A thousand-year castle perched on a grey rock
Over a thousand years old, Bled Castle is a cultural monument of national importance and a beacon of outstanding cultural heritage of Bled. The castle attracts more than half a million visitors a year and requires considerable investments and restoration and renovation projects. The central goal of the recent renovation that spanned nearly a decade was to protect this cultural heritage from decay and harmful effects of mass tourism. The castle, which is in ownership of the Republic of Slovenia, is managed by the Bled Culture Institute.
A challenging decade of renovation works
In 2007 the Bled Culture Institute adopted a 10-year management plan in accordance with its castle management contract, setting out all the required renovation works and interventions. The installations in the castle restaurant and kitchen were replaced, electricity and other installations were renewed, most castle roof surfaces were replaced, a new lightning protection system was installed on all parts of the structure to mitigate the high risk of lightning, and stone floors on all three courtyards, as well as stone walls surrounding the courtyards were renovated. In addition, archaeologists and other experts explored part of the lower courtyard and the eastern wall of the building that houses the restaurant and the Knight's Hall and contains remnants of wall paintings. The sewer pipe system was completely renovated, the path to the castle was paved with granite cobblestones and widened to allow visitors to meet, and green areas were planted following a new planting plan. In the past ten years, the Bled Culture Institute has invested over 10 million euros in the comprehensive renovation of Bled Castle and the related maintenance and other works.
Castle park gets a makeover
© Bled Culture Institute archive
The Bled Culture Institute, the managing authority of Bled Castle, a cultural monument of national importance, has also given the castle park a makeover. In accordance with the guidelines and permits of the Institute for the Protection of Cultural Heritage, part of the slope towards the castle's east portal was fixed as it had been severely damaged by a storm that had brought down several trees. The entire area of the park, consisting of three grassed terraces and stone retaining walls was completely redesigned to the plans of landscape architect Matej Kučina. The surfaces behind the retaining walls were fixed and a staircase was built, which connects the terraces and the parking area with the path that leads to the castle from the lake and from the Slovenski trg square. “We’ve made one more step towards a comprehensive renovation of the castle and its surroundings”, said Matjaž Završnik, director of the Bled Culture Institute. Archaeologists were at the site for the duration of works, since this is an archeologically sensitive area densely scattered with findings that testify to the settlement culture throughout history. “As archaeologists had to explore the terrain and supervise the constructions works, the completion of the project was more than a month overdue. However, their efforts were no in vain since excavations revealed graves, stone axes, Roman coins, arrowheads, ornaments, and other findings,” added Završnik. Park space was equipped with benches and other urban furniture, which can be used to host events, ceremonies and presentations suitable for this unique place, while the findings will be put on display in a small archaeological museum that is to be set up in a building at the foot of the castle hill.
Castle park design receives BigSee Architecture Award 2020
© Bled Culture Institute archive
Architect Matej Kučina, responsible for the renovation of Bled Castle, has received the international BigSEE Architecture Award 2020 - Grand Prix.
As written in the grounds for the award, the design of the castle park represents a modern interpretation of its historic features. The investment comprised a complete restoration of all supporting walls of the castle, tearing down and rebuilding the structures to original dimensions, construction of 250 metres of new, partially-lit pathways, including a lookout pier and three stairways to facilitate passage over the park. New turf was laid down across nearly all the surface, old and decaying trees were removed and young trees were planted as specified in the acquired consents and the project plan. Finally, new benches were installed. The investment totalled just over EUR 300,000.
Museum of Modern Art in Bled
On the basis of an agreement concluded with the Bled Culture Institute, Ljubljana-based company Artarhiv d.o.o. is planning to build a new culture centre at the Pristava site below Bled Castle – the Museum of Modern Art. The museum will hold displays of the works of acclaimed artists, most of them sourced from the private collection of Igor and Mojca Lah.
The investor has devoted particular attention to the museum’s architectural design and commissioned British architect David Chipperfield and his team of architects and engineers who have already created many outstanding projects of similar content worldwide.
The first milestone towards the realization of the project has been passed witht he acquisition of the building permit. The project is extremely high profile as it will upgrade Bled’s offer of cultural and tourist attractions and put Bled on the map of cultural travel in Slovenia and beyond. When the Bled Museum of Modern Arts opens its door, it will push to the top of the list of the area's cultural and tourist attractions, acting as an incentive for visitors and guests to extend their stay since they will need at least two days to explore all the poiunts of interest offered withion the scope of the Bled Castle complex.
Romana Purkart, Bled Green Coordinator