Forchtenstein Castle first part with its 50-metre high keep was built in the beginning of the 15th century by the Lords of Mattersburg, who later named themselves Lords of Forchtenstein.
The castle features a tower, known as the 'Black Tower' although the black rock that originally lined the tower has since been stripped. The tower contains a 12-metre deep pit used as a prison cell for those condemned to death. Rezallia, wife of Lettus of Forchtenstein used this with great frequency; on the return of her husband from military service, she was herself sentenced to death in the tower by her husband.
Around 1450 the Lords of Forchtenstein died off due to lack of a male heir and the castle was passed over to the House of Habsburg, which owned it for 170 years. They leased it to others, including the Counts of Weissbriach and Hardegg. During this time the building was not changed significantly.
In 1622 Nikolaus Esterházy, founder of the western Hungarian Esterházy line, received the castle from Emperor Ferdinand II, and Esterházy became a Count. Nikolaus started to fortify the crumbling castle and refurbished it with the services of Vienna builder Simon Retacco from 1630 to 1634 and with Domenico Carlone from 1643. The construction workers were all from Italy. Kaiserstein stone was used for the main portals, fountains, cannonballs, etc. Once hewn the stone was delivered on large wagons drawn by six oxen.
In the second half of the 17th century his son Paul further extended and ornamented the castle with architect Domenico Carlone. After Paul's death the castle's function changed. It became a repository for weapons, archives, chronometers, machines, exotic animal preparations and other 'marvels'. The only access to the treasure vault was a secret passage leading to a door requiring two different keys used together. One key was kept by the Count and the other by his treasurer. In the second half of the 18th century the castle was extended by master builder Ferdinand Mödlhammer. During this work the roof truss was lifted and the interior was renovated.
The treasure vault remained undiscovered and intact throughout World War II. The original glass-paned cabinets containing the collection are works of art in themselves.
The castle is still owned by the Esterházy family and, together with Schloss Esterházy in Eisenstadt, it chronicles the history and treasures of this ancient aristocratic family.
When Austria and Hungary separated in 1921, the Esterházy family's lands were split between the two countries. Their financial records remained at Castle Forchtenstein and the family records were taken to the Hungarian Federal Archive in Budapest.References:
The Beckov castle stands on a steep 50 m tall rock in the village Beckov. The dominance of the rock and impression of invincibility it gaves, challenged our ancestors to make use of these assets. The result is a remarkable harmony between the natural setting and architecture.
The castle first mentioned in 1200 was originally owned by the King and later, at the end of the 13th century it fell in hands of Matúš Èák. Its owners alternated - at the end of the 14th century the family of Stibor of Stiborice bought it.
The next owners, the Bánffys who adapted the Gothic castle to the Renaissance residence, improved its fortifications preventing the Turks from conquering it at the end of the 16th century. When Bánffys died out, the castle was owned by several noble families. It fell in decay after fire in 1729.
The history of the castle is the subject of different legends. One of them narrates the origin of the name of castle derived from that of jester Becko for whom the Duke Stibor had the castle built.
Another legend has it that the lord of the castle had his servant thrown down from the rock because he protected his child from the lords favourite dog. Before his death, the servant pronounced a curse saying that they would meet in a year and days time, and indeed precisely after that time the lord was bitten by a snake and fell down to the same abyss.
The well-conserved ruins of the castle, now the National Cultural Monument, are frequently visited by tourists, above all in July when the castle festival takes place. The former Ambro curia situated below the castle now shelters the exhibition of the local history.