Borostyánkő (Ballenstein, Paistun)
Borostyánkő is located in the Upper lands/Horná Zem/Felvidék, it is Slovakia, in the Small Carpathian Mountains. The castle is also called Pozsonyborostyánkő, Ballenstein, and Paistun or Borinka. However, it is not the same castle as the other Borostyánkő (Bernstein) in Austria. It is located 20 kilometers from Pozsony (Bratislava, Pressburg) to the north. The previous Slovak name Pajštún derives from the German name Ballenstein or Paulenstein. The current name Borinka (1948) is said to be the result of a mistake.
It is situated on a 486-meter-high hill, and it appeared first in writing in 1273 as “Borynka” in a document issued by King László IV. The king was donating the property called Scynche in it to Lord Csák Máté but historians are debating whether ” Castrum Borynka” was the same as Borostyánkő.
Yet, it is obvious that the castle belonged to the western part of the kingdom’s Borderland that was guarding Hungary’s western gates. We do not know the exact time of its construction but it is assumed that the castle was built on the earlier site of a fortification called Stomfa. We find it under the name of “Perustian”, “Parastian” in 1284.
When King András III died in 1301, his widow was financed from the lands of Pozsony County, and as a result of this, the area was pledged to Austria. We know that “Pelystan” (Borostyánkő) was owned by the Austrian Telesprun family according to the document issued by King Károly Róbert in 1314. In fact, the king was just confirming the ownership of Otto, son of Rugerius of Telesprun whose family had been gifted with the properties (feuda) of Thebun (Dévény), Stampha (Stomfa), Pelystan (Borostyánkő), Sahur, Messuch, Sarkou (Sárkő?), Pistrich, and Ishar by former Hungarian kings. It is thought that Ottó may have been the one who had the castle built.
We can meet the name “Burustan” in 1322 while in 1390 it was mentioned as “Prostyan”. The place became the property of the Hungarian king in 1349, at that time it was called “Borostyan”, “Peylenstain”. It was King Lajos the Great who issued a document in 1351 in Buda where the name of the sons “Othonis de Telyesprun” and his daughter Anna of are mentioned: Anna was given a domain called Somogyi in Abaúj County (“possessionem nostram Somugy vocatam in comitatu Abawyvariensi existentem”) in exchange for her property, Dévény castle. We can find the name Perostyan mentioned in it, too. Thus, Borostyánkő became a royal castle and it was administered by the Comes of Pozsony County from now on. You can read more about Dévény castle here:
At this time, the fort was a smaller construction, standing on the edge of the cliffs. It could be approached only from the north-west. We know that a man called Mihály was its castellan in 1366, and in 1385 it was Jakab, son of László. The castle belonged to the provost of Pozsony called Lőrinc in 1389, the castle was called Paylstain at that time. According to a document from 1476, the castle was called “Borostyankw”.
King Zsigmond issued a documen t in 1390 in which he gave the castle of “Prostyan” to Péter, son of Szentgyörgyi Péter of the Homnt-Pázmány Clan. In the document, the deeds of Péter were listed, he used to be a trusted man of King Lajos and served Queen Erzsébet and Queen Mária well, just like he did so with King Zsigmond. His ownership was confirmed by Zsigmond in 1409.
The Bohemian Hussites were posing a threat since the 1420s and King Zsigmond ordered the reinforcement of the castles in the area of Pozsony in 1435. When the Szentgyörgyi family was discontinued in 1439, King Habsburg Albert gave the castle to the other branch of the Hont-Pázmány Clan. The new owner became Bazini Miklós and his son, György. At this time, György used to be the cup-bearer of the king and he was the castellan of Visegrád castle, too.
At perilous times, the noble families were sometimes divided and some of them joined the monarch while the other members took the side of the usurper. It was a clever way of keeping their properties in case of either side won. It happened so with the szentgyörgyi family, they began a family quarrel in 1440. When King Ulászló became the monarch of Hungary, he gave all the former properties of the Szentgyörgyi and the Bazini family, including the castle in 1441 to Rozgonyi Simon, as the Bazini family had joined Queen Erzsébet and fought against the king and it was treason.
However, the Szentgyörgyi family remained powerful and rich enough and they shared their properties between the two branches of the family in 1446. Thus, the widow of Szentgyörgyi Péter, Lady Marczali Hedvig received Borostyánkő and Bazin castles. The way how shared the domains was unique: they wrote the names of the properties on a few pieces of paper, then an illiterate young boy picked them by random. All family members declared the outcome righteous.
Family quarrels happened later as well, like during the reign of King Matthias Corvinus. Then, the eternal enemy of Matthis, the Austrian king Frederick III supported Szentgyörgyi and Bazini György and his sons in 1459. However, King Matthias forgave the counts in a document issued in 1462. By 1465, Lord Bazini György has gained Borostyánkő castle, and Matthias confirmed his right, too.
The Szentgyörgyi and Bazini families became discontinued in 1543 so the castle returned to the Hungarian Crown. The Treasury allowed it to be pledged for ready cash. Thus, King Ferdinand received 53,000 gold Forints for Borostyánkő and Stomfa castles, the money was paid by his general, Serédy Gáspár. It is assumed that Serédy had the castle reinforced. His Castelan was called Jajcay Miklós. When Serédy died in 1550, the castle returned to the king who immediately pledged it to Count Miklós Salm. By the way, Salm was related to the Bazini and Szentgyörgyi families. It was Salm’s father who defended Vienna against Sultan Suleiman in 1529.
King Rudolf II allowed the repairs of the castle in 1583. Count Salm spent 556 Thallers on Borostyánkő and 2,000 Thallers on the mending of Stomfa castle. General Pálffy Miklós received Borostyánkő from Rudolf in 1592 but the Slam family had to be compensated with 95,156 gold Forints. Pálffy’s wife was from the wealthy Fugger family, Lady Fugger Mária. She helped him to pay the sum, and his brother-in-law, Illésházy István (later palatine of the kingdom) helped in, too. for a time being, it was Illésházy and his wife, Pálffy Kata the owner of Borostyánkő. The Treasury estimated the value of the castle about 4,000 gold Forints in 1600 which gives us a hint that the castle must have been in a very bad condition.
The Pálffy family became the “eternal” owner in 1604, and the children of Pálffy shared the family’s property in 1619. The new owner’s name was Pálffy Pál. We know that it was the Italian architect Filiberto Luchese who reinforced the castle in 1644. The outer castle was built at that time but the medieval inner castle was rebuilt as well. After the death of Pálffy Pál, it was his son, János who inherited it.
During the campaign of Prince Thököly Imre in 1683, the rebel “kuruc” troops made camp at Cseklész but they didn’t attack the castle. The Pálffy family fought on the Habsburgs’ side during Prince Rákóczi Ferenc’s War of Independence between 1703-1711. The rebels never occupied Borostyánkő so the Pálffy family stored their documents safely behind its walls. However, the family moved to Stomfa castle when it was ready.
Napoleon’s troops had the castle burned down in 1809. Its military role ceased to exist. The last inhabitants were some foresters in 1825. The Pálffy family had it until 1863 but at that time it was a ruin already. So far, the huge castle’s archeological excavation has not been launched (2019).
According to the description of Fényes Elek in the 19th century, in the forest, there were the remnants of another castle, to the east from Borostyánkő. Supposedly, it was called Sárkánykő that was depicted on a woodcut of Meyer in 1563 and was indicated as “Drach-kugelschlos”. The castle was controlling the road in the valley that was leading towards the town of Szentgyörgy (Svätý Jur, Sankt Georgen).
The small castle had a stone tower, and the trenches go around the edge of the ridge, they are still visible. The ridge is 20 meters wide and 115 meters long, the castle almost entirely covers it. The tower was 10X10 meters large, its walls were 2.5 meters thick. According to the archeological excavation of V. Ondrouch in the 1940s, there were other stone buildings and a cistern. The findings prove that the castle was built in the 13th century and had been used for two more centuries.
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Here are many pictures of Borostyánkő castle: