Marcellvár Photo: Szöllösi Gábor

The village of Káposztafalva (HrabušiceKabsdorf) is located in Slovakia, 17 km northwest of Igló (Spišská Nová Ves), on the left bank of the Hernád River. On the Zelená hora (Green Hill) near the village, on the northern side of the gorge of the Hernád ford, there are the small ruins of the Marcell (or Márkus) Castle, probably built in the 13th century in the Kingdom of Hungary. The village was already inhabited in the Iron Age and the first fortification on the hill of the castle dates back to the Púchov culture at the end of the Iron Age.

Marcellvár (torony=tower; kaputorony=gate tower) Photo: Szöllösi Gábor

Opinions are divided on the date of the medieval castle. Some say that the castle was built long before the Mongol invasion and was destroyed by the Mongols. Others attribute the construction of the castle to King Béla IV, who gave it to a nobleman named Marcell. There are no sources on who Marcell was, when he lived, or whether the castle was built by him.

Marcellvár Photo: Szöllösi Gábor

Dénes József noticed a text of the Hungarian Chronicle, which mentioned an event in 1095, when a provost named Marcell was sent by King Saint László to Poland. However, it is still uncertain which Hungarian king founded the Prebend of Szepes (Spiš) and when.

Marcellvár Photo: Szöllösi Gábor

According to Fényes Elek (1851), the local Germans of the Szepesség (Zipt) area found shelter in the castle on the hill (Lapis refugii) during the Mongol attack in 1241-1242, and they stayed behind the walls for three years, even built a church inside.

Marcellvár Photo: Szöllösi Gábor

Written sources also mention that the castle was named Marcellvár after a charter issued by King Béla IV in 1250. At that time, the king gave two villages to the provost of Szepes to stimulate the long-lasting construction of the castle. The wording of King Béla IV’s charter, which states that the building of the Marcell Castle was interrupted for “many years” in 1250, probably does not refer to the construction of a castle started after the Mongol invasion.

Marcellvár Photo: Szöllösi Gábor

However, the construction of the castle did not progress well under the administration of the Szepes prebend. In 1278 King László IV confirmed the donation of his predecessor to the priory, but he also expressed his disapproval of the lack of progress in the building of the castle. The castle and its estate were in the hands of the Szepes prebend until 1346. According to Slovak scholars, the castle was then in the possession of the Cistercian Abbey of Savnik, who, according to some sources, renovated the castle, while others believed that the construction of the castle was not completed.

Marcellvár Photo: Szöllösi Gábor

As for the settlement belonging to the castle, it was first mentioned in 1279 as “villa Composita”. In 1284 it was called “Capusdorf”, in 1307 “Kabuzdorf” and 1328 “Kabisdorf”. It was first mentioned under its present Hungarian name in 1440. It was part of the Szepes castle manor.

Marcellvár Photo: Szöllösi Gábor

We must mention the fortified church of the settlement. The Romanesque parish church dedicated to St. Lőrinc (Lawrence) was built in the 13th century, and in the 14th century, a sacristy was added to the north. A new sanctuary and a side chapel were added in the early 15th century. The church was rebuilt and enlarged in 1782. The Gothic winged altar was built between 1516 and 1520, and the church was surrounded by a fortified wall.

The fortified church in the village of Marcellvár Photo: Petr Vilgus

For the next hundred years, there is no written record of the castle. It is probable that the large, outdated castle may have been abandoned as its condition deteriorated, and then fell into disrepair.

Marcellvár Photo: Szöllösi Gábor

In 1450, the Bohemian Hussites occupied the former fortress again, from where they started their raids against the settlements in the area. Fed up with this, in 1456 the town of Lőcse (Levoča, Leutschau) launched an attack on the castle, then held by Peter Axamit and called “Tábor”. The people of Lőcse took the castle and destroyed it. It was never rebuilt again.

Marcellvár Photo: Szöllösi Gábor

The description of the castle

The castle’s rampart was built along the line of the Iron Age fortification’s rampart. The castle, with an irregular oval plan, encloses a large area (158 x 103 meters). The wall is 2.3 meters thick, with significant remains on the eastern and northern sides, but its eroded pattern can be traced almost all along the line of the rampart.

Marcellvár Photo: Szöllösi Gábor

The entrance to the castle was from the south-east and its gate has been partially excavated but not yet preserved. There used to be a square gate tower which, according to Slovak experts, is similar to the lower gate of the upper castle in Zólyom (Zvolen). To the northwest, there was a round tower with a diameter of almost 8.5 meters, which was built into the northwest wall of the castle. These are the two parts of the building that have been excavated by archaeologists. The cistern is located 10 meters south of the tower in a largely filled pit.

The cistern of Marcellvár Photo: Szöllösi Gábor

The plateau of the castle slopes down to the south with a significant difference in level (15-20 meters) towards the ravine. The semicircular section of the wall here follows the contours of the terrain along the edge of the significant drop. Today, only the ruins of two small sections of the wall remain.

Marcellvár Photo: Szöllösi Gábor

In 1883, Münich Sándor mentioned the remains of a main building in the southeastern part of the central part of the castle, north of the gate tower, with a ground plan of 38 x 13 m and a wall thickness of 2 m. He also observed the remains of another rectangular building. No research has been carried out here until now. However, the landforms clearly show the remains of walls, most of which are hidden under mounds of earth.

Marcellvár Photo: Szöllösi Gábor

On the northwest slope of the castle, an area of about 5o x 3o meters was surrounded by a rampart. There is no trace of a cut in the rampart or masonry at the site. The date and function of this area are not yet known.

Marcellvár Photo: Szöllösi Gábor

Medieval finds found in the castle confirm its use between the 13th and 15th centuries. Later finds from the middle of the 15th century confirm the Hussite period. It is hoped that the excavation of the castle will continue and provide new details about the origins of the castle and the formal layout of the buildings within it.

The region at Marcellvár Photo: Birczanin

A natural attraction on the settlement’s border is the Slovak Paradise (Hernád áttörés), including the river Hernád mountain pass.

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