Celje Castle (Slovenia)
Savinjska See list of castles in Slovenia
The ancient castle of Celje is located on a narrow rocky cliff above Celje. The original castle was built in the second half of the 12th century by the Counts of Vovberg from Carinthia who in 1322 had Celje and its surroundings in their hands until they were extinct. After a decade of battles, the castle passed into the hands of their heirs (1333), the lords of Žovnek, later the counts of Celje.
In the 13th century, still under the reign of the Counts of Vovberg, Celje began to flourish in all its splendor. Also in the following two centuries Celje played one of the most important roles in Central Europe, thanks to the lords of Žovnek of the Savinja valley, who inherited the property of the extinct accounts of Vovberg in 1322.
The transition of ownership into the hands of the Lords of Žovnek has meant an obvious turning point in the development of Celje. This was particularly felt after 1341, when the Lords of Žovnek were raised by the Counts by the German emperor Louis of Bavaria, and later could claim the title of Counts of Celje. The ambitious and successful family has impressed an indelible seal in the short period of its reign and at the same time constantly developed wealth, influence and power with skilful policies and speculative marriages. They climbed like a meteor.
With the accumulation of property in Slovenian, Croatian and Hungarian countries, they obtained the title of Principles of Zagorje (1397), civil governors of Croatia, Slavonia and Dalmatia (1407), Hungarian Barons (1430) and finally, in 1437 the state princes. Their daughters were married with descendants of prominent charlatan families in central Europe and the Balkans, e.g. Bosnian Kotromanići, Polish Piast and Jajelon, Serbian Brankovič. The most famous, slandered and also admired noblewoman of her time Barbara of Celje, the daughter of Count Herman II. he even married the German emperor and king of Hungary and Bohemia, Sigismund of Luxembourg.
The counts of Celje did not earn their reputation only for political competence, but also for heroism. Herman II. won the sympathy of the next German emperor Sigismund of Luxembourg in the battle against the Turks in Nikopolje in 1396, where he saved the emperor from certain death, from the depths of the Danube. It is also known as Herman II. won the famous duel with the hapsburg Duke Friderik, later emperor of Germany at the Constance tournament on Lake Constance. The knights' tournament in Constance was held in honor of the great ecclesiastical council, and it was then that Herman II. also helped Pope John XIII. escape from the city, where he was threatened by a conspiracy. Nowadays it is difficult to imagine the splendor that accompanied the Counts of Celje at every step of the way and we can only imagine the curiosity and perhaps even the envy in the eyes of the citizens and nobles of Constance while observing the arrival of Count Herman, his son Friderik II. and his son and brother-in-law Celje - the German emperor Sigismund of Luksemburg, accompanied by 300 horses and 400 wagons.
In the last period of the counts of Celje, at the time of Friderik II. and Ulrik, their power was also shown on the battlefield, especially against the powerful Habsburg family. Although Celje's principles formally had the same status in their Hapsburg competition, they did not want to recognize equality. Friderik III. of Habsburg wanted to issue an invoice for the social climbers that was the reason of the Celje-Habsburg Wars in 1443, which ended quite weak for the Habsburgs. The principles of Celje remained the state principles and stipulated a hereditary contract with the Habsburgs, which played an extremely important role after the extinction of the Celje Principles.
Very differently and for Celje actually fatally, Ulriks' interference in Hungary ended. In the battle for the Hungarian crown, which the Celje princes wished, they incised many enemies, especially among the Hungarian magnates, who organized a great conspiracy against Ulrik. In 1456, when the Crusader army defended Belgrade from the Turkish siege, the main enemy of the Counts of Celje, Hunjadi from Hungary insidiously killed Ulrik from Celje. Having no heirs, their ascent ended and in Celje, at the funeral of the last prince of Celje, a heartfelt call was heard: "Counts of Celje today and never again". Three yellow stars on the blue surface have become just a memory of an era that meant more to Celje and its history: a small city along the Savinja was not only an integral part of Central Europe, but also helped to form Central Europe mideival.
Later the castle became the property of regional princes and several keepers managed it. During the great peasant uprising of 1515 a rebel peasant sacked it, but it was restored in the second half of the 16th century. Later it lost its strategic significance and started to ruin itself. In the 17th century it remained homeless and in the 18th century the brick of the castle roof was used to repair the lower castle. The remaining useful building material was used by Count Gaisruck at the Novo Celje Mansion building. In the first half of the 19th century the owners used the castle as a quarry and only Count Wickenburg, who bought the ruins and gave them to the Styrian regional states, saved it from total destruction.
The castle's reconstruction efforts began after the foundation of the Celje Museum Society in 1882 and is still ongoing, as it has gradually returned to its original state over the past decade.