Selected Passages from Hungarian-Ottoman Wars between 1372-1699

Borostyánkő (Bernstein)

The castle of Borostyánkő can be found in Austria and it is called Bernstein. However, its first name was Medvekő aka Barenstein (Bear-stone). It is also known as the castle of the Almásy family.  When the wide Border-zone called “gyepü” system was going out of fashion, stone and palisade castles were built to guard Hungary’s western border. This castle was also built in the first part of the 13th century as an important part of the western Borderland’s castle-system that was guarding the Hungarian Kingdom.


The oldest part of the fort is the northern wing that was built on the top of a huge cliff. On the northern side of the castle, we can also discover the remains of a walled-gate that was built in the Romanesque style. The castle had frequently exchanged hands between the Hungarians and the Austrians. Note, there was another Borostyánkő castle in the Kingdom of Hungary, it is now situated in Slovakia and it is called Borostyánkő in the Hungarian language while it is Ballenstein (in German) and Paistun in Slovakian. Here you can find out more about it:

The Austrian Prince Frederick didn’t like a fort having built against him so he took it in 1231. Soon, the Hungarian King Béla IV. took it back in 1235. After the Mongolian invasion of 1241-42, the castle was given to the Counts of Németújvár. Albrecht I, Prince of Austria was seriously defeated at the castle in 1285 but he managed to take it four years later. The fort was exchanging hands a lot because of its location. The relationship between the Germans and the Hungarians has not always been cloudless. Here you can read my essay where I tried to take a look at this relationship:


King Zsigmond pledged Borostyánkő / Bernstein to the Kanizsai family in 1388, it was called “Porostyán” at that time. After the “privatization” of the royal castle, the Kanizsai family was able to buy the ownership in 1392 easily. After the death of King Matthias, the castle went to Austria in 1491 and remained there until 1647. The Ottomans laid an unsuccessful siege on it in 1532 and the castle’s gunpowder tower exploded in 1536. The construction of the large bastions began in 1546 with the help of Francesco Pozzo and was finished by Antonio Spazzo. It was the age when lots of Renaissance fortifications were built in this area against the advancing Ottoman Empire. 

 The gunpowder exploded again in the tower in 1617, causing the destruction of almost the whole castle. The ruined buildings of the northern wing were repaired between 1625 and 1627.The Hungarian Batthyányi family became its owner between 1636-1864. It was Batthyány Ádám who built the west wing at the end of the 17th century. Earlier, the palace of the castle used to be only one-story-high, the second floor was built in the Baroque age. Batthyány Gusztáv (note, I use the Eastern name order for Hungarians) sold the castle to an Englishman, Edward Egan in 1865. The Hungarian Almásy family bought it from his heir in 1892.


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Here are a few pictures of Borostyánkő / Bernstein:

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