In Abaújvár, there is an earthen fortification, in the northwestern part of the Zempléni Mountains. It is located right at the Slovakian border, on the hilly left bank of the Hernád River. The settlement was the first center of Abaúj County and it was controlling an important trade route leading to Poland.
The castle was among the few forts that successfully resisted the Mongolians’ attack in 1241. For those of you who like early medieval earthen constructions, visiting the remains of Abaújvár will be a nice experience.
Taking into account the modern manual labor standards and the optimal weather, it is estimated that the builders needed to employ 100 people for about 2 years and 3 months to construct the rampart in the 10th and the 11th century.
Under the rampart, prehistoric, late Bronze Age, and Roman tiles testified to the site’s former occupancy. As for the later period, we do not know any historical data for the construction of the castle in Abaújvár.
According to the Chronicle of Kézai Simon (1358), it was built by King Aba Samuel (1041–1044), but its origin is presumably earlier, it was more likely built at the turn of the 10th–11th centuries when the Hungarian state was founded. It is assumed that the name of the settlement became Újvár (“new castle”) to distinguish it from the nearby earthen fort of Óvár (“old castle”) near Abaújszina that can be traced back to the 10th century.
Probably it was Aba Sámuel, brother of King István (Stephen) who organized a county here from the estates of the Aba Clan that were situated in the Mátraalja Region along the Hernád river, sometime in the first half of the 11th century. Initially, it became the seat of the Comes and the Deanery of Újvár.
The area of the County was named after its center, Újvár, and it may have included the area of the later counties of Heves, Abaúj, and Sáros. The first written mention of Újvár County was Novum Castrum in 1046. The two outcast princes of the Árpád dynasty, Levente and András returned from Russia to Hungary in 1046, and they were gathering their armies here.
They were invited by the dissatisfied Hungarian lords, one of them was the rebellious Vata and his companions, and from there they set out to the coronation of András to Székesfehérvár. Almost half a century later, in 1106, another prince of the Árpád dynasty, Álmos brought an army from Poland to usurp the Hungarian throne. He held Újvár castle until he surrendered it to his brother, Könyves Kálmán, who was besieging the castle. Fortunately, the conflict ended in reconciliation.
During the Mongolian invasion (1241-42), Újvár was the strongest fortress in Northeast Hungary – so much so that it was able to withstand the invasion of the enemy. After the Mongolian invasion, in 1251, King Béla IV still possessed the castle. However, there were many new castles built, and Újvár lost much of its significance.
The Árpád dynasty was discontinued in 1301, and King Károly Róbert seized the throne. He had to fight the oligarchs one by one. In 1312, Károly Róbert reaped his first major success over the provincial lords at Rozgony in Abaúj County. After the victory, he deprived the sons of palatine Aba Amadé of their vast estates and entrusted the rule of the countryside to one of his Italian-born followers, Drugeth Fülöp. Újvár castle was given as an honorary estate to Lord Drugeth from where the family members dated their diplomas between 1317 and 1332. (Please, note that I use the Oriental name order for Hungarians where family names come first.)
Between 1330 and 1334, the court judge of Drugeth Vilmos was also the castellan here, which indicates the existence of the castle. As a county seat, the king also owned the settlement, but in the 14th century, it became fully the property of the Drugeth family.
In 1350-1351, the widow of Drugeth Fülöp donated part of her estates, including Újvár, to his daughter (named Klára in a 1350 document and Margit in 1351) and to her son-in-law, Ákos, the son of Eördögh Miklós from Pölöske. The last time the castle was mentioned was in 1353. We know that it was still the widow of Drugeth in 1355 who ruled over the estate.
Abaújvár or Újvár castle remained in the possession of the family until May 1394, when the king exchanged it for an estate in Vas County. Lady Eördögh Sára was the wife of Szécsi Péter, the son of Palatine Miklós. The background of the exchange was that the king wanted to donate the property to his faithful supporter, Perényi Péter, for his services. Then, the settlement and the castle lost their role as the County seat by the end of the 14th century.
As the village of Újvár became the property of the Perényi family, they were allowed by the king to build a fortress there in 1399 and 1405. We have no data on the construction, but presumably, they did not use this permit, as in 1406 they asked the king’s permit to build a castle at a different location, at their nearby estate in Nagyida. Indeed, the castle of Nagyida was built between 1411 and 1414, and then Újvár, as a village, can be found among the accessories of this castle, it is no longer mentioned as a stand-alone castle.
The first data on the population of Újvár is from 1427; at that time there were 61 taxable gates in the village, which could mean about 450 taxpayers. Also, the landless laborers and those who served elsewhere were left out of the list. With this number, it was one of the largest settlements in the area. You can read more about the Perényi family here:
In 1430, there was a contract between the baronial and the palatine branch of the Perényi family so they divided their estates, including Abaújvár. The background of the contract is not completely clear, as the share of János and Miklós who were the sons of Perényi Péter, Judge of the Country, represented a much more modest value than that offered by the members of the palatine branch (István and János). It is assumed that István and János expected that the sons of the Judge would die soon and without heirs, and thus they could acquire their possessions. The contract’s registration also took place, but the contract was soon broken up (presumably because unexpected offsprings were born in the meantime), so the original situation was restored.
In 1441 the son of Perényi Péter, the supporter of king Ulászló confronted the Bohemian Hussite Jan Giskra. He should not have done so because the Czech mercenary commander captured him and demanded 24,000 pieces of gold from him as a ransom. As Perényi could not pay the full amount, he pledged the castle of Nagyida and its accessories in exchange for his release. Due to his financial difficulties, In 1449, Giskra pledged Nagyida castle (including Abaújvár) to Modrar Pál, a rich burgher of Körmöcbánya (Kremnica). The end of the confusing pledge business took place at the turn of 1460-1461, when Anna, Modrár Pál’s widow, and János, son of Perényi János, divided the estates among themselves. They visited Újvár on December 31, 1460. The agreement was helped by the fact that Perényi János married Modrar’s daughter, Kata.
It was the age when the kingdom was divided into three parts and Ferenc, the grandson of János Perényi János, was changing sides between the country’s various parties. In 1556, Ferenc left King Ferdinand’s side and sided with Queen Isabella, but it had serious consequences. Ferdinand’s troops destroyed his castle in Nagyida, Perényi and his family were captured and his property confiscated. As a result of this, Újvár fell into the hands of his brother, Mihály. The letter of donation, dated 1557, first includes the prefix “Aba” in the name of the settlement, so from this time on we can call it Abaújvár.
Not long after, another danger was approaching: the Turks. After the fall of Eger castle, the southern half of the county became part of the Ottoman Occupied Lands On the other hand, the Habsburg king’s Imperial mercenaries held the city of Kassa (Kosice), so the Hernád Valley became a bumper zone for a long time. The village of Újvár also suffered in this time: according to a record from 1602, the area was looted by the Turks for two weeks. They took away the crops of the peasants, so the villagers did not have money or any valuables to pay the annual taxes to the king.
Nature and war equally made the fate of the people living here difficult: in 1611 an earthquake shook Újvár, then the troops of Prince Bethlen Gábor of Transylvania made a camp there in 1620, and the flooding of Hernád River caused enormous damage in 1659. As for the flood, Abaúj County could not solve the situation on its own, it had to ask for help from the neighboring counties of Szepes and Sáros.
The archeological excavations began in 1974 but after 1981, the work was interrupted, and no further excavations took place in the settlement located in the inner area of the castle.
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