Photo: Nazimek Michal

Rezi Castle is in Hungary, some miles to the north of Lake Balaton. The first owner of Rezi village was Tiba, son of Jaak, from the Tomaj (or Csák) Clan. He received it in 1284 from King László IV who gave the villages of Rezi, Zsid, Gelse, and Szepetnek to him, in exchange for Boldogkő castle.

Photo: Nazimek Michal

Yet, Apor of Péc took Rezi from him by force after 6-7 years. Lord Apor and Lukács built the central stone buildings of the castle, after 1291. The construction of this initial stone tower was finished before 1307. As they were the lords of Tátika castle as well, they were able to control the trade route leading to Zagreb. When they died, the castle was returned to the king who was Károly Róbert at that time. 

During the feudal wars of the 14th century, the powerful Kőszeghy family took the castle and it was King Anjou Károly Róbert who could take it back in 1321 by siege. The siege was led by Köcski Sándor, the captain of the castle of Szentmárton. (Please, note that I use the Oriental name order for Hungarian names where family names come first.) Rezi and Tátika castles were important because they blocked the two sides of the trade route that led from Buda to Zagreb, leading to Venice.

Photo: Nazimek Michal

King Lajos the Great gifted Rezi and Tátika castles to the Lackfi brothers in 1358. They were improving and enlarging the castle between 1360-1397. They had a 1.25-meter-wide wall built around the yard of the tower, the wall was three meters high. They had a deep moat constructed as well.

The brothers conspired against the new king and they were murdered in 1397 by the men of King Zsigmond of Luxembourg. We know that he held it in 1398. It is possible, that Rezi and Tomay were pledged to Voivode Mircse of Wallachia in 1400 for a short time.

Photo: Szöllősi Gábor

Shortly after this (1401), the king gave the castle and its villages to Bishop Eberhard of Zagreb, and his relatives. However, the king was captured by his own noblemen and he had to withdraw many of his endorsements to be free. Thus, the bishop was not able to gain Rezi Castle. Rezi belonged to Keszthely castle in 1403 so it became the property of Scharfenecki Frigyes, along with Keszthely, because the king owed him some money. Lord Frigyes immediately sold these castles to the Voivode of Transylvania, Marcali Miklós, and Comes Dénes. Then, King Zsigmond bartered Rezi with them, in exchange for Segesd castle. Bishop Eberhard somehow managed to get Rezi in 1406 which he owned until he died in 1419. Rezi has returned to the Crown again. 

A reconstructional drawing (Szakonyi Balázs)

We know that King Zsigmond was always in need of cash so it is not surprising that Rezi castle and its villages (Rezi, Zsid, Tomaj, Falud) along with the agricultural town of Keszthely, including half of Pölöske castle were pledged to Bishop Medvesi János of Zagreb and Lord Medvei Rudolf in exchange for 10,000 gold Forints in 1421. However, the king had the right to take these properties back anytime. and he did so; then, he pledged it again to Lord Medvei, for an even larger sum. Why aren’t we surprised that Zsigmond took Rezi back after 6 years and gave the castle to Gersei Pető? Then, the Gersei family managed to own it for many centuries.

Despite the wars in 1440, the Pethő family didn’t lose Rezi. They fought against Queen Erzsébet whose troops were strong in the area of Lake Balaton. However, the Queen could take away Rezi from them only on paper. Yet, King Ulászló had already seized the power so Rezi remained in the Pethős’ hands. Both King László V. and King Matthias Corvinus let the Pethő family have it. Unfortunately, the lords of Rezi acted like robber-knight during the reign of Matthias, plundering and looting the area many times.

Photo: Szöllősi Gábor

After 1490 the troops of Habsburg Maximilian took the small castle by a short siege. It was one of the last heroic battles of the Black Army, led by the late King Matthias’ faithful man, Kinizsi Pál when he took Rezi back in 1491. Here is more about General Kinizsi:

Shortly after the German siege in 1491, Rezi’s walls were repaired and enlarged. During the Dual Kingship, the Pethő family has been supporting King Habsburg Ferdinand since 1529. Yet, the Pethő family rather lived in Keszthely, and only one of them stayed at Rezi. When Keszthely was burned by the Turks in 1548, the family decided to move to Rezi and Tátika, though. When Keszthely’s castle was rebuilt in 1567, some of them returned there. 

Photo: Szöllősi Gábor

We have some of the names of Rezi’s castellans: 1422-1424 Péter, son of Bothka;  1422 Mihály, Vice-Castellan; 1466-1467 Pethő Miklós; 1473 Kohári Antal Vice-Castellan; 1484 Ispán Gál; 1488 Kőhordó Mátyás; 1488 Bokry Péter vice-Castellan; 1550-1578 Pethő János; before 1555 Kerecsendy András; 1555 Kispethő János; 1555 Makar Kristóf officer;  1556-1557 Horváth György; about 1567 Pethő Pál. These were hard times and these people must have been exposed to the permanent “small war” that was raging on the Borderland. So let us pay honor to them.

Photo: Szöllősi Gábor

The walls of the castle were reinforced in the 16th century because of the Turkish raids but the small private castle didn’t have a strategic role. The first bigger Ottoman attack in the area took place in 1554. The Pethő family was getting poorer because of the Turkish raids and they could barely pay the few guards of the castle. Lord Pethő rebuilt the castle in 1555. The new walls were 9 meters high. The enemy could reach the castle only from the southern side where several walls were built to block them.

The Turks suddenly appeared at Rezi in 1561 but they could not even start a siege. They just destroyed the countryside. However, they took Hegyesd castle by a trick so Rezi’s strategic role has increased for a time being. When Hegyes was retaken in 1562, the peril has lessened. Despite not being able to take the castle, the Turks had been collecting taxes since 1563 in the region.

Photo: Szöllősi Gábor

We know, that a few members of the Pethő family paid five soldiers and a castellan in Rezi who were armed with muskets in 1573. I think there must have been more soldiers, though, paid by other family members as it was a private castle. It was the Italian military engineer, Gulio Turco who visited and perhaps helped in the rebuilding of Rezi between 1569-72. The village of Rezi was burned in 1572 by the Ottomans and it was repeated twice in 1573.

Photo: Szöllősi Gábor

Pethő János III had been defending Rezi for more than three decades but he died on 22 January 1578. The castle followed him in decay after ten years. His brother’s sons, Kristóf and Mihály inherited it but they didn’t pay much attention and care for Rezi castle. Pethő Kristóf was a renowned Borderland warrior at that time, the captain of Keszthely castle. He owned Rezi in 1585 but the place was quite depopulated already. However, we know of the existence of a small addition to Rezi castle, a tiny watch-tower-like fortification called Aligvár. Its ruins still stood in 1851, slightly to the southwest of Rezi castle.

Photo: Szöllősi Gábor

There was a decision on a meeting at Szentgrót in 1586 and envoys were sent to Count Zrínyi to ask for his permission to have either Rezi or Tátika castle demolished. Allegedly, the Pethő family had no money to pay the guards anymore. Yet, Rezi was still there in 1588 and it was also on the military map of Gasparini in 1594. However, the Turks’ attack against Tátika in 1589 proved that these small and badly maintained castles could not be defended for long. Assumedly, Rezi was abandoned in that year, just like Tátika. It was already in ruins at that time, presumedly the soldiers of Keszthely pulled down the remaining walls to prevent the enemy’s reason to take it.

All in all, Rezi castle had proudly stood against the foe for a long time and was never taken by the Turks. However, the surrounding area was forced to pay taxes to the Ottomans. The village of Rezi had to buy its safety, too. Rezi and Tátika were mentioned as „castrum dirutum Rezy” and as „dirutis castris Rezy et Tadika” in  1589, 1590, 1592, 1613, 1619, 1730, meaning they were utterly ruined. Finally, it was mentioned in 1744 as „arx antiÐua et diruta, cuius rudesolummodo extant, nihilÐue aestimabile inibi repertiur”, meaning that it was a ruin and had no value at all.

Photo: Szöllősi Gábor

Later, the Festetics family got hold of the area. The renovation of the castle began in 2000. Here is a video about its 15th-century view (by Szakonyi Balázs):

and here is another film, in the Hungarian language (by Hóbor Aladár):

Source: Szatlóczki Gábor: “A Rezi vár históriája – a rezi váruradalom története” (published: Rezi, 2000) 

Photo: Szöllősi Gábor

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Photo: Nazimek Michal

Here are more pictures of Rezi castle: