Johann Weichard Valvasor
Relevant Non-Istrians

Bogenšperk castle today.

Bogenšperk Castle

Bogenšperk castle stands on a ridge above the settlement of Dvor (then called ?), south-east of Litija. The exact time of origin of the castle is not known. It was first mentioned in 1533 as a property of the Wagen family, after whom it was named Wagesberg.

One of the youngest castles in [Slovenia] stands like a white flower on a high hill, surrounded with rustling forests, about forty kilometres east of Ljubljana. It would have probably remained largely unknown, like many castles in the country, if it hadn’t been so closely connected to the name of Johann Weichard Valvasor, a famous 17th century scholar. Since his most notable interest and contribution to the nation’s history was depicting the geographical features of the country, it is no coincidence that he chose a castle with a splendid view of the wide countryside as his home.

Archaeological finds at the beginning of the last century indicate that prehistoric man had settled in the surrounding areas. Even though the origins of the castle are shrouded in mystery, the castle’s original name, Wagensperg, reveals a connection with the Wagen family, who were nobles that came to Carniola from Bavaria in the 15th century. As the castle first appears in historical records in 1533, it is assumed that it was built after the great earthquake that damaged several castles in the region in 1511, including the Lichtenberg tower castle, a medieval fortress, just down the hill from Bogenšperk, where the Wagen family had previously lived. The new castle was a Renaissance building with typical round towers.

Valvasor's engraving of Wagensperg - Bogenšperk castle.

The Wagens owned the castle until 1630, after which it changed hands many times in a short period of time. Among its many owners was Johann Weichard Valvasor, probably the most eminent 17th century Austrian from the Carniola region (today comprising the major part of Slovenia). He was a nobleman, a commander in the Austrian army, historian, polymath, ethnographer, and the first person to fully depict the ethnographical and geographical features of the Carniola region. He compiled them in a comprehensive encyclopaedia, Slava vojvodine Kranjske (Glory of the Duchy of Carniola), which influenced geoscience for centuries and provided valuable information about the castles in Carniola.

Valvasor had a study, a vast library, an engraving workshop and the first copperplate-printing press in the region installed in Bogenšperk castle. However, due to the high costs associated with the publication of his work, which he financed on his own, he was forced to sell the castle after twenty years to pay off debts. The castle belonged to various noblemen throughout the 18th and early 19th centuries, before it became the property of the Windisch-Gratz family, who owned it until the end of the Second World War.

The castle has the shape of an irregular square, with two square and two rounded towers at its corners, and a courtyard in the middle, which gives the castle an authentic medieval feel. It was constructed in the 16th century and its interior was altered and completely refurbished in the 17th century. Even though it was severely damaged by fire in the middle of the 18th century and completely plundered after the last war its original structure remained intact. The castle was fully restored in the late sixties after having fallen into decay.

In 1970, a systematic renovation was begun on Valvasor's Bogenšperk castle. In 1979 archaeological research confirmed the modest Renaissance plan of the garden noted in Valvasor's pictures. Between the perimeter walls and the edge of the buildings they had a decorative/vegetable garden, an orchard and a round pond with ducks swimming about. They probably had a more decorative garden, divided into decorated rectangles, at the side of the courtyard. The parcel division of the original garden was preserved also after the planting of additional park trees in the time of the Windischgraetz family in the 19th century, when the park was redone in the manner of the late landscape style. By the paths leading towards the castle on the north side they planted a linden tree promenade, which is still well preserved today.

The restored / renovated castle shows the preserved typical Renaissance design from the 16th century. Four different castle tracts are accented by corner towers, of which the southwest and north-east are cylindrical, while the south-east and north-west have a square floor plan. Above the portal on the west facade of the castle there is a renovated wooden balcony on the first floor. Tracts surround the inner courtyard, which has an arcade on two sides. The clock tower has been reconstructed as well. On the facades we can find built-in coats-of-arms: on the north tract the new coat-of-arms of the Wagens (I. Krištof) from the year 1558, and a coat-of-arms of the Liechtenbergs with the coat-of-arms of the Wagens chiselled over it, on the west tract a Robba-style Madonna, and on the south the coats-of-arms of the Gallo family (?). The plan of the inner area is from the period of Valvasor's rearrangement. On the first floor in the southwest tower, Valvasor's former study with a smaller reconstructed printing house is arranged. The library, and occasional wedding hall, is fitted with furniture. In the passage from the yard to the park there is a larger cistern dug in.

The presentation of Valvasor's life and work at Wagensberg Castle - Bogenšperk was conceived in 1980 as a joint venture between the Castle’s renovation committee, the TMS and Dr Branko Reisp. The collection was remodelled and renovated by the TMS and Javni Zavod Bogenšperk (Wagensberg Institute) in 2002.

In 1989, on the 300th anniversary of The Glory of the Duchy of Carniola, a collection of costumes was reconstructed from the illustrations and descriptions in Valvasor`s book. The museum also includes an exhibition of witchcraft and superstition, and exhibitions of geological and hunting exhibitions from the Technical Museum of Slovenia.

Eight show-cases exhibit rocks, fossils and minerals, collected exclusively on the territory of the municipality of Litija. Some of the minerals that are on display belong to the famous Zois Collection of Minerals, which ranks as one of the most important existing collections. The geodesic collection (installed in 1987) is also connected with Valvasor, who together with his collaborators developed a map of the Slovene lands and neighbouring Croatia. It shows Valvasor`s significant contribution to the transcription of Slovene geographical names. The collection is a survey of cartography from its beginnings in the Roman empire to the present day, with a special emphasis on the development of cartography in Slovenia in the 19th century (from which the famous Kozler map of the Slovene lands dates) and after the Second World War. The hunting collection presents hunting trophies provided by the associations of hunters from Zasavje. The collection on the Second World War is the oldest museum collection in Bogenšperk Castle, and was opened in 1972. During the Second World War Bogenšperk Castle was, for a short period, a border crossing point between Germany and Italy, who had occupied and divided between them most of the territory of Slovenia.

During the guided tour of the castle, visitors see the three-room exhibit on Valvasor. In the first, a special construction presents publications printed in Bogenšperk (a total of eleven different copperplate printed works were produced in eleven years, six of a topographical nature and three with religious content). Part of the collection presents superstitions connected with weddings, folk medicine and casting spells. Here the exhibits are dream books, honey-pastry figurines for people in love, playing cards, dice, instructions for palmistry, prescriptions from books on folk medicine and house blessings. The second room presents a reconstruction of the copperplate workshop as it was in Bogenšperk in Valvasor`s time, replete with tools, accessories, as well as machinery and other devices, including a wooden cylinder press for the reproduction of the copperplate engravings. The third room is his reconstructed study, including the chair and desk at which he conceived and penned his work and an original copy of the Glory of the Duchy of Carniola.

The workshop hosts occasional demonstrations of the offset printing process using the press, and where also exact copies of Valvasor’s original plates are used to make imprints.There is also a cartographic collection that includes Valvasor's works, a special museum exhibition devoted to folk superstitions and witchcraft in Slovenia and an exhibition of national costumes found in the Glory of the Duchy of Carniola, plus a number of other exhibits. The guided tour of the castle also includes the castle library, a secret room, the castle chapel, and a display of knightly armour and weapons.

Apart from its exhibitions, the museum also regularly hosts wedding ceremonies and cultural events in the former library of the castle with the castle garden freely accessible. It is one of the most popular venues for such events in Slovenia. The new chapel on the ground floor was opened in 1991, and the organs in the hall were bought in 1992.

Since 1998 the Bogenšperk Public Institute manages the building.


  • The Age of Castles by Uroš Lebar, Bogenšperk Castle --

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This page compliments of Marisa Ciceran

Created: Wednesday, February 22, 2006; Last Updated: Tuesday, November 06, 2012
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