Photo: Nazimek Michal

The Castle of Regéc is in north Hungary, in the middle of the Zemplén mountain. It belonged to the Kingdom of Hungary but after 1644 it became part of the Transylvanian Principality, it is the reason why I placed it among our Transylvanian castles, as it is closely connected to the Rákóczi family.

Regéc in the 17th century (Photo: Nazimek Michal)

The name Regéc is of Slavic origin and it means “horn” or “promontory”. It was first mentioned in 1298, recalling that György, the son of Simon of the Baksa Clan, fought against one of the armies of Mongolian Tatars who broke into the country during the so-called second Tatar invasion in 1285. The battle probably took place only under a mountain called Regéc, the castle was not here at that time. The first reliable information about the existence of the castle dates back to 1307 when Palatine Amádé of the Aba family issued a diploma in Regéc.

Photo: Nazimek Michal

The castle was probably built by members of the Aba clan around the turn of the 13th and 14th centuries. After the Battle of Rozgony (1312), the castle came into the possession of Petenye’s son Péter for a short time, from whom the king had to occupy it in 1316 by siege. From then on it was owned by the Hungarian kings for a long time. At the end of the 1420s, King Sigismund gave Regéc to the Serbian Prince István Lazarevics, who had fled to Hungary from the Turkish expansion, and then it was given to the Serbian György Brankovics. (Please, note that I use the Eastern name order for Hungarian names where family names come first.)

It was again a royal castle in 1459. Soon, King Matthias Corvinus donated it before 1464 to the Szapolyai family. After the death of Szapolyai János, in 1541 the Serédy and then in 1560 the Alaghy family became the owners of Regéc. It was acquired in 1635 by Esterházy Miklós, the later Palatine. Prince Rákóczi György I of Transylvania took Regéc away from him by a siege in 1644. As Prince Rákóczi died suddenly in the autumn of 1648, he could no longer fortify the castle of Regéc and develop the manorial farming in its area.

Photo: Nazimek Michal

The grandson of Rákóczi György was Rákóczi Ferenc I., he was elected as Prince of Transylvania. He was one of the richest lords of the country. In the spring of 1666, he married Lady Zrínyi Ilona. After the unveiling of the Wesselényi conspiracy, the mother of Rákóczi Ferenc I., Lady Báthory Zsófia, begged for mercy for her son with the help of the Jesuits. Although Rákóczi Ferenc survived, the price of imperial grace was high.

Photo: Gábor Ruff

She had to pay a ransom of four hundred thousand gold Forints, and an imperial guard had to be received in the Rákóczi castles. Zrínyi Ilona then inquired anxiously in a letter that Regéc had not been included in the list of “castles to be thrown (=destroyed) away”. At that time not only the owner but also the castle was pardoned. Rákóczi Ferenc II was born on March 27, 1676. The baby was not yet 4 months old when his father Rákóczi Ferenc I died. After that, Zrínyi Ilona declared herself the guardian of her children, taking over the tasks associated with hereditary Chief Comes. Zrínyi Ilona arrived in Regéc with her children in 1677, where Rákóczi Ferenc II spent the first years of his childhood.

Regéc was the place where he acquired the basics of his Latin knowledge, here he got acquainted with the history of his homeland. Meanwhile, Zrínyi Ilona became interested in Thököly Imre, the leader of the hiding anti-Habsburg “kuruc” rebels. The interest became love and then marriage. After the wedding, Thököly’s silver jewelry was taken to the warehouse of Regéc. In May 1683, the military supply center of  Upper Hungary was organized in Regéc, and Captain Szirmay Miklós ensured that the cellars of Regéc Castle were full of wine and food. Zrínyi Ilona lived here at this time, directing procurement, working in the castle, and making the flags for the big summer campaign against the Habsburgs.

Photo: Gábor Ruff

In 1685, the Imperials prepared for a decisive attack against the Kuruc armies, so Thököly equipped Regéc with food and military people. Shortly afterward, Thököly was captured by the Pasha of Várad (Oradea). Soon, the Kuruc warriors of Thököly joined the ranks of the Imperial troops fighting against the Turks. It was why the Kuruc guards of Regéc also opened the gates on November 5, 1685, to the Imperials, on the condition that the Imperials did not march in. This was not the case, General Caprara demolished the castle in 1686 under an imperial decree.

Photo: Gábor Ruff

The military significance of Regéc Castle ceased to exist during the Rákóczi War of Independence, and according to a report made in 1701, “its repair is hardly possible.” Although the castle no longer served the War of Independence the estates and manors around Regéc provided lots of goods to Rákóczi. When he was defeated in 1711, his property was confiscated in 1715. Regéc fell into the hands of the Chamber for a short time. In 1720, in exchange for a 150,000 gold Forint donation, the Austrian Prince Donát Lipót Trautsohn became the owner of the estate, he did not care much about the castle.

Much of the stones from the destroyed walls of the once so glorious castle were scattered by the locals to build their own houses. The Trautsohn family died out without an heir, so Regéc and its estate returned to the Royal Chamber, which ruled it for 30 years. In 1806, partly by exchange, partly by royal donation, the Austrian Imperial Prince Charles August Bretzenheim became the new owner. Until the prince’s death, tenants farmed the manor, the ruins remained unattended.

Photo: Gábor Ruff

Jr. Bretzenheim took control of the manor’s farming in 1823. Ferdinand Bretzenheim, who received his first name from Regéc, died in 1855, and the estate was inherited by his wife, Karolina Schwarzenberg, and his sisters. As a result of repeated inheritances and sales, the estate gradually fragmented and disintegrated. The former manor center of Regéc castle became the property of the Károlyi family, and in 1936 a memorial plaque was first placed on the wall of the northern tower on behalf of Count Károlyi.

Photo: Gábor Ruff

Several memorial plaques have been placed in the castle since then, today none remained, thanks to the vandals. In 1949, the castle was nationalized, and the Hungarian State did not prove to be the most careful owner, as it did nothing for this significant monument of Hungarian history over the next fifty years. In recent decades, in some cases, scrubbing of bushes has taken place in the castle area, most recently in the second half of the 1980s, when it was organized by the Bükk National Park and the Northern Forest Co.

From 1990 on, the Municipality of Regéc started to take care of a monument as they realized how important it was for the settlement and the castle can be considered a kind of cultural and historical heritage. In the first years, they cleared the garbage, cut off bushes, and repaired roads used by visitors. In 1998, it was decided that the small village of only 120 enthusiasts would initiate the archaeological excavation and preservation of the large castle. After a year of preparation, the first archaeological excavation began in Regéc castle on July 5, 1999, and the electricity network supplying the castle was built out as well.

The widening of the so-called castle road started later this year to ensure the transport of the people involved in the works and the building materials needed for the restoration. The widening of the road was completed in 2000, and some preservation work began around the northern tower. Unfortunately, despite all efforts, it was not possible to obtain sufficient funding in 2001 and 2002, so the preservation and restoration stopped, but the excavation of the castle is constantly progressing. In the spring of 2003, a new wave of restoration began, which meant the reconstruction of the northern bastion.

Photo: Civertan

In 2020, they have completed 60% of the restoration. There are 1,9 Million EURO that is being spent on it and we have a promise that the work will have been completed by the summer of 2021. Check out the regulations of Regéc Castle from 1679:

Pottery found in the castle

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Here are more pictures of Regéc Castle, before and after the recent renovation: