The castle of Somló (Hungary) is located northwest of Lake Balaton, on the top of the Somló hill. We can find its first written mention in the document of King Saint László in 1059 as “castrum Somlyo”. However, historians claim it was a fake document that was written in 1390. It was assumedly rebuilt after the Mongols’ invasion in 1241. The castle was mentioned in earnest in 1352 as “castrum Somlo” when King Louis the Great took it away from János, son of Chenik, and gave it to Benedek, son of Heym. However, we find Somló in the property of the king again in 1370 and in 1380 as well, when its Castellan was Bán (Duke) Ákos.
The castle was pledged to Zámbó Miklós between 1386 and 1389. (Please, note that I use the Eastern name order for Hungarians where family names come first.) King Zsigmond bartered Somló castle with Palatine Garai Miklós and his brother János and the king received the settlement of Ivánkaszentgyörgy in Valkó County in exchange for it in 1389. The king confirmed the business in 1408.
We find the castle still in the hand of the Rozgonyi family between 1443 and 1463 for sure. They bartered it with the Anthimi family before 1464, though. King Matthias Corvinus condemned Anthimi László in 1464 for his crimes and his castle was given to Kanizsai László, the Stable Master of the king. However, we find Somló castle in the hand of the Garai family in 1470. Garai Jób sold the castle to King Matthias in 1479. Soon, the king gave it to his favorite general, Kinizsi Pál in 1480. You can read more about Kinizsi Pál here:
Kinizsi pledged Somló castle in 1490 to Szapolyai István who was the Chief Comes of Szepes County. Finally, Szapolyai and his sons János and György received it officially from the king in 1495. Having gained it, Szapolyai sold it at once to Bakócz Tamás of Erdőd, Bishop of Eger for 12,000 pieces of gold. The bishop’s brothers shared in the ownership, too.
The bishop had the castle fully renovated and turned it into a Renaissance palace and castle. He was the one who had the door frames and the window frames curved, and built the chapel with a tower, too. Being the richest high priest of the kingdom, he supplied the fort with two big cannons and many smaller ones in 1498.
The cousin of Bishop Bakócz, Erdődy Péter inherited the castle in 1517. Nevertheless, he could not move in it because Bishop Fosztony János of Győr opposed it. When Bishop Fosztony tried to take Somló castle officially into his possession, the soldiers of Bakócz injured the royal officer who tried to hand Somló over to Bishop Fosztony. Finally, King Lajos (Louis) II granted Somló castle to Erdődy Péter in 1518. Erdődy made further improvements and placed a permanent garrison in it.
After 1526 the castle was sentenced to death but it bravely beat back the smaller Turkish attacks. There was a bigger battle under its walls in 1543 where 3,000 Turks lost their lives. The castle has become the strongest border fort of the neighboring country.
Somló used to belong to the Erdődy family until 1548 when Erdődy Péter pledged it in 1548 to Csoron András of Devecser for 2,000 gold Forints. The new lord took the question of defense very seriously and had another castle built nearby, Devecser castle, and he could control the area better from these strongholds. Let us not forget, that after the fall of Buda (1541), Lake Balaton was an important border between the Ottoman Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary. At this time, the lake was 1.5 times bigger than now. The Turks could easily cross it by boat to pillage the other bank. Also, the water was frozen between December and March so the castles along the lake had to keep a sharp eye on the enemy.
The landlord of Somló had extorted his peasants in order to maintain the castles and his soldiers to such an extent that the Habsburg king had to warn him. Allegedly, he had also made nuns produce gunpowder and other things for military purposes. However, paying the expenses would have been the duty of the Habsburg king whose country depended on the Hungarians’ valiant fight along the 1,000-mile-long Borderland. Sadly, the king was hardly paying for his own forts so the private castle owners had to rely on their own help.
The full price of Somló was paid only in 1558. The new owners became the children of Csoron András: János, Katalin, and Margit. When Csoron János died in 1597, his daughtered were dividing his domains. Somló remained in the hand of Csoron Anna who married Liszthy István. Thus, the castle went to the Liszthy family after 1597. The Royal Treasury immediately sued the Liszthy family, the king wanted to take the castle away from them. Due to the costly and long trial, nobody took care of the castle’s condition.
When Csoron Anna died, it was her son, Ferenc who became the lord of Somló. After Ferenc passed away, Lady Gyulaffy Zsuzsanna of Rátót became the owner. Her son, Liszthy László, the poet, inherited Somló from her. Yet, Liszty László was not just a poet, he was considered an outlaw and was wanted badly by the Habsburgs. Finally, he was captured and beheaded in Vienna. As for the castle, due to the ruined walls, the Diet had to make a decision in 1638 to spend money on the repairs.
Later, several families owned a part of Somló castle: the Koháry, the Lippay family as well as Lord Török János and his wife, Pethő Margit of Gerse. Their children, namely Imre, István, Anna, Zsuzsanna, and Mária also inherited parts of the castle. After 1675, further owners appeared: Fintay Pál of Denna and the Balassa family.
Somló castle had some military role during the War of Independence of Prince Rákóczi Ferenc: General Bottyán took it in 1707 and he gave the order to repair the walls. After the end of Rákóczi’s war, Somló castle lost all of its military functions and nobody maintained the walls anymore. The Erdődy family had been suing for owning it for a long time but when they got it back in 1735, it was already a ruin. Somló had been theirs until 1945.
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Here are more pictures of Somló castle: