damage was so enormous that the so called owners of the castle did not take responsibility for rebuilding it. The castle, once a formidable structure for the whole neighbourhood, fell into oblivion for almost a century. At the turn of the 19th century, the castle came into the possession of the Jozef Pálfi family. The count completely rebuilt the castle, giving it a slight Romantic charm.

    However, the most extensive reconstruction of the castle took place between 1953 and 1968. Partially, some renovation works are still in progress, but the castle is open to the public. The Museum of Natural History and the Museum of Medieval Feudal Life are situated within the architectural and historical treasury. You can also take a tour of the grounds, the fortifications, the chapel and a tour of the interior.

    Note: There is a stone bench in one of the halls. It is believed that if an infertile woman sits on it, she will become pregnant within a year.

    Architectural features of the castle

    Orava Castle

    Orava Castle consists of several architectural complexes. Each of them differs in style and purpose, and also symbolises the era of their creator's reign.

    The upper castle was built during the reign of King Bela IV of Hungary, and his descendants ruled the castle until the 17th century. The complex consists of two floors, and what catches the eye are the massive walls, small windows and hard-to-get-at roof. The interior consists of large halls and a number of defence and protection facilities.

    The middle castle is the oldest part of the whole complex. It is a square donjon and for a long time was occupied by the soldiers of the garrison. According to the plan, many secret passages, passageways and galleries were conceived during the construction of this part of the complex. You can take a tour of the inner courtyards and other elements.

    Lower Castle - In 1611 the castle came into the possession of the Turzo family. Ferenc Turzo (František I. Turzo) had a Renaissance dwelling built on the western part of the castle. During the visit you can see the interior furnishings and utensils.

    Museum exposition

    Orava Castle

    The museum exhibits are located in several buildings of the castle. The Old Castle contains an exposition that introduces the visitor to the most interesting archaeological finds. These can be used to learn about the history and ancient human settlements in this region.

    The lower floor of the central building houses a collection dedicated to the natural sciences. Each of the three buildings houses an exhibition dedicated to the Middle Ages.

    Orava Castle is a history frozen in stone, a bygone era, but preserved in the details, in the air, in the surrounding beauty...

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