The castle of Diósgyőr is in north Hungary, 8 km to the heart of Hungary’s second-biggest town, Miskolc. “Dió” means walnut, referring to the abundant walnut trees in the area. “Győr” is an archaic version of the word “gyűrű”, meaning “ring” in the Hungarian language. It probably refers to the rounded shape of the first castle erected on the hill. The name of the town was first mentioned by the anonymous author of Gesta Hungarorum around 1200, as Geuru.
The first castle was built in the 12th century, it was destroyed during the Mongolian invasion in 1241–124. The castle that stands today was probably built by King Béla IV, who, after the Mongols left the country, ordered a castle to be built on practically every hilltop. King Béla IV donated this place to one of his favorite men, Ernye Bán. Ernye Bán’s son, Palatine Stephen had the first stone castle surrounded by an oval-shaped ring built, complete with two round towers. The Pauline monastery of the place was founded at the end of the 13th century.
When talking about the first phase of the Ottoman-Hungarian wars, we have to begin with the long and powerful reign of King Louis I of Hungary (reigned 1342-1382). He was the first Hungarian king who had the first military clash with the Turks. During his rule, the Kingdom of Hungary was in its heydays: Diósgyőr Castle used to be one of the king’s favorite places. Verily, you can see in it the biggest knightly hall of Central Europe which can properly show you the might of King Louis’ realm. The castle had also its prime during the reign of Louis I.
In 1364, King Louis the Great, often referred to as the “Knight King” attached a large estate to the castle that is now Miskolc, while, in the place of the clan-owned castle, he had a pompous Gothic castle with four corner towers built to Italian and Southern French models. With a moat embracing the walls, four enormous towers that seemed unconquerable, two-story suites connecting the towers, the Castle of Diósgyőr was the country’s most beautiful and magnificent fortress.
The castle, situated on the edge of the forests of the Bükk, rich in game, served as the king’s residence where he was often accompanied by the two queens, his mother, and his wife, along with the royal household. At that time, the deep forests of the Bükk Mountains did not only have deer, venison, and wild boar in them but were also the habitat of bears and bison. A large number of hunters, falconers, archers, and dog leaders helped provide for the lavish royal court, residing in the castle.
Politically speaking, the castle’s importance lay in standing near the road leading to Poland. King Louis also celebrated his coronation as Polish king in Diósgyőr and spent the Christmas of the same year here. In 1381, the Peace Treaty of Turin was signed in the castle of Diósgyőr. In the treaty, the Italian town of Venice was compelled to raise the flag of the Anjou dynasty on St. Mark Square every Sunday.
For the next few centuries, the castle was a holiday residence for the Hungarian queens. The last queen owning the castle was Maria Habsburg, wife of King Louis II. She gave up the castle formally in 1546 (by this time it had been occupied by the ruling prince of Transylvania.) In 1526, when Hungary was torn by the Dual Kingship between King Habsburg Ferdinand and King Szapolyai János, Serédy Gáspár, one of the lords loyal to King Ferdinand, ravaged the monastery of Diósgyőr, because the abbot was supposedly a follower of Ferdinand’s rival King Szapolyai.
The castle had been sacked and burned in 1544 by the raiding Turks. In 1549, Balassa Zsigmond of Gyarmat, the new owner of the Diósgyőr estate, destroyed the monastery and occupied its lands. The Balassa family turned Diósgyőr into a larger fortress, they had an Italian-style round bastion built next to the north-western tower. After 1564 the owners changed frequently, and the castle slowly deteriorated. In 1596 the Ottoman army occupied the Castle of Eger and defeated the Christian army at Mezőkeresztes.
The castle of Diósgyőr fell in 1598 but was soon taken back. As it was located in the middle of the Borderland, there were many Turkish raids in the area. However, the Ottomans attacked the area frequently. You can read more about the Hungarian Borderland here:
In 1641, it was in Christian hands at that time and according to Szentkereszti Gáspár, the officer of the castle, the Turks have raided the Diósgyőr area 27 times in that year, killing 22 soldiers and the vice-captain. They took away 48 women and children, stole the cattle herd 4 times, and took 20 horses as well.
Chief-captain Samuel Haller died in fighting the raiding Ottomans in 1643. Later, the castle could withstand a Turkish siege in 1650 but suffered great damage. According to a contemporary survey from 1662, they couldn’t have rebuilt the castle from 4,000 gold Forints. The roof burned down in 1673, too. The area was ruled by the Pasha of Eger until 1687 when this part of the country was freed from Ottoman rule. By this time the castle lost all of its military importance. Now, the castle has been nicely renovated, you can find there also an arena for jousting tournaments. In the castle, there are many festivals and concerts taking place.
After several enthusiastic attempts, the excavation started in 1962, lasting for ten years. As a result, the Castle of Diósgyőr was conserved in a ruinous state. The castle was barely waist-deep when, in 2013, the reconstruction of complete parts of the structure of the castle was undertaken within the framework of the project “Diósgyőr-Lillafüred complex cultural and ecotourism development”. The objective was to have the castle reveal more of its history, monarchs, events, and human lives connected to its walls.
Here is the castle’s site https://diosgyorivar.hu/en, where they say that the project also included the construction of an Arena for Jousting Tournaments and a related Marketplace and the remodeling of the Hanging Gardens of Lillafüred, filling them with new functions as well. The reconstructed Castle of Diósgyőr was opened on 30 August 2014. One year later equestrian historical reenactors and sports events could also take possession of the Arena for Jousting Tournaments and the Marketplace. Period furniture, costumed animators, historical games, historical reenactments, and modern devices help time travel to historical periods which are hiding many more secrets and curiosities than one would ever think.
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Here are more pictures of Diósgyőr castle, you can see the different stages of its renovation; decide for yourself which ones are the best: