Nedec / Dunajec

Nedec castle
Photo: Lánczi Imre

Nedec (Niedzica) is located in Poland at the Dunajec River, however, it used to be guarding the Hungarian-Polish border until 1918-20. Its history goes back to the Drugeth family who used to support Károly Róbert (he had come from the Anjou family) in seizing the Hungarian crown. Originally, the Drugeths were a noble family of French origin whose ancestors came to join King Anjou Károly Róbert from Apulia, Italy. 

Nedec in 1903 – still part of Hungary (Picture: Szöllősi Gábor

Since 1301, Lord Drugeth Fülöp has fought all the way on his side against the Hungarian oligarchs. He became the Palatine of the country, it was the second-highest rank in the kingdom. He died in 1327 and his huge domains were inherited by his nephew, Vilmos. (Note, I am using the Oriental name order for Hungarian names where family names come first.) As for the Drugeth family, they later became an important Hungarian aristocratic family in the 14th and 17th centuries whose possessions were situated in the northeastern parts of the kingdom.

The seal of Drugeth János from 1332

Vilmos was the Comes of Szepes County at that time and he bought the area of Nedec village in 1313 from a man called Rikalf. It was built on the top of an 80-meter-high cliff by Drugeth Vilmos before 1330 on the bank of the Dunajec to face the castle of Czorsztyn on the Polish side. The castle’s oldest part is the Citadel with the rectangular tower, the chapel, and a cistern in it, along with a few buildings.

Vilmos was also the Palatine of Hungary (1334) but also acted as the Comes of Szepes, Torna, Abaúj, Heves, Gömör, Borsod, and Sáros counties. He left the castle to his brother, Miklós. However, when Palatine Vilmos died in 1342, the new ruler, King Lajos (Louis I. who was also called the Great) took all the so-called “honorary” domains back from the Drugeth family that they had used as part of their office.

The Drugeth family’s COA

We know, that the king had a castellan in Nedec called Master Jakab, son of Dénes in 1344, he was serving Lord Széchy Miklós, the Comes of Szepes. Castellan Jakad had served the Drugeth as well. During the same year, he was removed and the Queen’s Cup Bearer, Berzéte Miklós became the castellan until 1347. It was the year when King Lajos sold the castle and its lands to a priest from Buda called Miklós, son of András of Dunajec. The priest and his nephews became the new owners of Nedec castle, and perhaps not totally accidentally, they were related to the first owners of the land, the Rikalf family.

According to a document from 1382, János, son of István was the castellan whose liege-lord was a nobleman called Polyán of Dunajec. As that family was discontinued, King Zsigmond gave the castle and the lands to Baron Perényi Miklós. It is known that the castellan was Betlenfalvi Márton in 1416. There was a certain lord called Berzevici Péter who protested against the king’s decision, claiming that his wife was Lady Hedvig of Dunajec and allegedly he had already purchased the land. We know that Lord Berzeviczi’s claim was accepted in 1402 and he was in charge of Nedec until he died in 1433. Then, a man called Fekete (Black) János inherited his property. A year later, the castellan was Ragyolci Petras who was serving the widow of Baron Péter.

Photo: Kocsis Kadosa

After the sudden death of King Habsburg Albert of Hungary in 1440, the kingdom was on the brink of anarchy. His widow, Queen  Erzsébet was trying to secure the throne for her baby-son. She was opposed by the high lords of the kingdom like Hunyadi János, Duke of Szörény who wished to see a grown man leading the country against the Ottoman peril. The Queen needed soldiers quite badly so she called the Bohemian mercenary leader, Jan Giskra into the country.

Photo: Kocsis Kadosa

The seasoned Czech Hussite warriors entered the kingdom and Giskra was appointed as the Chief Captain of Kassa (Kosice, Kaschau) and he also was given the castle of Zólyom (Zvolen). His main task was to prevent the traffic of the supporters of King Jagiellanian Ulászló toward Poland. The Bohemian soldiers took control soon over half of the Upper Lands of Hungary, they took the castle of Likava as well. On top of this, they built new forts like Csábrág, Murány, Csővár, etc. The local lords were busily building their castles in defense of them, too. Here is more about Likava Castle:

Our documents mention the name of Captain Fekete (Black) János again in 1444 who came into the kingdom at the Queen’s call. He must have been the former owner of Nedec who joined Giskra’s army this time. It was only King Matthias Corvinus who could come to terms with Giskra in 1462. The Hussite leader had lost the Szepesség (Zipt) Lands and when Emperor Habsburg Frederick III quit the war, Giskra (Jiskra) had to give in to the Hungarian king.

Giskra ceded him the northern castles he controlled and in exchange for this, Matthias paid him 25,000 gold Forints and gifted him the castles of Lippa and Solymos in Arad County, far away from the northern counties. The king benefited from the business even more because Giskra’s men became the core of his standing army, the Black Army.

King Matthias Corvinus

As for Lord Berzevici aka „Fekete” (Black) János, he bowed his head before the king and it was how he could keep his domains. He died without a male heir in 1463 and the Treasury inherited Nedec castle. Then, Matthias gave it to his faithful general, Szapolyai Imre, Comes of Szepes County in 1470. Allegedly, Szapolyai took it back from the Polish by force in 1470. The Szapolyai family significantly enlarged and repaired the castle during the next 16 years. With the construction of the Lower Castle, the area of Nedec Castle has been doubled. Also, three more outer towers were erected. The church of the town was built in the 15th century and its paintings have been recently discovered.

Czorsztyn castle, opposite to Nedec (Photo: Kocsis Kadosa)

Princess Hedvig, the widow of palatine Szapolyai István bought the castle of Likava from Lord Horváth András in 1507, in exchange for 2,000 gold Forints and for Nedec castle, including its lands that were worth another 2,000 Forints. It was how the Horváth family had become its lords for decades. The Horváth family of Palocsay carried out many constructions in the castle. They walled the old gate in and opened a new one on the southwestern side, and they built a 3-story-high new palace at the western wall. Also, they built a new middle section on the eastern side, which became the Middle Castle.

Photo: Kocsis Kadosa

The castle’s wall was decorated in the Renaissance style which was very similar to the pattern used at the castle of Késmárk. The mortar of the wall was decorated with graffito. Sgraffito is a technique of wall decor, produced by applying layers of plaster tinted in contrasting colors to a moistened surface. Now, the castle can be seen as it was built, except there were some floors of the western palace pulled down after 1820.

After the battle of Mohács in 1526, Szapolyai János became the new king of Hungary. However, the Duel Kingship tore the kingdom in two as Habsburg Ferdinand usurped the throne. Soon, after Szapolyai was defeated by General Katzianer in the Battle of Abaújszina in 1528, he had to flee to Poland for a short time. Ferdinand was trying to take his supporters’ lands by arms.

Then, Katzianer took Szepesvár (Spišský hrad,  Zipser Burg) castle, the ancient fort of the Szapolyai family. Nedec was also taken by the German mercenaries. Ferdinand appointed Potturniansky István, the Starost of Szepes as his castellan. Here is more about the Szepes (Slovak: Spiš; Latin: Scepusium, Polish: Spisz, German: Zips) Region:

Czorsztyn castle, opposite to Nedec Photo: Kocsis Kadosa

According to contemporary chronicles, Nedec was retaken by the supporters of King Szapolyai in 1528, by the soldiers of Kosztka Péter who used to have unlimited control over Árva County at that time. King Szapolyai gifted Nedec and Késmárk castles (along with their villages, of course) to his Polish diplomat, Jeromos Laszky in 1529 in exchange for his services. Yet, Laszky switched sides a few years later and went over to King Ferdinand.

In the confusion, Nedec castle fell into the hands of robber knights. Against all the odds, the church of the castle was rebuilt between 1545-1640. The robber-knight was called Zsigmond Kauffang who became a criminal and robbed the travelers. Lord Bebek Ferenc (who wasn’t a very nice man, either) had him arrested in 1553 and the villain was beheaded in Vienna.

The history of the castle in English (Photo: Qdiace)

We know that before 1589, Nedec castle had been owned by Adalbert, the son of Jeromos Laszky. Then, Adalbert sold it to the former owner, the Palocsay Horváth family. Palocsay Horváth György died in 1617 and his son, István inherited his properties. As Lord István died without a male heir, the Treasury inherited Nedec castle in 1654. Six years later, Emperor Habsburg Leopold gave the castle to Baron Sylveszter Giovanelli in exchange for his unconditional loyalty. It was the beginning of the so-called “kuruc” age when the Hungarians and Croatians, Slovakians were getting fed up with the Habsburgs.

The rebel “kuruc” troops of Prince Thököly Imre of Transylvania and Upper Hungary brought cannons from Lőcse (Levoča) castle to Nedec to take the stronghold in 1683. Soon, the guards surrendered it. Allegedly, Baron Giovanelli ransomed himself for a large sum of money and fled to Krakkó (Krakow) where he died in 1685. According to other sources, he fell into the hands of the “kuruc” troops and was imprisoned in Regéc castle.

We know that in 1683 further “kuruc” rebels came to Nedec from Lőcse, led by Görgey János. (The Saxon burghers of Lőcse had paid them 2,000 gold to go away.) Anyway, the “kuruc” guards surrendered the castle in 1684 to the Imperial soldiers. Then, the Imperials transported 60 “kuruc” prisoners of war into Nedec on 25 December 1685 but the captives disarmed their guards and took over control of the castle.

Photo: Łukasz Śmigasiewicz

As Prince Thököly was defeated, the rebels had to flee from Nedec castle, too. The Giovanelli family returned after 1685 and they owned the place for the next 100 years. Nedec Castle had no military role in Prince Rákóczi’s War of Independence between 1703 and 1711. As the Giovanelli family members were loyal to the Habsburgs, Nedec castle did not explode after 1711. The Giovanelli family was discontinued in 1776, and the Palocsay Horváth family has been able to regain the castle, for the third time. As Nedec was not in the best condition, they lived in Palocsa castle, next to the Poprád River.

Photo: Sebastian Dutkiewicz

Nedec castle burned down in 1850. The Horváth family’s palace at Palocsa also burned down in 1856 so they moved to Nedec castle. Shortly after this, they had Nedec renovated. After that, the Salamon family inherited the property. Nedec suffered one more fire but their owners rebuilt it in 1861 again. Nedec became part of Poland in 1920, after the Treaty of Trianon but his Hungarian owner, Salamon Tivadar lived among the walls until 1939.

Photo: Piotrus

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Photo: Mgr.Jozef Kotulič

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Here are more pictures of Nedec Castle: