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History of the Otočec Castle

Accurate data on when exactly this castle was built on the shores of the Krka River did not survive. It is also unknown who its first owner was. Most likely, the castle was built in the 11th or 12th century, after the bishops from Freising set up their seat in the town of Škofja Loka in 973 and started to construct fortifications at the border of their lands. A written note about the Otočec Castle appears in documents from 1252, where it is listed as a property of the De Verdes – an aristocratic family, members of the Otoks – a knightly family, liegemen of the bishops of Freising. At that time, the first reconstruction of the castle was made. It set a transformation in the building's architecture from the Roman style into the Gothic style.

After a century, the two-storey rectangular structure, practically not protected, typical for medieval stone castles à la manor house, was redeveloped in the mid-14th century. The building was extended by constructing a new wing and fortified by a defensive wall and earthen ramparts. In that period, another important element was added to the defensive system of the castle – a southern canal of the Krka River was dug. As a result, the castle, once located on the shore, was transformed into a building on an island. Most probably, this characteristic resulted in a nickname for knights and the name of the castle, since «otok» means «an island» in Slovenian.

At the end of the 15th century, when the line of the Otoks, a knightly family, failed, the castle was owned by the Wilanders, a significant family coming from the South Tyrol. In 1471, after fierce attempts to conquer the Lower Carniola by Turks, another stage of constructing fortifications took place in the castle. As a result, a new defensive wall with semi-rounded towers in its corners was built. The old defensive wall survived and served as an additional internal defensive structure of the courtyard. In 1560 the Otočec stronghold was bought by Baron Ivan Lenković, captain of the Uskoks from Žumberak. Later, he was appointed commander of the historical Military Frontier province, a borderland between the Ottoman Empire and the land of the Habsburgs. During the time of the House of Lenković, architect Manfredo del Costonello made a series of changes behind the castle walls, which gave the building some Renaissance features.

In 1629 the castle had a new owner – Wolff Jakob Sonce, an important nobleman. Noble Janez Sonce, who appears in a story of the same title written by Ivan Tavčar, was based on him. In the 17th century the castle obtained the appearance which, with small changes, remained until today. During the reconstruction of the building, arc galleries were built on the first floor and on two floors in the south wind. In the middle of the 18th century the Otočec Castle was owned by the aristocratic House of Schweiger-Lerchenfeld; at that time a park and a garden pavilion were built at the castle. After the death of Vincent Schweiger-Lerchenfeld, who died in Otočec in 1849, the castle was very quickly bought by the county House of Margerie de Comadona and owned by this house until the Second World War.

At the beginning of the Second World War the Otočec Castle was used by the Italian army as a fortified site. Because of that, Slovenian guerrilla fighters set fire to this old building in 1942. As a result of the fire, the valuable historic archives of the House of Margerie were destroyed, the castle itself and wooden bridges running from the island to the mainland were burnt down. A rebuilding of the Otočec stronghold did not start until 1952, when several teams of builders arrived, including teams from other countries, to help save this building of historical value from ruin. Later, a restaurant and a motel were open for visitors, and the castle took its final appearance in 1968, when its rooms were furnished with antiquarian items. The last reconstruction took place in 2009. As a result, the renovated rooms, which have different levels of comfort, became available for the guests of the castle-hotel.