One of the most picturesque castles in Slovenia, Predjama Castle is built into an overhanging rock in front of a karst cave hall that is connected with a cave system underneath the castle. It is situated just a a few kilometres from the entrance to the Postojna Cave. The castle is now a museum on five floors that shows the life in the 16th century, with an armoury, dungeon, halls, living quarters and other castle facilities. Interesting is the dialogue between man-made architecture and natural structures that combine into the castle’s fortification system.
The castle was probably built in the 12th century, but was first mentioned in the year 1274 with the German name Luegg. The owners of the castle were Patriarchs of Aquileia who named it in rough translation from the Latin Cave Castle in the Karst, the castle’s Slovene name, Predjamski grad means “Castle in front of the cave”. It was built in Gothic style on natural, protected site approachable, with difficulty, from just one side. The vassals under Aquilean authority were the Luegg (Jamski) noble family that expanded and fortified the castle.
The castle was notorious – as the hide-out of brigands – even before the time of Erazem Jamski (Lueger), the local Robin Hood from the end of the 15th century. He was the descendant of the Imperial Governor of Trieste, Nikolaj Lueger, who was the vassal of the Counts of Görz. According to legend, Erazem came into conflict with the Habsburgs when he killed the commander of the Imperial army Marshall Pappencheim, who had offended the honour of Erazem’s deceased friend, Andrej Baumkircher of Vipava. Taking sides with Mathias Corvinus he fortified himself with his troops in Predjama Castle, attacked the town of Trieste twice and defied the imperial army for quite a long time. While under siege, he and his associates were supplied through the caves and were very difficult to conquer. As it often happens in warfare, he was betrayed and allegedly shot with a canon in his restroom. So first castle was seized by the Habsburgs and consequently damaged.
A new fortress was made by the Purgstall family, but soon the legendary earthquake in 1511 ruined the castle. In 1567 the Austrian Archduke Karel of Austria invested the Kobencl family from Prosek with the Jama manor. They bought the poorly castle and built a new one in Renaissance style just under the overhanging rock where the old mediaeval fortress used to stand. The castle has remained in such form, virtually unchanged, until the present. In the 18th century, it became the Kobencl family’s favourite summer residence. The last Kobencl bequeathed Predjama Castle to his relative, Count Mihael Coronini from Kromberk, whose wife sold the fortress to Prince Weriand Windischgrätz in 1846. Thereafter it remained in the hands of the Windischgrätz family until 1945, when it was nationalised by Yugoslav authorities and turned into a museum.
Renovation and management
At first Predjama Castle was managed by the Notranjska Museum in Postojna. Since the late 1990s the castle has been under renovation with the aim of restoring it to how its look in the time of the Kobencl noble family. Since 2007 the Castle has been managed by the Postojnska jama d.d. company located in Postojna, while some museum items situated at the Castle are owned by the Notranjska Museum, Postojna.
A centuries-old linden stands in front of the castle and legend has it that Erazem of Predjama is buried underneath it. The small Gothic church in front of the castle was recently renovated; its main attractions are frescoes from the 15th century and a Baroque altar.
Predjama Castle as well as the Brežice Castle Knight’s Hall was featured in the 1986 Kung-fu film The Armour of God starring Jackie Chan. It was also investigated for paranormal activity in a 2008 episode of Ghost Hunters International on the Sci Fi Channel.
Every year in the summer time the Erazem Medieaval Tournament is organised and carried out according to documented historic facts and models from the 16th century. This international mediaeval event involves several different classes and generations – nobles, serfs, and children. Bold knights – archers, swordsmen and horsemen – show off their skills on the Field of Combat. In the Knights’ Camp, swordsmen introduce themselves, their equipment and their mediaeval way of life. Merchants and craftsmen sell mediaeval products, flag throwers, belly dancers, magicians, puppet shows, musicians and other performers display their talents and re-enact historical events. A peasant festivity known as gauda is organised and tasty mediaeval food is prepared.
Surrounding the castle is an amazing karst underworld to explore. The world renown Postojna Cave is just 11 kilometres away. For those with more spelunking experience, a visit with a professional guide and equipment to some of the less approachable caves in direct proximity of the castle can be organised on prior notice.