History of the Trosky Castle
The bizarre ruins of a Gothic castle founded in the late 14th century by the Lords of Wartenberg became one of the main symbols of the whole Bohemian Paradise area. The siting of the castle on two steep basalt volcanic made Trosky unconquerable - even the Hussites failed to capture it. However, no fortress can resist the hands of time, so even Trosky, abandoned in the late 15th century, began to gradually fall into ruin. However thanks to its romantic atmosphere and unique silhouette it became a popular tourist destination in the 19th century and soon received the most necessary repairs. Visitors today learn about the rich history of the castle, climb up the Baba tower and up to the outlook under Panna tower.
More about the history
The foundation of the castle is the interesting and unique rock formation, of volcanic origin. Two lava vents erupted from the earth during the Tertiary Period. Later, the erosion stripped off the clay, sand and other soft rocks, and exposed the volcanic formation in the current appearance, which is a unique natural element in the global scope.
The castle was founded in the late middle ages, approximately between 1380 and 1390, when the owner of the domain, Čeněk of Wartenberg, used the natural defensive features of the basalt rocks. He founded the inner castle with residential palaces on the ridge between both summits, and used the summits for defensive towers also with residential facilities.
The lower summit, called “The Crone” due to its stout appearance, bore the hexagonal two-storey building, accessible from the northern side of the palace. On the higher and slender summit, “The Maiden”, a rectangular palace was built, originally with three floors, allegedly containing the castle chapel. The distinctly horizontal arrangement of the buildings (the height of the Maiden above the first courtyard is approximately 57 m, the Crone is 47 m high) made it possible to build a defense system that made the inner castle inaccessible, and provided unlimited all-round view of the castle, its slopes, and wide area around it. The palaces were only inhabited on the upper floors, and the lower floors provided enough storage space for supplies necessary under siege. Water was drawn from the castle’s own well on the first courtyard, about 30 m deep; at the Maiden, an elaborate system of rainwater tanks was built in the rock. It’s said there is a vast ceiling system under the castle, and the labyrinth of sandstone rocks and crevasses may conceal numerous caves with small lakes, currently inaccessible, probably leading the cave system called Cellars (in the rock formation Apolena near the castle).
The defensive system consisted of three circles of ramparts, 1.5 to 2 m wide and up to 15 m high. All the courtyards are reinforced by sandstone blocks. Behind the first (main) gate, the remains of the former burgrave house are still visible, together with the guardhouse (in the 19th century, the remains of the fireplace were still apparent here). The first courtyard (the “outer castle”) was also used as a small storage area for technical equipment.
The second gate leads us to the inner castle; stables were built next to the southern wall, and small residential houses on the sides. The new staircase to the Crone is standing in the place where a tall wooden palace was once built, providing access to the upper stone palace, heated originally by a tiled stove. From the left side of this courtyard, through a small gate for pedestrians, the stone staircase provided access to the part with the best protection, currently with the remains of the main palace. It used to be divided lengthwise, was fitted with beam ceilings, and had four floors; their remains are still visible. On the top, we can see the remains of windows with stone reveals and seats underneath. The Aehrenthal spiral staircase was built in the right palace between 1841 and 1843.
The founder of the castle, Čeněk of Wartenberg, came from the powerful north Bohemian house of Markwartinger; their property stretched from the forests on the frontier up to Jičín. At the end of his life, he ran into a serious debt (probably also due to the building of the Trosky Castle), so in 1394, he had to give his domains Nový Bydžov and Trosky to Wenceslas IV, his main creditor. After four years, Wenceslas sold the castle to another powerful house of Berg who kept the castle until 1455. That year, the last successor of the house, John, sold the domain to John Zajíc of Hasenburg, owner of the nearby Kost Castle.
At that time, the castle was fully functional, inhabited, and used as a mighty fortress; it was never conquered by a military force. It resisted the short siege by Žižka’s troops in 1424, as well as another siege by the Orphans in 1428, after a fire in the Crone.
The Berg house was determinedly catholic, and ruled the area with a firm hand. An interesting incident occurred in the late 1437 or early 1438, where the castle fell, by a cunning trick, under the control of a robber gang, led by knight Šof and his companion Švejkar. With approximately 200 men, they held the fort against the regular army troops, and terrorized the surroundings until 1444 when the circumstances forced them to give the castle up.
Under the control of John Zajíc, the castle gradually lost its importance. The aristocracy favored Kost, and especially the comfortable castle of Hrubá Skála. In 1497, Trosky was sold to the Schelmberg house, in 1524 to the Bibersteins, and 1551 to the Lobkowiczs; then, in 1559, the castle was bought by Henry of Smiritz. At this moment, the glory years of the castle were over for good. The Smiritz house reconstructed the castle of Skála (currently Hrubá Skála), turned it into a comfortable residence, and ruled the area from there. Under their rule, the territory experienced rather a large economic boom. The Smiritzs built ponds and breweries, established sheepfolds and hop fields; for the villages in the area, this was time of peace.
During the Thirty Years War, the domain belonged to Albrecht of Wallenstein; after he was murdered in 1634, Trosky remained the possession of the house until 1821. That year, a new owner took over – Jan Lexa of Aehrenthal, a typical representative of the nouveau riche. A successful entrepreneur of the new kind, he bought not only the whole domain with Trosky, Hrubá Skála and Wallenstein, but also the titles of earl and knight. Influenced by romanticism, he saved many heritage sites in his domain, repaired them and also modified them; unfortunately, not all the adjustments were sensitive enough. At this time, the aforementioned lookout tower was built at Trosky, using the building material from the torn front wall of residential palaces and cellars. However, the generously projected building remained unfinished, due to the premature death of the builder. Even so, many poets, painters and romantics, enchanted by the marvelous view, made the ruin of the castle immortal. In 1925, the government of Czechoslovakia took control over the castle, and it’s been owned by the state ever since.
The first major repairs were done by the Czech Tourist Club in the 1930s, but the real expert conservation and maintenance didn’t start until several decades ago. Currently, the castle is managed by the National Heritage Institute based in Pardubice. The repairs primarily involve the static safeguarding of the rocks, ramparts and remains of the castle palaces. These works, of course, also include archaeological research that keeps revealing new information on the history of the place.
In 1999 and 2000, a new monumental staircase to the Crone was built, which concluded another stage of repairs and reconstructions. A well-designed building, cleverly wedged between rocks, with perfect technical solution; it all proves the skills of Czech hands and brains, and follows up on the skills of our ancestors who built this eighth wonder of the world.