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History of the Bled Castle

Although no credible date of the construction of the Bled Castle is known, the first written notes about this building can be found in a deed of donation signed by German King Henry II in 1011. In the mentioned deed of donation, the King ceded his ownership of the Bled Castle, known then as Veldes, to bishop Albuin as an expression of his gratitude for the help of Orthodox clerics in strengthening German rule on those lands. In that period only one Roman style tower jutted out on a snow-white rock. This is the place where this medieval castle was later erected.

The princes-bishops of Brixen ruled over the castle for more than 200 years, but they hardly ever lived in Bled and very rarely visited the castle. A trip from Brixen to the castle used to take about six days, it required to change horses four times and the route ran across valleys, where many dangers awaited for travellers. In accordance with feudal practices, the bishops of Brixen transferred the Bled Castle to castellans appointed from the local aristocracy.

In August 1278, Carniola, a historical constituent which included Bled, was under the rule of Rudolf I – the founder of the House of Habsburg. The Austrian Habsburgs owned the Bled Castle by the beginning of the 20th century, excluding a short period during Napoleonic Wars, when Carniola was incorporated into a newly-developed Kingdom of Illyria. During the Habsburg rules, the custom of leasing the castle was continued in order to use the lands or simply encourage the local nobles. The first lessee of the castle was Konrad von Kraig. His family owned it for nearly 200 years. After the Kraig family as well as its relatives, the Thurns, Herbard Auersperg took up the castle. He intended to buy it out for his family. So he paid for the renovation of this building, which had been damaged by earthquake in 1511. During the rule of Auersperg, the Bled Castle was a Protestant fortress, where in June 1561 Primož Trubar arrived, a reformer and the author of the first book printed in Slovenian as well as the leader of the Slovenian Protestant movement.

By the 18th century nobles owned the Bled Castle but later its owners included middle class members and bourgeoisie as well. During the French occupation in 1803 the castle was nationalized and transferred to the Kingdom of Illyria and it did not return to previous owners until 1838. Due to the frequent changes of owners until that period, virtually nothing of the equipment and furnishing that probably had a high historical value was left. Furthermore, maintaining the fortress after the abolishment of socage law was a burden impossible to lift, so in 1848 it was sold to an owner of a metallurgical facility, Victor Ruard. In 1882 the castle with surrounding farmlands changed the owner again. Adolf Muhr, a wealthy merchant, became the owner. At the end of the 19th century Bled as a mountain resort offering balneotherapy was getting increasingly popular, attracting travellers from different classes. In 1918 an owner of a local hotel, Ivan Kenda, bought both the Bled Castle and the island on the lake to create a generally respected hotel. Unfortunately, his ambitious plans were not implemented because in 1937, due to a debt, the United Economic Bank confiscated the Bled Castle, which was next resold to a new owner.

In 1947 a fire broke out. It badly damaged the roof and some of the upper rooms. In 1952 Tone Bitenk, a student of the famous Slovenian architect, Jože Plečnik, started renovation works at the Bled Castle under the aegis of the National Museum of Slovenia. The renovation works took about 10 years. As a result, the castle became more modern, that was necessary for tourist visits. In 2008 the Culture Institute in Bled renovated the historical interior and the part of the castle where the museum is located.