Thursday, September 02, 2010

Castles in Medieval Hungary

View of Visegrád

The territory of medieval Hungary was very rich in castles. Castles served as the centers of royal counties, and they were also the centers of noble estates. The first large wave of castle-building took place during the second half of the 13th century, after the disastrous Mongol invasion (1241). It became clear at that time that only a strongly fortified stone castle can stop invaders. A strong line of defence was also built up along the southern frontiers of the country during the 14th-15th centuries, with the intention of stopping the advancing armies of the Ottoman empire. However, the medieval kingdom of Hungary fell at the battle of Mohács (1526), and many castles of the realm became ruined during the ensuing 150 years of wars. Thus many medieval castles survived only as ruins, although there are several well-preserved structures, especially in the northern part of the former kingdom (present-day Slovakia and in Burgenland county of Austria). Transylvania is also rich in castles - there we also find a large number of fortified churches as well.

If you would like to know more about the castles of Hungary, you should visit the website dedicated to documenting these buildings. The website - Castles of Historical Hungary - presents hundreds of castles with photographs, drawings and descriptions. Unfortunately, not much else than the introduction is available in English at present - but you can still browse the list of castles and enjoy the photographs.

The enormous amount of information that appears on this website resulted in a new book, which presents castles in Transylvania (actually, all the regions of the Kingdom of Hungary ceded to Romania at the Treaty of Trianon, in 1920). The book presents a total of 600 castles and fortified churches, with photos and drawings. You can browse sample pages here and order the book here (it is actually unclear to me whether they would ship the book abroad or not).

Here is the bibliographic record for the book:

Ákos Karczag - Tibor Szabó: Erdély, Partium és a Bánság erődített helyei - Várak, várkastélyok, városfalak, templomvárak, barlangvárak, sáncok és erődítmények a honfoglalástól a 19. század végéig (Fortified places in Transylvania, Partium and the Bánság - Castles, forts, town walls, fortified churches and other fortifications dating from the Hungarian conquest to the end of the 19th century). Budapest: Semmelweis Kiadó, 2010. Hardback, 758 pages. ISBN: 9789639879607

Finally, I would like to post of a few of my own photos of Hungarian castles and fortified churches here.

Visegrád, Upper and Lower castle by the Danube

Visegrád, Upper Castle
Léka (Lockenhaus, Austria)
Léka, the great hall

Berethalom (Birthalm, Biertan, Romania), fortified church

Szászhermány (Honigberg/Hărman, Romania), fortified church

Siklós castle

Siklós, facade of the chapel inside the courtyard

Krasznahorka (Krásna Horka, Slovakia)

You can find all these, and many more at the Castles in Hungary website.


  1. Hi!

    I know a good book series. Several castles in the country presents. Also provide very much information. Very good I think.

  2. Dear Zsombor,
    This article (and the entire blog) is very interesting. Would it be possible to translate it in French, with your permission, to share it on our website, with some pictures of yours ? Of course we'll mention your signature.
    I am in charge of a french medieval magazine "Histoire et Images médiévales", published since 1999, and we deal about various subjects related to medieval period.
    On our site, we present some (short) contributions on original topics and specialities.
    Congratulations for your website in all cases.
    Yours faithfully,
    Frédéric Wittner.

  3. Dear Frederic,
    Ok, let me know the details in an email: jekely(at)

  4. If you want see castle-land, travel to South Tyrol. The ruins in Slovakia and pseudo-castles of Hungary in connection with mentioned region are as hills of sand!