Built in the 12th century in Slovenia, Predjama Castle is carved into a 400-foot cliffside with nine miles of complex tunnels beneath it — that once helped a local 'Robin Hood' to evade capture.
At the center of a 400-foot cliff in southern Slovenia juts Predjama Castle, fortress built into a mountainside over a complex system of underground caves. Indeed, it is the largest cave castle in the world — and has stood for over 800 years.
Today, it is an immensely popular tourist attraction where people from all across the world can learn about the castle’s history, walk through its corridors, and explore the expansive Postojna cave system in which the castle is built.
And while the castle itself is a marvelous fairy tale-like wonder, its history is equally stupendous and out of the ordinary.
The Storied History Of Predjama Castle
Though records of the inimitable Predjama Castle date back to 1202, the most famous of its historical inhabitants was the 15th-century knight, Erazem Lueger — also known as Erasmus of Lueg.
According to Lonely Planet, Lueger, much like the fabled Robin Hood, was a legendary robber-baron, stealing from the wealthy and giving to the poor. When Austria and Hungary went to war during the late 1400s, it is said that Lueger placed his allegiance with the latter.
After a duel against the Imperial Marshal of the Austrian Habsburg Court, Count Pappenheim, Erazem fled to Predjama Castle wherein he awaited the inevitable Austrian retaliation that would seek to draw him out.
In the meantime, however, he continued his Robin Hood deeds, sneaking out of the castle through a secret passage hidden in the rock wall connecting the castle to the nearly nine miles of caves behind it.
The Austrians came in 1484, attempting to lay siege to the castle — but to no avail.
The castle proved to be impenetrable, and in a display of boisterous confidence, Erazem stood above the besieging army and allegedly showered them with fresh cherries from the nearby valley.
Unfortunately for Erazem, one of his servants had taken a disliking to him, and one year and one day after the Austrian army began their attack, the servant betrayed him.
Erazem ventured to the third-floor latrine, which sat suspended over a cliff, and just as he was finishing his last bowel movement, a cannonball soared through the air and collided with the outhouse, killing Erazem as he sat on the toilet.
All it took was his servant lighting a torch to indicate to the Austrian army where Erazem was.
Legend tells that Erazem was then buried in the cemetery of a nearby church, Our Lady of Sorrows, where a linden tree stands to this day.
The Impressive Layout Inspires Fiction
Naturally, part of Predjama Castle's appeal is the large cave system that sits behind it, which has been carved out over the years and inlaid with stairs and railings to make the cave system safer to traverse.
This extensive limestone cave system is known as the "Karst" Caves, a variation of the Latin name Carsus, given to the plateau above Trieste.
Modern-day Predjama Castle, while structurally the same as it was during Erazem's time, serves a very different purpose.
Per CNN, visitors exploring Predjama Castle now enter across a drawbridge to the courtroom, with open access to each of the castle's corridors and rooms. Back in the day, though, most visitors never made it past the courtroom — and those who did were likely unlucky.
A thick wooden door in the courtroom provides access the the torture chamber. While no siege has been lain to the castle in recent years, the nearly six-feet-thick walls stand as a testament to the castle's strength. The former barracks inside have been converted into an armory and museum.
On the third floor of the castle is an open terrace that allows visitors to look out over the valley and village below. There are also "murder holes" like gun loops and arrow slits — as well as others which were used to pour boiling oil or molten resin onto besiegers.
Given the castle's long, fabled history and fascinating construction, it's easy to see why Predjama Castle inspired author George R.R. Martin to incorporate a similar structure in Game of Thrones' Westeros after he visited Predjama in June 2011.