Fraknó Castle is now called Forchtenstein and is located in Austria, near the Lake Fertő and the Hungarian border. Fraknó Castle is inseparable from the Hungarian Eszterházy family. The fort was first mentioned as castrum Farubno (1346), Farohno (1370), and later Farahtno (1398) and we can read its first German name, Vorchtenstein, only at the end of the 15th century. It was called Frackno in 1245.
The Counts of Nagymarton (Hungary) had come from Spain and they first appeared in this area in 1202. According to the Chronicler Kézai, they were Count Simon and Bertrand and their sister, Tota. They came with Princess Konstancia who gave her hand to King Imre. Tota was given Nagymarton as a marriage gift from the King when she wed Voivode Benedek. Tota died soon and her brother Simon inherited Nagymarton.
The Spanish knight was a good man of the King, he was even able to defend the Castle of Esztergom against the Mongolians in 1241-42. He was also an envoy of the King in the court of Pope Ince (Innocent) IV. We regard this Spanish nobleman as the founder of the Nagymartoni family. According to the latest research, he used to stay in Fraknóváralja, more precisely in Hausberg.
Hausberg Castle was taken by the Austrian Duke Albert in 1289 but King András III took it back five years later. As part of their treaty, the Castle of Hausberg had to be destroyed. Not much later, the Nagymartoni family began to build their eagle-nest in the first part of the 14th century on the top of a high cliff, it became the Castle of Fraknó.
A document from 1346 says that the two sons of the Nagymartoni family shared Fraknó and Kabold castles with each other. The Nagymartoni family was called „Fraknói” in the 15th century. The above-mentioned cousins – Német Miklós and Magyar Miklós of Nagymarton – gained not the best reputation. They were harassing the noblemen of the area and even called the Austrian troops in so King Louis I punished them in 1371. Two years later the Palatine had to do the same against them and finally, the Judge of the Kingdom deprived them of their lands in 1377. Yet, it was not carried out. The next punishment was issued by Queen Elisabeth in 1381 but Fraknói Miklós did not take it seriously even in 1385.
Finally, King Zsigmond (Sigismund) took away the castle from them in 1398 and gave it to the Kanizsai family. As it was, the Fraknói family had been overspending and pledged lots of their domains to the Austrian Duke Albert. The relations between the Hungarians and the Germans have not always been cloudless, however, the Hungarians regard their Austrian neighbors as their “brother-in-laws”. You can read a few words about this relationship in my short article:
It was King Matthias Corvinus who took Fraknó Castle back from the Austrians in 1488 but it had to be given back to the Habsburgs three years later. The Austrians had been in charge for the next 135 years, until 1626. The castle was at a strategic place and it was thought untakeable. When Sultan Suleiman was marching on to take Vienna in 1529, he did not even think of taking Fraknó Castle, except burning its village.
Its walls couldn’t be taken by Prince Bocskai István in 1605 and by Prince Bethlen Gábor in 1619 nor by the Ottomans in 1683. The castle had been in the Esterházy family’s hands from 1622 until the present day, as the family’s headquarters. Eszterházy Miklós had paid 400,000 gold Forints for Fraknó and Kismarton in 1622. He was made Count of Fraknó in 1626. His first thing was to pull down the old walls – except the Old Tower – and build a nice new castle between 1635-1637. Prince Pál, the son of Palatine Miklós wrote about this construction the next: “We (the family members) were carrying up the bricks (in the tower’s narrow staircase) by handing them from hand to hand and it was ready in a day.”
The great Palace got ready in 1637 and the Chapel in 1642. The huge bastions and the walls were finished around 1660. Yet, the castle was not very comfortable, it was cold and windy so the family later moved to Kismarton. Having lost WWI, Fraknó was given to Austria after 1918. The museum can boast very nice collections. Here is a great video about the museum of the castle:
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