Nógrád castle is located in north-Hungary. In the age of Ottoman wars, it was a frontier castle of the Borderland and it used to be the center of Nógrád County. It is one of the oldest castles of Hungary, however, we do not know the exact time of its construction but before the stone walls were built, there had been an earthen fortification that dates back to the age of nomadic migrations in the Romans’ time. First, take a look at this animation video of the castle (by Fodor Zsolt):
Before the arrival of the Hungarian tribes, the Slavic and Bulgarian tribes took over the fort, and they reinforced it. It was called Novigrad aka New Castle (Újvár). When the Magyars arrived, according to the historian Anonymus aka Bele Regis Notarius (end of the 12th century): “Chief Árpád held a council and summoned many soldiers in order to conquer Gömör castle and Nógrád castle (Castrum Nougrad) along with their folks.” As it turned out, the defenders ceded the forts without a fight.
We have documents from 1108 and we know that it was Castelan (and Comes) Slauiz who guarded the castle on behalf of the king. It was in the king’s hand in 1138, in 1266, and also in 1274 as it was mentioned as “castrum regium”. It was called “Castrum Novigrad” in the letter of the Chapter of Buda in 1299. King László IV gifted Nógrád to the Bishop Tamás of Vác, assumedly between 1274 and 1284.
There is not much known about the castle between the Mongolian Invasion (1241-42) until the 15th century. During the decades after the death of King Zsigmond (1368-1437), the Bohemian Hussites were attacking the region so Bishop Szilassy Vince of Vác had the fort’s walls reinforced. Then, a major reconstruction of the walls was done by Bishop Báthori Miklós between 1475-1506 who employed the Italian architect, Jakab Traguinus. The bishop spent a huge amount of money on the new buildings and fortifications. He had a deep moat dug and had a well drilled. The inner tower was also built in that time, and the bishop’s Coat of Arms was fixed on its wall in 1483 (see the picture):
Nógrád castle became the property of King Szapolyai János in 1526. (Note, I use the Eastern name order for Hungarian names.) At the very beginning of the Dual Kingship, the troops of the usurper King Habsburg Ferdinand took Nógrád in 1527. His men held the castle until 1544. Then, Captain Miskey István heard the news of the Turks’ coming and he and his men cowardly ran away, “without a reason to be afraid”. As a result of this, Hussein, Bey of Esztergom, and Muhammed, Pasha of Buda took the empty castle easily.
It was only 50 years later, in 1594 when the allied army of Archduke Matthias, Pálffy Miklós, and Christopher Tiefenbach occupied it. Révay András was appointed as its captain and he was given 300 Hungarian and 300 German soldiers to guard it. Unfortunately, the Habsburgs failed to send money to repair the walls and the Turks attacked it in 1598. Against all the odds, the defenders could repel the attack. Prince Bocskai István of Transylvania – with Turkish aid – took it from the Habsburgs in 1605 but it had to be returned according to the Peace of Vienna. Prince Bethlen Gábor also took it in 1619 but a few years later he had to give it back to the Emperor.
Nógrád remained a Borderland castle. Captain Eszterházy Pál beat back the attack of Pasha Murtteza of Buda in 1626. The ruined walls had to wait for the renovation until 1655 when the Diet voted enough money for its repairs. At the same time, the Diet also hired 150 cavalrymen and 200 infantrymen to guard it. Nógrád castle was under the command of Captain Nadányi Miklós who handed it over to the Turkish troops who were allied with Prince Apaffy Mihály of Transylvania in 1663.
It was only for 22 years in the Turks’ hands when a lightning bolt struck the gunpowder stores and exploded the castle: the Turkish Bey Csonka was the commander of the castle at this time. After the disaster, he put the rest of the fort on fire and abandoned it. Later he converted to the Roman Catholic faith and he received great lands from Emperor Leopold I. You can read more about Bey Csonka here:
During the War of Independence of Prince Rákóczi Ferenc (1703-1711), the prince has often urged his general, Bottyán to have Nógrád castle repaired and reinforced. It must have been carried out because we know the report written by Nógrád’s captain, Földváry László in 1709. He wrote that General Károlyi János had seen the work and said it was all right. However, the castle was not strong enough to withstand a serious siege so the rebel “kuruc” troops of Földváry demolished it when they heard of the Imperials’ coming. The Austrian soldiers took the empty castle in October 1709, and pulled the rest of the walls down, too.
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Pictures of Nógrád castle: