Beckov Castle (Castrum Blundix, Blundus, Blondich) was erected in the 13th century on the site of an earlier timber stronghold. It was one of the many castles located at Váh and guarding river crossings and the borders of the Kingdom of Hungary. Its strength was confirmed by the fact that it was not captured by the Mongols in 1241. Initially, it was in the hands of the Hungarian monarchs, but in 1296 it got into the hands of Matthew Csák, the most powerful of the then Hungarian aristocrats, who rebuilt the castle into his residence and strengthened its fortifications. After the death of Csák in 1321, the castle again became a royal estate and was administered by castellans. According to some sources, in 1379, the castle and Beckov goods received the Bánffy family for their loyal service.
In 1388, the most splendid period in the history of the stronghold began. It was then received by Stibor of Stiboricz, a magnate of Polish descent, the closest and most influential adviser to emperor Sigismund of Luxemburg, calling himself “the lord of the entire Vah river”. He rebuilt castle in the gothic style and added new objects, richly decorated with architectural details and paintings. In 1414 the castle was inherited by his son, Stibor of Beckov, followed by his daughter Catherine. She returned to her home as the wife of Pal Bánffy, whom the king donated the castle in 1437. Beckov remained in their hands until the dying out of the family; the last male representative died in 1594 in one of the battles against the Turks. Earlier, in the 16th century, the castle was additionally fortified and rebuilt in the renaissance style. Thanks to this, the attack of the Ottoman army was repulsed in 1530, and in 1599 castle defended against the Tatars, who managed only to burn the town itself. It was also the last manifestation of the splendor of the castle, which in the seventeenth century was neglected and deserted, and the family property after 1646, when the last descendant of Bánffy was dead, was divided among many heirs.
In 1729, a fire broke out in the town, which moved to the castle and destroyed the interiors and roofs. Not rebuilt, from then on, it was devastateing more and more until only ruins were left. It was not until the 1970s that the ruins were visited by specialists and authorities, extensive archaeological and conservation works were carried out and existing remnants were secured.
The original castle was erected on a limestone ridge, standing out from the surrounding area with steep, inaccessible, high up to about 60 meters high slopes, which provided protection on three sides. On its upper flatten, an irregular but close to the oval perimeter of the defensive wall, with the length of the long sides reaching up to about 100 meters, was placed. Entering it was possible from the only accessible, falling down more mild slopes, the southern side. In the highest, the safest place of the castle, there was a residential building shaped on a trapezoidal plan with dimensions of 16-23 x 10 meters. The second building, probably also of a residential character, was erected on the south-western side. It had a rectangular shape measuring 9 x 21 meters. Apart from it, in the courtyard, before the northern palace, there was still a carved in the rock tank for rainwater.
At the end of the 13th century, the entrance to the castle was secured from the south-east by a four-sided main tower. It stood behind the front wall and probably had the character of begfried, a tower of final defense, flanking the nearby gate. Admission to it was possible through the portal only from floor level. During this period, the outer ward was also fortified, from which a wooden ramp led to the upper castle.
In the 14th century, during the rule of Matthew Csák, it was decided to strengthen the access road to the castle by lengthening the fortifications on the south side, where a four-sided tower was located. The walls of the castle were also extended towards the north-east along the base of the castle’s rock. The aim of this work was to provide protection for the well, located in the northernmost part of the castle, needed for the growing economic base of the castle. These buildings (stables, granaries, stalls, service houses) were attached to the inner walls of the defensive walls of the south-eastern ward.
The upper castle, which occupied the highest part of the rocky hill, was significantly expanded at the end of the 14th century. In its northern part, a two-bay gothic palace (erected from the former one-bay palace) was built, a flourish reminiscent of the royal seats. The buildings were also enlarged by the eastern and southern wings, between which a gate passage to the northern courtyard was placed. Numerous rooms from the side of the courtyard were joined by wooden porches, and the top the buildings were covered by the gable roofs. The demand for water was provided by a new reservoir in the eastern corner, located near the castle chapel. It was orientated towards the sides of the world, with the chancel from the east side ended on three sides, extended to the very edge of the escarpment (for the purpose of its construction, a fragment of the defensive wall from the 13th century had to be demolished). The high interior of the chapel was crowned with a rich rib vault and walls by figural and ornamental polychromes. The southern part of the upper castle did not undergo major changes at that time. Only the west building was rebuilt and the 13th-century bergfried started to serve residential purposes, which caused a new portal at the courtyard level. Also at the end of the fourteenth or the beginning of the fifteenth century, in the middle part of the western curtain was added a small four-sided tower, connecting the northern part of the upper castle with the western palace in the southern part.
At the end of the 14th or at the beginning of the 15th century, the castle was connected with the defensive walls of the town, located in the west. In the second half of the fifteenth century, a horseshoe Tower of Stibor was erected, protruding from the walls of the upper castle on the south-eastern side, and thus controlling the entire courtyard of the south-eastern ward.
The extensions from the second half of the 16th century, apart from the introduction of renaissance elements of architectural decor, led to securing the entrance to the castle by building a barbican in the south-western ward and a gatehouse in the southern part of the upper castle. At the eastern slope, a massive artillery bastion was built on the area of the south – eastern ward.
The castle has been preserved in the form of an impressive gothic-renaissance ruin. It have survived all of main elements such as the north and west palaces, the bergfried tower and two towers from the fifteenth century, or the castle’s chapel, but unfortunately each one in various degrees of damages. After the last revitalization works, it is open to visitors from April to November.
Bóna M., Plaček M., Encyklopedie slovenských hradů, Praha 2007.
Wasielewski A., Zamki i zamczyska Słowacji, Białystok 2008.