The ruin of the small Vitányvár aka Vitány castle stands on the northern edge of the Vértes Mountains, Hungary, east of the village of Vértessomló, above Körtvélyespuszta. The ruin is hidden near the 417-meter-high Nyerges Hill, at the very end of a wooded ridge. From there, you can take delight in a magnificent view of the surroundings, towards the villages of Vértessomló and Környe. Its ruins are worth a visit, as its walls have witnessed glorious battles against the Turks. Vitányvár is a typical example of 14th-century castle constructions. Also, Vitány and Gerencsérvár, a small castle next to it, are famous for the most romantic medieval love story of the Vértes Mountain.
No one knows who was the first builder of Vitány Castle, he may have been a member of the famous Csák clan. The member of this clan occupied the surrounding lands towards the end of the 13th century. Soon after the Mongolian invasion, they were joining in the great wave of the castle-building project of King Béla IV.
The outer wall surrounding the castle had been rebuilt at least three times. As for the first period of the 14th century, there was a wall only on the east side, in front of the inner gate of the castle. The castle is located at the end of a ridge but on the less defendable side, it was fortified by a fore-fort and outer ramparts.
Our diplomas first mention Vitányvár in 1319, when Mihály of the Gutkeled clan was the castellan until 1324. It was already a royal castle at that time, two years before King Károly Róbert had officially bartered the castles of the Csák clan in the Vértes Mountain. This is how Vitány, together with the Gesztes Castle, came under the control of the Comes of Győr castle.
The castle was listed in the documents written in 1379 as “Castrum Vitam, Vytam, Wyttam”. King Zsigmond (Sigismund) pledged it to Frederick Hohenzollern in 1410. His castellan was called Erik Silstrang in 1417 who was also in charge of Gesztes castle. It is thanks to him that he drove away the robbers raging around Pozsony (Bratislava, Pressburg) and then hiding in the forests of Vértes Mountain.
The castle was pledged by King Albert Habsburg to Rozgonyi István in 1439. Vitány was inherited by his son, János, the following year, but not undisturbed because he had to fight a lot with his relatives for the ownership. (Please note, that I use the Eastern name order for Hungarian names where family names come first.) Here you can read about Várgesztes castle that is near Vitány:
The second construction period of the castle took place in the 15th century, when the southern and western sides of the castle were expanded, and ramparts were constructed, with loopholes cut in the walls in the southern part. This was further reinforced in this century, the battlements were walled up. It was then that the building on the eastern corner of the tower was built, which was unearthed during the excavation in 2015.
Vitány was occupied by the powerful Lord Újlaki Miklós in 1445. Three years later he became its legal owner because King Ulászló pledged it to him. Nevertheless, the castle is found in the hands of the Rozgonyi family in 1453, by the decision of King László V.
The Rozgonyi family has confirmed this right three times with King Matthias Corvinus, in 1458, 1459 and 1460. All this happened in vain, because King Ulászló pledged both Vitány and Csókakő castles to Egervári László, Bán (Duke) of Croatia in 1493. As the Bán did not have a son, Vitány was acquired after his death by Kanizsai György, the new Bán of Croatia in 1512. From him, the castle was inherited by the Judge of the Country, Kanizsai László.
It was during the years of the Dual Kingship of Hungary in 1534, that King Szapolyai János ordered the Convent of the Crusaders of Fehérvár to register Héderváry István and his sons Lőrinc and György as the owners of Vitány castle.
During the Ottoman conquest, The importance of the small castles in the Vértes Mountain suddenly increased in the years of the Ottoman conquest. They were used as second- or third-line forts of the Borderland system, mainly to observe the enemy. Many raids were launched from here towards the Trans-Danubian Region or Buda and Székesfehérvár. Also, the Borderland warriors culd take a rest in these small castles on their way home.
Vitány has been besieged by the Turks four times. The first siege was in 1529, but then the enemy could only occupy it for a short time, unlike in 1543 when they decided to stay there. However, they were soon driven out by the Christians. We can learn from the inventory made in 1550 that there were, among other things, four barrels of old wine in the tower, three in the small cellar, and one barrel of red wine in the large cellar. At that time, 88 sides of bacon were stored in the “vinegar house” and in the tower.
The Ottomans were certainly not pleased with the sides of bacon that they found in the castle in 1559 when they took Vitány again. However, this did not discourage the conquerors from repairing the upper part of the eastern castle wall as well as the drawbridge.
The war for the Borderland castles was raging, it was the main feature of our Ottoman struggles because a castle guarded several villages around it. General Salm’s soldiers marched into Vitány in 1566 without a fight, as the Turkish defenders ran away on the news of Tata castle’s fall to the Christian forces. Unfortunately, about a year later – at the same time as Gesztes was recaptured – the Turks became lords again in Vitány.
During the 15-Year-War (1591 / 93-1606), in 1597, the army of Pálffy Miklós appeared in the area, which finally expelled the enemy from Vitány castle. Pálffy and his co-leader, Adolf Schwarzenberg, decided that the castle should be demolished so that the Turks would not be able to use it in the future. As a result of this decision, the castle was blown up in 1598.
Vitány Castle became the property of the Esterházy family, and during the 18th century much of its stones were used to build houses in the area, such as the houses of the village of Kocs in 1747.
In recent years, the enthusiastic members of the Vitányvár Circle of Friends have been trying to save the ruins through hard work. The first castle rescue day was organized in 2011 by the association formed to save Vitányvár. Since then, castle rescue days are held twice a year, in spring and autumn, to clean up the castle’s surroundings and help with excavation and conservation work. Anyone can join their castle rescue days. The Kuny Domokos County Museum in Tata is also involved in the archeological excavation and preservation of the castle.
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Here are more pictures of Vitányvár castle: