Žovnek (castle)

12th century

Žovnek is among oldest castles in Slovenia. Its name is derived from the name of river Savinja, which also gave name to the valley between Kanik Alps and Zasavje hills.
First mentioning of old Freiherrs (barons) of Žovnek in documents is from around 1130, where as witness Gebhard "de Soune" is being refered. At the time of first mentioning a castle was allready standing, hidden in safe cover of eastern wall of Dobrovlje at the perophery of Lower Savinja Valley near village Podvrh, and is not explicitly referenced until 1278 as castrum Sevnekke. Žovnek's had early in posession also castle Ojstrica and towers Šenek and Libenštajn (towers of Šenek were supposedly two, one above the present manor, the other one above Žovnek castle), castle Lemberg at Šmarje from 13th century and later many others. So they were early in control of a good part of Savinja valley.
They were very attached to their castle and were returning here often, even after the year 1341 when they were ruling the castle of Celje as Counts of Celje. They left Žovnek castle for managing to their caretakers. Lords of Žovnek-Celje also had their treasures here, which were inherited by Ulrik from his father Friderik.

When the line of Counts of Celje died out in 1456 the Castle Žovnek became posession of Habsburgs. Through the centuries a lot of caretakers (owhers) were exchanged on the castle. It was still fortified in the 16th century because of the danger from turkish invasion. In 1635 it was finally abandoned by its owner at the time Jožef Čokl noble Ruhethal which built a manor named Ruhethal in the valley. After that the castle was used as a rock quarry. At the time of World War II the occupier stole all the inventory from the big castle tower, which was supposedly still furnished.

Castle core, which is surrounding closed inner courtyard from the beginning, has a shape of a building build on irregular floor plane. From this central, once two- or three-storey building only a few pieces were preserved. A lot more preserved is round two-storey tower, which was leaned on the old castle in the gothic era. Inside its walls attachements of former ribbed gothic arch are still visible, which gave esthetic point to architecturaly probably most ambiciously designed castle area - former chapel. In the walls of the tower the remains of a staircase are still visible, which led to the top, defence floor.
Allready in the 13th or early 14th century the old castle core was extensively reinforced. On the east and west side it was surrounded with high defence wall and at the time a new and still preserved today entrance motif was created. Entrance tower, in front of which a deep carved in rock moat was located, was equiped with wide, highly profiled portal, which is recunstructed. To get to the portal, which has 2 enries, we had to go through 2 inner wards.
Nothing was left from reconstruction works in the renaissance era. Round renaissance-styled small towers - bastions, which are visible on old depictions, have fallen apart. Žovnek was allready partially protected befor World War I, to be preserved at least as a ruin, but then there was no renconstruction works until the year 2000, where Cultural and historical society of Žovnek-Braslovče started reconstruction works.

A few interesting facts for the end. Konrad of Žovnek was known as a good tournament combatant. The castle is a popular mountaneering point and is visited also by people from other countries. In the book of impressions at the castle we can see a lot of commendations about reconstruction works.
Did you know, that the line of Žovnek's is still alive today but only by female side? Amongst other descendants of Žovneks are also British royalty (e.g. late priness Diana). More information can be found by following the last link, if you search the genealogy tree.
A lot more about lords of Žovnek can be found in very interesting book "Žovnek in Žovneški" by Franc Kralj.

Kralj, Franc: "Žovnek in Žovneški", Kulturno zgodovinsko društvo Žovnek Braslovče, 2000
Stopar, Ivan, Dr.: "Razvoj srednjeveške grajske arhitekture na slovenskem štajerskem", Slovenska matica Ljubljana, 1977
Stopar, Ivan, Dr.: "Gradovi na Slovenskem", Cankarjeva založba, 1987, ISBN 86-361-0280-4
Stopar, Ivan, Dr.: "Grajske stavbe v vzhodni Sloveniji - Spodnja Savinjska dolina", Založna Park, Ljubljana, 1992
Kos, Dušan: "Celjska Knjiga Listin 1", 1996, ISBN 961-6182-23-4
Contact details:
Kulturno zgodovinsko društvo Žovnek Braslovče
Braslovče 22
SI-3314 Braslovče
Web links:
Ruins of Žovnek castle (photo of the castle before reconstruction began)
Sannegg (Žovnek)
Genealogy tree of Žovnek family
Shows and entertainment:
Celebration at the opening of reconstructed castle portal, more like this in the future. No information about other events.
GPS coordinates:
N 46° 16.582' E 15° 0.223'


View from south direction
Inner ward and the castle, which were once connected by draw-bridge over th moat carved in the rock; path to the castle was once three times split up by moats
Remains of old guardhouse approximatelly 200m west from the castle
Approximately 50 meters from the castle first remains of inner ward appear
Entrance tower (currently under reconstruction) with renewed castle portal with two entrances, wooden bridge is not a draw bridge, chains are for decoration only
Path to the castle is finished by a view of an entrance tower and bergfried which was roofed in 2012 - company Stojakovič Prebold (photo from 2013)
Renewed castle portal, which was reconstructed according to historical sources; at the reconstruction fallen away stones, which were once allready part of the castle, were used, also processed, if needed
Walls on the inner side of entrance path from the west, surrounding castle objects near the castle courtyard (2013)
Far eastern romanesque wall from which slowly rocks fall away
A few tens of meters from castle core towards north, right at the cliff remote masonry
Bergfried (keep), view from north; tower was mostly used to protect castle entrance
Bergfried (keep); view from south
It has not yet been determined what was the purpose of this place located east under the bergfried but it is decorated by exceptional newly discovered architectural elements (2013)
Special attention goes to newly discovered Romanesque portal connection this place with the courtyard and at the same time determines ground level of the courtyard, which is still filled with 2-3 meters of debree (2013)
South-eastern tower, on which reconstruction works will soon begin
Eastern tower durin reconstruction from easter direction
Reconstruction works are in full swing; as soon as bergfried foundations are stabilized the cleaning of the entrance channel will continue (2013)
Uncovered walls of the rooms, which were located at the entrance driveway through the castle - some were likely for horses (October 2013)
View of the walls from east; most of it is still covered (October 2013)
Storey of bergfried, which is also being reconstructed
Loft of bergfried (2013)
New door are now decorating the entrance into the restored tower (October 2013)
Additionally breached wall on gothic tower from the inside
The wall is 2,70m thick here but rapidly thins with height
A view of palatium through inner courtyard towards south
Comparison of view of palatium through inner courtyard towards south (2013); palatium was sanitized well so a re-collapse will not occur
Reconstruction of the portal connecting palatium with inner courtyard (2013)
From the inside of castle core a tower was once accesible through here; opening in the ground floor bottom-right (visible on photos above) is secundary
View from palatium through inner courtyard towards bergfried on southwest (2013)
View from east towards the tower through the currently filled up courtyard (October 2013)
Southern wall, where early-gothic stonecutters signs are clearly visible
View to east towards Žovnek lake; I shoul mention that the lake is artificial and was not there at the time of Žovnek's
Ruins of old building east from the castle; it can be seen in ruins on Viscer's depiction from 1681
Construction of a wooden bridge which connects inner ward to castle entrance
View of bergfried nad nicely cleared terain from the west direction
Restoration works on west walls under the bergfried near the entrance tower (2013)
Construction works on storey entrance into bergfried
Loop on the south side of bergfried
Filled-up passage, which is located at the path from castle entrance towards east at the tower
Excavated foundation of arcades; it is assumed that the courtyard was arcaded (2013)
The place was vaulted and it is very likely that here is where they left the horses when entering the castle (October 2013)
Construction works; newly constructed arch
C. Reichert, castle Žovnek; additionally colored litography, around 1860 (outtake)
G. M. Vischer, castle Žovnek; copper engraving from "The book of castles", around 1681
Seal of Ulrik II. of Žovnek on a document about agreement with his brother Leopold III. from 1262 V 14. Lemberg (No. 31)
Document from emperor Ludvik for Friderika of Žovnek from 1341 IV 16. München (No. 212) in which he announces tha Friderik and his heirs were raised to Counts of Celje
Ruins of the entrance tower with a portal (1996), avtor Ivan Jakič (Vsi slovenski gradovi: leksikon slovenske grajske zapuščine, DZS 1997, ISBN 86-341-1771-5)
Mighty ruins of castle Žovnek (1996), avtor Ivan Jakič (Vsi slovenski gradovi: leksikon slovenske grajske zapuščine, DZS 1997, ISBN 86-341-1771-5)
Old postcard (1910)
Castle Žovnek from a nearby hill with its newly covered tower, 2016, avtor Branko Cimperman
Mild winter of 2015/16 granted construction works on entrance tower to take place, placing a new roof on it, 2016, avtor Branko Cimperman