Photo: Lynx1211

Árva castle (Oravsky Hrad) is situated in the Carpathian mountains and is located in the area called the Upper Lands/Horná Zem/Felvidék, it is in Slovakia. The castle was built in the Kingdom of Hungary in the thirteenth century.

Here is a nice short video about the castle: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2GX8TGfgTRI

Painting: Thomas Ender

Árva Castle stands on the site of an old wooden fortification, built after the Mongolian invasion of Hungary in 1241. According to Mikszáth Kálmán, it could have been built by the Templars. Its first owners, the Balassa family, were mentioned first in 1267 when King Béla IV bought it from them and it had been in the king’s hand for a while. The castle was given to Csák Máté of Trencsén in 1298.

When he died, Master Dancs had owned it for 20 years. He used to call himself Count of Árva. King Róbert Károly entrusted the castle to Count Lipót of Körmöc in 1331 who kept this title until 1349. In 1370 the castle became the center of Árva county. King Sigismund gave the fort to Voivode Stibor as a token for some money in 1420.

After the Hungarian King Albert von Habsburg, the king’s widow, Elisabeth of Luxembourg called the Bohemian mercenary leader Giskra (Jiskra) into the Kingdom of Hungary in 1439 to help his son, László (later King László V) to gain the throne. Giskra occupied the entire Árva county but couldn’t take the castle of Árva. It was the Polish Peter Komorowski, Count of Árva and Liptó, who got hold of the castle in 1441 and he was threatening the whole Felvidék (Northern Hungary / Horná Zem) from the castle for 25 years.

Only King Matthias Corvinus could stop him who was taking back the castles of Lipótújvár, Rózsahegy, and Likavka one by one. Finally, Komorowski sold him Árva castle for 8,000 gold Forints. King Matthias hired the seasoned soldiers of the garrison and these soldiers became part of his Black Army, the first standing army in Europe. The king gave the important castle to Count Tamás of Kamienica and made Horvát Kiszevics of Lomnic the captain. After 1474, King Matthias gave orders to build a square and a residence wing in the Middle Castle.

The king sent into the prison of Árva (=meaning “orphan” in Hungarian) the Archbishop and Chancellor Várday Péter who had rebelled against him. According to the legend, the king told him: “Arva fuisti, arva eris et in Arva morieris” (You were an orphan, you will be an orphan and you will die in the castle of Orphan.) The legend tells us about how the king finally had mercy on the priest. King Matthias gave the castle to his illegitimate son, Corvin János in 1482. The captain of the castle became Lord Szapolyai Imre two years later.

Photo: Dudva

Later Szapolyai took away the whole Árva county and made Kosztka Péter and Miklós captains of the castle. (It was the military habit at that time to appoint two captains in a castle in Hungary.) These captains defended the fort against the attacks of General Katzianer during the Dual Kingship. King Ferdinand gifted the castle to Thurzó Elek in 1527 but the castle was not in the Habsburg king’s hand this time. A little later Captain Kosztka turned his cloak and ceded the castle to Ferdinand and thus he got the castle of Sztrecsnó in exchange for it. King Ferdinand gave Árva castle to the Polish János Dubovec in 1534. A new gate with a ditch and drawbridge in the Lower Castle was completed in 1543.

Wacław Siedlnickit inherited it from him in 1545. He started to rebuild the castle and make new fortifications because of the Turkish peril. János Dubovec built a five-story palace in the space between the tower and the stone wall of the Upper Castle. After the death of János Dubovec, his heirs quarreled over the inheritance and the situation became so bad that the castle even became a storehouse. It was bought by the mine owner Thurzó Ferenc in 1556.

A lot of building activity took place at the castle following this period. The wooden stairs in the Upper Castle were replaced by stone stairs. The same was done to the stairs between the Middle and the Upper Castle with the drawbridge. A cellar was also dug out of the stone of the castle court and a one-story residence wing was built in the Lower Castle near the west wall.

The tombstone of Thurzó György in the chapel of Árva castle (Photo: Jaurinensis)

Thurzó György also carried out important repairs. One of the first was the building of a tunnel between both castle gates, above which was formed a large terrace. After this was all done he moved the living quarters and the building of the Chapel started using parts of some old architecture. The interior furnishing of the Chapel was later arranged in a taste that suited the new owners of the Castle. One of the most well-known features is the Renaissance grave tomb of Thurzó György from the beginning of the 17th century.

The castle’s present form was not finalized until 1611. The Thurzó family finally decided to side with the Habsburgs and in 1606 King Rudolf confirmed the castle’s ownership to the Thurzó family in return. Yet, Thurzó Imre conspired against the Habsburgs in 1616. Their huge domain included 6 agricultural towns, 75 villages, and 74,000 acres of forest.

The chapel of Árva Castle (Photo: Jaurinensis)

The castle’s story contributed to solving the mystery of why Prince Thököly Imre allowed the Ottomans to reach Vienna in 1683. The fort had gone to Thököly István, Imre’s father in 1653 but the Court took it away from him because Thököly was found guilty in conspiration against King Leopold, though he was innocent of the crime.

Photo: Pilise Gábor

Nevertheless, Thököly lost an immense land and it angered him and turned him against the king. The greed of the Habsburgs made the Thököly family a formidable enemy of the court. The Habsburgs had to besiege the castle in 1670 but could take it only after  Thököly István’s suicide. The king needed this rich area very badly. Prince Thököly Imre could retake it in 1678. The debate over the ownership of this castle had a great significance as to why Thököly Imre kept on fighting against the Habsburgs and became eventually their greatest enemies and led his rebellion against them.

Árva castle in 1698 (by Anton Ernst Burkhard von Birckenstein)

He had even gained the title of the Prince of Northern Hungary next to his title of Prince of Transylvania. It was he, Prince Thököly who finally captured the castle of Pozsony (Pressburg, Bratislava) and allowed the Ottoman army to reach their dream: Vienna in 1683. The Turks couldn’t have reached their Golden Apple without this.

Photo: Elekes Andor

The Battle of Vienna brought about the liberation of Hungary because the Habsburgs knew that they would not be able to endure the second siege. To prevent this from happening, they had to attack the Ottoman Empire and take Hungary into their possession before the Hungarians could regain their country. 

Árva castle (Photo: Civertan)

The Thurzó family got Árva castle back from the king and owned it until 1945. Now, the castle is one of the nicest castles in Slovakia. I sincerely hope that by now, the museum has already printed descriptions in the Hungarian language as well, similar to the custom of several museums in Slovakia where our common history is being appreciated.

Árva Castle says goodbye in many languages, find: “Viszontlátásra!” if you can. (Photo: Pas-6)

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Here are a few pictures of the castle of Árva: