Now we are talking about the fortification of the medieval town of Szentgyörgy (Svätý Jur, Sankt Georgen) but the ruined castle of Fehérkő is also situated northwest of the city. It is going to be described in a separate article. You can find them in Slovakia, in the historical land that we Hungarians or Slovaks call Felvidék or Horná Zem. In fact, the majority of the inhabitants were Hungarian Germans until 1945.
The history of the town of Szentgyörgy
Archaeological finds show that people lived in the area of Szentgyörgy as early as the Stone Age. There are also finds from the Bronze Age and the Early Iron Age. Traces of a fortified Moravian settlement from the second half of the 9th century have been preserved.
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. 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.
After the Mongolian invasion (1242) and the campaigns of the Czech King Ottokar II in 1271 and 1273, German-speaking settlers arrived in the devastated area and established the vineyards. The people of Szentgyörgy built the Szentgyörgy Castle (Fehérkő), which served as the center of their estate, to the north-west of the settlement. (It is going to be described in a separate article.) In 1287, the Austrian Duke Albert conquered the settlement and its castle, which the Szentgyörgy family took back by siege.
In 1279, the Augustinian hermits were settled in Szentgyörgy, and two manors were assigned to them, with two vineyards and other sources of profit. Their monastery also served as an asylum.
The Charter of Győr issued a document on 6 May 1343 which described how Sebes and Péter, the sons of Bazini Ádám divided the property. The castle and village of Szentgyörgy (“Sancti Georgii castri scilicet et villarum”) went to Péter, while the castle and village of Bazin “castrum Bozyn dictum cum villa sub eodem castro…” was given to Sebes.
In 1385, King Zsigmond (Sigismund) of Luxembourg pledged the Hungarian territories up to the Vág to the Moravian Margraves Jodok and Prokop. In 1390, he had to recapture the royal castles from Prokop with a military campaign, but the Szentgyörgyi family had to pay 4000 gold Forints for Bazin and 1900 for Éberhárd. It is not known how much they paid for Szentgyörgy, but this is how the castle and the settlement may have been returned to the family.
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. In 1434, the town’s church was captured and fortified by the Hussites. The town was sacked again.
In 1438, the elder Szentgyörgyi branch died out, and the Bazini branch (György) inherited their estates. In 1441, Szentgyörgy was again occupied by the invading Hussites. According to a charter issued in 1457, Zenthgywrgh (Szentgyörgy) was in the possession of the lords of Éleskő castle in 1449. It was still like this in the 1460s-70s. Sometime after that, it reverted to the Szentgyörgyi and Bazini families.
In 1523, part of the court chamber moved to Szentgyörgy to escape the plague. After the deaths of Szentgyörgyi and Bazini Kristóf, the town of Szentgyörgy returned to the crown. (Please, note that I use the Oriental name order for Hungarians where family names come first after the 14th-15th centuries.)
In 1544, Serédy Gáspár received the twin manors of Szentgyörgy and Bazin from King Habsburg Ferdinand. Serédy, as a typical landlord, imposed additional services and burdens on the two towns, and they turned to the king for redress. 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.
After these investigations, Ferdinand confirmed in 1550 the rights and privileges of the towns to hold fairs, which they had received from King Lajos (Louis) the Great, King Matthias, and King Lajos (Louis) II. After Serédy’s death, the next pledge-holders were the Counts of Salm. The two market towns also came into conflict with them, but they failed to have an investigation launched against the landlord.
From the 1560s onwards, the court wine master (Hofkellermeister) and wine tasters visited Szentgyörgy and Sopron almost every year to select and buy a few hundred “akó” (one “akó” is about 53 liters) of the best wines for the tables of the Emperor and the Hungarian King (Ferdinand, Maximilian, later Rudolf) and the Archdukes (Charles, Ernest, Maximilian and Matthias) living in Vienna. These businesses were called “vina aulicas”.
On January 9, 1575, Krusich János and his wife Pálffy Kata received the estates of Szentgyörgy and Bazin from King Maximilian for a pledge of 132,000 talers for 6 years. The king, however, stipulated in the contract that the rights of the market towns should not be infringed. Krusich’s widow, Pálffy Kata, married Illésházy István in 1582. Pálffy Kata administered her ex-husband’s property and she was called the “free woman of Bazin and Szentgyörgy”.
In 1591, Emperor Rudolf forgave the town’s debt of 7,000 Forints owed to Pálffy Kata, the wife of Chancellor Illésházy István, and 2,000 Forints were also forgiven that was owed to the other heirs of the Szentgyörgyi counts.
In 1598, an unusual thing happened when King Rudolf II asked the two market towns to redeem themselves from the pledge of Pálffy Kata and Illésházy. “At our gracious wish and request,” says the charter of Rudolf II, “the two market towns of the Szentgyörgy and Bazin estates, 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 off 140,000 talers and returning to our hands.”
However, in addition to the redemption amount, the two towns also had to pay the tax for 10 years to Illésházy. The emperor wanted Bazin and Szentgyörgy to become the same chamber town as Modor had been at that time. Miraculously, Bazin and Szentgyörgy had already collected the amount due to Illésházy by 1601. Finally, on 24 March, Pállfy Kata ceded Szentgyörgy for the 140,000 thalers, and two weeks later Bazin as well. On 9 April 1601, the officers, magistrates, and other leaders appointed by the market towns swore an oath of allegiance to their new lord, the king.
Illésházy’s relationship with King Rudolf (also because of the disputes over the two towns) became strained and in 1601 he was finally accused of spreading seditious writings against the king. The royal agent, Joó János, did his utmost to have Illésházy convicted of treason. The trial took place between 1601 and 1603, and the sentence was forfeiture of head and cattle. Illésházy fled to Poland to escape the summons. His property was confiscated in his absence. Illésházy joined Prince Bocskai István but also maintained good relations with Archduke Matthias.
The construction of the city’s stone walls and bastions was begun in 1603 and completed by 1647. Despite the fortifications, the city was plundered many times during the wars. In 1605, Bocskai’s anti-Habsburg troops occupied both the town and the castle of Szentgyörgy.
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 appendix to article 6 of the draft peace treaty of 9 February 1606 mentioned the towns of Szentgyörgy and Bazin, that they will regain their privileges at the next Diet, according to the decision of the Emperor and the decision of the noble Estates of the Kingdom. On 14 January 1609, King Matthias II issued the official document on the restitution of Szentgyörgy and Bazin to Illésházy – Pálffy. Illésházy and Pálffy Kata had a fortified palace built in the western part of the town. Illésházy died in Vienna on 9 May 1609.
In 1613, 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. You can read more about the life of Pálffy Miklós here:
In 1619, Prince Bethlen Gábor of Transylvania defeated Tiefenbach’s German army camped near Pozsony (Pressburg, Bratislava) in a night raid and marched into Pozsony on 14 October with 15,000 men. The next day the castle of Pozsony also surrendered. The towns around Pozsony, such as Szentgyörgy, did not resist the troops of the prince.
However, after a short bombardment, the imperial commander Boquoy recaptured Pozsony Castle from Bethlen’s captain, Zay Lőrinc, on 6 May 1621. After that, Szentgyörgy, Bazin, and Modor surrendered in turn. Bethlen’s counter-attack on Pozsony began in mid-August, before which the Transylvanian armies marched into Szentgyörgy. The siege of Pozsony was unsuccessful, and Bethlen withdrew from the castle on 1 September and marched towards Moravia, capturing the border towns of Holics and Szakolca. The Peace of Nikolsburg returned the area to the rule of Ferdinand II. It was how Szentgyörgy finally received free royal town rights from King Ferdinand III in 1647. Bazin and Szentgyörgy were granted the right to use the red seal wax.
According to an inventory of 1650, Pozsony, Sopron, Nagyszombat, Modor, Trencsén (Trenčín), Szakolca, Szentgyörgy, Bazin, Kismarton, Kőszeg – all towns along the Austrian border – were obliged to keep 15-50 soldiers each; the soldiers’ pay is 3 Forints per month, calculated for three years and deducted from the tax levied. In 1653, Szentgyörgy was asked to advance 2,000 Forints for the cost of building the Pozsony castle, to be charged to the next year’s tax. In 1662 the annual tax of Szentgyörgy and Bazin was 4-4000 Forints.
In 1663 the cavalry of the Turkish army besieging Érsekújvár and the Crimean Tatar (or Tartar) troops broke through the Vág River’s line on 2 September and set the counties of Pozsony and Nyitra on fire. On 5 September, they attacked and captured the town of Szentgyörgy and killed and deported most of its inhabitants. They did not spare those who fled to the castle, and Fehérkő Castle of Szentgyörgy was destroyed.
In 1673, the citizens of Szentgyörgy reported to the king and the court chamber that Pálffy Miklós (a descendant of the hero of Győr) had forcibly occupied some of their previously undisturbed territories in the previous year. They asked that Pálffy be forbidden from forcibly occupying them and that their privileges be preserved.
In 1676 the royal mandate instructed the towns of Kőszeg, Sopron, Szentgyörgy, Bazin, Modor, Szakolca, and Lőcse to elect from among the Catholics a mayor, judge, notary, and half of the senate.
In December 1703, Károlyi’s rebel Kuruc troops conquered Szentgyörgy, Modor, and Bazin. In the spring of 1704, during Heister’s counterattack, Ottlyk left a small Kuruc garrison in the three towns and then joined Bercsényi. In April, Bán (Duke) Pálffy, the Habsburg king’s general, turned to Szentgyörgy with the left flank of the imperial troops and drove the small Kuruc garrison out of the town with a short battle.
Bazin and Modro were conquered on the 6th, and Nagyszombat on the 8th without resistance. In the meantime, however, the Kuruc troops had achieved considerable success in the Danube region, and Heister withdrew. General Bercsényi sent Károlyi’s troops to recapture the cities, and on 26 May they asked Károlyi for a letter of protection. After the successful Battle of Szomolány (28 May 1704), all three towns were again in the hands of the rebelling Kuruc forces. In December, Heister’s troops again occupied the three towns that had been evacuated by the rebels.
At the beginning of 1705, Heister stationed his infantry in the walled towns of Modor, Bazin, and Szentgyörgy, while he intended to attack the Kuruc troops of Károlyi with his cavalry. After being repulsed by Ebeczky, he retreated to Komárom after supplying Trencsén. This was taken advantage of by Rákóczi, who sent troops of Esterházy Dániel to occupy the towns, which were defended by some 3,000 imperial infantry.
After the capture of Modor and Bazin, the Kuruc soldiers fired 40 bombs at Szentgyörgy, which surrendered on 1 April. Esterházy released the captured imperial soldiers unarmed, but the Slovak peasants in the mountains killed many of them. In May 1705, Prince Rákóczi Ferenc II himself wrote in a letter that “…the enemy had left the towns beyond the Vág River (Modor, Bazín, Szent-György) with a shameful capitulation…”.
In 1707, Guido Stahremberg’s troops drove the Kuruc troops out of a large part of Pozsony County. In May 1708, General Heister sent a message to the troops stationed in the towns of Nagyszombat, Modor, Bazin, Szentgyörgy, Galánta, and Diószeg to withdraw immediately and to try to move to the more defensible Csallóköz region (north of the Danube) and take up a position between the entrenchments of Nagymagyar.
The towns of Pozsony County, immediately after the withdrawal of the imperial troops, hurried to obtain letters of protection from Bottyán János, whose advance troops had already reached the gates of Pozsony by the first days of June. In June, the Kuruc troops of Bottyán marched into the cities. After the defeat at Trencsén, the rebel Kuruc forces were unable to achieve lasting success in the county and were driven out, although Béri Balogh Ádám did briefly besiege and occupy Szentgyörgy, Modor, and Bazin in 1710.
In 1760, Szentgyörgy contributed 50 gold Forint and 24 silver coins to the establishment of the Hungarian Royal Noble Guard.
Today, several long sections of the wall are still visible.
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You can find Szentgyörgy on Google My Maps here:
Here are pictures of Szentgyörgy’s walls: