"In the regional language the castle and nobility Wagensperg is called Bogenšperk; it lies in the Carniola, four miles from Ljubljana. The castle is another one of those old mountain castles built on a high hill surrounded by woods. It overlooks the high mountains of the Slovenian Carinthia and Styria, has fresh and healthy air, no plains, however, there are fields over the hills, excellent fruit of every kind – four or five cherries growing from the same stem – beautiful black and yellow marble nearby a vineyard and not far away from the castle, which I've already described."

This is how Bogenšperk castle was described already in 1689 in the work of The Glory of the Duchy of Carniola by famous explorer and polymath Johann Weikhard von Valvasor, who spent 20 years of his life (1672 – 1692) living in this castle.

Lihtenberk castle – predecessor of today's Bogenšperk

Bogenšperk castle started out as Lihtenberk castle – a medieval fortress that used to stand nearby today's Bogenšperk and was built by the mighty family of Lichtenberg in the middle of the 12th century. The male line of the family died out in the second half of the 15th century; their last descendant, Veronika, married into the noble house of Wagen – exactly this family marked the true beginning of the Bogenšperk castle (German Wagensperg). Johann Weikhard von Valvasor mentions Boltežar Wagen as the first owner of the castle in 1462, however, the building of Bogenšperk more likely took place in 1511. According to seismologists, this year was marked by one of most the powerful earthquakes in the history of Slovenian territory. The natural disaster did not spare castles, not even Lihtenberk.

Wagen family and the building of Bogenšperk

LAfter the earthquake, Lihtenberk became too dangerous to live in and did not meet the standards of living anymore. Despite the threat posed by the Turks, people mainly abandoned the style of fortress building. The reason family Wagen decided to build Bogenšperk castle on this spot was probably a big piece of rock under it (more than 65 feet thick). Back then people thought this would provide firmness for the building, thus earthquake safety. Therefore, the Wagen family were most likely the builders of this structure, that is where it also got its name from. Bogenšperk castle can be considered a Renaissance building with four towers (according to oral tradition, they were built first and then connected to one another), where the northern one is less prominent than the rest. The family of Wagen, who even had the right of coinage during their power, owned the castle until the first half of the 17th century.

Passing the castle from hand to hand

Jurij, the last member of the family, left the castle to Augustinian monks, with whom he lived as a tertiary until his death in 1630. However, the mentioned Catholic order did not possess the castle. Because of Jurij’s debts, the castle’s ownership was put into the hands of the main creditor, pharmacist and then mayor of Ljubljana, Horacij. But apparently the latter soon sold it to Krištof Kočevar who owned Bogenšperk only for a short period of time. The castle was then bought by nobleman Jurij Kheysell and later in 1672 by Johann Weikhard von Valvasor. After Valvasor's bankruptcy in 1692, the castle became the property of Janez Andrej Gandin. In the fire caused by lightning in April 1759, the castle suffered a lot of damage. Then owner Aleksander Anton Höfern managed Bogenšperk poorly and despite the help of States with its renovation, the castle and its estate again changed the owner in 1774 – they were taken over by Höfern's biggest creditor, Mihael Skube from Ribnica, who sold it to the family of Wogathey (Bogataj) only 18 years later. Nevertheless, passing the castle from hand to hand was not yet over. Ignac Bogataj, the son of Janez Štefan who bought the building, sold the castle together with its land in 1853 to Duke Weriand von Windischgrätz, who started buying property in Carniola and Lower Styria around that time. Beside Bogenšperk, he also became the owner of Hošperk, Konjice, Podsreda and Predjama castle. The family also set itself to partly renovate the building and the traces of their work are still visible in the library today.

The 20th century

In the 20th century a special chapter began in Bogenšperk's history; a series of interesting events followed one after another, especially in the period after the First World War. One of the most attention-grabbing events was definitely when Prince Paul of Yugoslavia, the main personality of the Royal governorship after the assassination of King Alexander in October 1934 in Marseille, expressed his interest in buying the castle and its estate as his summer residence.

The Second World War did not just temporary divide Slovenia, but also denoted a turning point for Bogenšperk. In April 1941 the castle served as a border crossing between Germany and Italy, the occupying forces that divided most of the Slovenian territory. The border was later moved, but fatally marked these lands. During capitulation in September 1943, the Windischgrätz family left Bogenšperk and took its most precious valuables. After the departure of the German army at the end of the war in 1945 and after serving as a military hospital, the castle came to its lowest point, for it was entirely robbed. In such bad conditions it became home to Jesuit monks that were banished from the monastery of Saint Joseph in Ljubljana. Jesuits moved into Bogenšperk in 1949 and managed the castle and its surrounding for the next 15 years. In 1964 new owners from the Trbovlje Investment Bureau were planning to turn the castle into a luxurious hotel, but failed to do so. Therefore, after 1973 began the systematic renovation of the building, which was taken over by the Municipality of Litija who appointed a committee for this purpose. Together with renovation, different activities slowly revived as well. The castle at first offered weddings, then hospitality and later even opened a museum.

Valvasor and the golden age of the castle

Johann Weikhard von Valvasor, a famous polymath and a fellow of the Royal Society in London - one of the oldest societies still in existence – born in 1641 in Ljubljana, died in 1693 in Krško, spent twenty years (from 1672 to 1692) living in Bogenšperk castle. These years were the most creative years of his life and at the same time the golden age in the castle's history. Valvasor's works in this period:

  • The Glory of the Duchy of Carniola published in Nuremberg in 1689,
  • treatise on the Lake Cerknica, which won Valvasor Fellowship of the Royal Society
  • establishment of the first graphic institution on Slovenian territory in 1678
  • publication of many topographic and art works
  • building plans for the Loibl Pass
  • design and realization of the new technique of casting bronze