Szilágysomlyó (Șimleu Silvaniei, Schomlenmarkt) is famous for the Báthory Castle or Báthory Citadel, it can be found in Transylvania, Romania. As the former Somlyó Castle stands on the hill above the town,  the Báthory Castle is also known as the Lower Castle.

Szilágysomlyó, 19th century, the drawing of Biczó Géza

The oldest castle on the top of Magura Hill, at an altitude of 500 meters, dates back to the time of the conquest of Magyar tribes and is known as the “pagan castle”. It was a castle fortified with a palisade wall, but today practically nothing remained. However, archaeological excavations have confirmed its exact location and site. According to a legend: ‘There is a clearing up on the hill, called Vulture, where our conquering ancestors threw the food scraps from behind the palisades, and this is where the vultures of the area fed’.

Szilágysomlyó, early 20th century Photo: Karolyne Dvihally

It was first mentioned in 1251 as Vathasomlyova. The settlement was the ancestral estate of the Csolt clan, descended from the rebellious Vata. In 1258, Watha son of Watha of the clan Csolt, and Povsa son of Dénes sold Vatasomlaja together with its manor to Roland of the Rátót Clan and Móric of the Pók Clan for 120 marks and had its boundaries demarcated.

Szilágysomlyó Photo: Lánczi Imre

In 1319, Voivode Miklós, the son of Móric of Miklós from the Pók Clan gave the village of Szécs, which belonged to the Somlyó estate, to the sons of Luka. The castle was built by the Transylvanian Voivode Miklós in the early 14th century and was first mentioned in 1319. 

Szilágysomlyó Photo: Lánczi Imre

In 1341 it was demarcated from the Valka manor. At that time, it was the estate of Voivode Móric’s son (Meggyesi) Simon and István son of István. The first mention of the castle of Szilágysomlyó (Somlyó) was in 1351 when it and its manor were given to Anna, daughter of Móric Meggyesi, by Báthory Lászlóné, as a daughter’s quarter. (Note, that after the 14th century, I use the Oriental name order for Hungarians where family names came first.)

Szilágysomlyó Photo: Ferenc Kovács

The ancestral seat of the Báthori family (since 1351), their ancient castle, Somlyóvár, stood on Magura Hill. However, it was abandoned when the castle was built in the town and the old castle on the summit has been ruined ever since.

Szilágysomlyó by Luigi Ferdinando Marsigli

On 27 September 1533, one of the greatest Transylvanian princes, Báthory István, king of Poland from 1575 to 1586, was born in Szilágysomlyó. With his army of mainly Hajdú soldiers and Székelys and Polish mercenaries, but also of other peoples, he defeated the Russian Tsar’s army in three campaigns, regained Livonia for Poland, and conquered Lithuanian Belorussia, etc.

Báthory István, King of Poland and Prince of Transylvania (1533-1586)

In the meantime, he had also governed Transylvania well, and the Turks and Habsburgs were kept quiet, for he had a serious military force. He had planned to form an alliance of Poland, Upper Hungary, and Transylvania, by which he could have displaced both the Turks and the Habsburgs, but he died unexpectedly in 1586 at Grodno in Lithuania. You can read more about him here:

The first written record of the local school dates back to 1554, we know that around 1680 Királyhelmeczi János was the rector of the Somlyó school. After Somlyó castle was occupied and destroyed by the Turks in 1551, Báthory István had a castle built in 1592 in Szilágysomlyó. In 1594, when Prince Báthory Zsigmond executed István’s brother Báthory Boldizsár, István fled to Poland and the castle passed into the hands of the prince. At that time, a detailed inventory was drawn up, listing all the buildings and movables belonging to the castle.

Prince Báthory András

During the reign of Prince Báthory András, the castle was again in the possession of István, but in 1599 Giorgio Basta occupied the castle, even though the prince’s troops were also involved in its defense. In 1602 it was again a princely estate, and in 1612 it was donated by Báthory Gábor to his half-brother András. Before András’s daughter Zsófia became the wife of Prince Rákóczi II György in 1643, the castle was the site of an ornate marriage ceremony. Construction continued in the castle in the 17th century; in 1649, stove tiles were brought from the Habán craftsmen in Alvinc, and in 1656, brick layers from Kolozsvár were contracted.

Szilágysomlyó Photo: Pe-Jo

After the death of András Báthory András’ widow, Zakreszka Anna (1658), the castle passed to her grandson, Prince Rákóczi I Ferenc. In 1660, the town and the castle were destroyed by Turkish-Tatar troops, who were sent as punishment for the campaigns of Rákóczi II György in Poland.

Szilágysomlyó Photo: Szibler Gábor (2023)

In 1670, Báthory Zsófia pledged the estate and the castle to Bánffy Dénes and his wife, Bornemisza Kata, but at the same time, the Transylvanian Diet of 15 February 1670 gave them to Gyerőffy György because of his claim for compensation against Rákóczi György, so long litigation began. Bánffy Dénes was executed in 1674, and in 1677 the Somlyó castle and manor became the property of Bánffy’s widow, Mrs. Bornemisza Kata. During this period, after Várad (Oradea) fell to the Turks (1660), the castle functioned as a fortress and was inhabited by the prince’s mercenaries.

Szilágysomlyó Photo: Lánczi Imre

In 1687, Duke Charles of Lothar occupied the castle; it was probably Luigi Ferdinando Marsigli, the military engineer who accompanied him, who drew the first surviving plans of the castle. After the recapture of Várad (1692), the Báthory Castle of Szilágysomlyó became militarily insignificant. In 1703, the castle was occupied by the Kuruc troops of Prince Rákóczi II Ferenc, but the census of 1703-4 refers to it as ‘so ruined by enemy fire’. After the Peace of Szatmár in 1711, the castle was used by the military as a food store. The building was in a steady state of disrepair; by the time of the 1851 survey, several buildings were missing.

Szilágysomlyó Photo: Lánczi Imre
From the 19th century onwards, several attempts were made to preserve the castle, the importance of which was highlighted by Kőváry László, Thaly Kálmán, Petri Mór, and Fetzer Ferenc. After the Second World War, it was surveyed by architecture students. The Báthory István Foundation, established by local intellectuals in 1992, set the preservation of the castle as one of its goals and contributed both financially and with work to the start of the conservation works and the complete archaeological excavation of the courtyard and castle in 2006.
Szilágysomlyó Photo: Kulcsár Mária

In 1910, 6030 of its 6885 inhabitants were Hungarian, and 759 were Romanian. In 2011, the population of the nearby area of Szilágysomlyó was 11 653, 7716 Romanians, 3285 Hungarians, and 68 Gypsies.

Szilágysomlyó Photo: Szibler Gábor (2023)
Today, the wall of the Báthory Castle is ruined, but the building is still intact. In the garden of the castle, a memorial column with a Turul bird was erected in memory of the heroic deaths of the Szilágysomlyó soldiers in 1914-1918, during the First World War. It was rebuilt after 1990 and is now a monument to Romanian independence.
Szilágysomlyó Photo: Kulcsár Mária

Now, the castle is the destination of reenactors coming there from many countries to participate in the Báthory Fest. In 2023, the two twin municipalities of Szilágysomlyó, Nyírbátor in Hungary and Czchow in Poland, jointly applied for the festival through the European program. Here is more about this festival:

and also:

Szilágysomlyó Photo: Szibler Gábor (2023)

Source: partly from Wikipedia and from

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Here are more pictures of the Báthory castle: