The ruins of the castle of Saskő (Saskov) are located in Slovakia in the historical area that we Hungarians call the Upper Land (Felvidék, Horná Zem). They are situated on a 368-metre-high rocky promontory overlooking the valley of the Garam River.
In the 1075 charter of the Garamszentbenedek Abbey, the royal land of Susolgi was mentioned as “terram in Susolgi”. Part of this land came into the possession of the abbey through a royal donation. According to several researchers, the name of the area Susolgi can be connected with the name of the nearby castle Saskő and can be interpreted as Sasal, i.e. the lower part of Saskő, the area around Saskő.
According to Fügedi Erik, the castle of Saskő was probably built around 1242-43 by the brothers Vince and Péter (ancestors of the Horváti family) of Bishop István of Vác of the Báncsa clan, then Archbishop of Esztergom, and the first mention of the castle is from 1253 in the form of “sub castro” [Susol].
This castle consisted of a two-story palace built on the eastern, highest point of the cliff, with a cylindrical tower guarding the western entrance. The tower and palace were connected to the north and east by a high stone wall, forming the castle courtyard. The cistern was dug into the rock on the west side of the courtyard at a depth of about 4 meters. Water was piped in from the roofs.
In 1283 it was still owned by her family, as we can read in the deed of Báncsa Tamás(“Magister Thomas, filius Petri de gcncre Bancha”). The castle was also called Susol. Around 1306 it passed into the hands of Csák Máté and only after his death it became a royal castle.
Between 1320-29 János, chamberlain of Selmec, and Becsei Imre were the governors of the castle. In the 1340s, according to the documents, his son Becsei Wezzeus (Vesszős) György was the royal castellan. Master “Vesszős”, who was also lord of Bars and Zólyom and royal castellan of Saskő and Léva, accompanied King Louis I on his campaign to Naples. The captured Prince Charles of Durazzo, whom Louis suspected of having murdered his brother Prince András, was beheaded in Naples by Vesszős. The lord, notorious for his violence, seized territory from Selmecbánya in 1351 as castellan of Saskő. Saskő was also a customs post, according to a 1341 charter.
In 1352 the successor of Vesszős, Zobonya László, the castellan of Saskő, got into an armed conflict with the citizens of Selmec and destroyed their armed men. In his charter of 20 April 1352, King Louis I ordered the castellan to return to Selmecbánya the villages of Gerod, Karlyk, Sygluspergh, Diln, Sekken, and Kulpal, which had been separated from Selmecbánya and attached to the castle of Saskő during the reign of Master Wezzeus [Vesszős].
In the documents of the Anjou period, the name of the castle of Saskő can be found in several forms: Sasku, Saskew, Saaskuu, Saxkuu, and Saskew. King Zsigmond of Luxembourg gave the Saskő estate to Frank and Simon of Szécsény in 1387, but two years later it became a royal estate again, which Zsigmond pledged to the Leustas of Ilsva in 1390. At that time Pethő György Gersei was the castellan of Saskő as a servant of Ilsva. As the palatine of Ilsva, he was captured in the unfortunate battle of Nicapolis and died in Turkish captivity. His son György inherited the estate, and in 1397 it was given to the chief table-master Csetneki György in exchange for the castle of Sáros.
In 1401 Csetneki Zsigmond was the lord of Saskő. In 1411 Zsigmond ordered the castellans of Saskő (Saskew) and Sklabonya (Sclabonya) not to collect customs duties on the goods of the citizens of Körmöcbánya (Crempnicya) because they had a royal exemption from paying customs duties. Zsigmond later took Saskő from the Csetneki family and gave them Hrussó instead. It was a royal castle again for a while, but in 1424 Zsigmond donated it to Queen Cillei Borbála, along with several other castles and towns.
After the death of King Zsigmond, his successor, Albert Habsburg, accused his mother-in-law of conspiracy and confiscated her estates. Together with the queen’s royal estates, Saskő became the property of Zsigmond’s daughter Erzsébet of Luxembourg. After Albert’s death, some of the lords of the country invited the Polish king Ulászló to the throne, while the other half of the barons supported Erzsébet and her son, the infant László V. Fighting broke out in the country between the two camps.
In his charter of 8th March 1440, King Ulászló I promises to marry Zsigmond’s daughter, Albert’s widow Queen Erzsébet within a year and confirms to her the measures of the late Albert “pro conservacione status curie sue”, i.e. the castles of Zólyom, Végles, Lipcse, Saskő, Dobronya in the county of Zólyom, the castles of Diósgyőr, Komárom, Óbuda, Szanda, the island of Csepel (cum Comanis reginalibus) with the right of minting, with all their appurtenances. The marriage never took place.
The widowed Queen Erzsébet invited the Czech mercenary general Jan Griskra to the country, who invaded the fortresses of Bars in the name of King László V. Then, Koler / Kollár Péter became the captain of Saskő, who was Erzsébet’s castle lieutenant as Griskra’s man.
On 21 July 1447, an agreement was reached between the governor Hunyadi János and Jan Griska, in which Giskra undertook to return the captured castles. Among them was Saskő (“…Zolywm, Wegles, Lypche, Saskew et oppidum Korpona…”). The agreement was not kept and Giskra’s man Koler/Kollár Péter continued to be the castellan of Saskő and Revistye. In 1453 Koler/Kollár Péter is mentioned in a document as the castellan of Saskő of King László V. In 1456 Koler/Kollár confirms that the town of Körmöcbánya paid 600 gold forints as tax (“taxa regia”).
On 8th December 1464, King Matthias, having considered the services of Wpor-i [Upori] László – especially under the Zwonnyk castle – gave the Saskew castrum in the Bars county, which was in the hands of Koler Péter, together with its appurtenances to Wpor-i László and his brother Wpor-i János, and if they died without heirs, to the brothers Pongrác, Gáspár and Tamás. At that time the castle was still in the hands of the Hussites. Later, in 1465, Matthias regained the castle, and in 1472 he pledged the estates of Atkár and Szentjakab in Heves County to the widow and children of Saskői Koler Péter.
In 1477, Hunyadi Mátyás (King Matthias) donated the castle of Saskő to Queen Beatrix of Aragon. After the death of her husband, Beatrix, in order to achieve her coronation as queen, sold the castles of Lipcse and Saskő, together with the manors belonging to them, to Nagylucsei Dóczy Orbán, Bishop of Eger, and his brothers. On 29 November 1490, in Pozsony, this was confirmed by King Ulászló II. The Dóczy family owned the castle until 1647, and the most important buildings of the castle are attributed to them.
The castle was rebuilt in Gothic style in the second half of the 15th century. The northern wing of the castle was built at this time, with a kitchen at the bottom. A new cistern was also built and the southern slope of the castle was reinforced. A defensive wall was built in front of the western gate. The fortification of the nearby hilltop may be connected with the castle’s Hussite possession. This structure consisted of a stone tower, probably made of wood, surrounded by a pentagonal stone wall.
Like the previous lords and castellans of Saskő, the Dóczy family was involved in a dispute with the town of Selmecbánya. They did not respect the exemption of the Selmec burghers from customs duties, nor the right to freely cut the wood needed for their mines in the forests of the royal estate of Garamvölgy, which had been donated to the Dóczy family. The letters of the privilege of the Selmec burghers were derided as ‘paper money’, the kind of paper money that ‘can now be obtained in Buda for a few obolus’.
In 1563, King Ferdinand I donated the castle of Saskő to Demjén, the nephew of Archbishop Dóczy. Demjén later adopted the family name of Lipcsey. At the end of the 16th century, Lipcsey became famous for his exploits. In 1605 János Dóczy, the chief of Bars County, swore allegiance to Bocskay, and Saskő opened its gates to the Transylvanian armies. Later it did not resist the armies of Prince Bethlen Gábor either.
The last Lipcsey family member’s widow, Kubinyi Magdolna, made an agreement with Dóczy István, Mihály, and the daughter descendants of the Lipcsey family in 1626 and transferred the manor to them in 1628. In 1644 Prince Rákóczi I György occupied Saskő without a fight. Dóczy Zsigmond was captured by the Turks when Zsarnóca was overrun by the invaders, together with his wife Kayser Eufrozina. He escaped, but his wife was taken away. Zsigmond died of illness in 1647, his wife later bailed herself out. Saskő became the property of her younger brother, Dóczy Menyhért.
On 9 May 1648, according to a letter of the Garamszentbenedek Monastery, Dóczy Menyhért sold the castle of Saskő for 22,000 forints to Gáspár, the brother of Lippay György, archbishop of Esztergom, head of the county of Bars, president of the chamber and governor of the treasury, on behalf of himself and his mad brother László. Héderváry János and Héderváry István’s widow, Esterházy Erzsébet, also objected to the sale (the Dóczy and Héderváry families had signed a hereditary contract in the 1480s).
According to the letter, at the time of the sale, Majthényi Mihály, a descendant of the Lipcsey family on the female line, occupied half of Saskő. In 1650, after a series of legal disputes, the parties who wanted to take over the Dóczy family’s property finally came to an agreement: Lippay Gáspár took Saskő, and the Héderváry family took Revistye and Sárfő, together with their belongings.
The most significant reconstruction of the castle took place during the Dóczy/Lipcsey period. The main purpose of the reconstruction was to improve the comfort of the castle, but the lower castle and its cistern were also built at that time. Today there is no trace of the lower castle, only the cistern carved into the rock. The tower at the western corner of the castle was demolished in the second half of the 16th century and replaced by a four-story cylindrical turret. This was renovated in the 17th century and another storey was added. The eastern corner of the palace wing was reinforced by a small pentagonal bastion.
The ownership of the Lippais did not last long, in 1676 the sons of Lippay Gáspár sold the estate to the Royal Chamber for 88,000 gold. As the Kuruc movement gained strength, the castles of Saskő and Revistye were also garrisoned by German guards to protect the mining towns. The chamber did not renovate the castle, which fell into a state of disrepair.
During the campaign of Thököly Imre in 1678, after the fall of Zólyom, the German garrison of the mining towns surrendered to the Kuruc troops with little resistance. Hearing this, the poorly paid guards of Saskő and Revistye fled. On 1 November 1678, they were defeated in the battle of Garamszentkereszt and were driven out of the County.
In 1703 the Kuruc troops of Prince Rákóczi II Ferenc conquered Saskő together with Selmecbánya. The destruction of the castle took place in 1708, when the Imperial troops of Heister captured and burnt the castle on 26 October. The most damaged part was the cannon tower.
In 1945 the castle was a German observation post and the advancing Soviet troops shelled the castle, which was already in a bad condition. The first archaeological research was carried out in 1979. The castle is still under conservation (summer 2023).
Source: Várlexikon https://varlexikon.hu/
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Here are more pictures of Saskő Castle: