Szalónak Castle is in the town of Városszalónak (Stadtschlaining), and it is in Austria, however, it guarded the western border of the Kingdom of Hungary until 1918.
The name of the castle of Szalónak first appeared in the Treaty of Pozsony (Bratislava, Pressburg) signed on 2 July 1271 between King Isván V and King Ottokar II of Bohemia. It listed the castles of Kőszegi Henrik and his sons, which were recaptured by Gergely of the Monoszló-Clan and Csépán, son of Kázmér of Ják-Clan, by siege.
The castle was probably built after the Mongolian invasion (1241-1242) and probably belonged to the Ják Clan. In 1271 it must have belonged to the powerful Kőszegi family, who, rebelling against King István (Stephen) V, handed over their castle to King Ottokar II. This 13th-century castle consisted of a rectangular old tower with 8-10 m thick walls and a surrounding wall.
After the death of King István (Stephen) V, the Kőszeg family became supporters of King László IV, and in 1273 they incited a rebellion against the king, and he was captured in Buda together with his mother. Then the disgraced Csák family came to the king’s aid and defeated the Kőszegi family in battle at Föveny near Székesfehérvár, where Kőszegi Henrik was killed by Csák Péter. The castle was mentioned as Castrum Zlaunuk in 1273.
In 1275, László IV also took part in the campaign against the Kőszegi family, when Szalónak was also besieged by the royal armies without success. Until his death, King Lászó IV was under the influence of rival lords of the province. In 1279 the sons of Henrik divided their estates before the Vas County Chapter. Ivan received: Borostyánklő, Kőszeg, Doroszló, Pereszteg, Tuskánd, Kunecht, Pulád. And Miklós: Léka, St. Vid, Bozsok, Szerdahely, Velemér, Cák, Miklós, Gosztony, Envid, Karala, Styplek, Thunre. Guar and Ablanch were divided into two parts. The estates of Pozsony and Moson County fell all the way to Iván. Interestingly, Szalónak was not included in the list.
We can read about this: “The cruel and wicked [Kőszegi] Iván, who rebelled for many years against his lord, the Hungarian king, whom the king could neither subdue nor defeat, crossed the Hungarian border with his unrepentant wickedness and ravaged the borderlands of Austria and Styria like a ravening wolf.”
In 1289, Prince Albert of Austria fed up with the Austrian raids of the Kőszegi family, and with the tacit consent of King László IV, attacked the castles of the Kőszegi family in Western Hungary (during the campaign, the castles of Gutkeled Miklós and Aba Lőrinc were also conquered). Szalónak was also captured by the Austrian armies, unlike nearby Borostyánkő, which was successfully resisted. In the spring and autumn of 1289, Albert captured 36 castles of varying sizes.
The agreement was that the conquered castles should have been handed over to the Hungarian king, which was not done, and after the death of King László IV the Austrian prince wished to keep his conquests. Ulrich Stubenberg was appointed as castellan of the castle. In 1291, the last king of the Árpád dynasty, King András III, launched a campaign against the Austrian Duke and defeated him in two small battles (Nagyszombat, Vienna).
In the Treaty of Hainburg, signed on 28 August 1291, Albert pledged to return the Hungarian castles and territories he had conquered, and King András III promised to destroy most of the castles. Understandably, the Kőszegi family wanted to prevent this. They captured the king for a short time and the castle demolitions were not carried out (some authors say that the castle of Kőszeg-Óház was destroyed at this time).
In the turmoil after the death of King András III, the Kőszegi family members were once again fishing in the turmoil. András of Kőszeg rebelled against King Károly Róbert in 1320, but he lost the battle near Kőszeg and the royal troops took the castle. In 1326 Kőszegi II János rebelled against the king, but he also fell. King Károly Róbert eventually took their castles in turn and drove some members of the family from the western frontier. Szalónak also became a royal castle, which the king granted to the Kanizsai family in 1342. It was redeemed from them by King Lajos (Louis) the Great in 1371. It was then called “Castrum Zalomk”.
In 1397, King Zsigmond (Sigismund) of Luxemburg pledged it to Zarka Miklós of Pecöl and his brother-in-law Tompek György of Oroszvár for 4000 forints, and in 1401 he gave it to Tompek György and János because Tompek György fought at Nikápoly (Nicopolis), where he received a serious wound (an arrow pierced his head).
In 1405, the two owners had a dispute, and on 9 February, Master Zarka Miklós of Pechel confirmed by a document of the Chapter of Vasvár that his son-in-law, Tompek György of Zalonok, had excluded him from half of the castle and its possessions, and had taken the property from him and his family members. In a letter of judgment, the judge of the country awarded Pechel half of the castle and its appurtenances occupied by Tompek, and he also found Tompek guilty of usurpation of power.
