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Eger - attractions and sights in Eger region

Castles in Eger region

Short history and attractions of the Castle of Eger
The several-hundred-year old Castle of Eger is the town's most well-known building and it has been the destination of many a historical pilgrimage. It was made famous by the heroic defending of the castle in the 1552 siege when a small Hungarian army led by commander István Dobó defeated the numerically superior Turkish troops in a heroic battle. The golden period of the castle as a fortification system was the 16th century. In the times preceeding it the casle was mainly known as an episcopal residence and was also known for its cathedral. Although a diploma from 1248 granted bishop Lambert permission to build a castle in his residence in Eger, the first written records of buildings of strategic importance can be found only in a charter from the year 1363. Data from the charter suggest that in the 14th century the cathedral, the St. István church, the episcopal palace and more than ten prebendal house stood behind the walls. Apart from these only a few canonical or secular buildings and dwelling houses could have been on the site of the castle. The walls of the castle were built according to the castle-construction methods of the Middle Ages, that is they were built as high as possible so as to make the task of intruders as difficult as possible when trying to climb the wall. At the end of the 15th century, however, as a result of the rapid development of cannons and the artillery new fortification methods evolved in Italy. The fortification system of the castle of Eger did not keep the pace of the firearm development thus by the time of the Mohács Disaster it was considered to be outdated.

In 1537 after the defeat at Mohács the castle got in the possession of Péter Perényi from the episcopal ownership. He reconstructed it with Italian architects in accordance with the new strategic principles. The so-called entrenchment area, a hillside to the east of the castle, was attached to the castle with an enclosing wall by Alessandro da Vedano. The Hussar forces were stationed here and the stables were found here as well. The construction of a large gothic cathedral came to a halt and from the existing shrine walls an enormous Shrine-bastion was built. (The reconstructed bastion was broken through when the railway was being built).

István Dobó, who became the commander of the castle in 1548, continued the fortification works until the siege of 1552. He built the bastion on the west side of the inner castle, which was later named Dobó-bastion after him.

Severely damaged in the siege of 1552, the castle was reconstructed and was strengthened with orillon bastions that were more suitable for sideway cannonade. The reconstruction works, which took place between 1573 and 1583, were led by the excellent castle-architect Ottavio Baldigara. This is the period when the underground arched-ceiling rooms, the barracks, the cannon rooms and the long mine-watch corridors were built. Unfortunately neither the new bastions nor the casemate could replace the self-sacrificing bravery of Dobó and his soldiers: in 1596 the Turks seized the castle after a short siege. In the ensuing 91 years of Turkish rule only a small gate fortification was built. By 1687 the castle was in the possession of the Hapsburg-dynasty, who in 1702 blew up the so-called Szép-bastion and the outer castle walls because maintaining the outdated fortification would have been too expensive. They were also afraid that should the castle have got in the hands of the Kuruts, it could have served the cause of the Hungarian independence and freedom. The Treasury sold the castle to bishop Esterházy in 1783 and from that time the bricks and stones of the castle were carried off to be used in other large-scale constructions of the town. This is when the renowned castle became virtually a ruin. Even the underground casemates and mine-watch corridors were filled with debris.

On commands of archbishop Pyrker the excavation works and protection of the ruins of the old cathedral was commenced; he had the well cleaned up and in 1833 he had the red marble tomb of István Dobó, which was originally in Dobóruszka, placed in the Castle of Eger. The predecessor of Pyrker, however, in an attempt to get rid of expenses, gave the castle to the Military Funds. In the 1860s and 1870s a canon of Eger (and later the bishop of Nagyvárad) Arnold Ipolyi, and later lieutenant János Balogh continued excavation works. The latter was the first to begin in 1877 to explore and excavate the underground defence-system of the castle.

Nevertheless, the more serious excavation works started only in the middle of the 1920s after the publication of Géza Gárdonyi's popular novel ,,Egri csillagok", on the initiative and guidance of Dr Ervin Pálosi, Dr Vidor Pataki and János Lénárt. In the 1960s other archeological excavations were started on the site of the castle which are currently underway.

The only extant building from the Middle Ages is the episcopal palace which stands on the northern part of the inner castle-yard. It was built- using the remains of several smaller houses- in 1470 in gothic style for bishop János Beckensloer.

János Beckensloer was a much-liked person by King Matthias and respected counsellor of his but who later became disloyal to his king and had to flee the country. Among the later residents of the palace Orbán Dóczy was not only the bishop of Eger but also of Vienna at the ennd of the reign of King Matthias; Tamás Bakócz, who became the archbishop of Esztergom and had chances of becoming the Pope, also lived in the palace.

