Photo: Szöllősi Gábor

Mosonmagyaróvár is located in western Hungary, near the Austrian border. It used to be two separate towns, Magyaróvár (German: Ungarisch Altenburg) and Moson (German: Wieselburg). The town of Moson was the original capital of Moson County in the Kingdom of Hungary, but the county seat was moved to Magyaróvár during the Middle Ages. However, there had been a fortified military outpost in Roman times, it was called, Ad Flexum. Later, the fort became more important only after the rule of the Avar tribes. The place became a center of the bishopry in 823 AD, and its name was, Vetovarium. At that time, Pope II Eugenius placed it under the control of Salzburg. As for the political relationship between Hungarians and Germans, here is my short writing that might be useful:

Moson Castle and the First Crusade

When the Magyar tribes arrived in the 9th century, the Hungarian Lél tribe occupied this area. King István (Stephen) ordered the building of a castle at Moson to defend the border. It was mentioned as a castle in 1096, it was the place where King Kálmán was personally defending Moson castle against the fourth wave of Crusaders. Let us take a closer look at these events.

Photo: Szöllősi Gábor

In fact, the first Crusaders had been led by a French knight called Poissy (Pacy or Gauthier Walter, aka Sansavoir, “empty-pocket”). It was rather a fanatic mob of about 150,000 people. Although grudgingly, King Kálmán let them go through in case they could pay for their supplies. They left the kingdom without making more trouble. The second wave came in June, it was led by the hermit, Peter of Amiens: their 40,000 people clashed with the Hungarians only when they left the southern border. At that time, allegedly several thousand Hungarians were slaughtered at Zimony castle before they left for the Holy Land.

The third wave consisted of two large armies, one of them was led by a man called Folkmár; his 12,000 men were approaching through the Saxon and Bohemian lands. They caused terrible bloodshed among the Jews in Bohemia. They entered Hungary at Trencsén castle. The second army was led by a priest called Gottschalk, they had 15,000 soldiers. They entered the kingdom at Moson. Seeing the wealthy lands, the men of Folkmár soon began plundering it. The local Hungarians scattered them at Nyitra, leaving just a few alive. On the other hand, the army of Gottschalk was even more violent. They made camp near Pannonhalma and sent out raiding parties to plunder the country. King Kálmán hurried there with his soldiers and defeated them, killing Gottschalk. Only 3,000 Crusaders could flee. 

The First Crusade
The fourth wave came in the middle of July 1096, their army consisted of an estimated 200,000 people. They had come from the lands around the Rhine and their leader was the infamous Count Emicho of Leiningen. King Kálmán denied the indisciplined mob to enter the kingdom. Nevertheless, the Crusaders decided to cut a bloody corridor through Hungary with their swords. They made a bridge over the Lajta River and after taking Óvár castle, besieged Moson castle.
King Kálmán was in the fort, he led the defense in person. The siege lasted for weeks, the Hungarians sallied a few times but without much luck. When a couple of hundred Hungarians broke out, the Crusaders trapped and slaughtered them all. The Crusaders were running out of food and as the swampy moat had dried out around the castle, they decided to launch a general attack. They attacked the fort from all sides and before evening they managed to breach two sections of the walls.
Before the second general attack, King Kálmán realized that the castle could not be defended any longer. He decided to set the fort on fire and break out with all his men the next day. Luckily, the Crusaders failed to launch the final attack because they argued about who should be the next king of Hungary. In the meantime, the rest of the army suddenly lost hope, seeing that the castle still stood after six weeks of siege.
The defenders saw that the Crusaders were leaving their posts so they sallied out. Panic broke out among the enemy, and King Kálmán led all of his men against them. A horrible slaughter began, and the entire Crusader army was exterminated. Only a few of them could return to France.
Photo: Szöllősi Gábor
 After these events, it is no wonder that King Kálmán was suspicious when the next wave of Crusaders wanted to pass through his kingdom. It was the army of Lord Bouillon from North France, consisting of 70,000 infantrymen and 10,000 cavalrymen. However, they were different people and after providing hostages, King Kálmán escorted them through his lands, guarding their march with his Hungarian horse archers all the way. After these events, many other Crusader armies decided not to go through Hungary, and they chose the roads of the Balkan instead.

Settlers flocked around the castle, and by the end of the 11th century, it was described as a strong fortress and bustling merchant town. After Louis II’s marriage to Mary of Habsburg, Óvár became a key defense on the Austrian border, which would come into play during the Ottoman invasion. It was King IV Béla who gave huge lands to the Győr Clan who made further buildings in Óvár castle.

Photo: Szöllősi Gábor

The town suffered a lot during the Mongolian invasion of 1241-42. The new stone castle must have been built after the Mongols left. Konrád, the owner of Óvár castle sided with the Bohemian king Ottokar in 1260 so King IV Béla took away his properties. However, King V.István gave them back to the Óvári family in 1263. The fort was called, Castrum Altenburch” in 1270. King Ottokar took it but soon he had to return it. The Austrian Prince Albert besieged the castle in 1289. He was lucky because the castle was surrendered to him by its owner, Bychow, son of Óvári Szilveszter. It was King III Endre who could retake it in 1291. 

Photo: Szöllősi Gábor

 The castle and its villages were pledged to Ulrik Wolfart of Vöröskő in 1364. Then, Count Szentgyörgyi György gained it by marriage in 1440. This family built the vaulted tower gate of the castle, you can find their coat-of-arms on its ceiling; they built seven small “sitting chambers” in the Gothic style as well. As this family was discontinued, the castle returned to the king. It was King II Lajos who gifted it to his queen, Habsburg Maria in 1521. Maria appointed Várkonyi Amadé István as its castellan. (I am using the Eastern name order for Hungarian names.)

Photo: Szöllősi Gábor

In 1529, the Ottomans marched up to Vienna, and seeing them come, the castellan, Lenard Hauser, and his 300 men abandoned the castle. It was how the Turks destroyed Óvár almost completely after the unsuccessful siege of Vienna. They took revenge on Óvár, leveling all of its medieval buildings, including the castle and the Romanesque church.

Photo: Szöllősi Gábor

The armies of King Szapolyai János and the troops of Archduke Ferdinand also sacked the town. However, once again the inhabitants went about rebuilding it. It was under the rule of the Habsburg king during the Dual Kingship. In the years of the Reformation, the town was almost completely converted to Lutheranism, and the famous preacher Huszár Gál opened a Lutheran school at Magyaróvár in 1555.

Counter-Reformation movements forbade Protestantism in 1572, closing down the school and the Lutheran church. Due to the lax nature of the new statutes, and the rights of the townspeople as enforced by Ferdinand and Archduke Maximilian, however, religion did not become compulsory. During this time, Moson and Óvár alike were attacked by various armies, including Turkish and German mercenaries. Pasha Sinan could take the fort in 1593 for a short time.

Photo: Szöllősi Gábor

Just like Győr, Óvár was part of the fort system that was defending Vienna. After the fall of Győr in 1594, the castle was modernized to withstand a possible future attack by Italian engineers. During the 17th century, Óvár aka Magyaróvár enjoyed great urban development and some independence. The Hajdú soldiers of Prince Bocskai István of Transylvania burned the town in 1605 but they could not take the fort. However, the castle’s garrison opened the gates before the troops of Prince Bethlen Gábor in 1619. After the place returned to the Habsburgs, King II Ferdinand pledged it in 1627 to Harrach Leonhard for 46,000 gold. Later, the king made a better business when he pledged the castle and its villages in 1650 to Draskovich József because he got 200,000 pieces of gold for it. 

The young King Matthias was imprisoned behind this window when he was taken to Vienna (Photo: Szöllősi Gábor

In 1683, the new castle was helpless against the retreating Ottoman army of Kara Mustafa, which had been repulsed again at Vienna. Both Moson and Magyaróvár were set ablaze. Though the town archives were now destroyed, the damage was repaired more quickly this time. During Prince Rákóczi’s War of Independence (1703-1711), it was occupied by German-Austrian troops. The military importance of the castle ceased to exist after 1712 when all the cannons and other military equipment were transported to Pozsony (Bratislava, Pressburg) castle. Maria Theresia gave the town to her daughter, Krisztina in 1766. It was how the place became the property of Prince Albert of Saxonteschen by marriage. Later, Napoleon’s troops occupied the town in 1809. The demolishing of the old walls of the castle began in the 1830s.

Photo: Szöllősi Gábor

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