Devín Castle, Slovakia

One of the most dramatic Castles along the Danube, Devín stands at the confluence of the Morava and Danube on a high sandstone crag at the very end of the Little Carpathian mountain chain.

The site is naturally very strong and was occupied in the Stone Age and Bronze Age. Celtic peoples arrived in the 3rd century BC and they also settled on Castle Hill. The Celts stayed at Devín for around 100 years being driven out by Germanic tribes who were in turn driven out another century later by the arrival of the Romans.  The oldest structures left on Castle Hill are Roman in origin.

Devín would have been on the very edges of the Roman Empire and was not held for a vastly long time before falling once more, this time to Slavs.

In the 9th Century Devín was ruled by Prince Rastislav, who had Castle Hill heavily fortified and was one of the earliest Slovak nationalists.  Devín, still on a frontier, was an important stronghold and began to find its place in the souls of the Slovak people.

The Castle itself was started in the 12th/13th Century to defend the Moravian Kingdom against the expansion of the neighbouring Hungarians. From this early period only the outer curtain walls remain in any readily identifiable state.

In the mid-1400s the Castle became the property of Nicholas of Gara and his descendants and they constructed the bulk of the Castle we see today, including the massive "keep" area which dominates Castle Rock and the 'middle castle' - the area between the keep and the palace complex at the Castle's north eastern end.

In 1527 the Imperial Army of Austro-Hungary took Devín Castle and Emperor Ferdinand I gave it to Stephen Bathory whose family owned it until 1605.  It was during this period that the majority of the rest of the Castles buildings were constructed including the Palace and the two river-side towers, one of which, the famous "Nun's Tower" is surrounded by legend.  It is said to have gained its name because one Castle owner imprisoned his virgin daughter inside the isolated tower to keep her away from any potential suitors.

As time passed so the Castle became less strategically important and it was reduced to a ruin by Napoleonic forces in 1809.

One other legend associated with Devín is of two beautiful twin daughters who were given an apple each by their dying mother saying "your lives are hidden within".  One day one of the daughters fell in love with a wandering hunter. Because the twins were identical there was a mix up and the hunter ended up seeing both of them. Inevitably one day all three met and one jealous sister threw the other's apple away.  When it fell it broke and an apple tree grew in its place. The sister whose apple had broken died and the other turned into a black goat which still roams the Castle on stormy nights nibbling leaves from the apple tree!

Devín's darkest hour came during the Communist occupation of the country. The river-side of the Castle was blocked off with barbed wire (across the River Danube, after all, was bourgeois Austria) and the penalty for crossing the barrier was imprisonment in the Castle itself.  Once the end of Communism came the jubilant Slovak people turned Devín Castle into a place of national pilgrimage and every July there is a "National Festival of Peace" held at the Castle.

It is a fascinating and breath-taking place to visit with enough history to satiate even the hungriest of history-buffs.

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