Léka (Lockenhaus) is situated in Austria, in the region we call Őrvidék or Burgenland, it is next to modern-day Hungary. It was built before the Mongolian Invasion in 1241. You can find the castle on My Google Maps here:
In the first documents, it is known as “Leuca, Leuka wara”, and “castrum de Levka”. At the beginning of the 1200s, Comes Bana of the Sopron area was lord of the area. It is probable that the castle of Leuka was built by Leuka (Lukács) of the Csák Clan.
From a charter issued by King István V the Younger in 1260, we know that in 1235, the Austrian Prince Frederick II fought at the walls of Léka castle. A certain nobleman called Torda, son of Geur (Győr) received the village of Csőszi in Zala county as a reward, we can read the following in it regarding Léka castle:
“When the king, our very dear father [King Béla IV], the said Torda, who was zealous in defending the castle of Léka, preserved the said castle in the warfare for us in a manner worthy of praise, fighting face to face against the Germans, over whom, with God’s help, he won a brilliant victory. Many of the Germans fell, many were beheaded, and many prisoners were handed over by Torda to Master Csák.”
In 1242, the castle of Léka successfully resisted the Mongols. Before 1270, the castle was in the possession of Demeter of the Csák clan. He married a girl from the Kőszegi family and gave the castle to his father-in-law. The father-in-law soon sided with the Austrian Ottokar and put the castle of Léka at Ottokar’s disposal. In 1279, when the Héder family divided the land, Léka was given to Bán (Duke) Miklós “cum villis et tributis ad idem pertinentibus sicut Chak banus possiderat”.
In 1317, Kőszegi András unsuccessfully besieged Léka and Rohonc, defended by his cousin, the pro-Anjou (Kőszegi) Kakas Miklós. In 1320, the successors of Bán (Duke) Henrik again divided Léka among each other.
In 1336, Léka was conquered by Lackfi István, the chief bishop of Sopron, from the rebellious Kőszegi family for King Károly Róbert. This event is described by King Lajos (Louis) the Great in his grant of 1347: “This Voivode István was ordered by our father to the Austrian frontier, where he recaptured from them a certain mountain occupied by the Germans, and there he built the castle of Szarvkő against the Germans, thus restoring the old boundaries of our country, which were founded and erected by King István (Stephen). And the other castle, called Léka, he recaptured from the sons of Henrik, our father’s traitors, and gave it to our father.”.
Léka became a royal castle in 1340, and in 1390 King Zsigmond (Sigismund) granted it to the Kanizsai family of the Osli clan. In 1406 it was temporarily occupied by the Austrians for the princes Leopold IV and Ernest I, but in 1408 it was again in the hands of the Kanizsai family.
In the charter of Hunyadi János dated 28.08.1454, we meet again the name of Léka (Lewka): Hunyadi János, hereditary Comes of Beszterce, orders Sopron County to provide justice and satisfaction to his “specialis familiaris”, Ugron János, whose “curia” in the possession of Gywro in Sopron County was plundered by the castle lieutenants of Lewka Imre of Kanizsa.
In 1459 the Kanizsai lords were among those who rebelled against King Matthias. At a meeting of the Szilágyi-Garai-Ujlaki party held in Németújváros on 17 February 1459, Emperor Frederick was proclaimed King of Hungary. The rebellion ended quickly, Garai László died and the leaderless Frederick’s supporters – among the first was Kanizsai László- hurriedly surrendered to King Matthias, who granted them a full amnesty.
On May 20, Vilmos Mischulber, the Austrian castellan of Lánzsér, informed the Sopron council that Kanizsai László and Rozgonyi Sebestyén had declared war on Kőszeg castle and had begun their advance against the pro-Frederick forces stationed in Németújváros. The Austrian counterattack was not long in coming, mainly attacking the Kanizsai family’s estates. At this time, the areas west of the Kőszeg – Sopron line, except for Léka, were controlled by the Austrians. In August, Kristóf Pottendorf attacked Léka castle of the pro-Matthias forces but was liberated by the troops of the Kanizsai family. In 1460, Klankó János was the castellan of Léka.
In 1483, Matthias recaptured Léka together with Kőszeg, and after Matthias died in 1490, Emperor Maximilian annexed it again to Austria. In 1513, King Ulászló II. gave it to Erdődy Péter of Mogyorókerék, but two years later it was again in the hand of the Kanizsai family.
When Nádasdy Tamás married Orsolya, the only living descendant of the Kanizsai family, in 1532. Thus, the vast Kanizsai estate, consisting of seven castles and manor houses, about 150 villages, and more than 10 market towns, passed into the hands of Nádasdy Tamás and his descendants.
In 1532, Suleiman besieged nearby Kőszeg town, the raiding armies of the Sultan burned the area, and the medieval Franciscan monastery of Léka was destroyed. The construction of the lower castle of Léka began in 1554, based on a design by Francisco da Pozzo (we know this from a letter written by master mason Maria Speciecasa to Nádasdy Tamás).
Nádasdy Tamás was the son of the famous Turkish “black prince”, Nádasdy Ferenc. He was the wife of Báthory Erzsébet, who was later accused of murder, and who died of madness in her room in Csejte Castle. In 1605, the nearby Kőszeg Castle opened its gates to Bocskai’s troops, while the Turks also unsuccessfully besieged the castle of Léka. Here is more about Nádasdy Ferenc:
The lower castle was built by Nádasdy Ferenc in 1636. The family lived in the Pottendorf palace, which was in a state of neglect by 1671. Judge of the Country, Nádasdy III Ferenc (Csejte, 14 January 1623 – Vienna, 30 April 1671), grandson of Báthory Erzsébet, joined the anti-Habsburg Wesselényi conspiracy. After his exposure, he, Péter Zrínyi Péter (Petar Zrinski), and Frangepán Ferenc were unlawfully sentenced to death and the forfeiture of their land and property. The estate of Lékai was administered by the guardian of the orphans, Draskovich Miklós, until 1672-76.
In 1676 the Esterházys acquired Léka. At the beginning of the 19th century, it was completely abandoned after a fire. Between 1902 and 1906 Esterházy Miklós had it restored. After the Second World War, after the signing of the Austrian State Treaty and the withdrawal of the occupying troops, the Austrian writer Paul Anton Keller bought the castle and began its restoration. Today it is owned by the Prof. Paul Anton Keller Foundation.
From the castle gate, you can first enter the “Lower Castle”, from here you can take the Romanesque staircase to the middle and then the upper courtyard. From the middle courtyard, you can enter the castle kitchen. The 16th-century hearth and chimney still stand here. The entrance to the underground apse is also here. The medieval room has two Gothic apse windows and a light aperture, the function of which is disputed by historians. It was probably a cult place.
The pentagonal Old Tower dates back to the 1200s and is the oldest part of the castle. To the east is the Chapel Tower, with early Gothic windows dating from the 13th century and fresco fragments. The early Gothic Knights’ Hall, with two bays and six vaults, is located in the palace.
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