Cseklész (Bernolákovo, previously Čeklís, and in German: Landschütz) is famous for its castle that the Eszterházy family turned into a huge palace. The settlement is located in the Upper lands/Horná Zem/Felvidék, it is in Slovakia, 21 km north-east to Pozsony (Bratislava, Pressburg). The name Cseklész is said to have come from the Hungarian family name “Csek”.
The village was first mentioned in the document of Hungarian King András II in 1209 when it was given to Sebestyén, the son of the Comes of Nyitra, Tamás. The village consisted of two settlements in the 13th century, they were called Cseki and Luzsnica.
Its castle was built by a man called Bököny / Bökény who was a member of the Cseklészi family of the Hontpázmány Clan. Bököny was also called “de Cheslek” in a document issued in 1264. The construction of the castle may have taken place around 1290. The first church of the village was built in the 13th century but was rebuilt in the Gothic style in the 14th century. After Bököny’s death, the new owner was Szentgyörgyi Ábrahám. He sold it to the oligarch Csák Máté who has most likely owned it until his death.
The area used to belong to the king during the 14th century and served as a tolling place of the Fekete River’s ford. The first fortification was an earth-wood castle but after it had burned down, it was rebuilt from stone and bricks. We know about an interesting owner of Csicsva, Master Veres Ábrahám of the Pecz Clan. There was an uprising on the western fringe of the Kingdom of Hungary in 1289 but he had remained loyal to the king. After the death of King Kun László, Ábrahám hurried to aid King András III.
Master Veres Ábrahám had participated in the wars of King András III against the Kőszegi family and the Austrian Prince Albert, and fought a battle against them at Nagyszombat (Trnava). He took many captives and sent the enemy’s flags to the king. Also, he fought in the first line at the siege of Pozsony (Bratislava, Pressburg). He was heavily wounded and several of his servants died, too. For his deeds, he had received the castle of Berencs in 1297.
After the death of the last Hungarian king of the Árpád Dynasty, Master Ábrahám joined the mighty lord, Csák Máté. However, Csák Máté took away Berencs castle from him in 1309, using a cunning trick. Ábrahám got disappointed and left him. It was how he joined King Károly Róbert. King Róbert Károly gave Berencs back in 1307, then Csicsva to Ábrahám in 1324. However, Ábrahám had to give two properties to the king in exchange for this, the places of Sempte and Óny. There were two tolling places on the ford of the river where the king allowed him to collect 2 Denarius from those who wished to cross it.
According to a document issued in 1354, Leukus (Lökös), son of Ábrahám of Cheklez (Cseklész) said in person that he pledged a property called “Kyschuturtuk” (Kisczütörtök?) in exchange for 20 “wide Viennese Denarius talentum” (Silver Pfennig?) from the sons of Otto of Tellyesprunner, Wel and Jensul. The property was in the “Challukuz” (Csallóköz?) area. Knowing that a silver denarius or pfennig was just 3 grams, it is more likely that he paid 20 “talentum” of them, a “talentum” weighed six kilograms.
We have another document from 1361 that says Lökös had a son called Master Miklós who had four daughters: Anglis, Maretyl, Skolasztika, Anna. The king gifted them “male” rights, confirming their ownership again in 1381. King Lajos issued a document in 1380 in which he ordered everyone to stay away from the domain of Master Miklós. Queen Maria also confirmed the rights of the four girls in 1383: the family must have had very good connections in the Court.
However, one day all good things come to an end. King Zsigmond was in need of money and he tried to make a business with them in 1392 when he bartered Appony castle in exchange for some properties of Cseklész castle and in Pozsony County. At first, the daughters of Cseklészi Miklós seemed to have agreed with him. Yet, one of the daughters, Anna (Lady Vesszős Tamásné) protested against the transaction but it was in vain. Cseklész became a royal castle but King Zsigmond gave it to Korbáviai (aka Cseklészi) Károly in 1393. In 1395, the daughters of Cseklészi Károly shared the property among themselves. Thus, the castle of Appony went to Eőri Péter whose family adopted the name “Apponyi”.
When Korbáviai Károly died, Cseklész castle returned to the king’s treasury. King Zsigmond didn’t hesitate for long and pledged it to Prince Louis of Bayern in exchange for 3,000 Hungarian gold Forints and 1,800 “pure Rhine-gold” pieces in 1424. Two years later, the king pledged it to Comes of Pozsony County, Rozgonyi István, and Comes György.
King Albert issued a document in 1439 in which he gave Cseklész castle and the towns of Cseklész and “Zempz”, along with other domains to the Comes of Pozsony, Rozgonyi István who was the son of Rozgonyi Simon. These properties had already been pledged to them by King Zsigmond but now the Rozgonyi family became the owner for good.
It was during the rule of Governor Hunyadi János in 1450 that Rozgonyi György gave away his daughter, Ilona to Groff Imre of Bazin and Szentgyörgy. Ilona’s dowry included Cseklész castle and many other lands. Two years later, we can learn about family trouble involving Rozgonyi Sebestyén and his younger brother, György. As it happened, Seb estyén was in the captivity of the Turks and his younger brother needed money to ransom him. So Cseklész was pledged to Groff Imre and László of Bazin in exchange for 3,000 gold Forints, though they never delivered the money.
Many trials commenced for the ownership of Cseklész castle between the Rozgonyi and the Szentgyörgyi / Bazini families. These included military clashes as well: it is thought that the castle burned down in the 15th century because of a conflict like that. However, the Cseklész was described as a ruined castle in 1511.
The first seal of the village is from the first part of the 16th century. The place was mentioned as Czeklesz at that time. The settlement was given the right to hold markets in 1523. It was the year when the castle was allegedly pulled down. Yet, we know that it must have been quite intact as the castle was taken by the 6,000-strong-army of Prince Bocskai István, led by Bucsi Benedek in 1605. The settlement of Cseklész belonged to the property of the Thurzó family in 1632 but the castle was not mentioned in the document.
The Eszterházy family built a huge Baroque palace there. The settlement was occupied by Imperial troops in 1663. The German army was on the way to bring reinforcement to the besieged Érsekújvár (Nove Zámky). We know that the rebel “kuruc” troops of Prince Thököly Imre made camp at Cseklész in 1683. At that time, there was the child Rákóczi Ferenc (later Prince of Transylvania) in his stepfather’s camp in Cseklész and he was almost killed when the tent fell on him at night: when the Crimean Tatar and Ottoman troops were beaten at Vienna, they were fleeing across Thököly’s camp at Cseklész, trampling the sleeping men of Thököly.
The village had suffered a lot because of the various armies of Thököly Imre and Rákóczi Ferenc which moved through it during the 17th and early 18th centuries. Finally, the Eszterházy family built a nice palace in the Baroque style between 1714 and 1720 on the site of the destroyed castle of Cseklész. The archeological excavations of the old castle began in 2007.
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