After the death of Tompek György’s son János of Oroszvár, his two daughters, who were the wives of the sons of Benedek, son of Hym of Debrenthe, acquired a succession in the castle of Szalónak (“Zalonok”) together with Tompek János. However, the two daughters were unable to enforce this, because Miklós, the son of Ovári Lőrinc occupied the castle, which he later gave to Tompek János. The two Himfy sons were knights of the court of King Zsigmond (Sigismund) in Nuremberg, who ordered the county to expel Tompek János and Óvári from the castle and to introduce the Himfy brothers and their wives (Aug. 1431). However, this could not have been done, because there is a document from 1439 about the heirs’ lawsuit.
In a charter dated 27.12.1439, Queen Erzsébet called on Szarka Zsigmond of Pécs and János, son of Tompek György of Oroszvár to give back to the complainants the two-thirds of the castle of Szalónak, which they had occupied in a rude manner, and to make a settlement with them.
After the death of King Albert Habsburg of Hungary, Fraknó castle became the pledge of the Austrian King Frederick III in 1440 and Sopron in 1441. In 1445, besides other castles, Kőszeg, Rohonc, Borostyánkő, Kertes, Petőfalva, Dévény, and Szalónak also became the property of King Frederick III. In order to keep the conquests, he then placed these castles in the hands of the Habsburg monarch’s trusted supporters, but emphatically as the ward of King László (Postumus) V, the Hungarian king he recognized. In his charter of 07.10.1446, Emperor Frederick III mortgaged the castle of Slenygk (Szalónak) to Pawmkircher (Baumkircher) András for 500 Hungarian gold florins.
Hunyadi János led a campaign in Styria and Austria in 1446, which ended in June 1447. The truce at Regede was concluded on 1 July 1447, but it left 14 more estates and settlements of Western Hungary in Habsburg’s hands. These were Sopron, Kőszeg, Rohonc, Dévény, Macskakő, Sopronkertes, Béla, Szalónak, and Borostyánkő. Albert could keep Fraknó, Kismarton, Kabold, Lánzsér, and Szarvkő. Frederick returned Győr to Bishop Ágoston, who had to pay a ransom of 3000 forints for it. Hunyadi failed to obtain the extradition of King László V. and the return of the Hungarian Holy Crown. Later, the border warfare continued.
Around 1450, Baumkircher began to enlarge and fortify the castle and build the city walls. He built a church and a monastery for the Paulinians in the town. The start of construction is attested by an inscription in Latin on the gate tower of the inner castle:
“We, Pamkircher András, the Prince of Pozsony, Zolonala, have erected a great building with the strongest walls. It was begun in 1450”.
According to a document dated 13.07.1451, Thompekch János of Orozwar (Oroszvár) testified before the Pozsony Chapter that he sold his castle in Vas County, “Zalonok in Hungarian, Slanyk in German”, together with all its accessories to Pamkirchen András and received the purchase price from him. Baumkircher also repulsed a Hungarian siege in 1452, and in the same year prevented the Austrian supporters of King László V from taking Emperor Frederick III’s residence, Bécsújhely (Wiener Neustadt).
The Emperor did not pay for his services, so in 1455-1456 he turned against him and went over to King László V. In May 1455, King László gave the castle of Szalónak to Baumkircher András who received further donations: Pinkaóvár, Pöszöny, Pinkaújfalu, Csatár, Csejke villages in whole, Mérem, Szabar, Kukmér, Nagynárda villages in part, and later he also donated to him the Gerolt estate consisting of six villages in the western borderland, as well as the Dobronya castle manor in Zólyom County, and still later the Kaiserberg castle manor in Slavonia and the Samobor manor in Croatia. In 1456, ‘Castellum […] in ungarico Zalonok in theutonico vero Slanyk vocatum’ is mentioned.
Baumkircher sided with King László V in the struggles for the Cillei family’s inheritance, and in 1458 he again sided with Emperor Frederick III, who gave him the important title of “comes Posoniensis”, the Comes of Pozsony (Pressburg, Bratislava). Baumkircher thus became the Hungarian overlord. In 1459, he was among those who elected Emperor Frederick III King of Hungary in Németújvár against Matthias Corvinus, the son of Hunyadi. Frederick also gave him the right to mint money. In 1462 he relieved Vienna during the war between the Habsburgs. As a reward, he was granted a town charter in Szalónak, and in 1463 he was appointed Baron (Freiherr von Schlaining) of Szalónak.
The peace document of Sopron of 1463 listed Kismarton, Fraknó, Kabold, Kőszeg, and Rohonc. On the one hand, because many of the estates were no longer under the Habsburg administration, and on the other hand, Emperor Frederick III withdrew Szarvkő and Borostyánkő from the treaty obligations because of their private legal status. After the relatively short period of Matthias’s reign, the Treaty of Pozsony (1491) stabilized the Habsburg pledges for a long time, naming Szarvkő, Kismarton, Fraknó, Kabold, Borostyánkő, Kőszeg, and Rohonc.
King Matthias issued a charter in Sopron on 19. 07. 1463, in which he allowed Pawmkyrcher [Baumkircher] András, a lord and castellan of Pozsony, who had helped to recover the Hungarians’ Holy Crown and to settle the differences between Emperor Frederick and King Matthias, to remain peacefully and quietly in possession of the castle of Zalonok [Szalónok] and its appurtenances, in which he had previously held the property of King László V. Later this was confirmed by Matthias in his charter of issued on 03.04.1464. In 1467 Baumkircher occupied and partially destroyed the castle of Vasdobra. In 1469 he was granted the right to open a mine by Matthias.
Andreas Baumkircher used Szalónok as a base and waged a private war against Emperor Frederick III at the head of the Styrian noble alliance between 1469-71. His primary aim was to gain for himself the imperial occupations of western Hungary. To this end, he first began the siege of Kőszeg. The largest battle of the war took place on 21 July 1469 near Radkersburg (in Hungarian historiography: Regede) in border Styria; it resulted in Baumkircher’s triumph and the Emperor was forced to call a truce. We can suspect the hand of King Matthias Corvinus behind Baumkircher’s military actions.
In 1471, Baumkircher, who was negotiating directly with the Emperor in Graz, was unexpectedly arrested by Frederick III on 23 April and illegally beheaded without a court order (in order to get rid of his considerable debt). Von Grafeneck’s son-in-law Wilhelm Baumkircher and the heirs swore allegiance to the Emperor and were allowed to keep their estates and their status (“Landsässigkeit”) in Western Hungary on the side of King Matthias Corvinus. Wilhelm and Georg Baumkircher were thus able to pledge Rohonc, while they already held the manor of Szalónak by right of inheritance.
On 18.05.1502, Palatine Geréb Péter of Vingárti announced that Pankyrher György (Baumkircher) of Zalonok (Szalónak) died without a male heir, all his castles, manors, towns, and estates, which had been passed on to the King and the Holy Crown, were occupied by Stubenberg Boldizsár and Gáspár. The king sent Thwrzo (Thurzo) Péter to reclaim them, before whom Boldizsár and Gáspár declared that the estates belonged to them by right of inheritance and that they were ready to prove it by documents.
On the request of Margit, widow of Pankyrher Vilmos of Zalonok, and her daughter Borbála, King Ulászló II allowed them in 1502 to obtain a new judgment before the king in the case of Zalonok (Szalónak) and the possessions of the castle, which had been decided in favor of the king by Palatine Geréb Péter of Vingárt. (Please, note that I use the Oriental name order after the 15th century for Hungarians whereas family names came first.)
The castle of Szalónak was acquired in 1527 by Batthyány I Ferenc. from the property of the discontinued Baumkircher family, which had reverted to the king. The Baumkircher heirs, however, prevented the castle from being taken possession of. In 1529, during the Turkish campaigns in Vienna and in 1532 in Kőszeg, the area was burnt down by the raiders, but they did not get inside the walls. In 1537, after years of litigation, the castle and its appurtenances were divided between the heirs and Batthyány, who finally bought the other half in 1544.
In 1545, construction works began under the direction of Lady Batthyányi Ferencné, Bánffy Katalin of Alsólindva. It was more likely the renovation of the castle. In 1559, Batthyányi Ferenc wrote to Nádasdy Tamás that he had begun a complete rebuilding of the castle and was waiting for the Archbishop of Esztergom to come and consecrate the church. Batthyány moved to Németújvár during the construction, because in Szalónak they were ‘demolishing and building’. The construction was completed before Batthyány’s death in 1566.
Batthyány’s widow was Swetkovics Katalin, she was the head of the family estates until her death in 1575. The nephew Boldizsár began to rebuild the house to his own specifications in 1569. At that time, work was carried out on the palace and the house of the daughters. In 1570, masons and carpenters were working on the tiling of the rooms. On 5 July 1578, a letter was sent to inform him that the painter was unable to go to paint Szalónak castle.
Batthyány Boldizsár invited the famous botanist Carolus Clusius, who also built a small botanical garden here, to visit the castle and its surroundings. Batthyány Boldizsár died unexpectedly in 1590. His heir was Batthyány II Ferenc, who started construction works in all his castles. The bastion in front of the great tower was replaced, and in l601 the stove-builder master of Szalónak built stoves in the castle. In 1605, Prince Bocskai István’s Hajdú army burnt the imperial settlement, but they could not take the castle fortress either.
We can read the following date and inscription on the bronze plate on the roof peak of the old tower in the inner castle: FDB/EBCPVL/l6ll, [ Franciscus De Batthyány / Eva Batthyány Comitissa Poppel Von Lobkovicz]. This refers to the completion of the restoration of the tower. During the building works from 1569 to 1611, the inner castle was rebuilt in the Renaissance style. The upper levels of the originally rectangular old tower were then rebuilt in a rounded form. The southwest tower of the outer castle was given a cannon-guarded upper level, and the polygonal bastion with a tiled roof was built underneath.
In 1619, at the beginning of the Thirty Years’ War, Batthyány sided with Prince Bethlen Gábor of Transylvania, who was conquering the Highlands (the northern part of the Kingdom of Hungary), to help the rebelling Czechs. He hosted Bethlen in his castle in Rohonc. In 1621, the imperial army led by Colonel Collalto, which was advancing through the western part of Transdanubia, burnt Körmend, Rohonc, and Szalónak. In l620, Horváth Ferenc (the bailiff) asked his lord to repair the city’s defensive walls and bastions and to have stones cut for this purpose.
Batthyány II Ferenc died on 13 September 1625, at the age of 53, in his beloved residence in Szalónak Castle. Major construction work began in Szalónak in 1642. The architect was probably Lucchese, who was also active in the other castles of the family. The work was begun by Retacco and completed by Master Carli, the building work being carried on into the 1650s.
On 16 April 1648, Jobbágy Dániel, the bailiff of Szalónak, reported the following to Batthyány Ádám: “…the buildings are all half finished, because of the sickness of Mason Karly…which is very bad and may even die. For which reason it would be good if Your Majesty could provide me with a Master…”. The gate of the outer wall belt bears the inscription 1648, so it was already finished by this time. The town of Szalónak was burnt down on 6 April 1652. According to the Batthyány archives, construction work on the castle resumed in 1653.
In 1683, during Kara Mustafa’s campaign against Vienna, Prince Thököly Imre called on the Transdanubian nobility to side with him. After the court had surrendered Transdanubia, Batthyány Kristóf wrote a letter to Thököly on 24 June, promising “to place himself, with his own and all the Croats, at the service of the Grand Vizier.” A few days later, Batthyány’s envoys appeared in the Ottoman camp at Székesfehérvár and declared their lord’s obedience to the will of the Porte in return for the sparing of their lives and estates. After the defeat of the Turks at Kahlenberg, Batthyány also returned to the imperial side and turned against Thököly (The royal manifesto of 12 January 1684 promised the Hungarian lords a general pardon).
During the Rákóczi War of Independence (1703-1711), the loyal nobles of Vas County found shelter in the Batthyánys’ castle in Szalónak. In the early spring of 1704, Niczky Sándor visited Batthyány Ferenc in Németújvár, trying to persuade him to change his side. Batthyány turned down the offer on the grounds that his son was studying in Graz and his three daughters in Vienna. The girls told him: ‘Don’t give up the castle, because we won’t have a place among the bastard daughters then’.
On 29 March 1704, Prince Rákóczi II Ferenc issued a letter of protection for the estates of the children of Batthyány Ádám. In 1705, Hannibal Heister, who was defeated by General Vak (Blind) Bottyán at the Battle of Szentgotthárd, fled here. At the beginning of April 1707, part of the guards of Szalónak made an unsuccessful raid on the Kuruc troops, who were raiding the castle, resulting in the capture of several of the attackers. At the beginning of 1708, Eleonora Strattman (widow of Batthyány Ádám) and Esterházy Antal made a deal: Strattman would pay Esterházy 1,000 forints, two Kuruc guards would be posted at Szalónak, and the castle and its surroundings would remain undisturbed for a year. Later, Esterházy Antal signed the protection letter in May 1710 which was extended to 1 May 1717. It is interesting to note that the two branches of the Batthyány family were treated differently by the Kuruc troops.
Half of Szalónak castle was owned by Count Batthyány Lajos in 1848. After Count Lajos was executed in 1849 by the Habsburgs, his part was confiscated and sold to a big freight forwarder named Schmidt. After the Compromise in 1867, the Batthyány family got it back, but after the outbreak of the First World War, it was sold to the Hermes Bank in Budapest. In 1956, temporary accommodation was arranged for Hungarian refugees. In 1957, the Austrian retired Minister of Trade Dr. Udo Illig bought Szalónak and had the ruined castle restored. Today it is still privately owned and houses a museum.
Source: Várlexikon https://varlexikon.hu/szalonak
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Here are more pictures of Szalónak castle: