Photo: Kocsis Kadosa

Szandavár castle is located in the Cserhát mountain in Hungary. It may not be the largest fort and only a few ruins are left of it but we have to love it all the better. We don’t know for sure when it was built, it was mentioned as “Castellanus de Zonda” first in a document issued in 1301. Szanda was mentioned the next time when its first known castellan was Széchy Péter, son of Miklós of the Balog Clan between 1326 and 1329. It was recorded that he was the Chief Comes of Nógrád County at that time.

Photo: Szöllősi Gábor

King Zsigmond gave “Castrum Zonda” to the Pásztói family, then he decided to give it to the Csetneki family in 1387. However, the king took it away from them and gave it to his wife, Borbála Cillei in 1424. Queen Borbála needed some money so she pledged szanda castle to a rich burgher of Buda, a man called Farkas László. (Please, note that I use the Oriental name order for Hungarians where family names come first.) When she paid the loan back, the castle returned to the Treasury but it was pledged again to a nobleman called Zágorhidi Demeter.

Photo: Szöllősi Gábor

King Ulászló gave Szanda castle to Rozgonyi Simon, the Bishop of Eger in 1440. The brothers of the bishop, István and György had a share in the property, while half of the castle was owned by Kompolthy Pál of Nána. The latter’s ownership was registered in 1441 but we have a document from 1465 in which we can read that the Archbishop of Esztergom purchased it from the Lábatlan family for 3,000 gold Forints.

Despite the transaction, the king decided to pledge the castle to Kolár Péter in 1466. Then, the mighty Báthory family gained Szanda castle in 1474. Meanwhile, the Tárnok family of  Zágorhid attempted to take the castle and its estates back and they sued the Archbishop of Esztergom in 1504, assumedly their efforts were in vain.  

 The Báthory family had the castle rebuilt in the 16th century, but it could not hinder the Ottomans for a long time, though. Pasha Mehmed of Buda Castle managed to take Nógrád castle in 1544, and he took Szanda castle in 1546, too. According to the Ottoman payrolls between 1549 and 1550, there were 235 Ottoman mercenaries guarding the castle. Its commander was Agha Mohamed.

Photo: Szöllősi Gábor

Then, Agha Hubián was its famous captain in 1550 who fought a duel with Kapitán György, the Captain of Hollókő castle. It was fought at the castle of Buják, the debate was about who should judge the case of a prisoner of war.  The poet and chronicler Tinódi Sebestyén wrote about the duel and we can learn that both of them survived it and claimed the victory to themselves.

The Hussars of Balassagyarmat led by Horváth Bertalan took the castle back in 1551, allegedly they got into the fort through a secret tunnel. Having gained the castle, they exploded it, and Szanda castle has been in ruins ever since.

Photo: Szöllősi Gábor

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Photo: Kocsis Kadosa

Here are more pictures of Szanda Castle: