The first traces of a man in Devin date back to the fifth millennium BC, and the first defensive elements, later developed by the Celts into a full settlement, were created in the second millennium BC. In the Roman period, on the site of a later castle, there was a Roman border post. The presence of the Romans ended around 400 AD, when Limes Romanus gradually ceased to exist as the northern border of the Roman Empire. The first written historical record about the stronghold itself dates back to 894. At that time it was part of the Great Moravian state. After its fall, Devín was incorporated into the then formed Hungarian state, which became a border fortress. In 1233, the earth – timber stronghold was destroyed as a result of the invasion of the Frederick II, Duke of Austria.
The stone, medieval castle was probably built in the mid-thirteenth century on the site of an older earth-timber stronghold and it still served as a border Hungarian fortress. The first written mention of it appeared in 1271. In 1301, during the crisis after the dying out of the Arpad dynasty, the castle was taken by the Austrian Rudolf, and for this reason for some time royal burgraves changed with the Austrians at the castle. Also in 1411, during the time of Sigismund of Luxembourg, the castle belonged in pledge to the Austrian Hering Lessel. Three years later, it was bought by Nicholas of Gorjan (Gary), during which Devín was rebuilt and expanded. Gothic reconstruction was continued by his son Ladislav and after 1460, when the Svatojur family became the owners of the castle.
In the 16th century, the Bathory family was the lords in Devín. They moved from their lands in Croatia, occupied than by the Turks. In 1527, Turkish armed raid tried unsuccessfully to occupy Devín. Another attack on the castle, this time ended with its capture, was carried out in 1616 by the rebellious vassals of Jan Keglević, and by the army of Gábor Bethlen in 1620 during the anti-Habsburg uprising. To protect Devín, the emperor gave it to the magnate Nicholas Pálffy, whose descendants owned the castle until 1932, when it was bought by Slovaks. In 1809, the castle was blown up by the Napoleonic army and has been a ruin since then. Since 1961, it is available to visitors, but in the 1980s part of castle was closed for political reasons. The border with Austria runs just behind the castle rock and the communist authorities were afraid that someone might try to escape.
The wood and earth stronghold and then the castle were built at the mouth of the Morava River to the Danube, thanks to which it was protected by a water barrier from the west and south. The Great Moravian stronghold occupied a vast area protected by an earth ramparts and a ditch. Its internal buildings were wooden houses and a stone church ended from the east in the shape of a cross with three apses. After the Hungarian conquest, the stronghold still functioned in a slightly more modest form, but some of the single and two-space houses already had stone walls tied with clay mortar. The Great Moravian church had already disappeared at that time, but the inhabitants had a stone rotunda from the 11th century.
The medieval castle had an irregular form, adapted to the shape of the western castle rock. Until recently, it was thought that the oldest medieval building was a six-sided tower, protected from the north-east by a defensive wall and having a small courtyard at the very top of the hill. Probably, however, the upper castle did not initially have a tower, but only a polygonal defensive wall with dimensions of 33 x 25 meters. The wicket gate to its small courtyard was on the north side, and the living quarters were located in modest buildings attached to the inner faces of the perimeter wall. Probably as early as in the 13th century, the small castle was enlarged by a small ward on the north-eastern side, surrounded by its own defensive wall. At the turn of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, another defensive wall was added from the side of this ward, ended at the north-eastern promontory with a four-sided tower with a gate. On the west side, this wall ended at the riverside slopes, by a four-sided tower open from the inside.
In the fifteenth century, Nicholas Garay expanded the east outer bailey (middle castle) which was surrounded by its own defensive walls and secured with a ditch. In its south-eastern corner part a gothic palace called Garayan was built, which had a ground floor and two upper floors. The rooms had flat, beam ceilings, and some were warmed by the fireplaces. Next to the palace, on its west side was a semicircular tower, open from the inside, and the palace itself was probably separated from the outer bailey for greater security. Perhaps its eastern, rounded part also served as a tower, protecting the palace from the rocks at the ditch side. The gate to the middle castle was placed on the north side. A semicircular tower and a foregate preceded it. A wooden bridge led over the dug in the slope ditch. Nicholas Garay also solved the problem of supplying the castle with water, previously relying on an old rainwater tank. In the courtyard of the middle castle, in its lowest place, he ordered to carve into the rock a 55-meter deep well.
The expansion of the lower castle probably began around the mid-15th century during the time of Ladislav Garay. The construction of a stone defensive wall began then, however, due to the excessive costs of works and the large area to be fortified, an old earth rampart from the times of the Great Moravia still functioned on a large part of the site. The entrance to the lower castle led through the western Moravian Gate, north gate and south-east gate. They were all protected by two semiround towers, built in the mid-15th century. Economic facilities have been arranged in the lower castle.
In the 16th century, the middle castle was enlarged by new economic buildings and the gothic-renaissance Bathory Palace. The upper castle was reinforced from the river side with cannon towers and a polygonal watch tower called Virgin or Monk Tower. This enabled better control of the Morava estuary and the road leading at the base of the rock, which was separated by a transverse wall with a gate and a full (without internal rooms) semicircular tower. Probably in the 16th century a pentagonal bastion was also built on the northern side, connected with the fortifications of the lower castle.
At present, on the large, surrounded by a defensive wall and with three gates, the lower castle, there are traces of Roman buildings from the 3rd century and the foundations of the early Moravian church from the 9th century. Near the north gate there are relics of the 15th century watchtower. The middle castle is distinguished by the remains of the Garay and Bathory palace. In the renaissance palace, an exhibition of objects found during excavations was placed. Along the southern section of the wall, only the foundations of economic buildings have been preserved. On the south side you can see the watchtower. The oldest part of the stronghold, that is the upper castle, remains in a state of ruin and is currently unavailable due to reconstruction works carried out in it.
Bóna M., Plaček M., Encyklopedie slovenských hradů, Praha 2007.
Wasielewski A., Zamki i zamczyska Słowacji, Białystok 2008.