Palota is famous for its castle that is also called “Thury castle”. It used to be an important Borderland castle of the Trans-Danubian Region of Hungary during the Ottoman wars between Lake Balaton and Lake Velence. The name Várpalota (“Vár” stands for “castle” while “palota” means “palace” in the Hungarian language) came into use just after 1870. The large castle had four towers at its corners and it was situated in the middle of a swampy area. It is one of the few Hungarian castles that have remained in the most intact condition, despite all the wars. Palota castle, with the Bakony Mountains behind it, used to guard the road between Székesfehérvár (Fehérvár) and Veszprém. During the Ottoman wars, it had to withstand six heavy sieges.
The castle is also called Thury Castle because of Thury György, its famous captain who managed to repel the overwhelming Ottoman forces in the summer of 1566. (Note, I use the Eastern name order for Hungarian names where family names come first.) Palota was taken by the Turks only in 1593 and it was liberated just 94 years later.
After the Home-taking of the Magyar tribes in the 9th century, the Szalók Clan settled in this region. Initially, Palota castle stood at a different place, 5 kilometers farther from there. It was identical to the castle called Bátorkő (Brave stone) built by the Csák Clan. Now, Bátorkő castle is also called Pusztapalota that can be quite confusing. All documents written before 1440, refer to Pusztapalota castle.
Here you can read more about Bátorkő castle:
King Károly Róbert obtained Bátorkő castle from the Csák Clan in 1326. It was one of the castles that the king bartered with them because the Csák family owned just too much land in the region. Then, King Louis the Great gifted the castle to the ancestors of the Újlaki family in 1350. As the new owners found Bátorkő castle too small, they began to build a more comfortable and bigger palace at Bátorkő around the turn of the century. It became a real “palace” aka “palota” in the Hungarian language and it was how Palota castle was mentioned in a document in 1397.
It was Újlaki Miklós, one of the wealthiest oligarchs of Hungary, who had the castle constructed at its present location between 1439 and 1445. It was a real stronghold with an inner tower. Later, King Matthias Corvinus and his Queen Beatrix visited the place. In fact, they were preparing for their wedding in Palota castle in 1476. After the death of King Matthias, the troops of the Habsburgs occupied the castles of Trans-Danubian castles for a time being. They took Fehérvár castle, too. King Ulászló II at that time was staying at Palota, recovering from his sickness. He was organizing the kingdom’s defense from the comfortable but strong Palota castle.
Lord Újlaki Lőrinc made a contract with the other wealthiest lord of the country, Szapolyai István in 1493. According to the contract, Szapolyai would have inherited Palota castle. However, things turned out a bit differently: when Újlaki died without a male heir in 1524, his widow, Lady Bokovczai Magtdolna remarried. Her new husband was nobody else than the infamous robber-knight, Móré László of Csula. The Diet of Hatvan decided to take away Palota castle from him but Móré refused to give it back.
Finally, it was King Szapolyai János who had to send an army there, led by his Polish diplomat, Jeromos Laszki in 1533. When Nagy Gergely, Palota’s castellan has heard about his coming, he fled at once. Lord Móré abandoned the besieged castle in secret a short time later. He didn’t wait until the 50 Bohemian miners of Laszki finished their job and exploded the walls.
It was how Laszki received Palota castle from King Szapolyai. However, Laszki betrayed his king and left him in 1537. Then, Szapolyai gave the castle to Podmaniczky János and Rafael, noblemen from the lands of Upper Hungary. The Podmaniczky brothers have soon reinforced the castle and updated it according to the artillery development of the age. They also added a round bastion that was guarding the gate. The Turks occupied it, led by Bey Ulema in 1543 but we can find Hungarian guards in it again in 1548. In 1549, it was Bey Veliszán of Fehérvár castle who was besieging it, although in vain. Palota was indeed a strategic Borderland castle and could repel the Turkish attacks for full 50 years, though it was always neglected by the king. It was undermanned and underpaid, in bad condition, and it was hard to defend on its terrain.
The troops of Bey Arslan tried to take it in 1551 but they were beaten back. The defenders of Palota were under incredibly heavy pressure between 1552 and 1566 due to the capture of Veszprém castle by the Turks. When Podmaniczky Rafael died in 1559, his widow had to cede Palota to the Habsburg king who appointed Thury György as his captain. Thury was not just a great duelist, the hero of 600 duels, the “Hungarian El Cid” but he was a good strategist, too. He had the bastions of Palota repaired and had the moats cleaned, and made his best to pile up food and ammunition. As he didn’t really get money from the king, he was writing him many letters, we know such letters from 1559 and from 1565. In the meantime, the enemy tried to take the castle even by a trick but Thury outsmarted them. Here is more about this case:
Thury had barely 200 Hussars and 200 riflemen guarding Palota castle when Pasha Arslan of Buda desperately attacked the fort with an overwhelming strength of 8,000 soldiers and lots of cannons in June 1566. When the enemy completely surrounded the castle and night fell, all the Hussars broke out noiselessly and attacked the sleeping Ottoman warriors. They made such a savage clamor, putting everything burnable on fire in the meantime, that Pasha Arslan began to panic. He was all the more panicking when it was reported that a huge army of reinforcement is approaching the castle.
He wouldn’t know that it was just the noise made by the Judge of Győr city, who had sent many wagons to the Bakony hill to collect wood and branches. Many citizens of Győr were Germans, they spoke and sang in German while working. Pasha Arslan began whining, moaning, and gave an order to withdraw. He received a silk string for it from the Sultan. We must mention here, that the German General Salm was hunting near Győr, not caring about Palota’s peril. He arrived three days later with his troops.
When Salm finally showed up with the reinforcement, Thury joined him with his Hussars and they together took back the castles of Tata and Veszprém. Then, Thury resigned from his post because it was impossible to finance the defense of Palota without the king’s help. His cousin, Thury Márton was appointed by the king to lead Palota. Márton was not idle, either: he repelled the attack of Pasha Mustafa in 1568. It was the period when the famous military engineer, Giulio Turco (1572) was working in the castle. As for Thury György, a few years later in 1571, he was slaughtered by the Turks when he was ensnared in a trap at Orosztony in Zala county.
The new captain of Palota became Pálffy Tamás in 1573 who managed to get the fort reinforced – he led series of victorious raids against the Turks until 1581. Still, there were times when no more than 30 soldiers guarded the castle but they could hold it. Lord Pálffy was a renowned duelist of the Valiant Order as well: in 1577, he killed the famous Ottoman warrior, Bey Kara Ali of Fehérvár, by thrusting him with his lance. We know of another duel he had in 1580 when he challenged the new bey of Fehérvár, too. (It was a tricky habit among the members of the Valiant Order: when a “fresher” was appointed by the Sultan, he was immediately challenged and if possible, killed in a duel.)
The next inscription can be read on Pálffy’s tombstone: “Palota castle bears witness how many times he had beaten the foe. Since a young age, he had been serving his Homeland. He has freed many Hungarians from Ottoman slavery, he served the betterment of many people. The glory of his deeds will live forever.” You can read more about him in my article here:
Finally, the Ottomans could take the castle during the 15-Year-War in 1593 when the captain, Ormándy Péter, made a heroic effort to defend the fort with a handful of men. Finally, he had no choice left and decided to start negotiations and then ceded Palota to the Turks. He was promised by Pasha Sinan, Grand Vizier, that he and his people could leave the castle safely but the Ottomans broke their word and slaughtered his men. Ormándy could barely cut himself out from the peril. Then, the Military Council at Győr sent him to prison for surrendering Palota.
Five years later, when the Christian troops took Győr back from the enemy, they launched an overall attack against the Turkish frontier castles of the Trans-Danubian Region, led by Pálffy Miklós and Adolf Schwarzenberg. They took back the castles of Csókakő, Gesztes, then laid a siege on Palota. Two days later the Ottomans surrendered and the castle fell into Hungarian hands again.
The Turks recaptured it in 1605 when the troops of Köse Hussein took the castle of Veszprém. We know, that the Ottoman commander Schemann had 91 cavalrymen, 102 infantrymen, and 13 artillerymen among the walls. However, the Ottomans emptied the fort in 1614 for unknown reasons so it has returned to the Christians repeatedly. The new owner became Zichy Pál. He was not too popular among his men, though. When the army of Prince Bethlen Gábor of Transylvania was approaching, his own soldiers chased Zichy away and ceded the castle to the prince in 1620.
When peace was made between the Habsburgs and Bethlen in 1621 at Nikolsburg, Palota returned to King Ferdinand II. The king gifted it to Czirák Mózes, and we can meet Zichy Pál again in 1624 as its castellan. However, there were so many complaints against him, that he was removed and became the new captain of Győr castle instead. Four years later, the Ottomans took Palota. They were beaten out from there only in 1660 but retook it in 1669. The next time, Palota was besieged by the 3,000-strong-army of Esterházy János in 1687. When the Ottomans finally surrendered Palota after two days, there were 68 armed men, 97 women, and 39 children who left the castle (without getting slaughtered, of course).
Palota castle was in a very ruined condition in 1702 and Emperor Leopold I wanted to have it exploded like so many other former Borderland castles. Fortunately, the Estates of the County were able to make a successful appeal against this decision. The rebel “kuruc” troops of Prince Rákóczi Ferenc could take Palota in 1705, led by General Bottyán the Blind. Palota’s commander was Domonkos Ferenc in 1707 who was able to repel the army of General Baron Pleffershofen’s troops. After the fall of the War of Independence, Imperial General Rabutin had the two northern corner towers exploded of the castle. The owner of Palota became the Zichy family who has made many reconstructions in the castle until 1889.
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