Nagytapolcsány / Kővárhely
Nagytapolcsány or Tapolcsány is called Velke Topoľčany in the Slovakian language, it is situated in Nyitra (Nitra) Region in Slovakia. The Hungarians arrived and settled in the area after the 9th century, Topolcsány became a regional market center during the Middle Ages located on the western bank of the Nyitra River and at a crossroads of trade routes. Topolcsány (Kővárhely) castle stands 15 km away from the town. You can find it on My Google Maps:
The town was founded by German settlers in the 12th century who were invited to the Kingdom of Hungary by the monarch. It was first mentioned in 1173 as Tupulchan. The estate of Tapolcsány (‘terrarum Tupulchan’) was donated by King Béla IV in 1235 to his chief stable master, Dénes, son of Dénes of Türje, (“Dionysius, filius Dionysii”), later the king’s Palatine.
After the Mongolian invasion, the later castle estate was in the hands of several owners. It was owned by István of the Gutkeled Clan, then by the oligarch Csák Máté who gained most of the surrounding area after 1260. Palatine Csák II Máté issued a charter on 4 July 1278 in Topolcsány (“Datum in Topluchan, quarto die octavarum termini prenotati”). In his Last Will, written in 1283, Topolcsány was called a taxation site. In this document, he left Tapolcsány to his widow, until her death. Then, the property was going to his brother, Csák Péter. (Please, note that I use the Oriental name order for Hungarians where family names come first.)
In 13th-century documents, the name Tapolcsány appears in the forms Thopulchan, Topluchan, and Topolchan. There is no mention of the castle in any of them, it is only mentioned in a document of 1318. According to a charter of Bishop János of Nyitra, Csák Máté occupied the bishopric’s lands and forced almost all the bishop’s people to dig the Topolchan rampart, fortify it with large trees, make bastions, give oats, feed the wild animals in the gardens with acorns, place stones on the bastions, build walls.
Based on this document and the dendrochronological analysis of the beams of the old tower, the owner of the castle was the oligarch Csák Máté in the early 14th century. The castle was built in a strategically important area: it controlled the Nyitra Valley and was connected visually with the castles of Gímes and Zayugróc. Csák Máté probably also used Tapolcsány as a regular residence near Trencsén (Trenčín).
This early castle consisted of an old tower built on the edge of a rocky ridge and a wall surrounding it in a semicircle. The tower is 9×9 meters in plan and the ground floor wall is 2.9 meters thick. The early Gothic tower bears a resemblance to the old tower of Trencsén. The entrance was on the 2nd floor and was protected by a drawbridge. On the 3rd floor, there was an outhouse. The tower was the main residential building until the end of the 14th century. The inner moat was surrounded by a semicircular dry moat carved into the rock.
In 1309, Palatine Csák Máté holds a meeting in Tapolcsány. In 1318, when the high priests recorded in writing the accusations of the bishop of Nyitra against Csák Máté, they said that Máté had the bishop of Nyitra’s serfs dig trenches, carry stones and beams, have lime fired and the clay for the cisterns transported to fortify Trencsén and Tapolcsány.
After the death of Csák Máté in 1321, King Károly Róbert’s troops besieged and took the castle. János’s son Peter, later castellan of Jeszenő, distinguished himself when Trencsén and Tapolcsány were taken (mentioned in a charter of 10 May 1328). Thus, Tapolcsány became a royal castle.
In 1347 Pomázi Cikó was the royal castellan of Tapolcsány and Keresztszeg, in 1356 Csúz János was the castellan of Tapolcsány. In 1372, he was the landowner of the king’s relative, Oppelni László, who entrusted János, the son of Korompai János with the duties of the castle governor.
King Zsigmond gave Tapolcsány castle and its town on 2 December 1389 to Szécsényi Frank and Simon in exchange for their deeds. In return, Simon and Frank gave Saskő castle in Bars County to the king. Previously, the king had gifted them Saskő castle because the brothers let him have their pledge on Lietva castle. The mining towns of Upper Hungary needed the forests belonging to Lietva Castle. The business was made a bit more complicated because other castles like Zsarnóca, as well as the exchange of other domains, were involved. The brothers were officially inaugurated at Topolcsány castle in 1390.
King Zsigmond issued a document about further property changes in Topolcsány castle in 1395, too. The next time, the king tried to modify this business in 1397, offering some domains to the Szécsényi family in exchange for Topolcsány castle but it was not concluded because we find later the castle in the hands of Szécsényi Frank and László. At the beginning of the 15th century, a thin-walled wall was built in front of the inner castle wall, with a smaller tower at the north-western end.
On May 21, 1407, Zsigmond, in a letter sent to the city of “Tapolchaan”, among others, instructed them to arrest the sons of Lehky Fülöp (dictus), Miklós and László, who had fled from him. In 1410, Szécsényi Frank’s son László was unsuccessfully sued by the family of Alsóelefánt for a property. Szécsényi confirms that his father received it from King Zsigmond together with Tapolcsány. In December, Szécsényi László is already suing Szerdahelyi Dénes for having occupied and cut down the forests and bushes belonging to the “Thapolchan oppidum” and the Nempchuch manor, and for having captured and imprisoned his serfs from Nempchych. In 1411, Szécsényi László’s castellan in Tapocsány was László of Byn. On 9 December 1411, Szécsényi László and his uncle Szécsényi Simon divided the estates. László got Ajnácskő, Hollókő, Tapolcsány. Simon took Salgó, Somoskő. Benevár remained in joint ownership.
In 1433, during the Bohemian Hussite intrusions, the Hussites captured the town of Tapolcsány, but not the castle. Tapolcsány became a veritable Hussite nest, and from here they plundered the area. They probably built the wooden fortress mentioned in later documents. King Zsigmond entrusted the fight against the Hussites to Lévai Cseh Péter, who in 1434 redeemed the property from the Hussite captain Jan Symneczky for 9,000 Forints.
In 1441, it was retaken by the Hussites of Jiskra (Chapek Jan), who had been summoned by the widow Queen Elizabeth. In his charter of 10.11.1442, King Ulászló I. proves that for a considerable sum of money, he bought the castle Namyescz in Moravia from Chapek Jan and gave it in exchange for Tapocsány (Thapalczan) to the soldier János Lwczysky, who owned Tapolcsány.
He did not pay the full amount to Chapek but pledged to him the castles of Strechen (Sztrecsény) and Starygrad (Óvár) for the remaining 6,000 Forints. The king was bound by his promise that the castles would not be used to harass the region. They finally left the city in 1443. However, the village below the castle was not exposed to destruction because of its proximity to the castle. In 1447, Sági Balázs, a confidant of Governor Hunyadi János, was the castle governor of Tapolcsány. Sometime after that, the Hussites, Giskra’s men, could have occupied it again.
According to a charter issued on 07.03.1459, the castle and town of Tapolcsány were redeemed for 2000 gold from the Czechs who had destroyed the Highlands (the northern region of the Kingdom of Hungary). They are now in the hands of Guthi Országh Mihály, according to a donation by King László V. In 1460 Zooki János was the captain of Tapolcsány. The Országhs did not fully own the manor, half of it belonged to Szécsényi László’s daughter and her husband Losonci Albert.
On 25.01.1461, King Matthias Corvinus, in his charter to the Chapter of Nyitra, in recognition of his merits, donated the stone castle of Tapolcsány (Thapolchan), and the town of Tapolcsány with its wooden fortress, and the villages of the manor to Guthi Országh Mihály. These once belonged to Zecheni [Szécsényi] László, but since King László’s donation they have been held by Országh Mihály and Losonczi Albert, and now the king has introduced them into the estate by way of a new donation. The Castellan of Országh in Csejte castle sent stonecutters to Tapolcsány to build the castle.
In 1504, Lévai Zsigmond, a descendant of Lévai Cseh Péter, applied to King Ulászló II for a pledge of half of the Tapolcsány estate. This did not happen due to the objections of the Országh family. In 1516, another attempt was made to incorporate him, but this was prevented by the castellan Bencek Ondrus of Tapolcsány. After the Battle of Mohács in 1526, the Országh family supported Habsburg Ferdinand in the struggle between the two kings. They built the outer castle with open Italian bastions for the cannons.
In 1552, Losonci István, the owner of half of the castle, died defending Temesvár castle, and in 1567, Országh Kristóf died without a son heir. The castle and the manor passed into the hands of the Chamber, then half of Országh’s property went to Balassa Menyhért, and the other half to Forgách Zsigmond in 1589 who married Losonci Anna. The joint possession of the castle by Forgách and Balassa was not smooth, and in 1595 Forgách finally redeemed the other half of the castle.
In 1599 the Turks destroyed the village below the castle. At the beginning of the 17th century, the Forgách family fortified the castle. By 1620, the moat-surrounded castle in the town of Tapolcsány was completed and took over the role of the manorial center. The importance of the castle declined, but construction continued. The living quarters in the inner castle were enlarged, the outer castle was built and the two corners of the outer castle were filled in to form a triangular gun emplacement.
In 1619 Forgách Zsigmond switched to the side of Prince Bethlen Gábor of Transylvania, but he maintained contact with the Habsburg king and then returned to him. No wonder, that in 1621 Forgách Ádám inherited Tapolcsány. You can read more about the Forgách family on my page:
In 1645, Prince Rákóczi I György of Transylvania wrote a letter to his wife, Lórántffy Zsuzsanna from Tapocsány castle (or from the fortified palace in Tavarnok, which was already standing at that time) during his campaign: “Datum in Castris Nagy-Tapolcsán positis die 6. Julii 1645.” In August 1649, the Turks raided the town of Tapolcsány and its area, they took 800 people into slavery. The 1671 inventory mentions that the castle was damaged, but still considered safe and defensible, and that it had some weapons.
In 1687 Forgách Ádám and Simon received 31000 gold Forints from their former guardian, the elder Count Bercsényi Miklós, in exchange for which they ceded Nagy-Tapolcsány and Tavarnok as pledged property for 10 years from 3 January 1687. The War of Independence broke out, and Forgách Simon escaped to the rebel anti-Habsburg Kuruc camp on 20 March 1704. Then, the outdated Tapolcsány castle also opened its gates to the Kuruc troops.
At the beginning of January 1708, Rákóczi’s General, Bottyán pushed General Starhemberg Maximilian, who was advancing to Nagytapolcsány, back behind the Vág river. In February, the raiding Kuruc troops of Nyitra, under the command of Bornemissza János, a master constable, captured the Field Marshal and his military treasury.
General Bottyán sent a letter from Nyitra in June 1708 to General Bercsényi, mentioning Tapolcsány castle in it, namely that he left Brigadier Ocskay László and the Hajdú soldiers of Urbán Czelder in Nagytapolcsány castle. When Nyitra fell to the Habsburgs at the end of August 1708, Ocskay betrayed Prince Rákóczi Ferenc II and sided with the Austrians. As a result of this, Nagytapolcsány castle also opened its gates before the Habsburg troops.
On Heister’s orders, General Steinville distributed his troops to winter quarters in castles and fortresses between Nyitra and the Vág River. Austrian troops were also stationed in the castle of Tapolcsány and in the fortified palace of Tavarnok near Nagytapolcsány. On 9 January 1709, Bottyán reported from Szécsény castle about the enemy in Komárom, Esztergom, Nyitra, Tapolcsány, and Szent-Benedek.
In February 1710, the Kuruc troops still tried to retake the lost territories: the brigade of Béri Balogh Ádám advanced towards Pozsony (Pressburg, Bratislava) and captured Nagyszombat (Trnava), Szentgyörgy and Bazin, while other armies in the Nyitra valley retook Tavarnok, Bossány, and Tapolcsány. However, this was no longer a lasting success.
After the end of Rákóczi’s War of Independence, the property of Forgách Simon, who had emigrated with Rákóczi, was confiscated and Tapolcsány was sold by the Chamber to Berényi Péter in 1714. A document from 1721 states that care should be taken to ensure the good condition and guarding of the gate of the castle overlooking the village. It became the property of Erdődy József by marrying Berényi Terézia, and from 1733 it was owned by the Traun family. Until the end of the 18th century, the chapel in the decaying castle was still used by the villagers.
The last owners of the castle were the Stummers, who also bought Tavarnok Castle in 1868. At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, Baron Stummer Ágoston restored the crumbling castle in a romantic style. These works mainly concerned the old tower, which then took its present form. The ruined walls of the castle were conserved. In 1925 there were further repairs to the castle.
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