Date updated: 03/04/2023
In western Slovakia, at the foot of the eastern slopes of the Little Carpathians, the fairytale Smolenice Castle is a magnificent example of late Romanticist architecture. The towers reaching up to the sky, impregnable bastions, lancet arches and arched gates turn this former medieval fortress into one of the most beautiful historical buildings in the country.
The majestic chateau, which has evolved over the centuries from a massive stone fort to a magnificent manor house belonging to the famous Pálfi family, is situated one and a half kilometres from the village of Smolenice in the Trnava region. The first mention of the small settlement dates back to 1256.
In the 14th century, a fortress was built next to the sprawling village to protect the pass through the eastern part of the Little Carpathians from enemies. Four centuries later, the village became a place where people from nearby towns gathered for weekly fairs.
Today, people come to the picturesque Slovak village to spend a weekend in nature, go hiking or explore the narrow labyrinths, stone waterfalls and bizarre karst formations of the Drina Cave. There is also a museum whose collection consists of archaeological rarities from the ancient village of Molpír.
The centre of religious life in Smolenice is the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, built in 1664 in the Renaissance style, in front of which a beautiful lime tree has stood for more than 350 years. Another interesting site is the Chapel of St. Vendelína, the last resting place of members of the Pálfi dynasty. However, Smolenice Castle is undoubtedly the most popular tourist attraction in the village.
History of Smolenice Castle
Smolenice, Abraham Kaltschmidt – engraver, Samuel Mikovíny - designer, 1736
In the fourteenth century, a fortress appeared near the village of Smolenice, protecting the Little Carpathian Mountains from uninvited guests. A century later, the fortress has lost its defensive functions. A century later, the fortress was replaced by a castle, which belonged to the rulers of the Hungarian kingdom.
Over the centuries, the castle has changed hands several times. Its appearance has also changed. In 1583, the building was rebuilt with Renaissance features such as symmetrical decorations, domed structures and covered galleries. A little later a Baroque chapel was built next to the walls of the building.
A milestone in the history of Slovakia's architectural pride is considered to be the year 1777, when members of the Pálfi noble family became the new owners of the building. The Smolenice chateau became the ancestral seat of one of Europe's most influential dynasties.
Second life of the castle
The mighty walls, which have stood for five centuries, were not spared by the fire of battle. In 1809, a fire during the Austro-French war turned the main building and the central tower into smoking ruins. Only the surviving bastions and the chapel remained in place of the former majestic structure. Only at the end of the 19th century did Count Jozef Pálffy decide to restore the ancestral home.
In 1887 construction work began to restore the destroyed building. The architect from Bratislava, Josef Hubert, was in charge of the reconstruction. At the beginning of the 20th century, a romantic building reminiscent of French chateaux of chivalry was born. The renovated Pálffy residence has crenellated walls, neo-Gothic decorative towers and a medieval tribute to the Middle Ages with an arched entrance gate.
The First World War interrupted the completion of the interior decoration. By the 1930s, the grand wooden staircase and a few central halls with lancet vaults, serrated ceilings and marble floors were completely finished. The restoration continued only in 1950, when all the property of the aristocratic dynasty passed into state ownership.
In 1953, the Slovak Academy of Sciences (SAV) chose the castle as its summer residence, turning it into a venue for international congresses, conferences and symposia.
The tour programme includes a tour of the castle's beautifully furnished state rooms, such as the Red and Blue Salon, the Gold Room and the library. "The 'cherry on the cake' is the ascent to the hexagonal tower. The observation deck offers a breathtaking view of Smolenice and the green hillsides of the Little Carpathians. The promenade ends with a visit to the English park around the castle, the edges of which are hidden in the dense vegetation of the forests.