Selected Passages from Hungarian-Ottoman Wars

Szentgyörgy-Fehérkő

Szentgyörgy-Fehérkő Photo: Szöllösi Gábor www.varlexikon.hu

Szentgyörgy-Fehérkő castle is also called Hrad Biely Kamen or Castrum de Sancto Georgio, it can be found in Slovakia, a bit northwest of the town of Szentgyörgy (Svätý Jur, Sankt Georgen). You can find them in Slovakia, in the historical land that we Hungarians or Slovaks call Felvidék or Horná Zem. 

Szentgyörgy-Fehérkő Photo: Szöllösi Gábor www.varlexikon.hu

The castle is on the top of a 290-meter-high hill that is covered by a forest. The 60 x 70 m elliptical castle has never played a very important role in the history of the Kingdom of Hungary. The castle consists of an inner and an outer castle, of which the inner castle is about 55 x 35 meters. The castle walls were protected by three ditches and two earthworks on the most vulnerable western side. The entrance to the castle was from the east, from the direction of the settlement. The lower castle was probably built in the 15th century.

Szentgyörgy-Fehérkő Photo: Lánczi Imre

In 1209, King András II of Hungary donated the estate of Szentgyörgy (Zengurg) in Pozsony County to the royal Cupbearer Sebus (Sebes) of the Hontpázmány Clan (the son of the Tamás, Comes of Nyitra), in exchange for his loyalty. He also gave him the villages of Cseklész (Ceki), Ivány (Joan), Kosztolány (Cazteilan) and Éberhard (Ybrehart). An interesting feature of the charter is that among its signatories is the name of Bánk Bán.

Szentgyörgy-Fehérkő Photo: Lánczi Imre

The king also allowed the holding of a fair, where no one was allowed to collect customs duties (forum ab omni exaccione tributi liberum ), and those going to the fair could not be harassed by the collectors. In 1216, the King literally confirmed the grant, because the previous royal seal had been lost when Queen Gertrude was murdered by Bánk Bán.

Szentgyörgy-Fehérkő Photo: Lánczi Imre

The exact date of the construction of the castle is not known. According to some opinions, it was already standing in 1271, according to others it was built later, but definitely before 1295 by the Szentgyörgyi family as a center of their estate. You can read about the history of the market town of Szentgyörgy and its fortifications on my page:

https://www.hungarianottomanwars.com/kingdom-of-hungary/szentgyorgy/

The “History of the Princes of Styria” describes the 1271 campaign of King Ottokar II of Bohemia against King István (Stephen) V: “He caught Szentgyörgy, Bazin, Vöröskő, Nagyszombat, Óvár in a net, just like an animal gets caught during a hunt. (…) A peace was concluded at Prague, which returned the territory captured in the war to István [Stephen V], who insulted his opponent first with arms, now with rude threats, and now with impudence. Ottokar, therefore, justly indignant, took it all back the following year [he is speaking here of the 1273 campaign]’.

Szentgyörgy-Fehérkő Photo: Szöllösi Gábor www.varlexikon.hu

According to Fügedi Erik, a Hungarian historian, when King Ottokar II wrote about “turrigere munitiones” (tower-bearing fortresses) in a letter of 1271, he referred to Szentgyörgy, Bazin, and Vöröskő, but the letter does not name the fortresses specifically.

Szentgyörgy-Fehérkő Photo: Szöllösi Gábor www.varlexikon.hu

The first known documentary mention of the castle dates back to 1295. In the document, Comes Szentgyörgyi Ábrahám rewarded his servant named László, for shedding his blood in the recapture of the German-controlled castles of Szentgyörgy and Bazin. The two castles were probably taken by the Austrian Prince Albert in his campaign of 1287 when he also took Pozsony (Pressburg, Bratislava).

