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Spis Castle, Slovakia

The ruins of Spiš Castle in eastern Slovakia form one of the largest castle sites in Central Europe. The castle is situated above the town of Spišské Podhradieand the village of Žehra, in the region known as Spiš. It was included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1993 (together with the adjacent locations of Spišská Kapitula, Spišské Podhradie and Žehra).

Spiš Castle was built in the 12th century on the site of an earlier castle. It was the political, administrative, economic and cultural centre of Spiš County of the Kingdom of Hungary. Before 1464, it was owned by the kings of Hungary, afterwards (until 1528) by the Zápolya family, the Thurzo family (1531-1635), the Csáky family (1638-1945), ?nd (since 1945) by the state Slovakia. Originally a Romanesque stone castle with fortifications, a two-story Romanesque palace and a three nave Romanesque-Gothic basilica, were constructed by the second half of the 13th century.

A second extramural settlement was built in the 14th century, by which the castle area was doubled. The castle was completely rebuilt in the 15th century; the castle walls were heightened and a third extramural settlement was constructed. A late Gothic chapel was added around 1470. The Zápolya clan performed late Gothic transformations, which made the upper castle into a comfortable family residence, typical of late Renaissance residences of the 16th and 17th centuries. The last owners of the Spiš Castle the family Csáky deserted the castle, in early 18th century considered too uncomfortable to live in. They moved to the newly build nearby village castles/palaces in Hodkovce by Žehra and Spišský Hrhov.

In 1780, the castle burned down, and has been in ruins since. The castle was partly reconstructed in the second half of the 20th century, and extensive archaeological research was carried out on the site. The reconstructed sections house displays of the Spiš Museum.

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