The phoenix rose from the ashes, Grabštejn from ruin

Grabštejn castle was probably built around the mid-13th century, perhaps on the site of the apparent (but so far not discovered in the records) Slavic Olšica hill fort. Some time between 1256 and 1257 King Přemysl Otakar II took it from the incumbent occupants (unknown) and gave it to the lords of Donín (Dohna). The trapezoid castle core on a rocky ridge, with a palace on the northern ramparts, was protected by a large round tower within the configuration. The St. Barbara chapel was recorded in 1387. In the 15th century the site of the castle core expanded to the south and west, and a lower castle, with a large east wing and two artillery bastions on the southern side, appeared in place of the existing outer bailey. Rescue archaeological research has shown the remains of buildings relics and rampart walls that would date this bailey to the end of the 13th century.

At the beginning of the 16th century the palace was rebuilt and expanded. By the mid-16th century the lower castle had also been rebuilt. After 1562 the castle had a Renaissance reconstruction under the Emperor‘s advisor Georg Mehl von Strelitz (by 1569 the St. Barbara chapel was richly decorated, and the castle was covered with sgraffiti). The whole perimeter of the upper and lower castle was then built up.

In 1622 the great tower burned down and in 1645 the castle was besieged by the Swedes. At the end of the Thirty Years War (in 1651) the Trauttmansdorffs acquired the castle. In the third quarter of the 17th century the external fortifications were destroyed, by imperial command. From 1704 the castle belonged to Jan Václav Gallas. In 1782 the interiors were remodelled in a Late Baroque manner. Some time later a park was founded (1818). The castle was hit by lightning in 1843 and during a later Neo-Classical renovation several gables were taken down and it was even lowered by a whole floor at some stage. In 1846 the tower had a Neo-Gothic overhaul.

After 1945 the castle was used by the army, and it gradually almost became a ruin. Only after 1989 did preliminary rescue work commence. It began with the securing of the statics on the supporting structures, i.e. roofs, walls and ceilings.

The castle was opened to the public again in 1993, even while these repairs were ongoing. Meanwhile the necessary archaeological, restoration and building-historical research took place and a heritage-sensitive concept for restoring the castle was conceived. However it took a long time before this concept was fulfilled and all the energy was devoted to restoring and repairing the castle building. This was also because so little of the original garniture was left that during the restoration great efforts were devoted to ensure all the original historic features were returned to their proper location. The St. Barbara chapel with Mannerist wallpaintings was also restored. Elements of the original Clam-Gallas collections have gradually been restored to the interiors, for example large Rococo ‘panel‘ paintings from the circle of the Graz painter Johann Baptist Raunacher. A new tour route, which includes the Hall of the Ancestors with the Gallas portrait gallery, the drawing room, bedroom of Countess Josephine Clam-Gallas, Renaissance banqueting hall and the room belonging to Georg Mehl von Strelitz (a 16th century owner) was incorporated in 2011. The fully furnished apartment of the head gamekeeper, restored in its original setting, is evidence that Grabštejn was used as the main adminisitrative seat by the Clam-Gallas family.

A stewards house (the ‘New Palace‘) grew up northeast under the castle in 1586 and represents an independent entity (which is part of a currently inaccessible military area). Under Christian Christoph Clam-Gallas it was Neo--Classicially altered in 1818, and a guesthouse was then built across from it in 1833. 

Karel Kuča