The castle of Jeszenő (Slovak: Jasenov or Jasenovský hrad) stands 4 km south of Homonna, in the neighborhood of Várjeszenő, and only its ruins can be seen today. It is in Slovakia. The castle was built in the Kingdom of Hungary in the 13th century in the Gothic style. It is located in the Homonna Hills, at an altitude of 392 meters above sea level.
Jeszenő is unique among the larger castles of the Zemplén County due to being founded as a seat of a noble family from the beginning, rather than a castle founded by royal initiative. The core of the castle was built before 1277, probably after the Mongolian invasion, by Joachim of the Gutkeled Clan to protect the road from the south to Homonna.
Later, the castle was owned by Baron Péter, son of Petenye, who received the area from King László IV in 1284. It was transferred from him by King Károly Róbert to Drugeth Fülöp as a manor in 1317. The first written record of the castle dates from 1328 when it was called “Castrum Jezenew”. In 1342 the castle came under the administration of the royal chamber, but the following year King Lajos (Louis) the Great granted it to Drugeth Vilmos and his brothers as a hereditary estate. From then on, the castle remained in the possession of the Drugeths until the 17th century.
In the middle of the 16th century, Drugeth Gábor set up a counterfeiting workshop in the castle. The head of the workshop, Master Miklós, was arrested in 1551 and executed in the main square of Eperjes.
The importance of the castle increased in the 17th century and it became a local economic center, storing food, building materials, and additional reserves. During the campaigns of Prince Bethlen Gábor, the castle was occupied by Transylvanian troops in 1616 and 1619. Later that year, Drugeth György tried to retake the castle and its surroundings with Polish mercenaries, but he could not hold it for long. You can read a bit more about these wars here:
It was probably after this that the fortress was fortified and the five-bastioned outer castle was completed. Despite this, in March 1644, the troops of Prince Rákóczi I György of Transylvania besieged and captured it, and then blew it up in several places, rendering it unusable. The castle belonged to the Csáky family in the 18th century and was inherited by the Andrássy family in the 19th century.
The inner castle, built in the 13th and 14th centuries, consisted of a palace and a square tower. In the northeast corner of the inner courtyard of the castle stood the chapel. The walls of the inner castle were reinforced in the 15th century.
In the 16th century, the castle was modernized to meet the Turkish threat, and cannonade-resistant Old Italian ramparts with bastions were built, especially on the south and south-west sides. Soon afterward, another wall was built on the northern side, making access to the inner castle more difficult. In the 17th century, it was surrounded by a five-bastioned outer rampart, which was blown up by Habsburg mercenaries in 1684.
An interesting feature of the castle is a tunnel carved into the rock, which leads to the Renaissance fortress. It is not known whether it is an unfinished escape route or a passage built for a siege.
Today, only the ruins of the palace and a few fragments of the Renaissance vault remain of the medieval inner castle. The old tower has survived up to 5-6 meters high, thanks to restoration work carried out in the early 20th century.
Since 1963 it has been part of the cultural heritage of Slovakia, and since 2011 it has been under partial restoration by the Municipality of Várjeszenő and the Association for the Preservation of the Castle Ruin. The area of the castle is open to the public upon their own responsibility, with a nice view of Hommona and its surroundings to the north.
Jeszenő Castle had mostly been untouched by conservation efforts since it became a ruin in the 17th century. The first attempt at a larger conservation and reconstruction effort occurred during the 1900s and early 1910s. Andrássy Géza, the then head of the Homonna branch of the Andrássy family, invested in resources and hired workmen, and began work on reconstructing certain crumbling parts of the castle. Count Andrássy Géza wanted to turn the ruins into a hunting lodge. The effort produced some favorable results in the area of the main outer gatehouse (remnants of these repairs are still visible today) and also led to the re-roofing of the original keep’s tower and the outer gatehouse’s northwest bastion.
Period photographs and postcards of the castle dating from the 1910s to roughly the 1960s are easily recognizable by the presence of the restored roofs. All conservation works on Jeszenő Castle were halted by World War I due to economic reasons and the fact that the town of Homonna became part of the front line in late autumn 1914 and suffered major damage. In the post-war years, the original efforts were not continued. By the late 1960s and early 1970s, all remnants of the restored roofs had rotted away and collapsed, due to decades of neglect.
A concerted and systematic effort at new archaeological research and ruin conservation works on the castle was launched only recently, at the start of the 2010s. The castle is currently administered by the local historical association Združenie na záchranu Jasenovského hradu (ZNZJH, “Association for the Salvaging of Jasenov Castle”), crewed with professional archaeologists, historians, architects, and masonry experts, as well as local and regional volunteers.
The administration, research, and conservation works of the association are conducted in official cooperation with the Jeszenő municipality and the regional branch of the Monuments Board of the Slovak Republic. Research and conservation efforts have been ongoing since 2011 and have focused on clearing the castle hill of excess vegetation, archaeological research, and the gradual masonry conservation of the most affected parts of the ruin. The association also cooperates with local museums, the sister association on nearby Barkó castle (Brekov), and the “Foundation for Salvaging Cultural Heritage”.
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Here are more pictures of Jeszenő castle: