Selected Passages from Hungarian-Ottoman Wars

Oroszlánkő 

Oroszlánkő (in 1860) Source: Szöllösi Gábor www.varlexikon.hu

Oroszlánkő (until 1899 Oroszlánkő-Pohrágye, Slovak: Vršatské Podhradie, formerly Oršovské Podhradie) is a village in the Illava district of Trencsén (Trenčín) County, Slovakia. Baron Mednyánszky Alajos visited the ruins around 1820 and wrote: “This castle, which is not large, is without doubt the most daring building in Hungary. It surrounds – like a spiral staircase – a constantly tapering mountain cone, the top of which has barely a square of space, and even here a room has been built, in front of which a balcony stretches fearfully over the bottomless abyss”.

Oroszlánkő Photo: Szegedi Szabolcs

The ruins of the castle of Ororszlánkő are located on a very steep cliff 897 meters high in the White Carpathians. The gate of the lower castle is at 805 meters, while the tower of the upper castle, with its small foundation, is almost 100 meters higher, with a staircase cut into the rock. The small entrance gate to the upper castle is carved into the rock, blocking the road.

Oroszlánkő Photo: Szegedi Szabolcs

On May 23, 1244, King Béla IV donated the land (on which the castle was built) of Lesták Pruska, the son of the deceased Előd who died without an heir, to Bogomér, the Comes of Trencsén, for his merits during the Mongolian Tatar invasion and his mission to the Polish prince. Bogomér must have built the 6×6 meter rectangular tower with a cellar hewn out of the rock on the eastern peak of the ridge. The walls of the tower were one meter thick.

Oroszlánkő Photo: Szöllösi Gábor www.varlexikon.hu

The first mention of the castle of Ororszlánkő dates back to 1316 when Csák Máté on Bolondóc [Beckó] wrote it in the form of “Oruslanku”. In this charter, the governor Matheus [Máté] orders Albertus to send his son to Kassa [Kasza], Oruslanku [Oroszlánkő], Lednuche [Lednic], Bestruche [Vágbeszterce], Hrychov [Hricsó], Lytwa [Litva], and Strechun [Strechun], and to collect one measure of oats and one cart of hay per mansion or curia from the serfs of Matheus there, and to bring them to Trencsén immediately. The lord probably acquired it in 1302, when King Vencel (Wenceslas) of Bohemia granted him the whole county of Trencsén.

Oroszlánkő Photo: Szöllösi Gábor www.varlexikon.hu

After the death of Csák Máté in 1321, Oroszlánkő also became a royal castle. Its first royal warden must have been Köcski Sándor of the Héder family, who called himself lord of (Vág) Beszterce and the surrounding castles. (“comes Alexander iudex curiae domini Caroli regis, castellanus in Byztricha, nec non aliorum quam plurimorum castrorum penes fluvium Waag”)

Oroszlánkő Photo: Szöllösi Gábor www.varlexikon.hu

In the Turkish campaign of 1396, Voivode Stibor helped King Zsigmond not only with his sword but also with a loan of 3000 forints, for which the King pledged the castle of Oroszlánkő to the voivode. The pledge stipulated that neither he nor his heirs could alienate, sell, or pledge it without the consent of the monarch. At some point, it returned to the king, because in 1404 it was in the hands of the palatine Garai Miklós.

Oroszlánkő Photo: Szegedi Szabolcs

In the 14th century, the small upper castle was built on a narrow rocky ridge. Probably, the construction of the lower castle on the 90 m lower cliff ledge could have begun at that time.

Oroszlánkő (19th century) Photo: Szöllösi Gábor www.varlexikon.hu

On May 25, 1424, King Zsigmond gave his wife, Queen Cillei Borbála, the castle of Trencsén and the whole county, Szucsa, Oroszlánkő, (Vág) Beszterce, Hricsó, Sztrecsény, Óvár and the destroyed Budatin. (“… videlicet Trinchiniensi cum comitatu Trinchiniensi, necnon Zucchya, Orozlankw, Bistricia, Hrycchow, Strechen et Owar vocatis ac tenutis, possessionibus, villis et pertinentiis cuiusdam castri Bugyetin nuncupati nunc certis de causis in suis edificiis rupti, destructi et aboliti locoque et situ eiusdem castri, loco et respectu aliorum quorundam castrorum ac civitatum, opidorum, districtuum, possessionum…”).

Oroszlánkő (19th century) Photo: Szöllösi Gábor www.varlexikon.hu

In 1434 the landlord of Oroszlánkő and Budetin, the royal castellan of Blatnica, was Szentmiklósi Pongrác. In 1435 the castle was again in the hands of Queen Borbála, and then it was in the hands of Zobonya Miklós of Emőke, who was accused by the people of Léva of extortion and heresy, i.e. of Hussitism.

Oroszlánkő Photo: Szöllösi Gábor www.varlexikon.hu

After the death of King Zsigmond, King Albert Habsburg confiscated his mother-in-law’s estates (so that she “could do less harm in her wickedness”) and gave them to his wife, Queen Elizabeth of Luxembourg, on June 11, 1439. (“Idem Albertus Conthorali suae Elisabeth arcem et vrbem Trenchin, Leua, Castrum Szucha, Oroszlankew, Byztricze, Strechen, ciuitales item Warinuin, Solnam, et Castrum Owar confert.”).

Oroszlánkő Photo: Szöllösi Gábor www.varlexikon.hu

She pledged it to the queen’s relative, Cillei Ulrik. In 1447 it was mentioned as Castrum Lebenstain in a document issued in Vienna, in which Cillei Ulrik and Szentmiklósi Pongrác made peace through the intercession of Hunyadi János. In 1454 it was mentioned in a document as “Castrum Orozlankew, alias Vrsatecz”. In that year Hunyadi János redeemed the castles of Trencsén, (Vág) Beszterce, Illava, Oroszlánkő, Sztrecsény, Szúcsa and Zsolna, which had been pledged to Cillei Ulrik, for 13,000 gold forints, so that they all became his pledge.

Oroszlánkő Photo: Szöllösi Gábor www.varlexikon.hu

In 1457, King László V was willing to hand over the prisoner Hunyadi Mátyás to the Hunyadi party only if the Hunyadi would return the royal castles of Trencsén County, including Oroszlánkő. On 03.07.1461 King Hunyadi Mátyás (Matthias Corvinus) ordered the Chapter of Nyitra to put Libak Mátyás, son of Vencel of Radowesicz, in possession of the Thepla manor and the Oroszlánkő castle. According to the deed Oroszlánkő was promised to Libak by Hunyadi László. The castle was in the hands of Szlopnai Gáspár and Menyhért. The legal basis is not clear from the contemporary sources.

Oroszlánkő Photo: Szöllösi Gábor www.varlexikon.hu

According to the charter of King Matthias of 14 February 1462, around 11 November 1461, Matthias of Radovesici Libák captured the castle of Oroszlánkő (“Orozlankew”) from Szlopnai Gáspár and Menyhért. The king ordered the county of Trencsén to investigate the incident and, if it was true, to expel Libák from the castle and return him to the Szlopnai. The Szlopnai later called themselves Oroszlánkői.

In 1462, the charter of Matthias Corvinus mentioned Oroszlánkő 
Source: Szöllösi Gábor www.varlexikon.hu

King Matthias ordered the Chapter of Nyitra to register Oroszlánkői Menyhért with the castle of Oroszlánkő and its accessories in the county of Trencsén in his charter of 15.09.1478. With this donation, Oroszlánkő ceased to be a royal castle. In 1509, King Ulászló II exempted the serfs of Szlopna from paying taxes for 3 years, so that they could fortify the castle and provide it with supplies. (“pro munitione et defensione castri pernecessarii”).

Oroszlánkő Photo: Szöllösi Gábor www.varlexikon.hu

The castle of Oroszlánkő belonged to the son of the Szlopnai family, but the side branches also fought for the property. The Csuzy family won the dispute in 1547, and Csuzy András besieged the castle, but Oroszlánkői János repulsed the attack. The castle remained in the hands of the Oroszlánkői family. In 1555, according to a report, there were only 1.5 pounds of gunpowder in the Oroszlánkő castle.

Oroszlánkő Photo: Szegedi Szabolcs

The family died out with the death of Oroszlánkői Miklós in 1576. On May 5, 1576, the castle and the estate were donated to Jakusits Ferenc, the vice-captain of Győr. The female heirs protested in vain. At that time, several inventories were made, which showed that the castle had recently burned down, that there were hardly any interior furnishings, and that there were only a few weapons in the castle.

Oroszlánkő Photo: Szegedi Szabolcs

The disputes continued for several decades, and in 1592 Nyitra County submitted a resolution to the king: “His Majesty should take the castle of Oroszlánkő from the new donor and return it to the rightful heirs”. This did not happen. Finally, in 1651, the Jakusists partially paid off the heirs of Oroszlánkő.

Oroszlánkő Photo: Szegedi Szabolcs

In the 16th century, the lower castle, measuring 50 x 60 meters, was built as a Renaissance palace and farm buildings (bakery, granary, stables, and brewery). The whole was surrounded by a rather thin defensive wall of one-meter thickness, only the wall protecting the northern entrance side was 1.7 meters thick. The western side was fortified by a cylindrical and a pentagonal tower and a rounded, elongated, wedge-shaped northern bastion. Between the outer and the upper castle, cannons were placed on a bastion partly carved into the rock.

Oroszlánkő (17th century) Source: Szöllösi Gábor www.varlexikon.hu

In 1663 Jakusits Imre from the castle of Oroszlánkő surprised and defeated the Crimean Tatars who were plundering the area. In 1680, Suhajda János, the lieutenant of Thököly, attacked and burned down the castle of the royalist Jakusits.

Oroszlánkő (in 1761) Source: Szöllösi Gábor www.varlexikon.hu

According to the inventory of 1683, the lower castle was built on a rock, two stories high, spacious enough for the lord’s quarters, with stone and wooden buildings. The lower castle was one-storeyed, with various rooms, and was very dilapidated. Granary, stables for 30 horses, two good cellars. Both castles had a small cistern, which belonged to Jakusits Imre and his wife. Jakusits’s will, written in 1692, stated that he had repaid a loan from his wife to repair the castle.

Oroszlánkő (in the 19th century) Source: Szöllösi Gábor www.varlexikon.hu

When Jakusits Imre died in 1694, Oroszlánkő was returned to the king. The estate was bought in 1695 for 65000 forints and 300 gold pieces by Breuner Siegfried of Steving, the president of the Chamber, who also owned the Illava manor. According to the inventory made at that time, the castle, which was very neglected, had 4 small cannons and 56 handguns.

Oroszlánkő (in 1905) Source: Szöllösi Gábor www.varlexikon.hu

In 1689, Countess Breuer became the owner of the castle, and she immediately transferred it to her son-in-law, Count Königsegg Siegfried Károly, Imperial Colonel of Aulendorf. In October 1705 the Kuruc troops surprised the German guards of Oroszlánkő and took the castle.

Oroszlánkő Photo: Szöllösi Gábor www.varlexikon.hu

In March 1707 the troops of Major General Viard defeated the Hajdú troops of Révay Imre at Pruszka and besieged the castle unsuccessfully. In the fall of 1707, after his successful raid on Beckó castle, Ocskay fortified the small fortresses still in the hands of the Kuruc: Lednice, Kaszavár, Oroszlánkő, Vág-Beszterce, Biccse, Budatín, Óvár and Lietava. Except for Óvár, he found all the castles in a very neglected state and almost empty. At the beginning of October, Eszterházy Antal sent Colonel Winkler Vilmos from Érsekújvár with 300 Hajdú soldiers and 8 howitzers to reinforce these castles with garrisons.

Oroszlánkő Photo: Lánczi Imre

The French military engineer De la Motte visited the fortresses in the spring of 1708 on the orders of Rákóczi. He mainly examined the artillery and supplies, but he also asked which of the small border fortresses were worth guarding. The report said that Oroszlánkő should only be supplied with food and that a 30-man guard could protect it for years. He wrote the same about Lednic. Biccse, on the other hand, is not a defensible place, it depends only on the enemy to take it.

Oroszlánkő Photo: Lánczi Imre

After the defeat at Trencsén on August 10, Imperial Lieutenant General Carl Hochberg of Hennersdorf marched under Oroszlánkő with 800 men, but the castle did not surrender. Upon hearing the news of Ocskay’s troops coming, the lieutenant general retreated. Rákóczi called on the counties to rise personally to replace the scattered Kuruc armies. The nobles of Trencsén County held a meeting on August 21 in Zsolna and on August 29 in Oroszlánkő, where they asked Rákóczi not to force the recruitment of troops and the collection of taxes, as the population was starving and hiding, the villages were dying out and everything was in danger of collapsing.

Oroszlánkő (1913, Schmidt Nándor)
Photo: Szöllösi Gábor www.varlexikon.hu

Finally, in September, the castle was attacked again by the Emperor’s troops. Madocsányi Miklós, the commander of the Kuruc Guard, surrendered the fortress on September 5th with a free retreat after 3 days of resistance. The owner, Colonel Königsegg, was among the besieging army. Meanwhile, Ottlyk György took the place of the traitor Ocskay. On September 14, 1708, he ordered Lieutenant Colonel Paur Ferenc to attack the castle of Oroszlánkő, which had been abandoned by the Kuruc guards and was now occupied by the Germans. The small rock castle was then damaged with gunpowder by the Imperials and made unusable. It was never repaired. Over the centuries, its stones were removed by the inhabitants of the area.

Oroszlánkő Photo: Szöllösi Gábor www.varlexikon.hu

A map from 1761 shows a drawing of the castle. The buildings of the castle appeared to be largely intact on the map. Könyöki József described it in 1882 like this: “In a direction parallel to the Vág River, a steep grassy slope rises above the village from a perfectly sheer rock face at least three kilometers long. The castle stands on the top of this cliff. The Szúlyó Hills and the Oroszlánkő cliff are the highest in the county and can be seen from almost everywhere” 

Oroszlánkő Photo: Lánczi Imre

The lower castle is currently undergoing restoration, while the upper castle is closed to the public (2022), according to the sign.

Oroszlánkő Photo: Lánczi Imre

Source: Várlexikon https://varlexikon.hu/oroszlanko

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