Photo: Szöllősi Gábor

Szádvár is located in the northeastern corner of Hungary, at Szögliget, in the Aggteleki Mountains. It has the largest area among those Hungarian ruined castles that stand on hilltops. The castle now is famous for the people who are trying to restore it, they are the “Friends of Szádvár”. Their outstanding efforts deserve our respect. 

Photo: Szöllősi Gábor

Here are two videos about the castle, the first one was made by Fodor Zsolt:

and here is another one about the ruins:

Photo: Szöllősi Gábor

Szádvár was built before 1264 by King Béla IV. The castle was first mentioned in 1264 as “Szárd”. At this time, its captain was Bács who opened the castle’s gates before the troops of King Béla IV during his war against his son, István. King Kun László traded the castle in exchange for the castle of Jenő of Nógrád County and the new owner became Comes Tekes of Sáros County.

Photo: Szöllősi Gábor

The area was occupied by the troops of the mighty Aba Amádé oligarch around 1301 but the castle was returned to the king in 1319. Its captain was Lack, the son of Bárcai „Fekete” Miklós. Comes Drugeth Fülöp gave the leadership of the castle to Péter in 1323. Bertalan, the son of Pongrác was the captain between 1335-1338. (Please, note that I use the Oriental name order for Hungarians where family names come first.) Baron Drugeth Vilmos was in command in 1339 and his vice-captain was Lengyel Péter. The captain became Master János, son of Szobonyai in 1360, appointed by Palatine Raholcai Kont Miklós.

Photo: Szöllősi Gábor

The Bebek family got the castle between 1387 and 1392 because they helped King Zsigmond to gain his throne. The Bebek family members appointed three captains at the same time in 1414 to command the castle (as a rule, two captains were appointed), namely Kis Jakab, Olcsvári András, and Csányi András. They were replaced by Paris Jakab and Gicei Jakab in 1419.

…a find from the castle

Queen Erzsébet called the Bohemian Hussites to the country to support her reign after 1440. It was when a Polish robber knight, Péter Komoeowsky gained the castle and held it for the Hussites. Szádvár was given back to its lawful owners in 1454 by Baron Péter.
Later, Szapolyai Imre, Count of Szepes, wed Lady Bebek Orsolya in 1470 so Szádvár went to the Szapolyai family.

Photo: Szöllősi Gábor

Szapolyai János, the Voivode of Transylvania was elected as king of Hungary after the Battle of Mohács in 1526. The new king gave Szádvár and Torna castles to Werbőczy István. The new owner couldn’t take Szádvár over because the captain of Szádvár, Trinnay Lengyel Gergely tricked him and ceded the castle to Bebek Ferenc who was supporting King Habsburg Ferdinand. Soon, Werbőczy resigned from the ownership of Szádvár and gave it to the Treasurer, Tornallyai Jakab but this act didn’t change the situation.

Bebek Ferenc preferred to look at his interests during the anarchy of the Dual Kingship and he has changed sides several times. In the meantime, he carried out significant construction work and fortified the castle. He built the round bastions for the cannons on them. The Bebek family owned a great part of the Hungarian Highland and they were the lords of Krasznahorka, Szendrő, Csorbakő, and Torna castles as well. Their troops soon took the Monastery of Gombaszög and fortified it.

Photo: Szöllősi Gábor

Bebek besieged the castle of Fülek in 1562 but he was betrayed and the Turks captured him. He was released only three years later but he had to take the side of the Transylvanians in exchange for his freedom. King Ferdinand just could not let it happen unpunished, and the Chief Captain of Kassa (Kosice, Kaschau), Lázár Schwendi besieged Szádvár in January 1567. Bebek Ferenc was away so the castle’s defenses were commanded by his wife, Lady Patócsy Zsófia. But let us learn more about her:

Lady Patócsy Zsófia (1533-1583)

She held the same rights as a man because she was the firstborn daughter of Patócsy Ferenc, the Chief-Comes of Arad and Zaránd counties (also the Captain of Gyula Castle) and there were no more male heirs in the family. Their family domains were also located in Arad County. As Lord Patócsy used to be a faithful follower of Queen Isabella (the widow of late King Szapolyai), he was deprived of all his lands in 1556 by King Ferdinand I. Lord Patócsy’s daughter was born in 1533 or 1534.
Szádvár castle
We don’t know the exact time when she got married to Bebek Gyyörgy who was considered the most infamous robber knight of Hungary during the period after the Battle of Mohács. They had no sons just four daughters, we know only Zsófia by name. Zsófia later became the wife of the Chief-Comes of Kraszna, Báthory István. The lands of the Bebek family were located mainly in Gömör and Torna counties of North Hungary (the castles of Krasznahorka, Torna, Szádvár, and Szendrő). After the Turks had taken Buda in 1541, their domains got stuck between the two Hungarian kings’ lands, Ferdinand and Szapolyai. It was the reason why Lord Bebek had changed sides so frequently but he also led raids against the Turks, gaining booty and captives from them.
Tha saber of Bebek György (Photo: Jaksity Iván) in Hungarian National Museum
At other times, he was exchanging friendly letters with the Pasha of Buda and with other high-ranked Turks. It was not an accident that he was sought after by many of his adversaries and during the summer of 1562 he was snared into a trap by a Turk double-agent at Fülek Castle. Many of his soldiers were slain there. He was captured, and taken to Istanbul. His wife did everything to free him. She has even gone to Vienna with her two daughters to plead for help but she was arrested there. While she was in Ferdinand’s captivity, her husband was ransomed by King Szapolyai in 1565. Finally, she was released only after her husband`s long pleading to Ferdinand.
As Szapolyai had paid his ransom, Bebek had to take his side. In answer to that, Ferdinand’s generals, Lazarus von Schwendi and the Chief Captain of Kassa, Simon Forgách set out with their armies against the lands of Bebek as we had mentioned before.
Soon, the headquarters of the Bebek family, Szendrő Castle was taken by them. (It is different from the southern castle that is also called Szendrő aka Smederovo.)
Szendrő castle, Hungary
As a result of this, Patócsy Zsófia moved from Szendrő to Szádvár Castle with her daughters. Schwendi and Forgách surrounded the Castle of Szádvár during the first part of 1567 and they demanded the lady’s surrender. She refused it quite definitely and got prepared to defend the castle. She took up arms, issued orders, and had the besieging Imperial army bombarded by cannons. Her daughters were walking among the soldiers, fully donned for war. Even Schwendi had not thought that he would have to fight against a woman but finally, he was answering the challenge. His cannons had been doing such great damage to the walls in four days that he was about to launch an attack. The defenders were running out of food and gunpowder.
Szádvár castle
Finally, the last attack was not launched, and Zsófia was forced to hang out the white flag. Yet, it was Patócsy Zsófia’s condition that she was allowed to take away all her valuables, dresses, horses, and servants, except the military equipment which had to be left among the walls. General Schwendi must have been fascinated by the woman’s fierceness so he agreed. And, of course, he didn’t feel like staying in his camp much longer in the cold winter. The gates of Szádvár were opened on 14 January and the defenders, led by Lady Bebek, moved out. Patócsy Zsófia and her daughters first went to Torna and from there, she traveled to see her husband in Transylvania.
The tombstone of Patócsy Zsófia
Lord Bebek died during that year and the king took away all his possessions. Patócsy Zsófia was reminding him in vain, the king didn’t give out her daughter’s shares. She died on 1 September 1583. She was put to sleep in the church of Küküllövár, Transylvania.
There is a script on her tombstone in Latin language and next to it, we can see the torso of a woman, unfortunately, her face is unrecognizable. As Lady Zsófia had Polish roots, her statue has been recently erected in Szögliget (at Szádvár) from the money collected by Polish and Hungarian individuals:
The statue of Lady Zsófia

The area of Szádvár with its 19 villages went to the king who didn’t have the castle restored. The Military Council of Vienna decided in 1577 to restore Szádvár and Krasznahorka castles and they gave 1000 gold Forints for this reason. We don’t know whether it was carried out in reality, though. The Chief Captain of Kassa, Rübert János got Szádvár under the condition that he should repair the walls. When he died in 1593, Dersffy Ferenc inherited the castle with the same obligations.

Photo: Szöllősi Gábor

Chief Captain of Kassa, General Basta promised to give Szádvár to Csáky István around 1600 but he couldn’t pay for it. This way the castle was given to Hetesi Pethe László. The guards of Szádvár fled from the castle in 1604 when they saw that the stronger Szendrő castle had opened its gate to the army of Prince Bocskai István of Transylvania. However, according to the Treaty of Vienna, Szádvár and its villages were returned to the Csáky family in 1606. There were only 50 infantrymen and two artillerymen in the fort in 1607.

Báthory Gábor became its new owner and from him, the castle went to Rákóczi Zsigmond in 1608. Rákóczi gave the throne of Transylvania to Báthory Gábor at the same time, and Rákóczi passed away during the same year. Then, the Court of the Palatine gave Szádvár back to Hetesi Pethe László. The Rákóczi, Csáky, and Pethe families were suing each other for a long time and debating over the ownership. 

Photo: Szöllősi Gábor

The garrison of Szádvár opened the gates before Prince Bethlen Gábor of Transylvania in 1619 but the castle was given back to the Habsburgs in 1621 according to the Treaty of Nikolsburg. Yet, the garrison opened the gates again before Bethlen in 1623-24.
The Imperial troops moved to Szádvár in 1626, after the Peace of Pozsony (Bratislava, Pressburg). Things were different in 1644 when the garrison was fighting heroically against the Transylvanian besiegers. Later, the Hungarian soldiers of Szádvár were attacking the supply lines of the Transylvanian army. The Transylvanian army left the area only at the end of the year, unsuccessfully.

Photo: Szöllősi Gábor

It was again a different situation in 1675 when the unpaid imperial soldiers ceded the castle to the rebel Kuruc troops of Baron  Wesselényi Pál who was supported by the Transylvanians. However, General Strassaldo took Szádvár back during the summer of 1675. The “Kuruc” (=rebel) troops of Prince Thököly Imre gained control over the fort in 1682. When the Polish King Ján Sobieski defeated the Turks at Vienna in 1683, his army was sacking and burning the valley of the Bódva river while returning home. The local folklore calls the event a “lengyeljárás” or “Polish devastation”. The Polish didn’t attempt to besiege the castle, though. The rebel “Kuruc” troops were firing them with cannons but they could not stop the plunder.

Hungarian reenactors at Szádvár

The same “Kuruc” garrison surrendered the castle in 1685 to General Caprara. The Imperials exploded the most important walls and bastions so the military function of the castle ceased to exist anymore. The forest became the next owner of the ruins.
There was a village called Derek next to the hill of Szádvár castle. The plague killed its inhabitants in 1711 so Polish people were invited to live there. The new settlers used the stones of the old castle for building their homes as it usually happened to every abandoned castle in the Carpathian Basin. 

Hungarian reenactors at Szádvár

Sources: Szibler Gábor and

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Here are more pictures of Szádvár: