Photo: Mehling

Nagybiccse aka Biccse (Bytča) is in the Upper lands/Horná Zem/Felvidék, in Slovakia. It is 16 km to the west of Zsolna (Zilina), on the right bank of the Vág River, it used to belong to the hilly Trencsén County. The settlement is famous for the Renaissance castle of the Thurzó family because the structure has been preserved in its original condition. During the early years of the Hungarian kings from the Árpád dynasty, the nearby lands belonged to the Bishopry of Nyitra. It was first mentioned as “terra Bycha” in 1234.

The COA of Biccse / Bytca

Then, the settlement appeared in a document of King Béla IV in 1250 as “Byucha”. Other documents mention it in 1271 and 1318 as the domain of the Bishopry of Nyitra. We know that its priest, István paid 12 pennies as taxes in 1337 which was not a large sum. However, the settlement was called a town for the first time in the document of Bishop Domonkos in 1378. Its church was dedicated to All Saints, mentioned first in 1392. The Judge of the Town was called Jakab in 1409.

The agricultural town was defended by a so-called water castle, a Gothic-style fort, built by Szentmiklósi Pongrácz in 1454. It was Thurzó Ferenc, Bishop of Nyitra (Nitra), who turned it into a Renaissance castle between 1571 and 1574. At this time, he had been already given a permit to resign from his ranks in the Catholic Church and he married the 14-year-old daughter of Zrínyi Miklós (Nicholas Zrinski, Captain of Szigetvár) in 1562. They had five children so the Thurzó family was not disconnected. Later, Thurzó Ferenc was buried in the church of the town of Biccse in 1576.

Photo: Mehling

The Renaissance castle is a typical fort of the age, a square-shaped building with four semi-round towers at its corners. Inside, the Renaissance arcades overlooked the inner yard. Unfortunately, the stucco decorations and paintings are in quite bad condition on the corridors’ walls. The fort’s thick walls have several loopholes and once there was a moat around them. There is a large gate tower at the entrance.

Thurzó György

Palatine Thurzó György continued the construction in 1590 in the late-Renaissance style. It was he who had a gorgeous wedding palace built next to the fort in 1601, for his daughters’ weddings. Unlike the castle, the “Wedding Palace (Sobášny palác)” has recently been nicely renovated.  Many other famous weddings took place in it, it was renowned throughout Europe. The palace had many comfortable lodgings and it had a library room for the young noblemen, a museum hall, and a hall for dancing.

Photo: Zuzana Grunova

We know, that the Thurzó family was infamous for their greed; in fact, they had been the ones who intermarried with the Fugger bankers. Some historians think that the Thurzó family had a hand in the disastrous financial situation of Hungary just before the Battle of Mohács in 1526. Palatine Thurzó, a great supporter of the Habsburgs, wanted to get hold of the wealth of the powerful Báthory family so he proposed marriage to Lady Báthori Erzsébet (1560-1614), the widow of the famous and valiant Nádasdy Ferenc, the “Black Bey”. (Note, I use the Eastern name order for Hungarian names.)

The Palace Building
(Photo: Palickap)

We know, that Lady Erzsébet was closely related to Prince Báthory Gábor of Transylvania. As it turned out, Báthory Gábor supported Bocskai István’s uprising against the Habsburgs in 1605. Also, Thurzó’s proposal was turned down by the widow, and the Palatine felt humiliated. However, a few years later he took revenge on her and had her arrested in 1611, based on fabricated charges supported only by tortured “witnesses”. Nobody has ever seen the bodies that Lady Erzsébet had allegedly killed. The palace of Biccse was the place where she was sentenced to captivity, without any trial. All legends about the Blood Countess are lies. Here you can read more about her castle, Csejte (Čachtice):

Biccse is the birthplace of a Paulian monk, Csepellényi György who was born there in 1626 and was martyred by some Protestants in 1674 near Eger. He had converted seven villages back to the Catholic faith; his body was buried by the order given by the Pasha of Eger who didn’t want to let “God’s saint man” stay unburied. The Pauline order is the only existing Hungarian-founded monastic order, it was established in Hungary during the 13th century. Their members wore white robes, it was why the famous statesman of Transylvania, Martinuzzi György (1482-1551) was also called the “White Monk”. Father Csepellényi György would have been canonized but the rules of the Paulines do not allow their monks could be eventually canonized as saints by the Catholic Church.

There is a Roman Catholic church dedicated to Saint Borbála in the cemetery of Biccse, built at the end of the 16th century, without a tower. You can see a mural in its southern section that was painted in 1629. Later, Biccse was owned by the Eszterházy family because Count Eszterházy Miklós married Nyári Krisztina, the widow of the last Thurzó. Unfortunately, the Eszterházy family after some initial renovations in 1630 and 1632, neglected the Renaissance castle. 

Photo: Palickap

According to the sources, the legendary Slovakian folk hero, Juraj Jánošik was spending his military service at Biccse in the first part of the 18th century. Then, he deserted it and began his short but famous career as an outlaw. Now there is a Museum of the Vág River Region in Nagybiccse. The settlement is also famous for its Renaissance, Baroque, and Classical bourgeoise houses. There were 3,122 inhabitants living in Biccse in 1910, 2,298 Slovakians, 438 Hungarians, and 347 Germans. As for 2011, out of 11,318 inhabitants, 10,820 people were Slovakians.

Photo: Juraj Habaj


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