Fülek (Filakovo) is located in the Upper lands/Horná Zem/Felvidék, it can be found in Slovakia, next to the Hungarian border. It is quite near to the place (Felsővály) where my family had come from. Here is a video of Fülek castle as it would have possibly looked like in the 16th century:
The first written document of the castle is from 1242. It used to be a wooden castle but Fülek was among the few Hungarian forts that survived the Mongolian invasion in 1241-42, though. There is a document from 1246 which tells us the story of a robber knight called Fulkó of the Kacsics Clan. This villainous man was ringing the bell in the castle during the Mongolian invasion in order to lure the refugees into Fülek. However, he robbed and killed them instead of offering shelter. As a punishment, King Béla IV took away his lands in the above-mentioned document and gave them to Móric of the Pók Clan. Also, he ordered him to undergo a “God’s Trial” because Fulkó murdered one of his relatives, too. However, Fulkó could get away with these things because his friends begged the king who finally pardoned him. Yet, it was not enough: Fulkó went on with his crimes: he forged money in his dungeon. It sealed his luck, and the king got angry and ordered him to fight a duel, naked. But Fulkó and his inmate killed their prisoner and escaped from captivity. Then, he spent his life in loneliness, and finally committed suicide.
We know that knight Hartwig owned it in 1283. Then, the castle was in the hand of Master Egyed and soon Lord Csák Máté owned it between 1311 and 1321. When the mighty oligarch died, Fónyi Balázs became the lord of the castle in 1322. Later, we find a nobleman called Kónya among its walls who owned it after 1354. Fülek became a town in 1453 when King Zsigmond pledged it to the Perényi family. Lord Perényi was the owner of Fülek in 1483 but he fled when Lábatlan András, a captain of King Matthias Corvinus appeared before the walls. After the death of King Matthias, King Ulászló II gave Fülek castle to his Chaimbarlan, Ráskai Balázs.
The role of Fülek and its town has become very important only in the 16th century because of the Ottoman peril. After the Battle of Mohács, its captain was Lord Bebek Ferenc as he had wed the daughter of Ráskai Balázs. Bebek had the castle reinforced with the help of the Italian Alessandro da Vedano in 1551.
Yet, the Turks took the castle from him, although not by the sword but by deception. The Ottomans had owned it for 39 years and Fülek was the gate to raid the Hungarian mining towns. Sokoli Mustafa built many new buildings in the town and in the castle, including a minaret. The garrison consisted of 49 Janissaries, 177 riders, and 89 Asab infantrymen between 1556-1557.
Ten years later, they had 59 Topchies, artillerymen in the castle. There were ten Beys between 1554–1593 who led the castle: Kara Hamza (until 1556), Velidzsan (1562–1564), Arszlán (1564), Mehmed (1575), Has(s)zán (1576), Mahmud (1579), Korkud (1579-1590), Ali (1591) and Juszuf (1593). From Fülek, the Ottomans could reach the area around the castle of Murány in 1562. Bey Ferhard Haszán could occupy the area near Miskolc and Krasznahorka. The castle of Salgó was taken by the Ottomans in 1554. The opposing castle, Somoskő, resisted for 22 more years but it also had to be yielded after a short battle by its captain, Modolóczi Miklós.
The castle of Várgede could resist from 1560 to 1571 but the Turks of Fülek took it when the garrison was decreased. The Ottomans ruined it shortly after. Ajnácskő Castle was near it, it also fell to them in 1566. When the people of Dobsina denied paying taxes to the Ottomans in 1580, the Bey set out with his marauders and sacked and burnt their city in 1584. He took away 350 people who were sold in Fülek on its slave market, among other 2,000 other Christians.
General Tieffenbach Kristóf and Pálffy Miklós took it back in 1593 when the Turk captain, Ofressus, was not at home. The Turks surrendered the castle to the 4,000-strong Christian armies, after a fierce fight. Against all the odds, 300 Turkish families decided to stay in the city. The castles of Salgó and Somoskő were also retaken. Sörényi Mihály was Fülek’s captain in 1598 then the title was given to Honorius Tonhauser in 1599. The heydays of the castle were in the 17th century. During the revolt of Prince Bocskai István, Rhédey Ferenc’s men took Gömör county in 1604 but Fülek was too strong for them.
The Ottoman Janissaries helped Prince Bocskai’s troops to take Fülek castle for him from the Habsburg king, in the following year. You can read more about Bocskai István here: https://www.hungarianottomanwars.com/essays/prince-bocskai-istvan/
Fülek had a strategic location and its famous captains were the Wesselényi and the Bosnyák family members. It was the Bosnyák family’s property from 1607 and during the 1630s. (Please note, that I am using the Oriental name order for Hungarians where family names come first.)
Fülek used to be the center of Nógrád County. A terrible fire destroyed the city and the castle in 1615 and they could rebuild it only by 1619. Prince Bethlen Gábor of Transylvania took Fülek in 1619 but it was soon retaken in 1621 by the Habsburgs, with the help of Szécsi György. The quick success was due to Fülek’s captain who betrayed Prince Bethlen but after surrendering the castle died the next day. Rhédey took the castle over from him.
Prince Bethlen tried to retake Fülek with 10,000 men but failed in doing so. King Ferdinand II gave the castle to Lady Bosnyák Judit in 1630. The huge Evangelic church was built at that time but the town could boast of two public baths, too. The Evangelic high school also opened its gates. Sadly, most of the old buildings perished before 1682. The castle’s captain was Wesselényi Ádám between 1650 and 1664 but the chief captain became Baron Koháry István from 1657 on. There were 197 German infantrymen, 300 hussars, 150 Hajdú soldiers, and 25 artillerymen in the castle in 1652. The Koháry family reinforced the castle in 1672 in fear of the Thököly revolt. Prince Thököly Imre tried to take it in 1678 but in vain.
The siege of Fülek in 1682
The “kuruc” prince laid a second siege in 1682, it began on 22 August 1682. The castle was defended by Koháry István II who had 4,000 soldiers (including the inhabitants) while Thököly had 60,000 men because the Ottomans gave him lots of auxiliary forces. Thököly paid 20,000 Thalers to a peasant called Braka András who promised him to put the castle on fire but the man was caught and brutally executed. He was hanged, and cut into four.
The bombardment of the town began on 3 September. Pasha Szejdi attacked it from the north, Pasha Ibrahim from the east, while the Hungarian soldiers of Prince Apafi Mihály of Transylvania and Teleki Pál assaulted it from the south. The town was ablaze on the first day because of the cannon fire, and the defenders had to withdraw into the castle. Soon, the continuous attacks exhausted them so the “kuruc” officers demanded their surrender. The Turks had 30,000 men, Thököly led 12,000 “kuruc” troops while the Transylvanians had about 8,000 soldiers.
The men of the captain began to mutiny. Koháry said that he would defend the castle with his own body but his men wanted to throw him off the rampart. Finally, Koháry’s men yielded the castle on 10 September, against his will. It was after the siege, that the Ottomans had the castle explode and ruined the town to the ground. The historical role of Fülek castle has come to an end. A few days after the siege, Thököly received a letter from the Sultan in which he was titled “king of Hungary”. However, he refused this title and called himself a prince. Koháry was imprisoned in Ungvár castle but he was not willing to side with Thököly. He was freed by General Caprara in 1685.
The story of a Hajdú warrior of Fülek
The story of a Hungarian warrior from Fülek castle is worth telling. His name was Balogh Benedek, he was the leader of the Hungarian raiders of Fülek. The Hungarian raiders had been constant visitors of the Turkish-Occupied Lands to the south, near Szeged, and on the Great Hungarian Plains during the 1610s and 1620s. Sometimes they posed a threat against the Hungarian cities and villages as well, not just to the Sipahi-owned Timarian lands (the Ottoman way of feudalism).
This Hungarian warrior happened to be from Szeged and knew the Turks very well. One day, he was informed that a high-ranking Turkish officer would travel to muster the Ottoman castles of the area. The warrior set out at once, and Balogh Benedek with his soldiers ambushed the Turk officer and cut him down along with his men. Then, they dressed in their clothes and entered the Castle of Szeged, showing the guards the Turk officer’s credentials. The Bey of Szeged received them without suspecting anything and even gave them some soldiers to guard them on their way back. You can guess the next: when they were far enough from the castle of Szeged, Balogh’s men attacked their envoys and slaughtered their Turk guards.
Now, you can find a wonderful exhibition in the museum of Fülek that opened its gate in 2007. The collection of the museum has been expanding ever since.
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Here are more pictures of Fülek castle: