Kankó / Ugocsa vár at Nagyszőlős

Kankó aka Ugocsa castle (Photo: Varga A)

The ruined castle of Kankó aka Ugocsa (Замок Канків) is standing on the Fekete Hill above the village of Nagyszőlős, in the Subcarpathian Region of modern-day Ukraine. After the Home Taking of the Magyar (Hungarian) tribes in 895 A.D., they built a small fort on the Fekete (Black) Hill in order to defend the locals against the frequent raids of the intruding Pechenegh tribes.

Photo: Vitaliy Trombola

 The castle was mentioned in writing in 1308 for the first time. At this time, it belonged to a mighty oligarch family, the Clan of Lord Borsa Kopasz. When the Transylvanian oligarch rebelled against the new monarch of Hungary, King Károly Róbert defeated him and had his castle destroyed. 

The lands of the oligarchs before the reign of Károly Róbert

King Zsigmond of Hungary gave Ugocsa castle and the surroundings of Nagyszőlős to the wealthy Perényi family in 1399. At that time, Perényi Pál was the Comes of the region over the Zemplén Mountains. Perényi Pál had distinguished himself in King Zsigmond’s wars against the Ottoman Turks, it was the reason why he received Ugocsa castle. The king also allowed him to build a new castle over the ruins. Here is a reconstruction drawing of Kankó castle, the work of Bogdan Sheregiy:

Kankó castle (Drawing: Bogdan Sheregiy)
Kankóvár / Ugocsavár today

The castle became the property of the Franciscan monks in the first part of the 15th century. The castle was controlling the road along the Tisza River, and defended the ferries, too. However, the Perényi family seems to have retaken Ugocsavár castle in the 16th century. You can read more about this unique family on this page because they represented “the third way” when Habsburg Ferdinand and King Szapolyai were contesting for the Hungarian Kingdom in the 16th century:


Perényi Ferenc embraced the Protestant faith in 1544, and it was why he took the castle away from the Franciscan monks. Soon, he had the walls reinforced and built a real knightly castle. However, it turned out in 1566 that Perényi Ferenc quit supporting Habsburg Ferdinand anymore, and he took the side of János Zsigmond, son of King Szapolyai János. János Zsigmond was an elected but not crowned king of Hungary but we regard him as the first prince of Transylvania.

The information board at Kankó castle (Photo: MSha)

 Perényi’s decision was not good for Kankó castle because the troops of King Ferdinand took the castle in 1557 and pulled it down during the next year. Since then, the castle has been in ruins. As I have heard lately, lots of garbage cover the site. 

Photo: www.karpat.info

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Here are a few more pictures of Kankó / Ugocsa castle: