Hollókő castle (Raven Stone castle) is in north Hungary and it had a busy history before the age of the Ottoman wars. Enjoy the video and the folk song:
The Kacsics Clan used to own the surrounding area and they were the ones who began building the core of the castle, an old stone tower. They may have built the first part before the Mongolian invasion in 1241. The legend of the castle is connected to Kacsics András, though. Allegedly, he was busily building Sztrahova castle not far away from there. Lord Kacsics happened to fall in love with a married lady. He had her abducted but the woman’s old nurse was a witch who helped her lady to escape magically. She summoned ravens, the devil’s children who were stealing the stones of Sztrahova castle each night while it was being built. The ravens used the stones to build the castle that now we call Hollókő. Before soon, Lord Kacsics gave in to them and let the lady go.
The Illés line of the Kacsics Clan owned several castles in the neighboring hills. Lord Illés Péter had four sons, Mikus lived in Hollókő castle, Leusták controlled Somoskő castle, Péter II had Baglyaskő castle while Mihály was the lord of Sztrahova castle, as it was mentioned in 1310 in a document. They joined the powerful oligarch Csák Máté this year and ceded all these castles to him.
Mikus must have sided with Csák Máté out of his free will because he defended Hollókő successfully against the king’s troops in 1313. Later, the king, Anjou Károly Róbert, couldn’t take it in 1320, either. The Anjou monarch was fighting hard and long against the mighty oligarchs and gave Hollókő to Szécsényi Tamás, the Castellan of Lubló. However, Szécsényi could get it only after the death of Lord Csák Máté, in 1327. The new castellan made several improvements in the castle. As it turned out, the castle was already owned by his descendant, Szécsényi László in 1411.
In the following years, the castle witnessed wars against the Bohemian Hussite mercenaries of Jan Giskra whose men took Hollókő for a short period. Hollókő was the place where Giskra signed a truce with the Hungarian king in 1442. Then, Szécsényi László seemed to have regained it as it was he who pledged Hollókő castle and its villages in 1454 to his son-in-law, Losonczi Albert, in exchange for 16,000 gold Forints. A year later, the castle was gifted to Lady Advig, the wife of Losonci Albert, and his daughter, Anna. According to a document issued by King Matthias Corvinus, the king gave Hollókő to Palatine Gúthi Országh and Losonczi Albert in 1461, in recognition of their military deeds in Upper Hungary. This endorsement has been confirmed by Matthias again in 1481.
When the Ottomans took the castle of Nógrád in 1544, Hollókő suddenly became a Borderland castle. The few defenders of the fort tried to prevent the Turkish raids. Its captain was Kapitan György who had a famous duel in 1550 with the Agha of Szanda castle, Bey Hubiar in the fields of Buják.
Pasha Ali of Buda was taking the forts of Nógrád county one by one in 1552 and he took Hollókő, too. It was taken easily as the castle was abandoned because of the hostility between its captains, Zsáki (Száki?) Imre and Zsáki András. Pasha Ali demanded they surrender the castle. Imre got frightened and wanted to cede Hollókő but his brother András refused it. As it turned out, Imre drew his sword on his brother and the castle fell into Ali’s hands without a gunshot in July 1552. Then, the Turks left behind 24 guards and went on with their campaign.
According to an Ottoman pay list of 1556, Hollókő’s captain was Agha Mohamed with his 21 mercenaries (18 infantrymen and 3 artillerymen). There were 24 Ottomans in it in 1558-59. We have the list of military equipment stored in it in 1565: one smaller cannon, five handguns, ten rifles, one quintal of lead, two quintals of gunpowder, two bags of fuse, nine shields, and 500 „prangi” (?).
The chief captain of Eger castle, the famous Prépostvári Balázs took the fort back by negotiations in 1593. According to a survey in 1596, the castle was in very bad condition so the Diet of 1608 ordered its reinforcement. There was just very little repair carried out, though. According to the records of 1652 and 1655, there were only 20 Christian defenders in it.
At that time, there were often two captains in each Hungarian castle: one of them was guarding the fort while the other was patrolling the countryside with his hussars. In 1663, there were two captains in Hollókő, too. Unfortunately, captains Berki Mátyás and Nagy Orbán ceded Hollókő to the Ottoman troops of Agha Köprülü Achmed, upon hearing of the fall of Érsekújvár castle. Thus, the Ottomans regained it for twenty more years.
The famous Turkish traveler and historian, Evlia Cselebi visited Hollókő between 1664-66 and described it like this: “The small pentagonal castle is lying on a high mound, it has a wooden gate. Inside, there are about a hundred empty houses. Its only church was converted into a mosque in the name of the Padishah. Care was taken to have a storehouse and an armory in it.”
Having defeated the Ottomans at Vienna, the Polish King Sobieski’s troops liberated Hollókő in 1683. King Habsburg Leopold ordered the destruction of this castle, similarly to many of its brothers, but his order was carried out willy-nilly only in 1711, after the end of Prince Rákóczi’s War of Independence. Hollókő was mentioned as a ruin in 1718 but four families still lived in it. Excavation of the castle began in 1966. For the next thirty years, its walls were fortified and restoration began. The castle was opened to the public in 1996. Further renovations of the castle began in the summer of 2014 but they have been completed by 2015. The castle’s major reconstruction had been completed in 2022, now the tower has a nice roof:
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Here are a few more pictures of Hollókő castle, from various phases of its reconstruction: