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History of Predjama Castle

This unusual stronghold, whose walls are literally merged with the high vertical rock, was first mentioned in sources from the 13th century. It is known that the owners of the castle in 1274 were members of a knight family whose name derives from their place of residence. «Jama» from Slovenian means «a cave», that is why the castle built in front of an entry to a huge hollow was called Predjama Castle. German historic chronicles say that the castle owners, liegemen of powerful feudal rulers – the Bishops of Aquileia, were called Lueg knights.

The most interesting part of the castle history is related to the first name of Baron Erazm Lügger, the owner of this building by the end of the 15th century. His uncontrollable character resulted in a conflict with Austrian Emperor Frederick III of the House of Habsburg, the cause was an execution of a close friend of Erazm’s, rebellious knight Andreas Baumkircher. As an act of revenge the baron killed a relative of Frederick III’s, Commander Heinrich von Pappenheim, who talked in an indifferent way about the late Andreas, during a duel in 1482. The fury of the emperor, who declared war on Erazm, made the baron to shelter in his family stronghold in the end.

Having found a shelter in his castle, he started to rob rich merchants' caravans that travelled there from Vienna. It is not known exactly if he did this to make the emperor even angrier or he really changed and decided to become, as many legends call him, «a noble robber». Anyway, furious Frederick III decided to crush him. For this purpose, he chose Baron Gaśper Ravbara, a governor of the city of Trieste, who attacked the inaccessible stronghold without success for nearly two years. The baron could not complain about the lack of food in Predjama Castle since various dishes were served on his table through the underground tunnel running from the castle to the town of Vipava. Water also did not pose a problem – deep under the stronghold, inside the caves, the water of the Lokva River gathered. Cannons or catapults did not pose any particular threat for the building whose walls were literally built within the rock and its interior spaces were in huge caves. In 1484, to obey an emperor's order, Gaśper Ravbara was made to bribe one of Baron Erazm Lügger's servants, who showed the place where he had been hiding, using torchlight. Hitting the wall, cannonballs destroyed it and the baron died in its rubble.

Rebellious Erazm was buried in Predjam near Our Lady of Sorrows Church built in the 15th century. Its renovated murals undoubtedly brought fame of one of the most beautiful Slovenian designs of late Gothic art. Erazm Lügger's grave can be seen from a distance because of a huge lime tree planted once in this place in his honour. After the death of Baron Lügger, his family lost the ownership of the castle and triumphant Frederick III gave it to the Obernburg family. A quarter of a century later, the Purgstall family got the castle, during their rule most part of the castle was destroyed due to an earthquake. In the 1560s Baron Filip von Kobenzl’s family were lessees. His heirs, as a result, bought it from the ruling House of Habsburgs. At the end of the 16th century and at the beginning of the 17th century a great rebuilding of the castle was carried out; as a result, the former historic building disappeared behind new walls and took its present appearance. When barons von Kobenzl ruled, the underground passage that connected the castle to the town of Vipava was bricked in, which apart from Baron Lügger was also used by thieves who took valuable items out of the castle. In the 19th century Austrian Count Michael Coronini-Cronberg lived here. Some decades later, Predjama stronghold was purchased by a descendant of the former family, Prince Alfred von Windischgrätz. This family ruled in the castle for nearly a whole century, almost to the beginning of the Second World War. In 1944 the castle was taken over by partisans-communists who established their headquarters and a press inside. After the war ended, the building was nationalised by the Yugoslavian authorities and transformed into a museum.