Predjama Castle.

Predjama Castle: The Castle in a Cave that Housed a Slovenian Robin Hood

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Once home to the Slovenian Robin Hood, Predjama Castle is a site rich in history. It is built into the mouth of a cave high up on a cliff and has a commanding view over the landscape. That position would have certainly helped a famed Slovenian knight when the army of the Holy Roman Emperor came knocking.

Predjama Castle is a castle situated to the northwest of the town of Postojna, in the traditional Slovenian region of Inner Carniola. This castle, which is located in the southwestern part of the country, is notable, amongst other things, for its position at the mouth of a cave halfway up a 123 meter (403 ft.) high cliff. Predjama Castle’s best-known resident was Erazem Lueger, a knight and well-known robber baron who is sometimes compared to Robin Hood.

Castle in Front of a Cave

Predjama’s Slovenian name, Predjamski grad , may be translated into English as ‘Castle in front of the cave’, which is an apt description of this defensive structure. The construction of the original Predjama Castle began in either the 12th or 13th century. The castle was built in the Gothic style, which was flourishing in Europe during that time. The entire castle was not built in one go, but in phases during the years that followed. The earliest reference to Predjama Castle is dated to 1274, and was referred to by its German name, ‘Luegg’.

1816 lithograph of the castle by Karl Friedrich Schinkel.

1816 lithograph of the castle by Karl Friedrich Schinkel. ( Public Domain )

Over the centuries, the ownership of Predjama Castle changed hands several times. For instance, as the castle was within the territory of the Italian town of Aquileia, it was at first under the control of the Patriarchate of Aquileia. In 1350, however, the Austrians wrested control of the castle from the Aquileians, though the latter attempted to recapture the castle in 1398 by besieging it.

The Castle’s Most Famous Owner

Predjama Castle eventually became the property of Erazem Lueger, arguably its most famous owner. Lueger, who was a knight, had created a name for himself as a robber baron, and has even been compared by some to Robin Hood. Be that as it may, Lueger’s fame lies in his defense of the castle against the forces of the Holy Roman Emperor. Whilst Lueger was ultimately defeated, through treachery, this episode in the castle’s history shows the defensive capabilities of the fortification.

‘Knight’s Hall’ in Predjama Castle.

‘Knight’s Hall’ in Predjama Castle. (Tiia Monto/ CC BY SA 3.0 )

According to one version of the story, Lueger was a supporter of the Hungarians during their wars with the Holy Roman Empire, thus provoking the ire of the latter. The more popular version of the tale, however, is that Lueger had killed the commander of the Imperial army Marshal Pappencheim, who had insulted one of Lueger’s friends. It so happened that the marshal was a relative of the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick III. Consequently, the emperor ordered one of his vassals, the Governor of Trieste, to capture or kill Lueger. When Lueger heard news of this, he immediately fled to Predjama Castle and prepared himself for a long siege.

Due to the castle’s position, it could only be approached from one side, and even so, with great difficulty. Therefore, the governor’s plan was to cut off the castle’s food and water supply, which he hoped would force Lueger into submission. Much to his surprise, however, the defenders seemed to not be wanting in either food or water. According to one story, Lueger even threw fresh cherries at the besieging army to show that he had plenty of supplies in the castle.

Predjama Castle is Shaken

In the end, however, Lueger was betrayed by one of his subordinates, and died in a rather ignoble manner. As the robber baron was relieving himself in the castle’s outhouse, a signal was sent to the attackers, who fired a cannon in that direction, thus killing Lueger. It was later revealed to the governor that the defenders were getting their supplies via a secret passage through the caves.

Stairs into the cave in Predjama Castle.

Stairs into the cave in Predjama Castle. (Tiia Monto/ CC BY SA 3.0 )

It was a strong earthquake that caused substantial damage to Predjama Castle. In 1570, the owner of the castle, Hans Kobenzl, an Austrian knight from Kärnten, decided to have it rebuilt in the Renaissance style. This is the castle that visitors see today. Apart from being open to the public, the castle also hosts various cultural events each year, including the annual Erazem's Knight Tournament.

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