Korlátkő (Cerová) is a village that used to be in Nyitra County in the western part of the Upper Lands (Horná Zem) of the Hungarian Kingdom. After 1918, it became part of Czechoslovakia, so it can be found in Slovakia.
The castle is situated on a 455-meter high hilltop above the village and it was already guarding the trade route to the Czech Kingdom in the 11th century. Korlátkő Castle was defending the northern pass of the Little Carpathian Mountains and blocked the road towards the city of Nagyszombat (Trnava). The castle was named after its first owner, Korláth Konrád. (Please, note that I use the Eastern name order for Hungarians where family names come first.) After the Mongolian invasion of 1241-43, the castle went to the Aba family and it was rebuilt as a royal fortress.
The great oligarch of the Upper Lands, Csák Máté tried to get it in 1320 but the king’s man, Hascendorfer Wulfing (aka Farkas) beat him back, losing 13 soldiers in the siege, receiving a severe wound himself. There was a contest for this strategically important castle and the heirs of Csák Máté took it back from him. It was Farkas Hascendorfer who returned and besieged it in 1324 and gave it back to King Anjou Károly Róbert. The king gave them the task of collecting taxes from the merchants at the bridge belonging to Korlátkő in 1336. At this time, the castle was under the command of Treutel Márton, the Comes of Pozsony.
The Czech Count Prokop took it as a token in exchange for his military help in 1385 but King Zsigmond fought for its return some years later because he had cheated the king. The king passed it on to Voivode Stíbor in 1394 and when the proud oligarch who called himself the “Lord of the Vág River” died, Korlátkő returned to the crown. The upstart Újlaki Miklós, the Voivode of Transylvania became its lord but the Czech Hussites beat him out from Korlátkő Castle in 1443. We are fortunate to know three Hussite captains’ names who were in charge of the castle at this time. They were Henrik of Schomberg, Tomek of Knienicz and Gaspar Nydrsspeuger.
Újlaki gave the castle to Bucsányi Osvát three years later who paid four thousand gold Ducats to the Bohemian Hussites to cede him Korlátkő. King László V confirmed his ownership in 1453 and Osvát began to call himself Osvát of Korlátkő, thus establishing a second family with this name. (The first family with this name used to be Korláth Konrád.)
The Bánfi family was its next owner but they were unfaithful to King Matthias Corvinus who took the castle away from them. King Matthias gifted Korlátkő in 1485 to his soldier, a German knight called János Planker. Yet, neither Planker nor his heirs could move into the castle because the Korlátkői family had occupied it before them. This old family remained in the castle into the 16th century.
Korlátkői Péter, the Chief Chamberlain of the king, lost his life in the battle of Mohács in 1526. He had only daughters so the castle went to the Pongrátz and the Nyáry families. The Apponyi family followed suit and the fortress was reinforced with a cannon-bastion and with an outer castle during this century. It was a lesser private castle, though, and whoever owned Nagyszombat (Trnava) or Pozsony (Bratislava, Pressburg), came to own Korlátkő as well. As the lords of the castle were loyal to the Habsburgs, it was not exploded by the Austrians after the War of Independence of Prince Rákóczi Ferenc II in 1711.
The Renaissance palace of the castle was still inhabited in the 18th century. The owners later had a stately late-Renaissance home built in the village of Lészkó and the old castle was gradually abandoned. The cellars of Korlátkő were in use in 1740 because they were guarded by some Hajdú soldiers but later the fortress was left alone and the locals used its stones for other constructions.
Today, you can still see the several stories high remains of the renaissance palace and the huge parts of the outer castle’s walls. The inner castle contains the walls of the old gothic palace and there stands the ancient tower in its middle. There was no archeological excavation or renovation before 2004 at all.
You can read the legend of Korlátkő castle in my book “33 Castles, Battles, Legends”, it is available on Amazon in ebook or in paperback.
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