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Date updated: 02/23/2023

Zvolen Castle

    Zvolen Castle

    Despite its centuries-long history, and Zvolen Castle was founded in the 14th century, it has survived in fine condition. Of course, its interior has been reconstructed several times. But its exterior - walls, towers, numerous loopholes and many other features - have remained virtually untouched.

    Zvolen Castle, being an undoubted architectural monument, today is also a repository of many works of art. It has an art gallery, where various exhibits (paintings, sculptures, graphics, etc.) relating to the period of the 16th and 18th centuries are on display. There are even original masterpieces by Rubens and Hogarth.

    History of Zvolen Castle

    Zvolen Castle

    Jaroslav Skrbek, 1920

    The Castle of Zvolen was built at the end of the 14th century, in 1360-1382 to be exact. Its construction was ordered by Louis I of Anjou. He originally wanted the castle to be his residence. But afterwards the castle became a wedding gift to his daughter Mary, who married Sigismund I of Luxembourg.

    Subsequent rulers used Zvolen Castle as a hunting lodge. The castle was fond of jousting tournaments. A large hall with columns, in which knights in full armour fought, bears witness to the fact to this day. It used to be surrounded by small bleachers, where the spectators sat. Mostly, of course, members of the royal family and their guests. Unfortunately, these structures have not survived to our time.

    Around the beginning of the XVI century the castle underwent extensive reconstruction. First of all, it was noticeably strengthened, as at that time there was a very difficult military situation. Another floor was built, with loopholes crowning the walls. Additional towers were added. The walls became thicker, so that they could withstand an artillery attack. And it was then that Zvolen Castle was turned into the very castle, which today is seen by many tourists.

    In XVII-XVIII centuries an ancient wooden chapel was reconstructed in the castle. Historians still regret the loss of this unique piece of architecture. To be exact, the chapel itself still stands and can even be visited on guided tours. But it is made in a more modern baroque style than the original structure.

    Another unique artefact that has been lost forever in numerous reconstructions is the coffered ceiling in the main hall. It was decorated with portraits of Hungarian kings and Roman emperors. But during the time of the Habsburgs, the old rulers fell into disgrace and the images with them were dismantled.

    By the early 19th century the Zvolen Castle ceased to be the property of any private owners, and was handed over to the state. Over the last 200 years it housed various institutions. And during World War II it was the venue of secret meetings of the Slovak Revolt.

    Zvolen Castle today

    Zvolen Castle underwent another extensive reconstruction in the mid-1960s. The reconstruction was necessary, as the building was severely damaged during the war. After restoration it was handed over to the Ministry of Culture of Slovakia. The National Gallery was established at Zvolen Castle. It survives to this day.

    The gallery exhibits paintings by famous European painters of 16th-18th centuries. Numerous sculptures, engravings and decorations are also on display. Plus, the castle itself is one big architectural monument. Visitors enjoy getting to know its interior decoration, numerous arches, staircases, balconies and other elements of ancient architecture.

    Zvolen Castle is also an excellent venue for various arts and crafts festivals. For example, the festival "Craft of Zvolen Castle" is held there every June and gathers dozens of craftsmen from all over Slovakia. In addition to the exhibitions and workshops, numerous theatre performances are staged there.

    The staff of the National Gallery also organize various educational programmes for school children and students. Most of them relate to history, culture or art studies.

    Finally, the rooms of the Zvolen Castle are often rented out. Music concerts (mostly classical music), song competitions and other entertainment events are also held there.

    If you come to Zvolen, the local castle is not the only attraction to see. Nearby you will find the Monument to the Zvolen Manifesto, the Slovak National Uprising Square, the Museum of Timber Industry and a genuine World War II armoured train.

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