The settlement of Zsámbék is 35 km from Budapest and it is famous for its ruined church as well as its castle, the so-called Zichy castle. In the 1180s the wife of Béla III of Hungary, Margaret Capet, who was the step-sister of the French king Philippe Auguste, granted land around the village to a knight named Aynard, in recognition of his service to the King for safely escorting Margaret from Paris to Esztergom in 1186. The only identifiable person in the king’s entourage named Aynard was at one time the Viscount of Limoges, who had been outlawed by the Anglo-Norman court of Henry II in 1183. This person was assassinated in Paris in the year 1199. Aynard’s family built the Premonstratensian church beginning in 1220.
The church was destroyed in 1241 during the Mongolian invasion. Following the destruction, during the reign of King Béla IV of Hungary, the church and monastery were rebuilt. Positioned at an important merchant route — halfway between Esztergom and Székesfehérvár and near Buda — the village underwent rapid growth. Here is a short video of the church:
The settlement became a market town in 1467. The castle later became the property of the Maróthy family but the Hungarian king took it over. King Matthias Corvinus gave it to Corvin János, his natural son who owned it until 1504. Here is more about King Matthias Corvinus, I have a whole series about him on my page:
The Ottoman Turks occupied it in 1541 and stayed there for 145 years. They reinforced its castle that was guarding an important road. During this occupation, they also built a Turkish bath, the ruins of which are still visible in the village. The place got depopulated and suffered much during this time. The Turks used the castle as one of their Borderland castles against the Hungarians. Naturally, the area became the target of many Hungarian raids.
1557 The burning of Zsámbék castle
It happened during the spring of 1557 that some Hungarian Hussars came together from the Borderland castles of Győr and Komárom and attacked the castle of Zsámbék near Buda whereas they destroyed the Turks’ fort.
When the weather got a bit milder, the Hussars of Komárom and Győr, led by their lieutenant Tóth Bálint, approached Zsámbék in secret. (Please, note that I use the Oriental name order for Hungarians where family names come first.) They ambushed the Ottoman palisade. Their attack was aided by the weather because there was a great wind that helped them to burn the wooden palisade. The flames spread to the village and have become a firestorm engulfing the fort.
The fleeing Turks and Serbians were mercilessly slain. After, as soon as they could, the attackers collected the horses and the cattle of the Turks and herded them away towards the west, to Komárom and Győr. At that time, 96% of the soldiers hired by the Ottomans in their occupied lands of Hungary were not Turks but Albanians or South Slavic people. Read more about them here:
23 March 1578, another Hungarian Hussars’ raid hit the region of Zsámbék and Vál
Pasha Mustapha wrote the next letter of complaint to Emperor Rudolf:
„The (Hungarian) officers of Sárvár, Pápa, Veszprém, Palota, Győr, and Tata castles do not cease their frequent raids, ambushes, plundering around our castles. Behold, on this very day they rushed along to Zsámbék castle, wanting to ambush our soldiers, and they did the same at Vál. They had raced along Gesztes castle three times a day. Now, we cannot keep sheep or cattle around Buda castle. One can not dare go to the forest to collect wood, and it is scary to go out to their garden or to the vineyard.”
As we can see, the Hussars of the Trans-Danubian Region of Hungary regularly led raids in the vicinity of Buda castle. According to the letter, the Turks were imprisoned in their own castles.
Later, General Bottyán János (later called “Blind” Bottyán) defeated a bigger Turkish cavalry unit at Zsámbék in 1686. After the reconquest wars of Hungary, the Zichy family turned the castle into a Baroque palace at the beginning of the 18th century. An earthquake in 1763 ruined the church once again. It was not reconstructed after this horrific event. Settlers from Germany, who came to live in the abandoned village after the Turkish occupation, took the stones from the church and used them for building houses and fences.
The Treasury became the next owner of the Zichy castle but the Sisters of the Holy Cross purchased it in 1904. They built the second floor of the building and founded a school in it. Unfortunately, the castle palace burned down in 2003 but it has been renovated.
Sources: Szerecz Miklós, Nádasdy Ferenc Bandérium, Wikipedia
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Here are a few more pictures of the Zichy castle and the ruined church: