Sztrecsnó or Sztrecsény castle is also called Strečno, and it is in Slovakia. The castle, standing on a high rocky hill above the Vág River, was probably built in the 13th century by the Balassa family. The twin castle, the slightly smaller Óvár (Old Castle), was built a bit earlier on the other side of the river. In the early 14th century, it belonged to Csák Máté until 1321, when it became a royal castle.
Above the Vág River, on the top of a rocky hill, a long group of buildings can be seen with a rectangular old tower in the middle of the north-western side. We can see a triangular apse chapel with tall, slender windows with pointed arches in the northeastern corner. On the northern slope of the castle hill are traces of a Hussar castle. A Hussar castle was a kind of large outer castle which was developed in the 16th century to help the light cavalry’s patrols. In that age, the Hungarian saying went that “a castle can be defended only on the field”.
The oldest part is the 13th-century Old Tower on top of Castle Hill, connected to the southern parts of the castle by a bridge. In the 15th century, when the castle became a royal estate, a palace wing, and a chapel were added to make it more comfortable. It was surrounded by an outer castle fortified with three Italian bastions, of which little remains today. The gate tower leading into the castle and the restored rondell (circular bastion for cannons) are relatively intact.
The first written mention of the village dates back to 1300 in the form of “Strechun”, and in 1321 the toll of “Strechen” is mentioned. In 1382, after the death of King Lajos (Louis) I, the Comes function of Vágbeszterce castle was abolished. In 1323, King Károly Róbert turned Vágbeszterce castle into a Comes rank, and Sztrecsnó became the center of its estates.
In 1384, Sztrecsény became the seat and manorial center of an independent Comes region. It included the manors of Sztrecsény, Zsolnalitva, Óvár, and Budatín. In 1358 it was called ‘Strychen’, in 1384 ‘castrum Strechyn’, in 1438 ‘Streczen, Streczan’, in 1598 ‘Ztrechen Waralya’, later ‘Sztrecsnó’.
In 1397, King Zsigmond, together with other castles in the area, gave the castle of Sztrecsény to the Polish-born palatine Sedziwój of Szubin in Kalisz. In 1414 Stiboric Stíbor, also of Polish origin, became the owner of the manor. As a royal estate, it was the property of Queen Borbála in the early 15th century, and later of Queen Elizabeth. The palace wing and chapel in the northern part of the castle were built at this time.
In 1429 it was again a royal estate, first, it belonged to King Zsigmond’s wife, Barbara, and then to King Albert’s wife, Elizabeth. In 1442 it was acquired by the Pongrácz family of Liptószentmiklós. In 1454 Hunyadi János acquired it by exchange, and between 1457 and 1469 it belonged again to the Pongrácz family. In 1474, King Matthias Corvinus gave the castle of Sztrecsnó together with the castle of Zsolnalitva to his general, Kinizsi Pál, and it remained his property until 1494. At the beginning of the 16th century, it was pledged to Burian of Szvetló. Szapolyai János acquired it in 1523.
From 1526 it belonged to Kosztka Miklós, then to the Dersffy family, from 1601 by marriage to the Wesselényi and Löwenburg families, and at the end of the 17th century to the Eszterházys. The castle estate consisted of two and then three parts, the centers of which were Zsolna, Vágtapolca, and Egbelény. The village was part of the castle manor, it was its servant village. In 1598 it had 35 houses. As an excellent defender of the trade route along the Vág Valley, the castle reached its true strength in the 17th century.
The most notable part of the castle is the castle chapel, where the portraits of Wesselényi Ferenc and the venerated Bosnyák Zsófia can be seen. It was here that Wesselényi Ferenc married Bosnyák Zsófia, whose mummified body was brought to the church of Vágtapolca in 1689. Bosnyák Zsófia suffered so much from the infidelity of her husband, the ever-absent Wesselényi Ferenc, that she died of grief (1644). The body of the saintly woman miraculously did not decompose in the castle chapel, but before the Habsburgs blew up the castle, the mummy was taken from the castle to the church in Vágtapolca. Unfortunately, in 2009 a vandal set fire to the mummy, now we can see only a replica of it in the castle chapel.
A year after his wife’s death, Wesselényi led his great love, the famous Venus of Murány, Széchy Mária, to the altar. On the same wall hang the portraits of the former lord of the castle, the valiant but unfaithful Ferenc Wesselényi, and the saintly Sofia.
As the estate of Wesselényi Ferenc, the castle already had a palace wing and a chapel, as well as three outer castles with Italian bastions. In 1698, after the fall of the Thököly Uprising, the castle was destroyed by Emperor Leopold because it had no military role anymore. The gate tower and the restored round bastion recall its former splendor. Today, it is part of the Museum of the Vág in Zsolna.
Since 1698 it has been ruined. Its conservation began in the early 20th century. In 1720, the number of taxpayers in the village was 24. In 1784, it had 76 houses with 92 families and 336 inhabitants. In 1828 it had 70 houses with 731 inhabitants who were engaged in forestry, woodworking, and rafting. Another interesting feature is the motorless ferry, which is still in use on the Vág River and which was restored and put back into operation in 1992.
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Here are more pictures of Sztrecsnó castle: