At the beginning of the 14th century Magister Donč, the head of the Zvolen county, built a Gothic stone castle on a small dolomite rock. The castle was surrounded by a moat which is now only a small romantic lake. In 1341 was the first written record about the castle named Wywar, in later documents it is referred to as Novum Castrum – New Castle, or Hradek. One of its strategic roles was to control the important trade road called Via Magna. This historical road of emperors, kings and Transylvanian princes ran from central to southeastern Europe. In 1399 the King Žigmund gave the castle to the administration of M. Gorjanský. In 1433 the castle was captured by the Hussites, later it was seized by the Jiskras. Throughout its long history, the castle owners were often changed.
A major part of the Magna Via was an Imperial-Royal postal road built in the 16th century by order of the King Ferdinand I since southern territories of the Monarchy were taken by Turkish troops. After the Magna Via road was finished in 1558, it was more than a thousand km long and was one of the longest postal and transport connections. More than 500 km of the road ran through Slovakia and it also passed by Liptovský Hrádok.
An important figure at the castle was Valentín Balaši. Balaši came from a prominent Hungarian aristocratic family, the Balassa. In the 13th century his ancestors owned in the territory of Slovakia several towns and properties; even the builder of the castle Magister Donč came from this family. In 1554 -1600 the Balassa family also owned the castle in Liptovský Hrádok.
Valentín was born and raised in Zvolen castle. He spent his youth in Liptovský Hrádok castle where he learned Slovak language and local customs. He received a very good education – Balassi spoke eight languages. Valentín studied at a University in Germany, he travelled a lot and led a Bohemian way of life. He then joined the army and fought in Transylvania and in Poland, he fought the Turks and became a respected sodier. After his father’s death, Balassi returned to Hungary and in the late 1570s he again lived in Liptovský Hrádok castle, which he was very fond of. He had several legal disputes with his own family because of family properties. Along with his brother František they renovated the castle and had new castle walls built. According to the preserved documents we know that in 1579 they invested more than 3,000 gold coins into renovations. Later, Valentín again joined the army, but died as the result of a severe leg wound in Ostrihom (Esztergom) in 1594, only 40 years old. He is buried in a family tomb in Hybe, not far from Liptovský Hrádok.
The same Valentín Balaši was also the first great Renaissance poet in Hungary; he wrote in Hungarian, Slovak and in Turkish. He is the founder of modern Hungarian lyrical poetry as well as the first author of Hungarian erotic poetry. Besides poems he wrote one comedy in Hugarian too. Balaši is also the author of the oldest secular love poem in Slovak published in the Codex of J. J. Fanchali which has a late Renaissance character.From the Balassa period in Liptovský Hrádok castle and estate, there is also the first written record about Roma in the Liptov region. In 1563 the Balassas allowed a group of Roma (probably from the Spiš region) to settle at the castle and make iron tools (hoes, axes, pitchforks and nails) for the needs of the castle and neighbouring villages, and halberds for night wardens.
In 1600 the castle and the property was given to Mikuláš Sándorfi. He married the young owner of the castle, Magalena Zai, a widow of the former owner – also from the Balassa family – Žigmund, whom she married shortly before his death. Initiated by Sándorfi and his wife, a Renaissance manorhouse and additional buildings necessary for the estate were built around the castle from 1601 to 1603.
The manor house was built from demolished castle walls. The ground floor of the manor house was used for stores and as a housing area for the servants, whilst the first floor was arranged to accommodate the owners and their guests. Mikuláš Sándorfi did not live to see the reconstruction, however, and died in 1603.
Magdalena Zai, after the death of her second husband, legally secured her position of the castle owner by marriages to other claimants to the property. Her fourth husband Imrich Mérey preferred to marry the widow than to pay her a forfeit for the castle. Altogether Magdalena Zai married five times, she buried every husband in less than four years of marriage and all her husbands are said to have died a natural death.
In uneasy times of the beginning of the 17th century, Liptovský Hrádok castle was most probably a secure place, since the Crown of St Stephen was momentarily hidden here in March 1622.
The castle withstood all waves of anti-Habsburg uprisings and it played the most important strategic role during the period of Estate uprisings in the 17th century. The commanding imperial general built a strong defence against the rebels of František Rákoczi. Later, at the beginning of the 18th century, the King Leopold I gave the castle and the property to the Prince of Lichtenstein.
In 1709 the important Battle of Švihrová was fought between rebels and imperials troops. They withstood the attack but the rebels seriously damaged the castle during the battle.
In 1731 the Royal Chamber bought the whole castle from Emanuel Lichtenstein. From then on the castle and the property declined. After a destructive fire of the castle and manorhouse in 1803, only the manor house was renovated and since then the castle has been in ruins. In the rainy summer of 1813, catastrophic floods hit Liptovský Hrádok castle.
In the second half of the 19th and at the beginning of the 20th centuries the manorhouse housed the district court as well as the Hungarian royal forest office. In 1932 dangerous parts of the old castle were repaired. From 1960 until the Velvet Revolution the manorhouse served as the Ethnographic Museum of the Liptov Region.
For centuries, the remains of Hrádok castle along with the manor house have been a dominant feature of the town Liptovský Hrádok and of the whole picturesque upper Liptov region. Since the 1930s the ruinous state of the castle and manorhouse worried minds of the people which were not indifferent to the destiny of the cultural heritage in Liptov. However, this historical monument was not reconstructed either between the two World Wars or during the period of socialism. Deterioration of the buildings continued also into the 90’s and locals as well as tourists were troubled by the look of the old buildings falling apart.
From 1989 the place was empty, the buildings were unheated, all valuable parts and objects were stolen. Only empty walls without doors and windows remained. The reconstruction started in 2002 and completed in 2011. Today Liptovský Hrádok castle hosts a hotel and restaurant.References:
Pembroke Castle is a Norman castle, founded in 1093. It survived many changes of ownership and is now the largest privately owned castle in Wales. It was the birthplace of Henry Tudor (later Henry VII of England) in 1457.
Pembroke Castle stands on a site that has been occupied at least since the Roman period. Roger de Montgomerie, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury founded the first castle here in the 11th century. Although only made from earth and wood, Pembroke Castle resisted several Welsh attacks and sieges over the next 30 years. The castle was established at the heart of the Norman-controlled lands of southwest Wales.
When William Rufus died, Arnulf de Montgomery joined his elder brother, Robert of Bellême, in rebellion against Henry I, William's brother and successor as king; when the rebellion failed, he was forced to forfeit all his British lands and titles. Henry appointed his castellan, but when the chosen ally turned out to be incompetent, the King reappointed Gerald in 1102. By 1138 King Stephen had given Pembroke Castle to Gilbert de Clare who used it as an important base in the Norman invasion of Ireland.
In August 1189 Richard I arranged the marriage of Isabel, de Clare's granddaughter, to William Marshal who received both the castle and the title, Earl of Pembroke. He had the castle rebuilt in stone and established the great keep at the same time. Marshal was succeeded in turn by each of his five sons. His third son, Gilbert Marshal, was responsible for enlarging and further strengthening the castle between 1234 and 1241.
Later de Valence family held Pembroke for 70 years. During this time, the town was fortified with defensive walls, three main gates and a postern. Pembroke Castle became de Valence's military base for fighting the Welsh princes during the conquest of North Wales by Edward I between 1277 and 1295.
Pembroke Castle then reverted to the crown. In the 15th and 16th centuries, the castle was a place of peace until the outbreak of the English Civil War. Although most of South Wales sided with the King, Pembroke declared for Parliament. It was besieged by Royalist troops but was saved after Parliamentary reinforcements arrived by sea from nearby Milford Haven. Parliamentary forces then went on to capture the Royalist castles of Tenby, Haverfordwest and Carew.
In 1648, at the beginning of the Second Civil War, Pembroke's commander Colonel John Poyer led a Royalist uprising. Oliver Cromwell came to Pembroke on 24 May 1648 and took the castle after a seven-week siege. Its three leaders were found guilty of treason and Cromwell ordered the castle to be destroyed. Townspeople were even encouraged to disassemble the fortress and re-use its stone for their purposes.
The castle was then abandoned and allowed to decay. It remained in ruins until 1880, when a three-year restoration project was undertaken. Nothing further was done until 1928, when Major-General Sir Ivor Philipps acquired the castle and began an extensive restoration of the castle's walls, gatehouses, and towers. After his death, a trust was set up for the castle, jointly managed by the Philipps family and Pembroke town council.
The castle is sited on a strategic rocky promontory by the Milford Haven Waterway. The first fortification on the site was a Norman motte-and-bailey. It had earthen ramparts and a timber palisade.
In 1189, Pembroke Castle was acquired by William Marshal. He soon became Lord Marshal of England, and set about turning the earth and wood fort into an impressive Norman stone castle. The inner ward, which was constructed first, contains the huge round keep with its domed roof. Its original first-floor entrance was through an external stairwell. Inside, a spiral staircase connected its four stories. The keep's domed roof also has several putlog holes that supported a wooden fighting-platform. If the castle was attacked, the hoarding allowed defenders to go out beyond the keep's massive walls above the heads of the attackers.
The inner ward's curtain wall had a large horseshoe-shaped gateway. But only a thin wall was required along the promontory. This section of the wall has a small observation turret and a square stone platform. Domestic buildings including William Marshal's Great Hall and private apartments were within the inner ward. The 13th century keep is 23 metres tall with walls up to 6 metres thick at its base.
In the late 13th century, additional buildings were added to the inner ward, including a new Great Hall. A 55-step spiral staircase was also created that led down to a large limestone cave, known as Wogan Cavern, beneath the castle. The cave, which was created by natural water erosion, was fortified with a wall, a barred gateway and arrowslits. It may have served as a boathouse or a sallyport to the river where cargo or people could have been transferred.
The outer ward was defended by a large twin-towered gatehouse, a barbican and several round towers. The outer wall is 5 metres thick in places and constructed from Siltstone ashlar.
Although Pembroke Castle is a Norman-style enclosure castle with great keep, it can be more accurately described as a linear fortification because, like the later 13th-century castles at Caernarfon and Conwy, it was built on a rocky promontory surrounded by water. This meant that attacking forces could only assault on a narrow front. Architecturally, Pembroke's thickest walls and towers are all concentrated on its landward side facing the town, with Pembroke River providing a natural defense around the rest of its perimeter.