Date updated: 02/23/2023
The High Tatras are home not only to world-class ski resorts, but also to several interesting historical sites. The main pearl in cultural terms is the majestic palace with centuries of history - Kežmará Castle.
History of Kežmaras Castle
The history of the palace goes back to 1447 when Jana Jiskru z Brandýsa, a military garrison, was stationed here. Imrich Zápoľský became the first owner of the castle in 1462. A few years after the purchase, he commenced an extensive reconstruction. However, financial difficulties suddenly took their toll and the construction was delayed until 1486. Towards the end of the construction work, funding was completely suspended. The church was demolished to complete the western wing and the work continued using the building materials.
Various families owned the castle until the Tököli family took over in 1610. The Tököli family ruled the castle for four generations. During its ownership, the castle was rebuilt in the Renaissance style. Construction work was completed with an early Baroque chapel in 1658.
The most famous representative was Imrich Tököli, who led a rebellion against the Habsburgs. After his defeat, the palace complex and all its properties were transferred to the town council.
Each of the four descendants of the Tököli family made his own alterations to the architectural design. Eventually, the Gothic castle was rebuilt into a splendid Renaissance residence.
The town used the castle for various economic purposes, but over time it fell into disrepair. The castle burned down in 1741 and 1787. Around 1860, the western wall was partially torn down and new barracks were built; the stables became the town hospital.
A fire in 1901 not only destroyed the palace, but it was also forgotten for several decades.
During the war period, it was home to the secret police department of the Third Reich. Their methods were notoriously brutal, with some reports claiming that several dozen guerrillas were murdered here.
In 1960, an extensive reconstruction was carried out to recreate the historical appearance of the building. Some building work is still going on.
The main entrance to the palace grounds is through an ancient tower. The family coat of arms of the Teköli family is on the outside of the tower. Behind it is a courtyard, from where a spiral staircase leads to the first floor.
The outer walls and façades of the building as well as some of the inner rooms are still being renovated. During a tour, however, you can see some of the exterior details and exhibits.
You can take a tour of the first hall and see the artefacts found during archaeological excavations. The oldest exhibit dates back to the Paleolithic era.
The first floor is less spacious than the first, where documents confirming excavations in and around the palace are kept under glass.
The Town Hall - here you can find original furniture brought back from Kežmaras Town Hall. One of the most interesting pieces on display is a document sealing mechanism dating from 1802. You may also see the chair in which the mayor sat, as well as a crucifix used for swearing an oath, which was used from 1713.
In the new part of the castle there is a chapel built by Štefan Tököli in the early Baroque style.
The palace has an active cultural life. There are seminars, carnivals, special programmes for children, theatrical fairy tales, etc.
Kežmará Castle provides an insight into the history of the region and combines skiing holidays with interesting excursions.