Királyházai Nyalábvár

Nyalábvár (Photo: Imre Lánczi)

Nyalábvár castle of Királyháza (in Ukrainian: Замок Ньолаб) is one of the earliest Hungarian castles of the Subcarpathian region, it is in Ukraine. As for its village, Királyháza (= “the house of the king”) belonged to the Comes of Ugocsa County. He took care of this forested area on behalf of the Hungarian king, and queen. 

Nyalábvár (Photo: Imre Lánczi)

The core of the stone castle was presumably built right after the Mongolian Invasion of 1241-42. In the beginning, the castle served as a hunting lodge and an economic center of the surrounding area. It was the time when King Béla IV, the “second founder of Hungary” constructed plenty of stone forts to block the invading tribes from the East. 

Nyalábvár (Photo: Imre Lánczi)

 The first written mention of the castle is from 1264, it was called „Kyralhaza” because the king used to have a stone building on the top of the hill, next to the village. The document was written by the Pope who ordered King István V to return the place to his mother, Laszkarisz Mária, the wife of King Béla IV. 

Photo: Катерина Байдужа

The castle was fully built between 1272 and 1325, it controlled the valley of the Tisza River. The name “Nyalábvár” castle appeared in the documents first in 1315. The castle changed owners quite often in the 14th century. Sometimes we find robber knights among its walls. The Drágffy family got hold of Nyalábvár castle and its area belonging to it in 1378, The Drágffy family was said to be so wealthy that they lent loans even to King Zsigmond. However, King Zsigmond gave the castle and its villages to the Perényi family in 1405. The Perényi family became the third richest Hungarian family in the 16th century, you can read my article about them here:

The kingdom was devastated by the peasant uprising of Dózsa György in 1514. The peasants besieged Nyalábvár castle as well but they could not take it. Lady Frangepán Katalin was the wife of  Lord Perényi, and she invited Prebend Komjáti Benedek of Pozsony to Nyalábvár castle in the first years of the 1530s. The learned monk was the tutor of Lady Katalin’s son but he also found the time to translate the letters of the Apostle Paul into the Hungarian language. They were published in the printing house of Krakow in Poland in 1533, it was the first printed edition of these letters in the Hungarian language.

The letters of St. Paul from 1533

 Later, Nyalábvár castle gave home to Ilosvai Selymes Péter (cc1520-cc1580), a historian, and a famous author of epic songs. He was of the Reformed faith and served as a schoolmaster in Nagy-Ida which belonged to the Perényi family. He also wrote a work about the life of Apostle Paul, in the Hungarian language. It was first published in 1564 in Szatmár. He was the one who recorded the legend of Toldi Miklós, a famous Hungarian knight of the 14th century. (Please, note that I use the Oriental name order for Hungarians where family names come first.)

Ilosvai Selymes Péter (drawing: Muhi Sándor)

During the Ottoman wars, Nyalábvár castle exchanged owners several times between the Habsburg kings of Royal Hungary and the princes of Transylvania. In the beginning, Nyalábvár was in the hand of King Szapolyai, but after his death, the Habsburgs took it away from Queen Isabella, his widow. Later, Prince Báthory István of Transylvania occupied it. Then, it was owned by Prince Bethlen Gábor, and finally, it became the property of the Rákóczi family.


After the unfortunate Polish war of Prince Rákóczi György II, the Ottoman Empire sent their allies, the Crimean Tatars to punish the Transylvanians. They besieged Nyalábvár castle in 1661 but they could not take it. As an act of revenge, they looted Királyháza and its area for a month. Then, they left for Transylvania to continue their destruction, herding plenty of slaves with them. You can read more about Rákóczi’s war of 1657 here:

Many assemblies of Ugocsa County were held in Nyalábvár. Sadly, after the anti-Habsburg conspiration of Lord Wesselényi was unveiled, the castle got on the list of Emperor Leopold and exploded in 1671-72.

