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Date updated: 03/05/2023

Spiš Castle

    Spiš Castle

    These imposing walls have seen much. The Spiš Castle has been tried by the Mongols, ruled by Hungarian kings, and plundered by the Hussites. It changed hands, burned and rose again from the ashes. Within its walls history was made, hopes were born and hopes were crushed, intrigues were woven. Spiš Castle, referred to as Spišský hrad in Slovakia, has changed hands many times. Each of them contributed something of their own, gradually shaping the present-day appearance of the building.

    People had lived here since the year 1938 when the skull of the Neanderthal man was found on the nearby Dreveník Mountain. At the turn of the two eras Celtic tribe Cotinas arrived here. They left behind leather sacks with coins, tools, ceramic objects, jewellery fragments, as well as the earth rampart, which is situated on the Spiš Castle (Spišský hrad). In the 5th and 6th century the area was occupied by Slavic tribes who founded a settlement on a nearby hill.

    Spiš Castle

    In the 10th and 13th centuries, the Hungarian kingdom, and this area was part of it, was shaken by internecine wars. In the 11th century, a fortified structure was built on the site of an ancient Celtic settlement, which could withstand defence for a long time. The location was ideal for this - the surrounding countryside can be seen for several kilometres in a 360 degree panorama from the 200 meter high mountain. The huge stone tower, which could be used as a shelter in case of emergency, was the focal point of the building, and the wooden bridge leading inside could be burned down. Only the foundation of the tower was left. Living quarters were situated next to it.

    The first information about the castle is contained in a document of King Andras II (Ondrej II) from 1209, where the county of Spiš is also mentioned. Based on archaeological research, it is estimated that the castle was founded a century earlier, probably at the beginning of the 12th century.

    Spiš Castle

    Spišský hrad a Spišské podhradie, Georg Michael Kurz, Ludwig Rohbock, 1857

    It is known from chronicles that by 1209 the castle had acquired the status of a royal castle, and it belonged to the Hungarian monarchy. During this period, a Romanesque palace and the main tower were added to it (which can now be seen in the upper part of the structure). The following is a further chronicle of the history of Spiš Castle:

    In 1241, the fortified Spiš Castle withstands a siege by the troops of the Mongol khan Batyj.

    Spiš Castle

    Between 1242 and 1249, Hungarian King Béla IV (Belo IV) added another palace, a tower and a church to the Spiš Castle. The Spiš Castle begins to fully live up to its name, becoming a real autonomous town.

    In the second half of the 13th century the castle was owned by Elisabeth Kumánska, daughter-in-law of King Belo IV, who invited Italian architects to enhance the defensive, fortification capabilities of the building.

    In 1312 the castle was besieged by the "uncrowned king" of Slovakia, Matúš Čák, but without success.

    Later Spiš Castle often changed owners: Ján Jiskra built the Lower Castle, the rich Hungarian Zápoľský family - the king Ján Zápoľský or Ján I belonged to this family and he was born there. Ferdinand I and the merchant family Turzo managed the Spišské Hrad (Spišský hrad). In 1638 the castle was acquired by the noble family of Čák, who became its last owners. In 1780, a fire broke out in the castle, the Čák family left Spiš Castle, but the castle remained its de facto owner. In 1945 the castle was handed over to the state, and Slovakia became its sovereign owner. The castle became the largest castle in the country, covering an area of 4 hectares.

    Spiš Castle

    In 1993, Spiš Castle was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The castle is currently being restored and guided by princesses, knights, stargazers and alchemists. The castle is currently being restored and guided by princesses, knights, stargazers and alchemists. Visitors are shown the reconstructed rooms of the bedrooms, the tavern, the chapel, the storerooms, the kitchen, the torture chamber and the knight's hall. They also tell the sad story of a woman named Hedwiga, who used to work here as a nanny for a girl named Barbara. The girl was stolen by her father's ill-wishers. Hedviga committed suicide with grief and her ghost has been searching for the little girl ever since.

    The castle consists of three parts: the Upper, the Middle and the Lower. They are all quite autonomous and connected to each other by secret passages. If an army suddenly seized the Lower Town, the Upper and Middle Town could hold their ground for quite a long time. Bearing this in mind, taking Spis Grad was a difficult and incredibly exhausting affair. During its almost thousand-year history the castle did not defeat anyone, and only a fire nearly buried it under a layer of ashes. But Spiš Castle was reborn as the Phoenix, proudly and majestically spreading its wings.

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