Csehi castle or Csehvár is in Szilágycsehi (Cehu Silvaniei), in the Partium, near Transylvania, in Romania. The first written mention of the town dates from 1319 under the name “Cheevar”, it was a royal castle of King Károly Róbert of Hungary. The Hungarian name of the city literally means “Czecz castle” and it is referred to as a stand of Czech origin.
Due to the extensive destruction of the castle and the fragmentary written sources, it is very difficult to reconstruct the image of the castle built by the Drágffys. The ruins of the present Bornemisza mansion are two-storeyed and U-shaped. It is assumed that it has been partially preserved from the 16th and 17th centuries. Some Renaissance window frames and a Renaissance vine-leaved fountain in the courtyard are evidence of this.
The village appears at the beginning of the 15th century as Chehi, part of the Kővári estate. Szolnok and Kraszna counties were also affected by the Kopasz rebellion. King Károly Róbert made Elefánti Dezső the commander of the Cseh Castle, to whom he gave his loyalty as a reward for his services as the castle lieutenant of Sebesvár. Elefánti received all the estates of the disloyal István and his sons, as well as those of Chuntha László’s sons, Ördög András and Botos Miklós.
It was given to him because he fought bravely at Cheewar, a castle that was attacked and burned by István, son of the Voivode Lorándi, and Bekch, son of the Palatine Kopasz. He also recaptured the castles of Volko and Derguech and the manor of Zylag for the king.
In the 15th century, the Jakcs of Kusaly and the Drágffys of Béltek fought over the property. We have a few more records about Elefánti Dezső. Around March and April 25, 1320, Elefánti Bánffy Dezső and Chumpáz Lőrincz together with László Chuntha László were officially granted the villages of Sombor, Iklód, Péntek, etc. and the incorporation took place. At the same time, Elefánti Losonczi Dezső and Chentei János of the Aba family exchanged their lands.
Elefánti Dezső exchanged the estate of Apáti for Hosszúmező that was owned by Csentei János, and the transaction was confirmed by King Károly Róbert as well. We know that in 1322 Elefánti Dezső gave Hosszúmező away to the Czente family of the Aba Clan who in return, gave him Dellő-Apáti.
In the middle of the 14th century, the castle, still in ruins, was the property of the Pók family, followed by the Drágffys. Drágffy János built a castle on the site of the old castle. In 1405, the city was mentioned under the name Chehy. From the beginning of the 16th century, it was called Szilágy-Cseh from the name of the stream that flows through the market town.
In 1425 it belonged to the Jakcs, in 1461 Jakcs János mortgaged it to Dráffy Miklós. Later it was pledged to Drágffy Bertalan of Béltek, to whom Kusalyi Jakcs Ferenc ceded it in perpetuity. His son Drágffy János of Béltek had a fortified manor house built here before 1521, which he then ceded to his son Ferenc.
He stated in his will of 1526 that his castellum in Csehi was newly constructed. By 1556, it had become a castle and was transferred to Báthory György by the Drágffys. However, he subsequently lost the castle, and the affiliated manor was presented to Rátóti Gyulafi László.
At that time the manor consisted of the market town of Szilgycseh, and the villages of Széplak, Nagygoroszló, Ardó, Horvát, Sülelmed, Szélszeg, Alsó- and Felső-Szivágy, Gardánfalva, Alsó- and Felső-Berekszó, Mosóbánya, Borzlyuk, Patakfalva, Örményes, Alsó-, Közép- and Felső-Várca, Egerbegy, Győrtelek, Tóhát, and Náprád. The manor therefore consisted of the villages acquired by the Drágffys in the area in the second half of the 15th century.
They must have organized these acquisitions into a manor in the first decades of the 16th century and it is connected to this that they built a manor house here around 1520. The manor (with some modifications) belonged to the Gyulafi family until 1654 when the family died out and was divided between the Thököly and Kapi families through the two daughters. After the fall of Várad, the castle of Szilágycseh became a fortress, with a permanent military guard, and its chief captain was Bánffy Dénes. In the 18th century, it was held by the Bornemissa and Wesselényi families by donation.
Cseh, as one of the end castles from Szilágy, was constantly exposed to siege. Especially since Szilágy was annexed to Transylvania (in 1538), whenever the Viennese court refused to recognize a Transylvanian prince, the castle of Szilágy-Cseh was always the target of an attack.
The history of Csehi castle begins with the sally of the brave Elefánti Dezső, and then it was the most eventful phase of the castle’s life until the middle of the 16th century. It was already a castle in 1556 when it was given to Báthory György. It was soon lost and was given to Rátóti Gyulafi László. The Gyulafi family owned the land until 1654, after which it was divided between the Thököly and Kapi families.
In 1565 Balassa Menyhért and Lázár Schwendi, Ferdinand’s commanders, reconquered the castles of central Szolnok County; but in June of that year, with Turkish help, János Zsigmond retook some of them, including Csehi. Borsos Sebestyén wrote:
In 1565 “The Germans took Nagy-Bánya quickly, because the people of King János gave it to them, and Sérjédi (Serédi) István soon joined the Germans and offered them the castle of Cseh, where the Germans also sent people. Then the king captured the castle of Erdőd and took it. Lazar Schwendi’s younger brother, Kristóf Schwendi, was taken prisoner there by the Pasha, who was sent to the captivity of Emperor Suleiman. And when they were understood in Csehi castle, the people of Csehi burnt the castle and burnt them all, and so they went out. From there, the king went to Bánya, and the Germans in Bánya understood this, set Bánya on fire and burned them all”.
The Treaty of Drinapoly (1568) gave King Ferdinand control of Csehi. After suffering a major defeat in 1599, Gyulafi László quickly withdrew to his castle located outside of Transylvania, in Csehi. By 1600, General Basta had gained control of the castle in Cziehib (Szilágy-Csehi). It surrendered unopposed on April 6.
On July 21, 1601, Prince Báthori Zsigmond of Transylvania commanded the Saxon Seat of Szeben to send half of its residents to the Deés camp. On July 27, Báthori Zsigmond sent a letter from the Csehi camp to the king’s judge of Szeben about the boyars of Wallachia.
Before November 26, 1615, someone testified that Mrs. Zsigmond Szécsi Kata of Prépostvári was given wheat transportation from Csehi to Várad by the county during the time when the Germans were attacking the country. Each homestead was ordered to provide wagons. Likewise, wheat was transported to Újvár.
At the end of November 1616, Prince Bethlen Gábor occupied Csehi, besieged the castle with cannons, and captured Prépostvári Zsigmond, who was accused of disloyalty. According to Laczkó Máté of Sepsi, “the prince takes over Csehi, bombards it, acquires it, and captures Prépostvári Zsigmond in the process.” With the intervention of Széchi György, the prince showed mercy and pardoned Zsigmond for the sum of 40,000 Forints.
On December 27, 1616, Bethlen Gábor wrote a letter from Várad to Prépostvári Zsigmond, Széchi Kata, who complained that she was being blackmailed by the foot soldiers left in Csehi for a certain period of time.
After Várad fell in 1660, it became a stronghold and was fortified with a garrison. The Thököly, Apafi, and Wesselényi families possessed it from 1671. In 1685, members of the country’s councils and delegates in Szeben made two monthly payments from the country’s money or loan money to pay the members of the councils of Kolozsvár, Csehi, Somlya, and Kővár.
On July 11, 1686, Gyulai Ferenc, the envoy, wrote to the deputies that, after negotiating with General Schaerffenberg, he asked for Kolozsvár, then Beszterce, giving the reason that he should guard from that place towards Várad; although they had in their hands the nearer Szatmár, Ecsed, Szent-Jobb. He did not give any of them, but he gave Csehi, just to satisfy the general somehow.
Only the central building survived the 19th century, and there is no trace of the surrounding walls. The castle was the seat of a state farm until the early 1990s. In 1993-94 the building was demolished and only its stumps remain.
Sources: Petri Mór: Szilágy vármegye monográfiája (1901)
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