The town is located in the historical region that we call Upper lands/Horná Zem/Felvidék, it is in Slovakia. You can find it on the bank of the Laborc river, 70 km east of Eperjes (Presov). Homonna (Humenné, Homenau) became famous for the Hungarian Drugeth of the Homonna family and for the Battle of Homonna, in 1619. Here is a video about the palace:
The first written document mentioning Homonna dates back to 1317 when King Charles Robert of Anjou who was king of Hungary, gave it to the Drugeth family. Originally, the Drugeth family had come with the king from Naples.
The Drugeths made Homonna their seat and changed it into the center of one of the largest feudal dominions in Upper Hungary. A Franciscan monastery was also established there in the 14th century. The town became a tax-collecting place in 1330.
King Matthias Corvinus conferred civic privileges (town status) on the town, which were validated by a seal with a coat of arms. At that time, the town was crossed by an important trade route connecting the Kingdom of Hungary with the Kingdom of Poland. Lord Homonnay György’s castle was mentioned in 1449 and was taken by the Czech Hussites at that time. It was King Matthias who drove them out. He had a hard time before he could clean the area but finally, he hired their leader, Jan Giskra. They became the core of his famous Black Army.
During the bloody years of the Dual Kingship, Homonna was the hiding place of King János Szapolyai for a short time when he lost a battle at Tokaj against his rival, Habsburg Ferdinand, in 1527. The most significant town monument, a Renaissance castle, was built on the site of an original stone castle in about 1610. The castle came to be an indispensable characteristic feature of the town and serves as a museum and for cultural purposes at present. In 1613, during the Counter-Reformation, a Jesuit college was established as the first secondary school in the history of Homonna. The college was moved to Ungvár in 1630, though.
21 November 1619 Drugeth György of Homonna defeats the army of Rákóczi György at Homonna
Homonnai Drugeth György was the chief comes of Ung and Zemplén counties, a country judge, and the notorious “daredevil” of the region. In 1601 he was sentenced to beheading and confiscation of his property for his excesses, but was later pardoned. He made several attempts to gain the Transylvanian principality, and especially after the election of Bethlen Gábor (1613), he was considered by the Viennese court as a pretender to the Transylvanian throne. He even made a proposal to the Porte, but he was only used to blackmail Bethlen. To get the throne, Drugeth, supported by the Habsburgs, broke into Transylvania with his troops twice in 1616. Having been defeated, he fled to Poland.
When the Transylvanian prince invaded Hungary in 1619, Homonnai fled to Poland again where he was recruiting troops. Bethlen was already preparing for the siege of Vienna when the Drugeth invaded the Highlands with Polish mercenaries. He was opposed only by the much smaller army of Rákóczi György (later Prince of Transylvania). In the battle of 21 November, the Polish cavalry of Walenty Rogawski routed the Transylvanian positions.
The battle happened during the first period of the Thirty Years’ War. Rákóczi’s lands were mainly in Royal Hungary but he was an insurgent against the Habsburgs and became an ally of Bethlen Gábor, Prince of Transylvania. In the Battle of Homonna, the young Rákóczi was commanding the small rear guard of Prince Bethlen’s army.
The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth did not want to participate in the war, so it remained neutral. However, the Polish king was a strong sympathizer of the Catholic League and the Habsburgs. Thus, he decided to help the emperor. Though he didn’t want to send forces directly, he allowed Lord Drugeth to hire mercenaries in Poland. Drugeth hired around 8,000 soldiers and Rogawski joined him with his own 3,000 men. The two armies met in the evening, in the Carpathian mountains, near Homonna.
Rogawski did not manage to hold the cavalry together and it split up. The next day, on November 23, Rákóczi decided to send his infantry in order to pillage the enemy’s camp. While the soldiers were plundering, Rogawski finally gathered his troops and unexpectedly attacked the Transylvanians. In a short time, Rákóczi had to announce a retreat. The battle was won by the Polish.
When Prince Bethlen Gábor found out about Rákóczi’s defeat, he had to break the siege of Vienna, gather his soldiers, and return to Pozsony (Pressburg, Bratislava), and sent a cavalry of 12,000 to northern Hungary led by Széchy György, in order to secure it against the Lisowczycy. However, Lord Drugeth was not able to take advantage of his victory because the estates and towns of Upper Hungary supported Prince Bethlen instead of him.
Soon, he was chased out from the Upper Land by Rákóczi. Drugeth was the first general of the Habsburgs who hired (the cheaper) Cossack cavalry in larger numbers. The only result of his victory was that Bethlen returned from Vienna and abandoned the siege of the Austrian capital. Finally, Drugeth was forced to retreat to Poland at the beginning of December.
King Habsburg Ferdinand II made Bethlen sign a cease-fire on January 16, 1620. Finally, they signed a peace treaty in Pozsony (now Bratislava). The battle of Homonna was an important part of the war as the Polish intervention saved Vienna – the capital city of the Holy Roman Empire – from Transylvania. That is why some Polish sources call it the first Vienna relief – the second being the famous Battle of Vienna in 1683. Had the Battle of Homonna been not lost, Bethlen may have been able to take Vienna…
Homonnai never returned home and died in Poland the following spring. His wife was Katalin, daughter of the Black Bey, Nádasdy Ferenc, and Báthory Erzsébet. The castle of Homonna was rebuilt between 1619-41. The Drugeth family line died out in 1684 and new feudal lords moved in, first Prince Thököly got it, then the Csákys and the Wandernats. The bastions of the castle were pulled down in 1787 but you can visit the baroque palace where you can discover Renaissance elements as well.
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