Pápa is located in Hungary, it was a Borderland castle that belonged to the immediate defense belt of forts before Vienna and thus it has been well taken care of. Although it was built on a plain, it was surrounded by swampy terrain and the valley of the Tapolca Stream made it well-defendable. Unfortunately, the castle was mostly pulled down in the 18th century, except for the remains of its southwestern bastion and a few sections of walls.
In fact, stones were only used for building the inner castle and the gates of the outer castle. The main defenses were made of palisade walls. They built two lines of palisades and filled the gap between them with earth. According to the survey made by Palatine Nádasdy Tamás in 1555, the walls were 1575-step-long (about 2,965 meters). However, according to the Italian General Giorgio Basta who led the siege in 1597, the walls were 2,316 meters long. The inner castle used to stand on the current site of the Esterházy Palace.
Pápa used to be an agricultural town in the age of the Árpád Dynasty, a center of the surrounding area. It is assumed that a royal mason was standing in the city at that time. Pápa boasted some kind of a castle in 1401 when it belonged to Garai Miklós. (Please, note that I use the Eastern name order for Hungarians.) Pápa was the home of the conference of the kingdom’s oligarchs who used to hold King Zsigmond of Luxembourg in custody. Zsigmond agreed to grant them mercy in exchange for his release. Verily, the king made Lord Garai the Palatine of the country in 1402.
The Garai family must have reinforced the royal manor well because the fortification could beat back the assault of the Czech mercenaries of the nobles who sided with the Habsburgs in 1442, after the death of King Albert. After this time, the documents continuously mention the castellans of Pápa castle.
The outer palisade walls of the city were built after the first Turkish attack in 1529. This hastily erected, weak palisade wall encircled a bigger area than the walls built in a later period. In this time, so-called “Hussar-castles” were added as outer castles to the forts of the Borderland: the cavalry could easier use it during their endless patrols to and fro the countryside. As the contemporary saying went, “a castle can be held only on the fields”, meaning that the flexible and mobile semi-light cavalry’s movements were essential to keep the foe out. It was another reason why were two captains appointed in the Hungarian castles: one of them stayed in the fort while the other one was leading the Hussars in the area.
It was a scribe called Martonfalvay Imre, the appointed man of the owner Török family, who had the castle reinforced in earnest after 1543. He wrote: “When I found the castle in that neglected condition, without buildings, I got very sad. (…) After getting to know the place, I’ve realized that I would be unable to protect the big abandoned town of Pápa, surrounded by that despicable palisade with my few soldiers. So I left the town’s castle unrepaired and began to build the outer castle at first because it was the place where the castle was defended from. I made the range of the palisade walls shorter, erecting new palisades, I had it woven and filled up with mud quickly. Then, I had the moat dag, too. (…) Later, good bastions are going to be added to this weak palisade, within two years, if God’s willing, with lots of diligence and care.” But he could complete only a part of his plans.
Even this much was quite timely because in the meantime Pápa had to withstand a siege against the Ottomans in 1543 and another one in 1555. The Ottomans were repelled by Martonfalvy and his warriors’ heroic efforts. Pápa was the third biggest castle concerning its garrison next to Győr castle, with 500-1000 soldiers among its walls. Its famous captains were Török János, Majthényi László, Huszár Péter, Török István. Pápa fell to the Turks twice, for a short time. At first, it was occupied in 1594 for three years.
3 October 1594: Pápa Castle was taken by the Crimean Tatar troops
He also got two battalions of German mercenaries to help him. They were led by Christoph Priam. Unfortunately, Huszár was called to the army of Prince Matthias, and the newly arrived Priam was not prepared enough for the defense of Pápa. Moreover, he didn’t even know the characteristics of this Borderland castle.
During the siege of the castle of Győr, the Pápa warriors had been quite effective in harassing the logistic lines of the Ottoman army. Finally, Grand Vizier Sinan sent the Tatars against them. The Tatars lured the Pápa warriors into a trap and killed many of them.
During the period of Ottoman occupation, it was Pasha Szemender who had the moat around the inner castle excavated. Read more about this event here:
Pápa in Christian hands again
There was an uprising of the Walloon mercenaries in 1600 when the soldiers rebelled in order to get their pay; the Austrians could put them down only after a two-month siege. The Walloons had wanted to hand the castle over to the Turks in the hope of better payment and for this, the Imperial armies took brutal revenge on them.
Pápa fell again into the Turks’ hands later in 1683 for just a couple of months. The castle had changed hands eight times between 1704 and 1709 during the War of Independence between the Habsburgs and Prince Rákóczi Ferenc II. It was the rebel “kuruc” General Károlyi Sándor who took it in January 1704 but General Sigbert Heister took it back in March, and then had it burned up. The rebels returned in May, this time even Esterházy Antal, the landlord of the town took their side. The castle changed hands three more times, then General Bottyán János (The Blind) took Pápa back for Rákóczi in 1705. He was controlling the Trans-Danubian Region from there for the next two years. Each time when Pápa was taken by the Imperial troops, it was looted and burned up. After the combustion of 1707, only two houses remained intact. The city had suffered tremendously and the castle was ruined.
The Esterházy family built a great palace above the castle in the 18th century (1740). It was lord Esterházy Ferenc in 1752 who received approval from Empress Maria Theresia to demolish the rest of the walls of the fort. It has been done by 1783. The last bastion disappeared in 1808. However, the Esterházy Palace is a nice building to visit, it has been recently renovated.
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Here are a few more pictures of Pápa: