Photo: Сергій Криниця Haidamac

Ungvár (Ukrainian: Ужгород [Uzshorod], Ruthenian: Ужгород [Uzshorod], Russian: Ужгород [Uzsgorod], Slovakian: Užhorod, German: Ungwar, Jiddish: אונגװיר [Ungvir, Ingver, Yngvyr]) castle is an extensive citadel on a hill in Ukraine in the Sub-Carpathian Region that is called Kárpátalja in Hungarian. It was built on a 30-meter-high cliff, in a mixture of architectural styles and materials between the 13th and 18th centuries, and figured heavily in the history of Hungary. The very name of Uzhhorod/Ungvár refers to the castle, translating as “the Ung castle”. The Ung River can be seen right next to the castle that was guarding this very important junction of trade routes.

Photo: Сергій Криниця Haidamac

Ung castle appeared very early in the Hungarian chronicles, according to Anonymous, the Notary of King Bela (late 12th century – early 13th century), the home-taking Magyar tribes in the 9th century, rested at Ung castle first, after crossing the Carpathian Mountains. In fact, it was the very site where the previous Chief of the united Hungarian (Magyar) tribes, Álmos, passed the leadership to his son, Árpád.

Ung castle was controlling 18 villages around it and it was part of the north-eastern Borderland system of strongholds in the Kingdom of Hungary. The earliest stone buildings on the site of the castle may be dated to the 13th century, after the Mongolian invasion of 1241-1242. The castle didn’t have very big military importance, it was rather a kind of part of the near Nevicke castle. It was mentioned in a 13th-century document like „oppidum sen castellum Ungwar”.

Ungvár in 1914

The royal lands around Ung were no longer in the Hungarian king’s hands around 1290. The castle had been given to Palatine Aba Amádé in 1288 by King Kun lászló IV. The Aba Clan was the mighty oligarch family that owned the northeastern part of the Upper Lands of the kingdom. When Aba Amadé was killed in 1305 at Kassa (Kosice, Kaschau), his sons rebelled against King Károly Róbert. The Anjou king defeated them at Rozgony, and the castle of Ungvár was given to Péter, son of Pethene, Chief Comes of Ung for a short time.

Ungvár castle (photo: Imre Lánczi)

Shortly after this, King Károly Róbert gave the castle and its villages to his Italian supporters from the Drugeth family. They erected a rectangular defensive structure with rhomboid bastions that recalled the castles of South Italy. The construction began in 1317 in the age when Drugeth Fülöp owned it but the work lasted for more than 30 years. As it was, the place became the Drugeths’ property for 360 years. The fortification was augmented in the 16th and 17th centuries, the greatest one took place in 1598. It was the time when the present form of the castle was built but so far many sections have been pulled down.

The castle’s entrance in 1940 (Fortepan 6110
Donor: Gyöngyi)

In the castle, we can see the signs of the Renaissance and the Baroque styles. The structure includes the inner castle that was turned into a fortified palace. Initially, the palace had four floors but the highest one was built of wood and it burned down. If you take a look around the yard of the palace, you can discover the remnants of Renaissance loggias that were similar to the ones we can see in the castle of Sárospatak. In the middle of the yard, a 30-meter-deep well can be seen that supplied the residents with fresh water. The fortified palace had more than 40 rooms and halls and it was surrounded by a small moat that was only 4 meters deep. Also, it was protected by walls, four round bastions, and a triangular bastion.

The Turul bird in the castle’s park (Photo: Julicska)

The strong andesite walls were 2.5 meters wide, and corridors were carved into them to aid the defenders. There is a cliff on the northeastern side of the castle while the three other sides were protected by a 20-meter-wide moat that was 10-meter-deep. Just like the inner castle, the outer defenses could be approached through a drawbridge. The entire castle’s area is 2.5 acres. In the castle’s yard, the ruins of a church built in 1248 can be still seen.

The Castle Hill (Photo: Сергій Криниця (Haidamac))

The lower castle was just before the inner castle’s gate, it was the place where the guards lived. It was surrounded by a palisade wall. At the end of the 17th century, there were 511 soldiers in the garrison and 30 cannons guarded the Valley of the Ung River. According to local legends, one of the Drugeth lords had a daughter who fell in love with a simple servant boy. Discovering them, the grim father had his daughter walled into one of the walls of the castle, alive. Allegedly, the unfortunate Countess is still haunting the place. She has a 6-acre-big park around the castle to complete her walks.

The entrance of the castle today (Photo: Vi Ko)

As the male line of the Drugeth family died out in 1691, Lady Drugeth Krisztina, heiress to the vast Drugeth dominions, married Count Bercsényi Miklós, making him the third richest man in Hungary. Bercsényi was remembered as a key figure in Rákóczi’s War for Independence and resided in the fortified palace within the castle. He had a huge library but he liked fancy parties and merry-making as well. One of his friends, Rákóczi Ferenc stayed in Ungvár with him and it is said that it was Bercsényi who instigated Rákóczi to rebel against the Habsburgs. When their plotting was reported to the Court, Rákóczi was arrested and Bercsényi had to flee to Poland.

The rebels returned in 1703 to Ungvár and took it back from the Habsburgs by force. It was there thatBercsényi negotiated with the ambassadors of the Russian Czar Peter the Great and the French King Louis XIV concerning the establishment of an anti-Habsburg alliance. In 1711 Bercsényi fled Hungary, and his estates were confiscated by the Austrian crown.

In the 18th century, it was modernized under the supervision of Lemaire, a military engineer from France. The church is famous for the event that took place on 24 April 1646: it was the day when 63 priests of the Ungvár Region re-converted to the Roman Catholic Church, thus establishing the Greek Catholic Church. Empress Maria Theresia gifted Ungvár castle to the Greek Catholic Church in 1775. 

The Greek Catholic Church Photo: Thaler Tamas

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The COA of Ungvár on an old postcard

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