Photo: Civertan

Simontornya castle is to the south-east of Lake Balaton, in Tolna county, Hungary. The castle has an irregular floor plan and an inner tower. It was built in the western part of the city, on a hill barely protruding from the surface. The tower was surrounded by a wall in the late 13th century and they later added other buildings behind the wall, except for the south side. The castle was surrounded by a swamp and a moat, the water of which was fed by the Sió and Kapos rivers.

Photo: Naki77

In the middle of the 13th century, this area was owned by Comes Salamon from the Döröcske Clan – between 1272 and 1275,  he was the chief lord of Fejér County. In 1264, his son Simon received a permit from the king and gained a land called Predemih that lay on the Trans-Dráva River Region.  However, together with several of his companions, Simon rebelled against the Németújvári lords in the Assembly held at Fövény in 1273. Because of this, he was deprived of his possessions, but the king soon forgave him. Simon built the first construction in 1277, the core of today’s castle, the huge residential tower, from bricks.

Photo: Szeder Laszlo

After the Árpád House became extinct, in 1317, Chamberlain Petrus de Eőrs was the owner of the castle. King Károly Róbert gave  Simontornya castle to Master János, Hencz’s son, who honored himself at the siege of Tolna Castle in 1323. Then it was mentioned as “Castrum seu turrim sive poss Simontorna “. According to the last will of János, the castle was inherited by his wife’s brother, Voivode Laczkfi István of Transylvania.

After the death of Laczkfi, his son Dénes inherited Simontornya, who was a Royal Chief Stable Master for 10 years, and in the meantime, he was the Comes of the Székelys and then the Chief Captain of Vidin. Here you can read more about the Székely people of Transylvania:

Laczkfi István II was stabbed and killed by the Garai family members in the Kőrösudvarhely Diet on February 27, 1397. Then, King Sigismund gave Simontornya and other estates to Archbishop Kanizsai János of Esztergom, and to his brother Miklós but Comes István of Somogy County had a share in it, too. (Please, note that I am using the Eastern name order for Hungarians where family names come first.)

In 1424, the Kanizsai family exchanged the castle with Pipo of Ozora for the estate of Sárvár. Ozorai Pipo died in 1426, the estate was passed to the Palatine, from whom it was bought around 1428 by the Transylvanian Voivode Garai János of the Dorozsma Clan who later became the Chief Comes of Temes County. After the death of Garai János, László, the son of Garai Miklós, inherited Simontornya, together with its estate. However, King Ulászló took the castle away from him and in 1441 he donated it to Rozgonyi Simon. Yet, the inauguration did not take place due to the battle of Varna (1444) and the death of the king. Thus, the castle, together with its accessories, was still owned by the Garai family.

In 1444, Simontornya was pledged to Farkas László, a citizen of Buda, for 4,100 gold Forints, who significantly remodeled and partially rebuilt it. In 1448 it returned to the possession of Garai László after he repaid the pledge amount.

In the second half of the 15th century, a gate tower was built on the west side of the residential tower, which was remodeled in the Renaissance style in the 1500s at the same time as the residential tower. The gate, built on the south wall of the gate tower, was once equipped with a drawbridge. Opposite this gate, on the north side of the tower, a gate led to the courtyard of the castle. On the eastern side of the castle, a two-story Gothic palace was built in the middle of the 14th century in the courtyard, with a rectangular floor plan of about 25×10 meters. The wall thickness was about 0.90×1.30 meters.

Photo: Gabor Lajos

During the expansion of the castle in the 15th century and its reconstruction in the 1500s, the palace was also remodeled. In the 15th century, a wall demarcating the north and west sides of the courtyard was built at the same time as the palace.

With the death of Garai Jób, Simontornya became the property of King Matthias. The ownership of the castle was acquired around 1500 by the royal Master Doorman Buzlay Mózes of Gergelylaki, and the Renaissance-style transformation of the castle is named after him. Buzlay Mózes was also a diplomat of the late King Matthias and the chief treasurer of the king. He went on and develop the place in 1509 by rebuilding the castle and bringing monks there as well.

Simontornya in 1698

After he died in 1524, it was owned by his widow, and then in 1536, King Szapolyai János donated it to Martonossy Pethyeny Gergely. Here is a video about the Renaissance castle, made by Pazirik Kft:

Photo: Lajos Gál

It was owned by Pöstyéni Gergely, chief-Senechal, in 1536. Simontornya was rather a palace than a castle so it was easily taken by the Ottomans in 1543, it was occupied without drawing a sword. However, it is doubted by the Ottoman sources. According to them, the Turks decided in 1544 to send troops to occupy Simontornya, Ozora, Endréd, and Tamási. Thus, we can take the siege of Simontornya to 1545: here is an article about how the heroic defenders cut themselves through the besiegers when the castle was not defendable anymore:

The courageously defended castle fell after the remaining defenders, like later Zrínyi Miklós alias Nikola Subic Zrinski in 1566, ran out of the castle with the captain at their head. However, there was an important difference: they did not fall, but cut their way through the besieging camp and escaped.

Photo: Civertan

We know that Simontornya Castle was the target of a raid by Lord Nádasdy Ferenc on 5 April 1578. The case took place during the truce, so it was Pasha Mustapha of Buda Castle who sent a bitter letter of complaint about it to Archduke Ernest of Austria. The pasha wrote the next:

“(…) The servants of Nádasdy have carried away the son of the Harambasa (irregular unit leader) who was at the well of the king near Fehérvár castle. He had gone there only to pass the time but he was taken. Also, it has happened recently that Nádasdy Ferenc, Pálffy Tamás, Thury Benedek, and Majtényi László came with a large army, they wanted to ambush the Bey of Simontornya but there was a “pribék” (spy, renegade) among the riders who reported their plans to the Bey of Fehérvár castle. Hearing it, the bey set out hurriedly, and there was a fight where many soldiers fell on both sides, even the brother-in-law of the bey died there. Now, I ask for Your Highness to judge the case by himself, and find out whether our people had been provoking the fight or not.”

Photo: Lajos Gál

The number of guards was 137 in 1558, 125 in 1565-1570, and 136 in 1628. Turkish traveler Evlija Cselebi visited here in 1664. Simontornya was liberated in 1686 by an army led by Count Louis of Baden when the defenders ceded the castle. After the liberation of the castle, it became the property of Drevadelits Horváth Péter. Then, after he died in 1696, it was owned by his heirs, and in 1700 it was bought from King Leopold by the Styrum-Limburg family for 40,000 Forints.

Simontornya (Photo: Szöllösi Gábor

During the War of Independence of Prince Rákóczi Ferenc in 1704, it was occupied by a Kuruc army led by Ságfai Sándor Ferenc, but it was taken back by the Imperial troops of General Heister in the autumn of this year. In November 1705, General Bottyán re-occupied it and appointed Colonel Horváth Ferenc as the commander of the castle, who successfully repulsed the siege of General Rubatin in 1707. After this, General Heister succeeded in capturing it in 1709 from Colonel Hellepront János.

Photo: Globetrotter19

After the defeat of the War of Independence, the military significance of the castle ceased to exist.
The Habsburgs planned to have it exploded, similarly to the other castles, in the 18th century but it escaped this fate, thanks to the loyal Styrum-Limburg family’s request. The family died out in 1800 and Simontornya, together with its estate, became the property of the Esterházy family in 1805, from whom it was bought in 1820 by the Greek banker Sina Simon. Through inheritance, it became the property of Countess Wimpffen Frigyesné and was later used for economic purposes.

Castle Days of Simontornya (Picture: Sz. Podmaniczky Katalin)

Today, you can take delight in several castle festivals at Simontornya, with the participants of the Reenactor Club of the Defenders of Simontornya:

The Defenders of Simontornya Castle
A mole unearthed a few silver coins in a yard of a house in 2020 in Simontornya, and the local inhabitant discovered a fantastic find. He called the archeologists who carefully took out 1,655 coins that had been hidden in the earth during the age of Ottoman conquest. They were in a small jar, and there were not only silver coins but five gold Forints among them as well. The silver denarius coins came from the age of King Matthias Corvinus, King Ulászló II, King Lajos II, and King Habsburg Ferdinand. The coins may have been hidden after the fall of Buda Castle in 1541 and before the fall of Simontornya Castle in 1543.
Photo: Retkes Tamás, Wosinsky Mór Megyei Múzeum

Sources: Nádasdy Ferenc Bandérium, Dömötör Csaba, Wosinsky Mór Megyei Múzeum

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Photo: Civertan

Here are more pictures of Simontornya: