Drégely Castle was probably built by the Bozók branch of the Hunt-Poznan family in the second half of the 13th century, during the Árpád dynasty, by order of Béla IV. It was first mentioned in a charter of 1285 as the possession of Demeter of the Hunt-Poznan family. The proprietors had to surrender to Máté Csák III in 1311. After the death of this oligarch in 1321 the castle was overcome by the army of Charles I of Hungary. At that time Drégely Castle served as the county dungeon and held the archives of Hont County.
In 1390 King Sigismund exchanged the castle with the Tary family for lands in Somogy county. Later the King reacquired Drégely because of the despotic measures of the Tary family and their castellan. In 1438 Drégely was gained by the Archbishop of Esztergom. The high priest rebuilt the castle to be his hunting seat.
Drégely came under military control again after the fall of Buda in 1541. It became part of the border castle system designed to repel invaders of the Ottoman Empire. Archbishop Pál Várday spent much money to strengthen the castle. In 1543 Esztergom, the centre of the archdiocese, fell. Next year the castles of Vác and Nógrád fell too. Drégely became part of the first line of defence for the kingdom. In 1544 Várday appointed György Szondy to be castellan of the castle and the governor of the Drégely estate. Szondy tried to fortify the small fortress against Turkish invaders. Várday died in 1549, and the local guards were no longer paid regularly. In the same year lightning struck the castle, but it hardly damaged the walls or the gunpowder depot.
In 1552 Hadim Ali Pasha of Buda laid siege to the castle at Veszprém and captured it on 2 June. The Turkish army turned its attention to the castles of Hont and Nógrád counties. The army of Ali Pasha – about 10,000 to 12,000 strong – got below Drégely Castle on the morning of 6 July. The defenders of the castle consisted of 120 men hired by King Ferdinand and 26 warriors sent by the royal mining town of Banská Štiavnica. Ali Pasha immediately called upon Szondy to surrender. After the Hungarian refusal Ali the castle's outer wooden wall be set on fire. Because of the first combat the defenders withdrew into the inner stone castle. At the following dawn, Turkish engineering corps built a counterfort on a place called Várbérc where Turkish artillery started a cannonade against the castle gate using three cannon and six howitzers. The cannon fire continued for two days.
On 9 July 1552 the high castle gate and its tower collapsed. That was when Ali Pasha sent the priest Márton as envoy to persuade Szondy to surrender. Szondy refused again, but he sent his two pageboys accompanied by two noble Turkish captives to Ali. They brought the message that the castle would be defended until the last breath. Szondy asked Ali to educate the two boys in exchange for the release of the two Turkish prisoners, and for himself to be buried with full honours. As reply to Szondy's repeated refusal Turkish troops started a decisive attack on the castle. Szondy was shot in his knee and the subsequent bullet killed him. The defenders were killed until the last man. Drégeéy fell, but Ali paid tribute to the brave dead castellan.
During the siege of Drégely the royal army of about 8,000 camped at Levice, but the commander of the army, Erasmus Teuffel, did not take any action to help the besieged castle. The fall of Drégely started a chain of defeats of castles of Hont and Nógrád counties. Ottoman troops conquered nine-tenths of the castles in the two counties in short order, because most of the defenders of the neighbouring castles deserted. At the end of the July there was an enormous gap in the Hungarian border castle system. The royal army belatedly tried to stop the Turkish troops at Plášťovce but in a two-days battle they were utterly routed, and 4,000 German and Italian warriors were deported to Istanbul.
The completely ruined stone castle of Drégely was not renewed. Turkish troops used its remnants as a watch-post for a while, then in 1575 built a new earth fortress in near village of Palánk. The castle hill returned to forest. The building lines of the former castle were disappearing.
The ruins of the castle were saved by enthusiasts, in particular the forester Károly Teszári.References:
Derbent is the southernmost city in Russia, occupying the narrow gateway between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains connecting the Eurasian steppes to the north and the Iranian Plateau to the south. Derbent claims to be the oldest city in Russia with historical documentation dating to the 8th century BCE. Due to its strategic location, over the course of history, the city changed ownership many times, particularly among the Persian, Arab, Mongol, Timurid, Shirvan and Iranian kingdoms.
Derbent has archaeological structures over 5,000 years old. As a result of this geographic peculiarity, the city developed between two walls, stretching from the mountains to the sea. These fortifications were continuously employed for a millennium and a half, longer than any other extant fortress in the world.
A traditionally and historically Iranian city, the first intensive settlement in the Derbent area dates from the 8th century BC. The site was intermittently controlled by the Persian monarchs, starting from the 6th century BC. Until the 4th century AD, it was part of Caucasian Albania which was a satrap of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. In the 5th century Derbent functioned as a border fortress and the seat of Sassanid Persians. Because of its strategic position on the northern branch of the Silk Route, the fortress was contested by the Khazars in the course of the Khazar-Arab Wars. In 654, Derbent was captured by the Arabs.
The Sassanid fortress does not exist any more, as the famous Derbent fortress as it stands today was built from the 12th century onward. Derbent became a strong military outpost and harbour of the Sassanid empire. During the 5th and 6th centuries, Derbent also became an important center for spreading the Christian faith in the Caucasus.
The site continued to be of great strategic importance until the 19th century. Today the fortifications consist of two parallel defence walls and Naryn-Kala Citadel. The walls are 3.6km long, stretching from the sea up to the mountains. They were built from stone and had 73 defence towers. 9 out of the 14 original gates remain.
In Naryn-Kala Citadel most of the old buildings, including a palace and a church, are now in ruins. It also holds baths and one of the oldest mosques in the former USSR.
In 2003, UNESCO included the old part of Derbent with traditional buildings in the World Heritage List.