The wonderful Predjama Castle, Slovenia, seems like it belongs in a fantasy world, but the real history behind this Renaissance castle is much more interesting than its exterior charm. It has been built into the mouth of a cave and sits about 10 kilometers from the village of Postojna in south-central Slovenia, and tells a picturesque story about the times when comfort had to give way to safety, and when the clatter of weapons would often drown out troubadours’ songs.
Surprisingly, the current castle isn’t the first building to sit on the area: it dates to 1570, while the history of this site goes back much further. The first mention of Predjama Castle was in 1274, with the German name Luegg, when the Patriarch of Aquileia built the castle in Gothic style. It was later acquired and expanded by the Luegg noble family, also known as the Knights of Adelsberg (the German name of Postojna).
The castle was built here, due to the protection that the cave supplied and in fact, nestled into the rocks, it would have been quite difficult to access the castle, which made it the perfect hideaway.
Perhaps the most popular (and infamous) occupant of the castle was Erasmus of Lueg, a knight and lord of the castle in the 15th century and son of the imperial governor of Trieste, Nikolaj Lueger.
He was a well-known robber baron who ran afoul of the powerful Habsburg rulers. According to the legend, Erasmus came into conflict with the Habsburgs when he killed the commander of the imperial army, Marshall Pappenheim, who had offended the honour of Erasmus’s deceased friend, Andrej Baumkircher of Vipava. Fleeing the vengeance of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III, Erasmus reached the family fortress of Predjama. From there, he allied himself with King Matthias Corvinus and began to attack Habsburg estates and towns in Carniola. While he was in the castle, he used a hidden passageway created from a natural vertical shaft to ensure that supplies could get in and out of the castle. The secret passage exits to the top of the cliff and also allowed Erasmus to continue his robberies.
Eventually, the emperor commissioned the governor of Trieste, Andrej Ravbar, with the capture or killing of Erasmus, and Erasmus was killed after a long siege. According to a popular but unfounded legend, Erasmus was betrayed by one of his men and was killed by a shot from a cannon in his lavatory.
After the siege and destruction of the original structure, the castle fell in ruins.
The second castle, reconstructed by the Purgstall family in the first decade of the 16th century, was destroyed in an earthquake.
What we see today, it was created in 1570 by the new owner: Baron Philipp von Cobenzl, who
leased the castle by Archduke Charles of Austria.
The magnificent Renaissance style castle sits against the caves and under the original Medieval fortification.
In 1810, the castle was inherited by Count Michael Coronini von Cronberg, and in 1846 it was sold to the Windischgrätz family, who remained its owners until the end of World War II, when it was nationalized by the Yugoslav Communist authorities and turned into a museum.
It’s been used as the backdrop in numerous movies, television programs, and music videos, and it has also mesmerised George R. R. Martin, author of the best-seller The Game of Thrones. Moreover, the castle has hosted the Discovery Channel team, who found the castle to be inhabited by some ghosts…or maybe they were just some of the inhabitants of the castle: in fact, in the Cave under Predjama Castle, live a colony of bats!