In 1542 a conflagration damaged the building and ten years later it suffered even grater damage during the siege of 1552. Later Gergely Bornemissza had it reconstructed but for his own use rather than for the use of bishops. In the following decades the ground-floor of the building was used as an ammunition depot while the castle commanders and their deputies lived above the ground-floor. When the Turks seized the castle it became the dwelling place of the pasha of Eger. According to written record a bath was built here for the pasha. When the Christian troops re-captured the casle of Eger at the end of the 17th century it became the home of the Hapsburg emperor-king castle commander. In 1783 the Treasury sold the entire castle to the bishopry; afterwards the ground-floor was used as a prison and the first floor was used as a granary. But when the archbishop gave the castle to the army in 1871, the gothic palace, which has been reconstructed several times, became barracks and then finally a warehouse.

In 1957 the building was given to the Museum of Eger: it houses the historical exhibition of the Dobó István Castle Museum. It was not an easy task to realise the thorough restoration of the monument, which were finished in 1963. Fortunately the western part of the frontal archway on the ground-floor has remained in tact, which determines the character of the building with its gothic arches. (The five arches on the east part are reconstructions. This corridor ran all the way in front of the rows of halls. It is covered by gothic cross vaulting; at the separate arch sections it is well worth observing each ceiling headstone that holds together the finely-carved ribbed arches: we can notice a man's head, a strange mis-shapen head, stylized plants, a dog with three puppies, etc. On the inner wall of the corridor several gothic stone-framed door and window openings can be found. The building was originally longer to the east but part of it was demolished. There could have been stairs in the Middle Ages on the place where an open stairway leads upstairs today, as well. The frontal formation of the upper level as it was in the Middle Ages is not known. Probably an archway ran here similarly to the ground-floor, but it was destroyed without leaving any trace. The wooden-coloumned, porch-like reconstruction that can be seen today was made according to 18th century representations and thus corresponds to that age.

On the ground-floor of the building the visitor can see the red marble tomb of Isván Dobó and on the wall of the hall we can read the names of the people who defended the castle in the siege of 1552. István Dobó was buried in Dobóruszka and in 1833 count János Buttler had the tomb brought to Eger to give it to archbishop Pyrker as a gift.

Despite the gret victory at Eger, István Dobó did not have an easy life. A few weeks after the successful defence of the castle he was already asked to provide financial reports and after fulfilling them he resigned his post as commander of the castle. He recieved Déva and Szamosújvár from king Ferdinand I as a recognition of his merits and the king appointed him to be the voivode of Transylvania in 1553. In 1556, however, Transylvania seceded from the Hapsburgs and Dobó was put in prison by Queen Izabella (the widow of János Szapolyai). Fortunately he was soon released and king Ferdinand gave him more land and appointed him to be the commander of the castle of Léva. In 1566 when sultan Szulejman attacked Hungary and Austria again, Dobó was in battle with his troops defending Vienna. Nevertheless, the following year he was accused at the royal court to have secretly changed sides to Zsigmond János Prince of Transylvania and on 12th December 1569 at the parliament of Pozsony the Hapsburg emperor T. Miksa had Dobó and his relative János Balassi -the son of Bálint Balassi- arrested. Balassi managed to escape but Dobó was only released on 17th April 1572 when the charges against him turned to be false. Imprisoned with false charges, the calumniated hero of Eger died within a few months of his release. Source - István Wellner: Eger (Panoráma 1987)

The Castle of Sirok
Situated on the bare rhyolite-tuff cone of the so-called Várhegy at an elevation of 296 metres, the Castle Ruin of Sirok is a magnificent sight. The first owners of the castle were the members of the Bodon branch of the Aba clan until 1320. The castle played an important role during the time of the invasion of the Turks and in 1555 the parliament of Gönc ordered the fortification of the castle, and corner bastions were added to the lower castle in 1561. It got in the possession of the Turks in 1596. After the Rákóczi War of Independence the emperor forces blew it up in 1717 so today only the ruin of the castle, which was originally a construct with inner towers, with asymmetrical ground plan and was divided to an upper and lower castle. The excavation and renovation of the castle is currently uderway and it is a perfect destination of excursions around Eger.

The Village of Kisnána - Castle
The most well-known attraction of the village is the castle of the Kompolti family, of which the old tower, the gatehouse, the castle walls and the steeple are reminiscence of long-gone days. The castle was most probably built in the 1400s. In the Middle Ages Nána was the manorial centre of the Kompolti family and the castle could have been their residence. A bridge leads us over the moat to the gothic castle ruin which stands on a hilltop in the middle of the settlement. Inside there is a gatehouse, in the castle-yard a small 15th-century church, the ruins of the castle and of the dwelling tower and the visitor can also see a stone collection from the carved stones found on the site of the castle. The castle of Kisnána was never fortified with outer towers or round bastions. Its high and strong walls provided safety against unexpected attacks in the era when mainly arrows and catapults were used.


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