Szentgyörgy-Fehérkő Photo: Szöllösi Gábor www.varlexikon.hu

In the struggle for the throne after the demise of the House of Árpád, the Counts of Szentgyörgy and Bazin were supporters of King Károly Róbert, and therefore they were allowed to keep their estates. The sons of Szentgyörgyi Ábrahám, Sebes, and Péter, were confirmed in their possessions by the king in 1321. On 8 May 1334, the brothers Peter and Sebes divided Szentgyörgy and Bazin before the Chapter of Pozsony. Sebes became indebted and his relationship with his brother deteriorated.

Szentgyörgy-Fehérkő Photo: Szöllösi Gábor www.varlexikon.hu

In 1342 there was already a lawsuit between them, during which the Chapter of Győr in 1343 May the family estate was divided: the castle of Bazin (“castrum Bozyn”) was given to Sebes, while the castle of Szentgyörgy (“castrum Zent-Gurg”) was given to Péter. The elder branch of Szentgörgyi and the elder branch of Bazini were created. The division of the estates was still going on in 1353.

Szentgyörgy-Fehérkő Photo: Szöllösi Gábor www.varlexikon.hu

King Zsigmond of Luxembourg enlisted the military help of his relatives, Margraves Jodok and Prokop of Moravia, in his fight for the Hungarian crown. In return, he promised them the Hungarian territories west of the Vág River on the condition that if they took them by force of arms or by negotiation, they would hold them until the cost of their military intervention was paid.

King Zsigmond

In 1386: ” Jodok and Prokop, the Moravian Margraves, marched against Hungary with great forces and attacked and captured many towns and castles of the Hungarian counties neighboring the Moravians; among these were Jókő, Korlátkő, Éleskő, Detrekő, Vöröskő, Dévény, Berencs, Nagyszombat, Szakolca, Szentgyörgy, Вazin, Modor, Cseklész, Pozsony, together with other castles”.

Gold Forint of King Zsigmond, 1406

The biggest private-landowner losers of the Margraves’ campaign were the Szentgyörgyi and Bazizni families. King Zsigmond (Sigismund) had to retake the royal castles from Prokop in 1390, but the Szentgyörgyi family had to pay 4000 Forints for Bazin and 1900 for Éberhárd. It is not known how much they paid for Szentgyörgy, but this is how the castle may have been returned to the family.

Szentgyörgy-Fehérkő Photo: Lánczi Imre

On 3 February 1412, an inventory was made of the castle, which at that time consisted of the inner and outer castles. The entrance to the outer castle was controlled by two gate towers, connected by a wall passageway. A ‘water tower’ also stood opposite the gate tower in the outer castle. An interesting feature of the charter is that the Latin text the “water tower” (“víztorony”) was written in Hungarian (“… turrim autem viztoron ex opposito ipsius porte constructam simul cum domo sub ipsa turri …”).

Szentgyörgy-Fehérkő
Photo: Lánczi Imre

The baking house was also located in the outer castle. Access to the inner castle was also via a gatehouse that had a drawbridge. There was also a palace with a basement, the floor of which was occupied by a great hall. There was also an old tower and another tower which housed a dungeon. Inside one of the one-story buildings was the castle chapel.

Szentgyörgy-Fehérkő Photo: Lánczi Imre

In February 1428, the Bohemian Hussites invaded the region from the direction of Szakolca, and they defeated Stibor the Younger’s army and marched on Pozsony (Pressburg, Bratislava), robbed and burned Modor, Bazin, and Szentgyörgy, killing many of the inhabitants. There is no record of the siege and capture of the castles of Fehérkő and Bazin.

a Hussite “wagenburg”

Szentgyörgyi László wrote a German letter on 9 March 1433 from Szentgyörgy-Fehérkő Castle, he complained about the Hussites’ destruction of his estates. In 1434, the church of the town was occupied and fortified by the Hussites. There is no record of the castle being besieged or occupied.

Szentgyörgy-Fehérkő Photo: Szöllösi Gábor www.varlexikon.hu

In 1438, the elder Szentgyörgyi branch died out, and the Bazini branch (György) inherited their estates. In 1441, the settlement of Szentgyörgy below the castle was again occupied by the invading Hussites. In 1441, Szentgyörgyi and Bazini György married and acquired the castle of (Magyar) Óvár, which became the main residence of the family. Szentgyörgy-Fehérkő’s importance declined.

Szentgyörgy-Fehérkő Photo: Szöllösi Gábor www.varlexikon.hu

In 1446, Szentgyörgyi György (of “Bozyn and Zenthgywrgh”) and on behalf of himself and his sons (János and Zsigmond) divided the property with the widow of his brother Péter (“Peter Groff of Bozyn and Zenthgywrgh”) called Marcali Hedvig and his sons (Imre, László, István). Györggy became the owner of the castles of Szentgyörgy-Fehérkő (“Zenthgywrgh”) and Éberhard (“Eberharth”), his widow received the castles of Bazin (“Bozyn”) and Borostyánkő (“Borosthyan”). This division was accepted by both parties and declared final until the extinction of the family. Should either party be found childless and die out, his castles and estates would pass to the other party.

Szentgyörgy-Fehérkő Photo: Szöllösi Gábor www.varlexikon.hu

In 1448, the settlement of Szentgyörgy, which belonged to the castle, was pledged by Skola Máté and Tamás. In the 1460s-70s the settlement was part of Éleskő Castle.

In 1543, with the death of Szentgyörgyi and Bazini Kristóf, the estates passed to the crown. In July 1546, King Ferdinand I mortgaged the former Szentgyörgyi estates in Pozsony County to Serédy Gáspár for 53,000 Forints. In 1548, the judges, jurors, other people, and inhabitants of all the towns, villages, and estates belonging to the castles of Szentgyörgy, Bazin, Detrekő, and Borostyánkő, as well as people of all ranks in the area, asked King Ferdinand to investigate the landlord’s excesses and the violation of custom under the former lordship.

The gold Forint of King Szapolyai from 1540

 The King ordered an inquiry, and the privileges, rights, liberties, and customs of Szentgyörgy, Bazin, and the people of their respective estates, which had been granted to them by the former kings of Hungary, were confirmed by King Ferdinand I against Serédy.

The tombstone of Serédy Gáspár

Serédy Gáspár died in 1550. He was buried in the church of Szentgyörgy, where his tombstone can still be seen today. The manors of Bazin and Szentgyörgy were inherited by his son until he died in 1554. At that time, according to a survey, the castle was in a partially dilapidated state. The gate tower of the outer castle was missing its roof, and the walls of the palace were in ruins. At that time, the estate was taken over by Serédy II Gáspár, who made minor repairs to the castle in 1557.

The Gold Forint of King Ferdinand I

The castle of Szentgyörgy was returned to the king in 1558, together with the manor. In 1560 the castle was surveyed by the Italian military engineer Ferrabosco, who estimated the cost of the necessary repairs at 2000 Forints. Apart from repairing the walls, all the roofs had to be replaced.

Szentgyörgy-Fehérkő Photo: Szöllösi Gábor www.varlexikon.hu

In 1566, it was donated to Count zu Salm Eck, the chief Comes of Pozsony, who in 1575 mortgaged the estate to Count Krusich János of Lepoglava for 132,000 talers (Krusich only received it as a pledge on condition of retaining his privileges). After Krusich’s death, his widow, Pálffy Kata, married Illésházy István in 1582, who took over the pledged property for 140,000 talers.

Szentgyörgy-Fehérkő Photo: Mayer Jácint

Illésházy was at odds with the citizens of Bazin and Szentgyörgy, who were also supported by King Rudolf II who wrote the next:

“By our wish and following our request and Rudolf’s charter, the two towns of Szentgyörgy and Bazin, out of their unique and profound love for us…humbly offered to redeem themselves from their pledge-holder, Illésházy István, by paying 140,000 talers, and to return to our hands.”

Bocskai’s silver thaller from 1605

Illésházy, in turn, together with Pálffy Miklós, prevented the independence of the market towns at the Diet. The feud between the overlord and the emperor had grown bitter. Illésházy was eventually tried for treason, so he fled to Poland in 1603 and returned as a follower of Prince Bocskai István. The castles of Szentgyörgy and Bazin may also have been occupied by Bocskai’s Hajdú troops, because Archduke Matthias in August 1605, invaded the castle of Szentgyörgy and Bazin. 

Illésházy István († 1609), and his wife Erdődy Anna († 1577)

Archduke Matthias wrote in 1605 Aug. 17: “The garrison of Szentgyörgy agreed with Colonel Schönberg that he would help them with German troops; the colonel attacked the rebels in the castle on 8 August and partly slaughtered them, partly took them prisoner, and captured the castle. After this, Schoenberg sent 300 mercenaries to Szentgyörgy to help him and ordered them to turn against the rebels in Bazin, who attacked and took the castle by a sudden attack.”

the portrait of Illésházy István (1541-1609) in Bazin castle

Illésházy played a major role in the peace treaty between the court and Bocskai, and in the election of Archduke Matthias as king against Rudolf. For his services, he was also elected as a Palatine. The castle was no longer suitable accommodation for him, and by 1609 he had built his fortified palace near the town. The castle was now only the center of the manor, used as a storehouse for wine and food, and the attics were used for drying fruit.

Szentgyörgy-Fehérkő Photo: Lánczi Imre

In 1613, Illésházy’s widow, Pálffy Kata transferred the manors of Bazin and Szentgyörgy to the sons of her brother Pálffy Miklós, the hero of Győr, who died in 1600. In 1617, the inventory of the castle even included cannons and howitzers. Wine and grain were stored in the cellars. The castle also housed a smithy and a cooper’s workshop. According to the documents of a 1648 lawsuit, the castles of Szentgyörgy and Bazin were owned by Pálffy Miklós.

Szentgyörgy-Fehérkő Photo: Lánczi Imre

On 3 September 1663, the cavalry of the Turkish army besieging Érsekújvár broke through the defensive line of the Vág River at Galgóc and raided the countryside all the way to Pozsony. Montecuccoli wrote as an eyewitness in his work:

“The greater part of our troops outside, however, retreated by another road to Pozsony, when they saw the fires bursting up behind them and on either side and spreading far away towards Vöröskő, Bazin, and Szentgyörgy.”

Szentgyörgy-Fehérkő Photo: Szöllösi Gábor www.varlexikon.hu

On 5 September, the Turkish/Crimean Tatar troops attacked the town of Szentgyörgy and carried off hundreds of citizens, killing many. They also drove out those who had fled to the castle and set fire to the fortress, which was never rebuilt. Evlia Cselebi, on her journey to Pozsony, recalled the enormous destruction: ‘And after the capture of Érsekújvár castle, Sultan Ahmed-Gerai, son of the Tartar Khan, with his army, ravaged and plundered the provinces of Upper Hungary within the Ak-jajla [Lesser Carpathians] mountains, and here he also ravaged and plundered.’

Szentgyörgy-Fehérkő Photo: Szöllösi Gábor www.varlexikon.hu

Könyöki József surveyed the castle in November 1882. “The present state of the castle is such that even the former entrance cannot be reconstructed. Only a few walls are still standing in the background, and it is no longer possible to find out how they are connected. Only one side wall of the tower on the façade is still standing, and its connection with the inner building cannot be established. The southwestern side of the castle was enclosed by a deep moat. The architectural material is limestone, the walls are cast stone.”

Szentgyörgy-Fehérkő Photo: Szöllösi Gábor www.varlexikon.hu

The good news is, that the conservation of the castle began in 2022 and still going on by enthusiastic local castle lovers.

Source: http://www.varlexikon.hu

You can find Fehérkő castle on Google My Maps:

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Here are more pictures of Fehérkő castle: