10 Hungarian Castles and Fortresses
Buda Castle, Budapest, Hungary
Following the Tatars' invasion of Hungary in 1241-42, King Béla IV had a fortified town built on the Castle Hill of Buda. The walls of the town bulwarked with turrets were erected on the perimeter of the Hill.
In later times, King Luise the Great had a royal castle constructed on the southern part of the Castle Hill. King Sigismund added new palaces, while King Matthias had the Gothic palace redesigned in late Gothic-Renaissance style in the late fifteenth century.
The Turks took over Buda Castle in 1526 only to abandon it a little later. The rivals KIng Ferdinand I and János Szapolyai owned the caste back and forth between the years 1527 and 1541. Szapolyai fortified the town and Buda Castle with bastions and round bastions.
The Ottoman Turks captured the castle again in 1541 and this time it became the center of their Hungarian Province. Following many unsuccessful attempts, the united Christian armies took Buda Castle back in 1686. In that siege, the palace was almost completely destroyed.
Queen Maria Theresa expanded the palace built by King Károly III in Baroque style at the end of the seventeenth century. Ownership of the castle rotated between the Hungarians the Hapsburgs during the War for Independence in 1848-49.
The palace took its present shape at the end of the nineteenth century, but the royal palace was destroyed in World War II. After the war Buda Castle was redesigned and rebuilt to be turned into a cultural center.
Today, the palace hosts the Hungarian National Gallery, the Budapest Historical Museum, and the National Széchenyi Library. It has been part of the World Heritage since 1986.
Eger Castle, Hungary
The edifices of the Eger Cathedral and the Episcopal See were fortified as early as the time of St. István, first king of Hungary, however, the center of the episcopate was ravaged and destroyed by the Tatars in 1241.
King Béla IV settled the loss of the episcopate with large endowments in order to support reconstruction of the cathedral in Gothic style, a work only finished by Bishop Miklós Dörögdi (1330-61) and his successors in the fourteenth century.
Because Bishop Tamás Ludányi joined the levée en masse of the nobility against King Sigismund in 1403, the king and the Hussite army assaulted the castle.
János Beckensloer ordered the present day Gothic palace to be erected in the castle between 1470 and 1475. Furthermore, Bishop Orbán Nagylucsei (1487-92), Tamás Bakócz (1493-97), and Hyppolit Estei (1498-1520) had a late Gothic style chancel added to the cathedral. Hence the painted coat-of-arms of Hyppolit Estei decorating the southern gate-house of the castle.
In the struggles between János Szapolyai and King Ferdinánd I, Eger castle was taken and retaken by both sides. Péter Perényi took it over in 1542 whose castellan Tamás Varkoch had the chancel demolished and the castle divided into two parts and fortified with bastions.
When Eger castle went into Ferdinand's possession in 1549, he named István Dobó castellan, who continued the fortification work.
Under Dobó's command, the defenders of Eger castle withstood the Turks' assault in 1552 causing the Turkish troops to disengage. The castle was left in ruins and reconstruction began in 1553, when new bastions were added.
Military engineer Octavio Baldigara oversaw the reconstruction of the fortification in 1569. The castle was supposed to be rebuilt into a large, new-Italian bastion system, but the works were still in progress when the Turks besieged Eger Castle again in 1596.
After holding the castle for weeks with seven thousand troops, Lőrinc Nyáry had to surrender the grounds to the enemy. After this, Eger became an important border castle of the Turks until 1687 when they abandoned it without fighting.
The Hapsburgs began pulling down the outer castle in 1702. The castle surrendered to Rákóczi only after a siege of 8 weeks in 1705 becoming his last bulwark until 1710 when it had to be surrendered to the Hapsburgs.
After that, Eger castle fell into decay to be reconstructed and turned into a museum in the twentieth century.
Füzér Castle, Hungary
Füzér castle was built by Master Andronicus of the Aba clan in the beginning of the thirteenth century. Soon after it was complete, King András II purchased the castle from him. In that time, the fortification was made up of an oval girdle of walls with a palace situated on the safest area of the mountain.
King Béla IV gifted Füzér castle to her daughter, Princess Anna. However, his son, Prince István, revolted against his father in 1264 and took castle by force. It was Mihály, son of Endre of the Rosd clan, István's castellan, who held it against the king's siege and as a token of his gratitude, when István became king, he gave the property to Mihály.
Füzér castle fell into Adamá Aba's hand by the end of the thirteenth century. When King Charles Robert defeated the Aba's in 1312, the castle became royal property. King Sigismund gave it to Péter Perényi's son as a gift in 1389. The Perényis had a gate-house added to the castle and reconstructed the inner buildings.
János Perényi gave Füzér to László Palóczy in 1440 and got it back in 1446. In 1483 his son revolted against King Matthias who responded by taking over the Perényis' castles. However, the king later gave Füzér back to Imre Perényi.
The most appealing section of the castle, the castle chapel, was erected at the end of the fifteenth century in late Gothic style. Péter, son of Imre Perényi, who was keeper of the crown in 1526, kept the regalia in the castle for a year after the battle of Mohács. Péter Perényi sided with King Ferdinand I against János Szapolyai in 1527. The Turks caught him in 1529 and held him captive for 4 years.
Following his release in 1533, Szapolyai decided to support him again and he could begin rebuilding his castles including Füzér in Renaissance style. He added the pentagonal bastion in front of the gatehouse. But when Péter Perényi wanted to become King Ferdinand's follower again after Szapolyai's death, the king put him in dungeon from where he only got out at the end of his life in 1547.
His son, Gábor Perényi also made reconstructions in Füzér between 1562 and 1563. When he died, the castle went over into the Báthorys' possession in 1567, then the Nádasdys took possession of it in 1603. Füzér castle became royal property again when Ferenc Nádasdy's properties were confiscated (and he was beheaded) due to his participation in the Wesselényi-plot.
The castle was in bad repair when the Imperials evacuated and razed it. Excavations and historic reconstructions are underway while Füzér is open to public.
Gyula Castle, Hungary
János Maróti, the governor of Macsó, and a faithful general of King Sigismund ordered the Gothic style Gyula castle to be constructed in the inner city area in 1405. The palace wings surrounding the court of the castle of a rectangle trace were continued by his son, László Maróti, at the beginning of the fifteenth century. He also had the castle chapel added in 1445.
After the Maróti family died out, the castle became the property of King Mathias, who gave it to his son John Corvin. Corvin completed the castle wings and had the court surrounded with a storied corridor. His widow married the Count of Brandengurg, so the castle passed into the count's hands.
The round bastion in place of one of the corner turrets of the outer wall was constructed in these years. Imre Czibak, a follower of János Szapolyai captured the castle in 1530 and kept it for 4 years. Gyula castle was fortified with outer palisade in 1552 and with a strong bastion defense system in 1562 as per the plans of military engineer Paolo Mirandola.
Castellan László Kerecsényi defended Gyula castle against an immense Turkish army for 8 years, but trusting free withdrawal he surrendered eventually. The castle could only be liberated in 1695 by a Hungarian army.
Gyula castle remained garrisoned until 1721 when the Harruckern family took it over.
The Russians disarmed about 1300 Hungarian officers here in 1849.
Gyula castle was restored in the 1950s with new archeological excavations and restoration works starting in 1989. Today, the castle houses an exhibition of its history.
Simontornya Castle, Hungary
The oldest part of Simontornya castle, the inner castle of a regular quadrate trace and the old tower were erected by Vice Lord Chief Justice Simon at the end of the thirteenth century. After his death the castle reverted to King Charles Robert, then the king gave it to the Hencfi family in 1324 from whom the Lakfis inherited it.
The Lakfis added a palace wing to the castle, however, István Lakfi having been deprived of his rank as palatine led a plot against King Sigismund for which he was executed together with his son. Afterwards, the king gave Simontornya castle to the Kanizsai family who traded it for Sárvár with Pipó Orozai in1424.
Two years later, Sigismund gave the castle to János Garai as a pledge who had the castle enlarged adding a fine, Gothic archway and building the outer walls.
King Matthias gave it his queen, Beatrice, then it passed into Major-Domo Mózes Gergelylaki Buzlai's possession who rebuilt Simontornya in Renaissance style in 1509. The Turks took over the castle in 1544 and made it a residence of a sanjak for 150 years.
Having been liberated from the Turks, the castle fell into the hands of Styrum-Limburg. Afterwards, the Kuric troops captured it a number of times, 1710 being the last. It served as a granary from the end of the eighteenth century and was in bad shape of repair for quite a long time. Simontornya castle was restored in the 1960s and became a museum.
Visegrád Castle, Hungary
The Mongols razed and destroyed Visegrád Castle in 1242, which was at that time a fortress built on the remnants of a Roman castrum dating back to the fourth century. King Béla IV had a new fortress built on a neighboring hill where an ancient earthwork used to stand.
The building of the citadel started in 1247 and was completed in 1251. The lower castle was completed in 1265. After Endre III's death, King Vencel took possession of the castle until 1305, from whom the powerful landlord, Máté Csák took it.
King Charles Robert chased Csák out of the castle by siege in 1317 and the king made it his seat of power in 1323, expanding and fortifying the castle. From that time on the royal court was kept in this castle for two hundred years.
King Sigismund further expanded the castle in the fourteenth century. The widow of Albert Hapsburg had the crown stolen in 1440. King Matthias had the citadel erected in the 1480s. When the Turks besieged Visegrád in 1526, the garrison fled from the castle, but the local people and the monks of Márianosztra held it against the Turkish attack.
Afterwards, János Szapolyai, then King Ferdinand Hapsburg I held Visegrád Castle. The Turks finally managed to capture it in 1544, but the Hapsburgs took the castle back in 1595. Due to all the strife and no reconstruction, the castle gradually became ruinous and uninhabited.
Finally, Visegrád was renovated in 1601 and mercenary troops were sent to defend it. However, when the Turks attacked again in 1605, they handed the castle over without a blow struck. Afterwards, the Hungarians tried to take it back both in 1666 and in 1683, but were unsuccessful.
When King Károly Lorrainses finally captured the castle in 1684, the Turks recaptured it in 1685. Then, the united European armies liberated the ruinous castle demilitarized by the Turks in 1686.
Today, Visegrád Castle is home to several exhibitions.
Diósgyőr Castle, Hungary
Palatine István, son of Ernye of the Ákos clan, had a castle built of oval trace on a rock near his mansion in Diósgyőr in the beginning of the fourteenth century that was called Újvár. However, after the palatine's death in 1316, King Charles Robert confiscated it from his rebellious sons.
The king made donations of Diósgyőr Castle several times; finally his wife Queen Erzsébet acquired it and traded it to her son, Louis the Great. Louis built a Gothic castle palace with an enclosed court of 4 corner turrets in the place of the previous castle that he had demolished. Louis was king of Poland at the same time so he often visited the castle situated near the way to Krakow.
King Sigismund granted Diósgyőr CAstle to his wife, Queen Borbála, in 1424, after which six queens possessed it in a row as an engagement gift in the last centuries of the Middle Ages. The castle was reconstructed in the middle of the sixteenth century, surrounded with a strong outer wall and a wide moat.
János Szapolyai gave it to Zsigmond Gyarmati-Balassa in whose possession it remained even in King Ferdinand's reign. He built a round and a pentagonal bastion onto the corners of the inner castle for positioning the cannons.
Diósgyőr castle was often bartered in the sixteenth century and it came under Turkish rule for a while in the Fifteen Years' War. The castle burnt down in 1673 resulting in its gradual ruination.
The castle was captured by a Kuruc troop in 1673 whom the Imperials could only drive out by siege in the next year. The castle was already in ruins at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Most of it was restored between 1953 and 1973 and now it hosts a castle museum and many events.
Szigetvár Castle, Hungary
Szigetvár castle of square trace was built on an islet in a bog in 1420 - this is where the name Szigetvár (isle castle) comes from. The grandchild of its builder Oszvald Szigeti added a tower of circular plan to one of the corners.
It went over into the Garais' and then the Töröks' proprietorship in 1463 and 1471 respectively. Following the battle of Mohács, Szigetvár became an important border castle. Castellan Bálint Török first sided with János Szapolyai later King Ferdinand I.
Szapolyai's army backed by the Turks assaulted the castle in 1530 but Szapolyai suspended the siege because Ferdinand made an assault on Buda. Bálint Török took Szapolyai's side again and stopped a new Hapsburg siege against Budavár in 1540. However, the Turks caught him in 1541 and put him in prison where he died. His wife gave the castle to Ferdinand I in 1543.
After becoming a royal border castle, Szigetvár was rebuilt into a modern fortification in 1548-49. A mound made of mud and plank surrounded its outer castle, Italian bastions of similar structure were added at its corners. The town located south of the castle was also surrounded by walls.
Many flying patrol sallied out from Szigetvár giving trouble to the Turks. Consequently, the Turks blockaded it in 1554 and besieged it in 1555 with an army of 5000 troops of the pasha of Buda, but failed. The new pasha of Buda made an assault on Szigetvár with an army of 10000 troops in 1556, but gave up the fight after a 42-day battle when Miklós Zrínyi and Tamás Nádasdy attacked the Turks near Babócsa.
Sulejman II assaulted the castle defended by a garrison of 2400 troops commanded by Miklós Zrínyi with an army of 100,000 troops. After 16 days the defenders numbered only 800 and the Turks drove them back into the inner castle. Zrínyi sallied forth from the castle with his remaining 200 men. Although Sulejman died of typhoid fever two days earlier, he was put on his horse to maintain the fighting mood of the Turks. The Turks lost 20,000 in the siege but won the castle eventually.
The ruins were soon repaired, bastions of the castle were rebuilt out of brick and a jami was erected in the middle of the court. The Turkish garrison held the castle against the Christian assaults of 1574 and 1664. The Hapsburg army took over the castle in 1689 after a blockade of one year. The curtain walls between the bastions were reconstructed out of brick.
The Kuruc troops besieged the modernized fortification without success in 1706. Having lost its strategic importance, the Szigetvár went over into private ownership in the eighteenth century. Following excavations and reconstructions, an exhibition of the history of the castle opened its gates to the public within the castle.
Sümeg Castle, Hungary
The bishop of Veszprém had a castle built on a 270-meter-high mountaintop in the thirteenth century. Sümeg Castle's first known siege happened in 1440 when followers of King László V tried to take the bishop's bulwark siding with King Ulászló I with no success.
The castle was rebuilt and expanded by Bishop Albert Vetési in the fifteenth century, of which the coat-of-arms engraved above the gate of the inner castle reminds us. When King Matthias died, Miksa Hapsburg took over Sümeg Castle, but Pál Kinizsi took it back from him in 1491.
András Devecseri Csoron was castellan from 1524 fortifying the castle, but when the new bishop replaced him, he took all the equipment and armament and went away. Bishop Kecsethy of Veszprém got a strong but empty castle, which the Turks captured for a short time in 1544.
After the fall of Veszprém, Sümeg became the Episcopal See in 1552. Bishop András Köves (1553-68) set himself to fortify the castle right away. This is when the cannon tower, known as the Köves-bastion, was completed. The castle proved too strong for the Turks to assault.
However, Bocskai's troops took it in 1605 from whom Ferenc Batthyány took it back. Bishop György Széchenyi then his successor István Sennyei rebuilt the palace wing of the castle in Baroque style around 1649.
The last Turkish assault occurred in 1664 when the town fell but the castle held out, even though the buildings were burnt down. The Kuruc troops took possession of it in 1705, from whom the Hapsburgs captured the castle with the help of a traitor. They were garrisoned there until 1713 then they burnt it down.
The ruins were renovated between 1957-64. Today, there is an exhibition in the Old Tower along with a restaurant and a smithy. Castle Days are held in Sümeg Castle every summer.
Esztergom Castle, Hungary
Prince Géza built the first medieval castle on the ruins of a Roman bulwark. His son St. István was born here between 969 and 975, and he founded an archiepiscopacy in the castle at the millennium.
Later Esztergom Castle became the residence of the bailiff. King Béla III had a new tower built on the southern cliff of the castle. King Imre gave his old palace to the archiepiscopacy in 1198. Bailiff Simon managed to hold the fortification against the siege of the Tatars in 1242.
Following the siege King Béla IV moved the inhabitants of the royal town behind the walls of Esztergom castle temporarily and compensated the archbishop by giving him his royal palace in the southern end of the castle. It was only Archbishop Csanád Telegdi who had the see reconstructed in the 1330s after being sorely tried in the internal struggles of the decades around 1300.
Archbishop János Vitéz and Dénes Széchy had the vast banqueting hall with wooden arched ceiling built in the palace, while Tamás Bakócz and György Szathmári enlarged the building complex in Renaissance style.
The castle withstood the assault of Sulejman II for 17 days in 1543 only surrendering after the water supply had been cut off. The Christian armies besieged the castle without success, but Bálint Balassi was killed in battle here.
The castle was taken back in 1595 only to fall into Turkish hands again 10 years later. Esztergom Castle remained under Turkish rule for 80 years starting in 1605, before the Polish king, János Sobieski liberated it with an international army in 1683.
The archiepiscopacy could move back the ruined castle in the eighteenth century and a cathedral and a palace complex were designed to replace it. A good part of the ruins of the medieval cathedral and the hill was removed, while the former royal and archiepiscopal residence had only a narrow escape from being demolished.
Ruins of the medieval palace were found in 1934 and were opened to public in 1938. Excavations and reconstructions are still in progress.