Castles in Ribnica and the surrounding area
The castles in Ribnica and the surrounding area have a rich and fascinating history, which changed dramatically over the centuries.
Ribnica boasts three castles, only one of the three, however, has been preserved, while the other two are in ruins. Back in the day, these castles were owned and inhabited by the Counts of Celje, Ortenburg, Habsburg and many others.
Castles have borne witness to the past in the most remarkable way and have left a deep mark wherever they were built.
The Ribnica Castle
The Ribnica Castle was built along a medieval trade road on a plain in the middle of the Ribnica Valley. The interesting thing about the castle is that it is located in the lowlands, right next to the river Bistrica. The earliest mention of the castle goes back to a 1263 document, where it was mentioned as castra Reiuenz.
The former castle core, built in the 13th century, was a two-storey building composed of four unequal wings enclosing a small square-shaped inner courtyard with a fountain that still stands today.
Throughout its past, the castle was owned by a number of different families – Counts of Auersperg, Counts of Ortenburg, Counts of Celje, the House of Habsburgs, Counts of Khisle, Barons of Trilek and Counts of Cobenzl. Its last owner was the Rudež family, which owned the estate from 1810 to 1935. In 1935, the castle’s last owner, Anton Rudež Jr., sold the castle complex to the state of Yugoslavia, which used it for the army. The fate of the Ribnica Castle complex was marked most deeply by World War II – after the war, the castle ended up burnt-down and destroyed. In the 1950s, a development plan was drawn up on the initiative of the Ribnica Municipal People’s Committee. Between 1958 and 1961, the castle area was renovated and redeveloped based on this plan.
The renovated Ribnica Castle was used to house the just-established Museum of Ribnica with an ethnological collection and a café, which was replaced by a wedding hall in 1978. In the 1980s, the so-called Park of Cultural Workers with busts of sixty-five important natives of Ribnica was set up in the castle park. Today, the remains of a mighty anti-Ottoman fortress, designed in the form of a moated castle, are still visible.
Today, the Ribnica Castle is dedicated to the cultural manifestation of Ribnica. The castle houses the exhibition space of the Museum of Ribnica, the main guardian of the local cultural heritage. There is also an open-air theatre, where all sorts of events take place throughout the year. Inside the castle complex, there is also a café, where you can socialize in the beautiful castle setting.
Did you know that Marina Češarek from Ribnica was the last witch to have been burnt at the stake? The Museum of Ribnica boasts the only exhibition dedicated to the witch trials in Slovenia. Come and see it!
The Ortnek castle was built on the Veliki Žrnovec hill (765 m) north of Ribnica. It is one of the highest castle complexes in Slovenia.
Take a hiking trail and visit Ortnek Castle. The described route can be found in the booklet of hiking trails, which can be accessed by clicking on the button below.
The Ortnek Castle complex, consisting of the Ortnek and Ottenstein castle buildings, was built on the Veliki Žrnovec hill (765 m) to the north of Ribnica. It is one of the highland castle complexes built at the highest elevation in Slovenia. Nothing remains of the Ottenstein building, not even the foundations, there are however, ruins of the Ortnek building, a once-mighty castle with four differently designed towers.
The earliest mention of the Ortnek Castle goes back to 1329 as Ornek. The castle is said to be named after the Counts of Ortenburg, who had it built. The castle was later taken over first by the Counts of Celje, and in the 15th century by the Habsburgs, followed by the Lambergs, the Moscons, and the Lichtenbergs. The last and current owner of the castle is the Kosler family. About 100 m downhill from the castle stood the Ottenstein tower, which was supposedly built in the Middle Ages. It is assumed that due to its location on a prominent hill, the tower might have been a separately located building/tower of the Ribnica Castle, as it had a superb view of the entire Ribnica Valley.
The castle complex had an exclusively defensive and protective function for the Counts of Ortenburg. They did not use it a residence – they lived in the Ribnica Castle.
Next to the former Ortnek castle stand the remains of the Church of St. George from the 17th century. The church interior was heavily desecrated during and after World War II, and much of its equipment was looted and destroyed. Some pieces of the interior equipment have been saved and are now stored in several locations across Slovenia.
To get to the once-mighty castle, follow the well-kept and waymarked ‘Žlebič Trail Leading to the Ortnek Old Castle’, from where you can enjoy a fine view of the karst plateaus of Slemena and Grmada.
The least preserved (lowland) castle in the area of Ribnica is the Breg Castle, which is about 1.5 km away from the Ribnica Castle. It had been built in the 15th century by Andrej Lamberg, who lived there with his wife. The castle changed hands a number of times, the last owner being the Ribnica Castle keeper, Anton Rudež, who demolished the half-ruined castle after 1810. The castle met a similar fate to that of some other castles in Slovenia – most of the building materials were used for new constructions.
The interesting thing about the castle is that Primož Trubar gave a sermon in it in late August 1562.
The previously 110-cm-thick defensive wall has crumbled to ruins. The only part remaining is one of the main building’s walls, which is almost as high as the former castle.