Date updated: 03/07/2023
A small provincial town called Bytča is home to the real pride of Slovakia, Bytčianský Castle. It is a castle complex, comprising the castle itself, the manor house (known as the Wedding Palace) and several outbuildings. The complex was inscribed on the list of cultural monuments of the Slovak Republic in 1970. Bítčianský Hrad has a rich and sometimes mysterious history, which attracts many tourists.
History of Bytčianský castle
During its history the castle had 4 owners. The first one was bishop of Nitra. He put forward the idea of building the Castle in XIII century. Originally the structure was a small, modest fortress for the bishop and his family to live in. It comprised only a tower and a Gothic style house.
The next renowned owner of Bytčianský Castle was František I Turzo. He bought it in 1563. It often changed its owners before that. History is silent about them. The new owner came from a well-known family of industrialists. He owned a number of mines specialising in copper mining. In 1571-1574 the castle was reconstructed on his initiative. Now instead of the modest old castle, a real castle complex with strong defence walls was built. The new building was built in the Renaissance style.
!!! The original Gothic appearance of the castle can now only be seen in engravings of the time.
Book illustration, Justus van den Nypoort, 1686
The best architects from Italy were invited to modernise the castle. They built the Wedding Palace in a simple and elegant sgraffito technique. The technique makes it stand out from the other buildings and gives it a very festive appearance.
Note: sgraffito (in Italian sgraffto) is a decoration technique which consists of applying several layers of covering material of different colours to the surface and then scratching it in a predetermined pattern. It is not a painting or mosaic. The thickness of the layer does not exceed 1 cm.
The Wedding Palace is located in a separate area of the complex. It was originally built for holding wedding ceremonies. Turzo had 7 daughters. One can make a guess that the caring father tried his best for them. It is not known exactly how many ceremonies were held there. To this day the building fulfils its original purpose.
The Esterházy family became the owners of Bytča Castle in 1624. The family bought the building solely for commercial purposes. At that time they were representatives of the largest Hungarian landowners. Their loyalty to the king and the Catholic Church ensured that they quickly became rich. Two years after buying the castle, they were granted the count's title, and in 1712, the title of duke. They were put on a par with the monarchs of Europe. One of the modern representatives of this dynasty is the writer Péter Esterházy. He died in 2016.
The Castle acquired its current, modern look after its purchase by the merchant Popperom in 1862. The new owner had refined taste, although his main activity was far from art and creativity. He suggested building a chateau in a 'classical' form of grey stone. The simple rectangular building with turrets in the four corners and a fifth tower - the entrance - has a majestic appearance and has been preserved as such to the present day.
Bytča Castle attracts tourists not only with its majestic architecture. It is associated with the Countess Bathory. It is still a shrouded in mystery. All that is known is that her "henchmen" were tried here in 1610. Rumour has it that Turzo wished to gain possession of the land in the neighbourhood. For this reason he contributed to the imprisonment of the countess in the local dungeons.
The casemates still faithfully preserve the spirit of the time. Tourists are most impressed by them. It is quiet and gloomy, with a depressing and sometimes intimidating atmosphere. Apart from the "bloody" countess, many prisoners spent time here. Among them, former villain and current national hero Juraj Jánošík.
He is indeed a man of legend. Bytča Castle was the last resting place of the hero. He was executed, but the castle still bears his name and attracts tourists. Many of the hero's fans would like to experience the lonely, dungeon-like atmosphere and the setting in which Juraj Jánošík spent the last days of his life.
He is now seen as Robin Hood. The character has been portrayed in film, literature and music. After his death, he became even more popular and left his mark on history without striving at all.
Interesting: the Poles also consider him their local hero. But Maksim Tank, a poet from Belarus, even dedicated poems to him. This is the kind of mythological hero Slovakia, Poland and other countries have. And his name is always mentioned when talking about Bytča Castle.
Many films and TV series have been made about him. And for children there was filmed a whole animation series about the bandit Jurko as well as a children's ballad. That is the way from robbers and troublemakers to national heroes.
Of course, nothing remains of the original Gothic "castle". One can only see its original appearance in engravings. The main palace is used as a regional archive, the Wedding Palace is used for exhibitions and the Wedding Hall is open for weddings.
Bytčaý Castle is the Slovak national cultural heritage and is closely protected by the state. It is an ancient castle complex with a rich history. It is an example of how modest and unassuming buildings eventually become magnificent architectural objects that attract attention and become part of history.