Kisnána Castle Ruins

Kisnána, Hungary

The Castle of Kisnána is one of the most beautiful remains of late-Medieval noble residences in Hungary. Its history well demonstrates the evolution and transformation of landlord residences. Like the other settlements in the Mátra region, Kisnána also belonged to the Clan Aba. In the early 13th century the Kompolti family evolved from the Clan Aba, and one of its descendants, Péter Kompolti took possession of the land of Nána. Péter accumulated an immense fortune during the reign of the last kings of the Árpád dynasty and King Charles Robert and even held important posts in the king's court; he was the Chamberlain of the Queen. His fortune allowed him to build a fortress and the Castle of Oroszlánkő near Domoszló was probably built by him.

In 1325 Péter's three sons shared the inheritance from their father and István inherited the village of Egyházas-Nána. He transferred his residence there and he and his descendants assumed the name Kompolti of Nána. He had the first mansion built near the parish church. In the first third of the 15th century the members of the Kompolti family had the village parish church of the now called Kisnána rebuilt in Gothic style. Under the inheritance agreement, when the Kompolti family died out along the male line, Kisnána was inherited by the Guti Ország family. The castle was transformed and a large wine cellar was built under the inner court which could be entered through the stairway from the new extension built next to the chapel. The earth excavated during the construction of the cellar was used to raise the level of the court, which was then covered with new stones. The north palace was also transformed and Renaissance-style window frames were built in.

In the early 1500s, the castle was fortified again, the Anjou-age mansion in the south-west corner of the outer fortress was demolished and its stone walled basement was filled up with earth. At that time the Lord of the Castle was István Losonczy, who gave refuge to László Móré (see the legend). In 1543, only two years after the Turkish occupation of Buda, Kisnána was destroyed by the Turks. As the Turks did not retain the ruined castle, in the next few decades several plans were made to rebuild and change the fortress into a border stronghold. However, the castle, was never rebuilt partly because of the early death of the owner.

The ruins of the castle were cleared in the 1940s when the members of the paramilitary youth organizations created a military practice field there. During the clearing work, Géza Lux surveyed the ruins, a dwelling house was built among them and another dwelling place was also created in the gate tower. Between 1962 and 66, Nóra Pámer and later János Győző Szabó conducted thorough archaeological excavations, which were then followed by the historic restoration of the site. The exposed walls were restored, the north palace was covered with a protecting metal roof and the roof of the chapel was covered with a flat hip roof.

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Château de Foix

The Château de Foix dominates the town of Foix. An important tourist site, it is known as a centre of the Cathars. Built on an older 7th-century fortification, the castle is known from 987. In 1002, it was mentioned in the will of Roger I, Count of Carcassonne, who bequeathed the fortress to his youngest child, Bernard. In effect, the family ruling over the region were installed here which allowed them to control access to the upper Ariège valley and to keep surveillance from this strategic point over the lower land, protected behind impregnable walls.

In 1034, the castle became capital of the County of Foix and played a decisive role in medieval military history. During the two following centuries, the castle was home to Counts with shining personalities who became the soul of the Occitan resistance during the crusade against the Albigensians. The county became a privileged refuge for persecuted Cathars.

The castle, often besieged (notably by Simon de Montfort in 1211 and 1212), resisted assault and was only taken once, in 1486, thanks to treachery during the war between two branches of the Foix family.

From the 14th century, the Counts of Foix spent less and less time in the uncomfortable castle, preferring the Governors' Palace. From 1479, the Counts of Foix became Kings of Navarre and the last of them, made Henri IV of France, annexed his Pyrrenean lands to France.

As seat of the Governor of the Foix region from the 15th century, the castle continued to ensure the defence of the area, notably during the Wars of Religion. Alone of all the castles in the region, it was exempted from the destruction orders of Richelieu (1632-1638).

Until the Revolution, the fortress remained a garrison. Its life was brightened with grand receptions for its governors, including the Count of Tréville, captain of musketeers under Louis XIII and Marshal Philippe Henri de Ségur, one of Louis XVI's ministers. The Round Tower, built in the 15th century, is the most recent, the two square towers having been built before the 11th century. They served as a political and civil prison for four centuries until 1862.

Since 1930, the castle has housed the collections of the Ariège départemental museum. Sections on prehistory, Gallo-Roman and mediaeval archaeology tell the history of Ariège from ancient times. Currently, the museum is rearranging exhibits to concentrate on the history of the castle site so as to recreate the life of Foix at the time of the Counts.