October 10, 1677 Victory over the Imperial Army at Nyalábvár

The Kuruc fugitives who had fled to the Transylvanian border (soldiers of the Borderland who had been dismissed from service, participants of the Wesselényi conspiracy, persecuted Protestants, escaped soldiers, etc.) launched their first attack on Upper Hungary in 1672. They successfully defeated General Spankau’s army at Enyicke, but one month later, at the end of October, they were defeated at Györke.
Hungarian “kuruc” rebels
They retreated to the borders of Transylvania, to Partium, and the Ottoman vilayets of Várad and Eger. In the following years, the question of the supreme command divided the society of the refugees, with Captain Teleki Mihály of Kővár, Pál, the nephew of the conspirator Palatine Wesselényi Ferenc, and Petrőczy István vying for control. Then, in 1676, Prince Apafi Mihály I of Transylvania appointed Teleki Mihály as the leader of the fugitives.
Teleki Mihály
During these years, the Kuruc forces had only minor successes. The Sublime Porte, at war with Poland, refused to give them any serious help. Although peace was concluded in the fall of 1676, the following January the Ottoman Empire was at war with Russia over the Ukrainian crisis. However, in 1677, with the help of Transylvanian diplomacy, France decided to provide more substantial support.
Kuruc vs. Imperials
This was not prevented by the Turks at that time. A Franco-Polish contingent of about 2,000 men recruited in Poland, led by Colonel de Boham, invaded the country and inflicted a heavy defeat on the army of General Schmidt, the captain-general of Szatmár, near Nyalábvár, which had been destroyed in 1671. Before the battle, the Poles had led Schmidt to believe that they wanted to defect. The general recklessly launched an attack, repulsed the Franco-Polish advance, and then suddenly found himself facing their entire army.
Kuruc troops vs. Imperials
The Imperials retreated under fire. The Kuruc troops took part in this battle only in small numbers. A contingent of 70 Hungarian noblemen also fought with the French and Poles at Nyalábvár. Their conduct was praised in the French war report. Majos Ferenc, one of the Kuruc leaders, was killed in the battle. His sons (János, Ferenc, and István) later played an important role in the Rákóczi War of Independence.
The Turks no longer liked the direct intervention of France and Poland in Hungary, which they considered to be their sphere of interest. They did not want to give way to Polish and French interests, so they warned Apafi and the refugees. As a result, only a small number of Kuruc soldiers took part in the battle of Nyalábvár.
Prince Apafi Mihály I
Since the failure of Prince Rákoczi György II, Apafi and his government had been sensitive to any disapproval of the Sublime Porte, and therefore ordered the Kuruc troops to be wary of cooperating with the Polish-French army. The Divan’s position must have changed after the victory at Nyalábvár because, at the end of the year, they received permission to unite. Apafi did not fail to inform the Kuruc leaders about it.
Thököly Imre
The following year, the Kuruc troops (this time with the participation of Thököly Imre) launched new attacks with the support of the French and the Poles. They occupied all of Upper Hungary up to the mining towns but were defeated at Barsszentkereszt on November 1. The following year, the Habsburgs made peace with France, leaving the refugees to fend for themselves. However, the new commander-in-chief, Thököly Imre, elected in 1680, achieved spectacular successes and two years later the Porte granted him the title of king (he only used the title of prince). Read more about him on my page:
Blue: The lands taken by Thököly

Come, and visit Nyalábvár in Királyháza 

Today, only the ruins of a tower can be seen on the long ridge of the castle’s site, next to a small medieval chapel. The original chapel was exploded by the Soviet troops in 1947 because they regarded it as a “possibly military object”. However, the chapel was rebuilt by the inhabitants of Királyháza in the 1990s.


You can take delight in a scenic view from the hill of the castle. Next to the new Greek Catholic Church, you can find a well-kept tourist road leading to the site. As for the inhabitants of Királyháza, the Hungarians had been there in more significant numbers before 1918. Their rate has greatly decreased since then and the Hungarian school was closed in 1944 by the Soviets. Yet, there are still Hungarians living there, according to visitors.


 Source: Szibler Gábor, and the Hungarian article of Nyalábvár on Wikipedia and  

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Here are a few more pictures of Nyalábvár castle: