The castle of Csókakő is one of the most famous historic sites in Fejér County, Hungary. It is the best-preserved medieval fortification of the county that was actively used in the Ottoman wars. Csókakő castle is situated in a strategic location as it is near Székesfehérvár which used to be an important royal seat in the Middle Ages. Below the walls, there was a military road along the valley of the Gaja Stream that had to be guarded. The Chief Comes of the county was traditionally appointed as the castellan of Csókakő, also controlling the people living in the area.
The word Csókakő stands for „Jackdaw-stone” in English. If you leave the town of Székesfehérvár and travel to the northwest, you can see the nicely renovated castle from a long distance. Csókakő was built on the side of the Vértes Mountain, on the top of the 479-meter-high Csóka Hill. Standing on the rocky plateau, you can delight in the scenery of half of the Trans-Danubian Region.
Enjoy the video:http://https\://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JKZ_qrcxTP0
After the Home Taking of the Magyar tribes, the lands around the castle were occupied by the members of the Csák Clan. Most likely, the castle was built after the Mongolian invasion by one of the members of the Dudary family of the Csák Clan. They sold the castle around 1287 to their kinsman, István who came from the Trencsényi family of the Csák Clan. It was the time when the Upper Castle, the oldest structure was completed. It was a 28×15 meter rectangular building.
According to a document from 1299, there was a castle standing there, „Castrum Chokaku”. At this time, it was the home of István, son of Márk, Vice-Judge of the Kingdom. In the 13th century, the castle was a key part of the local castle line that consisted of three more forts: Gesztes, Vitány, and Oroszlánkő. In another document from 1323, our castle was called “Mons et Castrum Chokakew”.
The Csák Clan supported the claim of King Károly Róbert of Anjou for the Hungarian throne. However, the new king did not want to grant too much power to his supporting noblemen. The Csák Clan would have been too strong if their lands had been next to each other. It was the reason why the king made them exchange Csókakő, Gesztes, Bátorkő, and Csesznek castles for the royal lands of Dombó and Nyék. Péter and István, the son of István from the Csák Clan had to accept the barter.
Csókakő castle had been the property of the Hungarian kings until 1430. Then, King Zsigmond gave it to Rozgonyi István, Comes of Temes. Rozgonyi was the one who saved the king’s life at the siege of Galambóc in 1428. (Please, note that I use the Oriental name order for Hungarians where family names come first.)
It was the time when the Lower Castle was added to the fort, a structure that is three times larger than the Upper Castle. It had a gate tower that is still standing. A chapel was also built on a terrace between the Lower and the Upper Castle. Now, we can see only the surviving pillars of the shrine. Baron Újlaki Miklós took the castle in 1445 by force but two years later it was owned by Rozgonyi János.
King Matthias Corvinus issued a document in 1470 and he reinforced Rozgonyi János and his relatives, granting them the ownership of the Csókakő and Vitány castles. After the death of Matthias, Cardinal Bakócz Tamás, and Corvin János, Matthias’ illegitimate son owned the place for a while. Later, King Ulászló II pledged it to Egervári László. The castle was inherited by Kanizsai György in 1508. It was firmly in the hands of Kanizsai László in 1515.
As there were no more male heirs in the Kanizsai family, King Szapolyai gave the right of inheriting the family’s properties to Lady Kanizsai Orsolya in 1532. It was how Csókakő became the castle of the Nádasdy family in 1535 when Lady Orsolya gave her hand to Nádasdy Tamás. However, Csókakő was in the hands of Bakics Pál of Lak in 1536. He may have got the castle from King Szapolyai. The Bakics brothers did not let Nádasdy Tamás have Csókakő. Nádasdy Ferenc inherited the castle in 1562.
Sultan Suleiman’s army took the city of Székesfehérvár in 1543. The new Bey of Székesfehérvár, Achmed took Csókakő castle in 1544. He did not have to fight much for it, though. As the walls of the castle were not strong enough against the contemporary artillery, the defenders surrendered the fort.
Csókakő has become the outpost of the Turks, under the administration of Székesfehérvár. They were controlling the main road towards Győr and Komárom from there. It was functioning as a second-class fort in the Ottoman line of defense. According to the pay-list of 1552, only 33 Janissaries were guarding it. In the coming years, their number has not increased significantly, either.
No wonder, that the Ottomans surrendered the castle in exchange for safe conduct in 1566 when the Imperial troops of Count Nicolas Salm besieged it. Gesztes and Vitány castles followed their examples. Salm left a few guards behind but soon, Csókakő fell again into the hands of the Ottomans. The Ottoman tax lists mention Csókakő in 1582 for the first time. Then, the once flourishing settlement was empty and deserted.
Csókakő castle was liberated for a short time again, during the 15-Year-War in 1598 by the army led by Schwarzenberg, Pálffy, and Nádasdy Ferenc. We find Turks among its wall in 1601 but the Viennese Military Council sent six battalions and two cannons who successfully took the castle that was defended only by 20 Turks. Baron Nádasdy Ferenc became the last Hungarian castellan of Csókakő. You can read more about Lord Pálffy Tamás, the brother of Pálffy Miklós here:
The Battle of Csókakő-Sárrét took place between 9-15 October 1601. With the help of the cold weather, the 13,000 soldiers of Archduke Habsburg Matthias defeated the three-fold larger Ottoman army. Famous Hungarian soldiers of the Valiant Order took part in the battle, like Forgách Zsigmond, and Thurzó György, as well as warriors of the younger generation like Batthyány Kristóf, and Osztovics Mátyás. In the Christian army, there was Lituenant Johann t’ Serclaes Tilly who later became a famous general in the 30-Year-War.
Saint Lawrence of Brindisi was also present in the battle. He is renowned for traveling throughout Europe on foot, and preaching against the Ottoman Empire. He fought in the unit of Archduke Matthias, and the contemporary chronicler, Istvánffy wrote about him like this: „…with the cross of the crucified Jesus Christ in his hand, he was heartening the Christian troops to fight, on a loud voice, not paying attention to the bullets flying around him.” Saint Lawrence of Brindisi celebrated a Holy Mass in the chapel of Csókakő castle on 24 October 1601 to give thanks to God for the victory. You can see the painting of Máhr Ferenc about the Battle of Sárrét-Csókakő, it is in the Chapel of the castle.
However, Csókakő was occupied again by the Turks in 1602 and it was liberated only after the retaking of Buda. Now, there is not much trace of the Muslim mosque in the castle, except for a drawing of it from 1690. It was also mentioned in the book of the Turkish traveler, Evlija Celebi in 1664. Nominally, Csókakő was the property of Nádasdy Ferenc but he was involved in the so-called Wesselényi Conspiration against the Habsburgs and he was sentenced to death. He was beheaded in Vienna on 30 April 1671 and all his properties, including Csókakő castle, were seized by the king.
The Hungarians could take Csókakő back only on 17 October 1687 when the 143-year-long Ottoman occupation has come to an end. It was Count Zichy István, Vice-Captain of Győr who led the siege. He used incendiary bombs, burning part of the fort down. Right after this, King I Leopold pledged Csókakő and its lands to Archbishop Széchenyi György of Kalocsa in 1687, in exchange for 15,000 Forints. The next year, the Archbishop wrote a Last Will in which he left the castle to the Franciscan monks of Esztergom. Assumedly, it was not approved as King I Leopold sold Csókakő to Baron Johannes Hochburg, his military supplier, for 60,000 gold Forints in 1691. The Baron took over Csókakő in the following year.
After this, the military role of Csókakő castle ceased to exist. We know that a few Turkish prisoners of war were kept there in 1695, under the guard of just one mercenary. The last Turk was released in 1703. This year, the castle was abandoned and dismantled. Later, the tower was struck by a thunderbolt. The Lamberg family owned it at the beginning of the 1800s but they did not care about the buildings which began to deteriorate.
The archeological works started only in the 1960s. The Society of Csókakő castle’s Friends was established in 1995 to salvage the ruins that had become life-threatening. Thanks to their efforts and financial sponsorship, the archeological excavations and renovations have begun in earnest, and they are going on in our days. The renovation has also been supported by the National Castle Program of Hungary since 2017.
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Here are many more pictures of Csókakő castle, from different stages of its reconstruction: