For visitors finding themselves in Postojna, the first attraction that comes to mind is the Postojna Cave. Even then, Predjama Castle is another must-see attraction around these parts of Slovenia. Its awe-inspiring beauty may have inspired a few modern epics we know today.
The Predjama Castle or Predjamski grad is the Renaissance castle built upon a rocky cliff. The beautiful fortress is virtually impregnable and became the residence of a few legends, including the Patriarchate of Aquileia and a 15th-century robber baron. It has also mesmerized one of the most famous authors of the current times.
If you find yourself in Slovenia and you somehow visit Postojna, the Predjama Castle should be a destination, pronto. Here’s the unofficial guide to the Predjama Castle – what you should know and how to make your stay memorable.
The Extensive History Of Predjamski Grad
Predjamski grad or Predjama Castle (German: Höhlenburg Lueg, Italian: Castel Lueghi) is a fortress found 6.8 miles (11 km) away from the village of Predjama, in the municipality of Postojna. It’s also only 5.6 miles (9 km) away from Postojna Cave.
The entire castle received its first mention from the Patriarch of Aquileia, who built the structure. The first castle was built by the Patriarch of Aquileia in a Gothic style, reminiscent of fortresses from the Middle Ages. Even then, the Counts of Gorizia contested the claim to the lands, at the time called Jama Castle (Cave Castle).
Eventually, its control came to the several nobles who handled the region back in the day. The history of the stronghold goes as far back as the 13th century. The current castle wasn’t the first building, but rather the third rebuild of the original structure.
The Historical Masters of The Castle
By 1350, the castle has come to Austrian dukes, and by 1398, Aquilean troops sieged the castle. In the second half of the 14th-century, Predjama Castle came under the ownership of Konrad von Kraig of the Habsburgs. He was the first Slovene who held ownership of the holdfast.
Later on, the control eventually went to the knights from the East-Tyrolean City of Lienz. The Lords of Lienz later came to be known as the Lords of Luegg. They are much known to history books as the Knights of Adelsberg, which was the German name for Postojna.
After a few centuries, a siege of the castle in the 15th century happened, when it was under the control of Erasmus of Lueg. During this time, the castle received expansive damage from cannon fire and had to get rebuilt.
Besides the infamous Erasmus, the Luegg progeny also produced Nikolaj Jamski (Niclas von Luegg). Nikolaj was infamous for his cruel nature and quick temper.
The castle itself received a rebuilding under its subsequent owners, the Purgstall family, in the 16th century. Even then, this second rebuild didn’t last too long, as an earthquake devastated the stronghold and put it into ruin.
The current vista of the castle came about in 1570, under the new owner, Giovanni Cobenzl (Ivan Kobenzl / Hans Kobencl), one of the ancestors of Philipp Von Kobenzl.
Before this, Archduke Charles II Francis of Austria leased the castle to the baron. It took him 20 years to pay it off in full and eventually built a Renaissance-style castle.
The Vista of The Beautiful Holdfast
Only 9 km away from Postojna Cave, near the idyllic village of Predjama, high in the wall, Predjama Castle dominates the surroundings. It’s known for its hard to access surroundings, most of which is protected by a sheer cliff.
It is one of the most picturesque castles of its kind. Predjama Castle goes around halfway up the Karst limestone cliff, which goes as high as 403 ft (123 m). It overhangs around the entrance of a cave in the Carniola region, around a small ravine along the Vipacco river.
The sharp drop makes it hard to access, giving would-be conquerors a hard time attacking the castle. In its entire history, sieges are only able to conquer the Predjama Castle through the use of cannonballs. It is the place for many protracted sieges that lasted for a while.
Predjamski grad began as a tiny 9th-century holdfast embedded deep into the cave. According to old records, an earlier Romanesque castle stood or recessed from into this site. Records note that these were in the early years of the 13th century.
Eventually, the holdfast grew into the Gothic style castle of the patriarchs of Aquileia. These patriarchs gave the hold to various knights.
Medieval Life In Predjama Castle
Predjama Castle is rife with history. It became the center for the romantic ideals of gallantry, knighthood, and feudal society. It also bore a legendary knight that is sometimes dubbed the “Robin Hood,” Erasmus of Luegg.
Also known as Erasmus of Predjama (Erazem Predjamski), he was the son of Nikolaj of Luegg, the Imperial Governor of Trieste. He was also the burgrave for the castle at the time and a well-known robber baron.
Before his legends, Emperor Frederick III invested the castle to Baron Erasmus in 1478. He was a vassal of the Counts of Gorizia and is the most infamous historical inhabitant of the Predjama Castle.
Even then, Erasmus joined King Corvinus of Hungary during his conflict with his benefactor, Frederick III. Among his allies, Bishop Piccolomini consecrated the church of Predjama, eventually becoming Pope Pius II. Another comrade of Erasmus was commander Andrej Baumkircher of Vipava, Vienna’s savior from the Turkish attacks.
The Legend of Erasmus
According to the legend of Erasmus, in 1483, the knight came into conflict with the Habsburg establishment. In an argument, he murdered Marshall Pappenheim at the Vienna Court of Frederick III. During this time, Pappenheim reportedly offended the honor of Baumkircher, who was beheaded by Frederick.
The marshall was of the Emperor’s blood – a relative of the royal line. Frederick III ordered the death sentence for Erasmus. The latter, headstrong and rebellious, moved to his own castle situated in the cavern.
Unknown to many at the time, Predjama Castle had an opening that connects to the top of the cliff. The cave opening allowed for a continuous resupply of the castle even if there is an ongoing siege upfront.
The natural narrow shaft that led out of the castle is 121.4 ft (37 m) long, which Erasmus ordered to be enlarged at his behest. He further defied the emperor by attacking trader caravans between Rieste and Postumia.
Some parts of the legend say that much of the riches he got from the caravans were given to the poor. There is no clear indication that he did, but rather used his loot to taunt the besiegers. He threw excess food at them to tick them off, from fish to beef, to the fresh cherries that Slovenia had an abundance of.
During the siege, Gaspare Rauber (Ravbar), the captain of Trieste, learned that, somehow, Erasmus had a near unlimited supply of fresh food. Legend says, according to Johann Weichard Valvasor, notes that the siege lasted for a little more than a day.
The end of Erasmus came as Rauber bribed one of Erasmus’ servants. The servant revealed that the weakest point of the holdfast were the walls of the outhouse.
On an evening in 1484, Erasmus went on to use the outhouse, citing needs “that not even a Turkish sultan can do through a messenger.” The servant signaled the situation, where Rauber’s soldiers shot a cannonball towards the outhouse.
Depending on the records, there are two ways how the robber baron died. First, an avalanche of rocks buried him under the rubble, killing him in the process. Other records say he died when one of the stones hit him in the head.
Other newer research note, however, that Erasmus did not die in the outhouse, but rather in his room. At the time, the servant lit a candle outside of Erasmus’ window, creating a clear target in the night for the besiegers. Chroniclers even note that the cannonball came from a hand cannon, rather than a heavy cannon.
Predjama Castle After The Siege
After the siege and destruction of the original medieval castle, the castle’s ruins went to the Oberburgs. The rebuilt castle came to the Purgstall, but their castle crumbled under an earthquake.
By 1567, the Archduke Charles of Austria leased the castle. He gave it to Austrian Knight Giovanni Cobenzl (Ivan Kobenzl / Hans Kobencl). Cobenzl came from Kärnten and became the imperial ambassador to Rome and, eventually, Moscow.
As stated, the Cobenzl eventually bought the castle and remained its owners until 1810. Around the 17th century, the secret cave tunnel behind the cliff was closed out to prevent raiders.
The Conbenzl family eventually moved out of Predjama Castle, leaving the castle in a very poor condition. By around the 18th century and as early as 1750, they began to enlarge the castle. They added functional additions that marked the Renaissance style of the time. The huge entrance tower, the three-story residential building, and many other features were built before the 17th century.
In the 18th century, it became one of the favorite summer residences of the Cobenzl noble family. Philipp von Cobenzl, an Austrian statesman, and Count Ludwig von Cobenzl, a diplomat, spent much time in the castle.
After the Cobenzls, Count Michele Coronini von Cronberg inherited the castle in 1810. By 1846, the prince of Windischgrätz in Styria bought the castle and owned it until the end of World War II.
Predjamski Grad In The Modern Times
After the war, speleologists explored and reopened Erasmus’ tunnel. Several archaeological expeditions found artifacts from the caves themselves. These explorations found Neolithic and Bronze Age artifacts both in Erasmus’ cave and the Konjski Hlev (Horse Stable) – below it.
According to studies, prehistoric man used the caves as a form of defense, millennia before Erasmus himself used the caves. The castle was nationalized by Yugoslavia and Slovenia, its successor nation.
The countries converted the castle into a working historical museum for locals and tourists alike. It shows the daily life of medieval lords, managed in recent decades by the Notranjska Museum in Postojna.
During the restoration in 1990, excavators discovered the castle’s 16th-century treasures, including many arms of significance. They found its hidden wealth in a niche of the cellar and had those transferred to the National Museum of Ljubljana.
Since the late ‘90s, the castle received several careful restorations to restore its 16th-century look during the time of the Cobenzl ownership.
Visiting Predjama Castle
Predjama Castle is in the middle of a 403 ft (123m) high cliff overhang. It is at the entrance of a limestone cave, with a stream running under it towards another cave. There are also smaller caves in the locale used as horse stables.
Inside the Predjama Cave, you can find access to an underground cave system. Only small groups can visit, and you would need to rent special gear to move around. Even then, the sights are fantastic.
The Predjama Castle is interesting and romantic all year round. During the spring and summer, its surroundings are flourishing – teeming with green. In autumn, the entire locale is covered with the colors of the surrounding forests.
The castle itself is beautiful all year round. However, it is especially magical in winter when the surroundings are whitened by snow. The crystalline appearance of ice and powdery snow makes it feel like something from old stories and fairy tales.
The picturesque, mighty, challenging, mysterious, and unconquerable castle is embedded in a vertical wall. It has reigned for over 700 years, even with several reconstructions under its history. Its romantic image is complemented by the idyllic river Lokva, which sinks deep underground under the castle.
A Tour Of The Castle’s Interior
The castle’s interior is accessible for a small fee and offers a sight of the many artifacts found within. You can also see parts of the castle which was adopted from the cave and the sheer rock face of the holdfast.
When touring the interior, you can learn about the history of the castle and many of its former owners. Their equipment will be there as part of the court, too.
You will notice that there is a selection of original artifacts inside, including copies and models. The best furnished is the knight’s room, where you can find the bed chambers of the castle’s master.
In the dining room, you will also learn about castle life in the late Gothic period. In the renaissance hall on the third floor, you will find hunting trophies of Prince Windischgrätz, the last owner of the castle.
The Caves Below Predjama
From May to September, you can also visit the picturesque Predjama Cave. It is located right under Predjama Castle and, due to its location and climate, you’ll see much of the beauty of it upon entry.
Predjama cave has four separate levels, with an entrance named after Erasmus, the legendary robber baron. The exit at the top level connects to the plateau, known as foiba, and used to link the castle for resupply in the Vipava Valley.
The cave below Predjama Castle is the second-longest Slovenian tourist cave. It spreads over the four initial levels, with interconnected pathways except for the Erasmus Hole and Erasmus Tunnel.
The length of all parts of the cave discovered so far goes up to 8.7 miles (14 km). The tourist section currently measures as much as 2296 ft (700 m) and includes several crucial parts of the caves. These include the Horse Stable, the Main Trench, the Name Trench, the Great Hall, and Fiženca, where there is an exit to the surface.
Through here, the baron plagued merchant caravans and used their resources to restock his larders during a siege. Through the cave, there is a cave system that you can visit today and would need special gear to do so.
Beneath the castle is the infamous Horse Stable, connecting to the Lovka stream. It runs into a smaller cave and acts as a natural place where the horses ate and drank water.
The deepest level is filled with water due to the presence of the Lovka river. The vertical face of the cliff serves as the rear walls of the castle.
From 14th century records, a mention of “castrum Laforan” and “carsis positum,” which means ‘Cave Castle in the Karst’ (Slo: Jamski grad). Even before the fortress stood, the cave was already inhabited in prehistoric times.
There, they found several archaeological findings, including the presence of man from the Eneolithic period.
Touring The Predjama Castle Caves
The Predjama Caves offer three separate tours, which are not included in the regular tour of the Cave under Predjama Castle. More daring visitors can enjoy a prepared expedition of Erasmus and the Eastern Trench. There is also a guided walk to the Wind Hole.
Adventure tours are generally targeted at everyone who wants to visit the closed parts of the caves for mass tours. This area is a little more treacherous, and it can feel a little bit more demanding.
If you want some adrenaline pumping, you’ll like these closed-off areas. You can experience more demanding crossings, cross water obstacles and relive the exploration of caves.
Most of these adventures happen in small groups, generally with a qualified guide. The tours even divide up to three difficulty classes, according to the skill level needed to traverse the path.
Like most of the spelunking procedures here, a prior agreement is required to visit these caves.
One of the most famous adventures that you can do is the narrow Erasmus Trench, which is 121.4 ft (37m) of sheer rock. The cave, as the name implies, comes after the besieged knight had a connection with the outside world.
For this, some climbing skills are required. The tour lasts one hour and is only possible for groups of two, up to a maximum of five people. The route is demanding on the legs and can be hard to traverse, making it unsuitable for children under 15 years of age. The exit is on a plateau above the cave.
To the Wind Hole
For those who want to see the Cave under the castle more calmly outside of regular guided tours, the Wind Hole is a generally easy trek where you can bring children six and above.
If you want a harder challenge, bolder visitors can take a guide from the Great Hall through the Old Cave to the Wind Hole. The Wind Hole is a strait with a strong draft that can feel more treacherous but is actually less demanding.
The easy route is traversed in one hour.
The Eastern tunnel
The tour of the Eastern Tunnel is the most arduous, painful, and difficult spelunking activity within the caves, but it’s also the most rewarding. The entire tour lasts from three to six hours.
The demanding and strenuous cave tour goes through the Belščica siphon and is only possible in groups of two to a maximum of five people. It is not suitable for those with questionable fitness and children under 15 years of age.
Instructions For Visitors
Predjama Castle offers wholesome entertainment for the whole family. Almost throughout the year, you can visit the castle and find yourself transported to a whole new world.
The cave, however, is only usually open from June to August due to hibernating bats. If you start from Postojna Cave and travel to the castle, visitors can also take a shuttle. The ride can take around 20 minutes, but the experience will surely be unforgettable!
If you plan on doing the special cave tours, some rules apply to prepare for your visit. Depending on the season, many of these rules may change, so it’s best to call ahead.
Prior notice is required at least three working days before the tour. Many visitors should also provide as much as 30% advance payment to fund the equipment you will use.
Participants must also submit a written consent to participate in the cave tour. Rental of appropriate caving equipment, if necessary, is included in the price of the service.
If you want to see the chilly parts of the caves like the Eastern and Erasmus tunnels, you want some protection. Warmer long-sleeved clothing, long pants, warm socks, rubber work gloves, and spare clothing are recommended.
The Church of the Sorrowful Mother of God and Erasmus’ Linden
If you’re looking for some other places to visit nearby, The Church of the Sorrowful Mother of God is a good place to visit. It’s a small church found in the middle of the village Predjama, and it’s as legendary as its locale.
We know from old documents that it was consecrated by Pope Pius II, Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini, when he was still bishop of Trieste, that is, around 1450. The church still looks similar to how it looked before.
Its Gothic design is attested to by a nave, bell tower, choir, and later Renaissance rebuilding traces. The frescoes from the 15th century, which were destroyed by moisture, were attributed to the Master of Srednja vas near Šenčur. The golden carved altar dates from the 17th century.
Today, the church still shows the image it had at the time of consecration: a small but tall and noble Gothic building with a two-pole star-vaulted presbytery. The beautifully designed walls of the presbytery and the carefully profiled window walls made of carved stones show a great client.
The church was probably built as a castle chapel by the legendary Erasmus, the owner of the Predjama Castle at the time. As part of its legend, Erasmus was supposedly laid to rest under a linden tree. The linden tree was planted there by his beloved, signifying eternal life.
Touring The Church
If you find yourself visiting the locale, you will notice a few details that will help with your visit. You’ll notice that the church itself looks unpainted, but it is not like this before. It was once completely painted, and you’ll see the level of wear on the walls.
The remains of recently discovered frescoes on the north wall of the nave, showing an excerpt from the homage to the Church of Three Kings. The discovery also reveals the works of a Gothic painter known for his frescoes in the Church of St. Radegunde in Srednja vas near Šenčur in Kranj.
Traces of frescoes in the presbytery also come to light. The frescoes were created around 1450, simultaneously with the construction of the church. The building also boasts a very beautiful carved Renaissance portal from 1637. The side windows on the west wall next to the portal are dated 1645. That year the Bishop of Trieste Pompey also consecrated the altar in the church. In 1843 the church received a choir with an entrance from the inside.
Today’s altar in the presbytery is made in the Baroque tradition and has in the middle an oil image of the Sorrowful Mother of God (Christ’s lament), and above it a picture of Mary taken to heaven.
The beauty of Predjama Castle comes from its history, providence, and the romantic tales weaved in and around its halls. The legend of Erasmus creates a daring flair to the castle, but its sheer fantasy goes above and beyond.
If you’re planning to go on a historical tour in Slovenia, Predjama Castle is the place to go. If it’s not your thing, why not visit other places in Slovenia? From Ljubljana to Maribor to the Triglav and Kranjska Gora, there are so many things you can do.
Talk to us today! Let’s find out what you’ll enjoy in beautiful Slovenia. Predjama Castle and its legends are waiting for you to discover them.