The story of Friedrichstein Castle begins in 1422 upon the castle’s completion by Frederick (Friedrich) II of Celje, son of Count Herman II. The castle, built as a sprawling fortress on top of a precipitous hill to protect the Kočevsko region from attacks by Ottoman Turks, was built using construction methods typical of older castles and was quite an anachronism already in the 15th century. Its palatial dwelling was located in its northern part and was separated by cross-walls, while the southern part housed a bergfried - a mighty defense tower. The inner courtyard still contains a natural rock, which visitors named "Veronica's seat".
Photo: Gal Žvab
The story of Frederick of Celje and Veronika of Desenice Friedrichstein
Castle was the backdrop for the love story between the powerful Frederick of Celje and Veronika of Desenice, a minor noblewoman. Despite strong opposition from Frederick's father, Count Herman II of Celje, the lovers secretly married and fled to Friedrichstein Castle. This was Frederick’s second marriage and his first wife died in suspicious circumstances – rumours claimed Frederick murdered her. Count Herman II ordered their capture and while Veronika managed to escape, Frederick was arrested by his father’s soldiers and imprisoned in the castle’s tower. Veronika, too, was eventually caught and charged with witchcraft, but was acquitted by the courts. Out of revenge, Count Herman II ordered two knights to kill her and they did so by drowning. He also ordered that the barely finished Friedrichstein Castle be demolished.
Reconstruction of the castle and decline of the Counts of Celje
After regaining his freedom, Frederick had Friedrichstein Castle rebuilt in 1433, but the Counts of Celje only retained its possession until 1456, when Ulrich II of Celje, Frederick II’s son and the last in the lineage of these mighty counts, was assassinated in Belgrade. Ulrich's possessions were inherited by the Habsburgs, who then rented the castle out to noble families.
Great peasant revolts
In 1507, Friedrichstein Castle came into the possession of Baron Jörg von Thurn, who is considered one of the main causes for the great Slovenian peasant revolt of 1515. Baron Thurn’s demands for ever more forced labour and increased taxes pushed the already impoverished peasants even deeper into poverty. Due to famine, extremely poor living conditions, cruel exploitation and harsh treatment by the nobility, the Kočevje region became the nucleus of the great Slovene peasant revolt. In the uprising, Kočevje farmers killed Thurn and his steward Jurij Stržen.
Karl Postl, Ruins of the Friedrichstein Castle, watercolour, 1864 (in: Karl Postl, "Malerische Skitzen von Gottsche", inventory number Ms 308).
The Kočevje region passed into the possession of the Turjak family in 1650, Who built a new manor in the centre of Kočevje and left the remote Friedrichstein Castle to dilapidation. Today, only the ruins of the once highest-lying castle building in Slovenia remain. They have been partially restored and protected from further deterioration, but parts of it are still left to the ravages of time.