The origins of the Kežmarok castle are associated with the Hungarian Zápolya family, who in the fifteenth century became the owners of a settlement, centered around the church of St. Elizabeth in the forks of Poprad and Ľubica. Construction work began in 1465, when Emeryk Zápolya became the zupan of Spiš. In 1528 the Łask family entered into possession of the castle. Hence, in 1565 Beata Łaska, a wealthy widow of the prince Ostrogski, and then the wife of Olbracht Łaski, a lord of Kežmarok, took the first known in history tourist tour in the Tatras mountains. In that castle, she was later imprisoned by her husband, who at that time let her dowry in revelry around Europe.
By way of various liens and purchases, the castle was given to the Thököly family in 1579. Its four generations were based in the castle, and the disputes between the city and Thökölys came to such a level that street brawls, mutual assaults and acts of vengeance were commonplace. The House of Thököly was the eternal enemy of the Habsburgs, and Imre Thököly, the leader of the great Anti-Habsburg Kuruc uprising of 1672, additionally allied with Turkey in the fight against the Empire. So when the Turks suffered defeat at Vienna in 1683, emperor Leopold I confiscated all Hungarian propertys of Thököly.
During the reign of the first Thököly, the gothic castle was thoroughly rebuilt into a rich, renaissance mansion. On the defensive walls there were attics and sgraffito ornaments. Around 1628, the north-east wing and the gate tower underwent reconstruction, in which the dining room and the living room were arranged. In the years 1657-1658, the former defensive tower was rebuilt into a chapel, which was already preserved in the baroque style. The craftsmen imported from Italy at that time, decorated the interiors of the castle, especially the chapel, with rich stucco work. Probably with their participation also stables were built, east of the palace.
The last owner of the castle was Ferdinand Rüber, from whom in 1702 stronghold was bought by the city. After passing the castle into the possession of the city, its premises were used as a granary, later there were barracks in it, and then various manufactures and workshops. Deprived of comprehensive supervision, the castle was run-down, and several parts of it were destroyed by fires. Already in the second half of the nineteenth century ideas appeared for its use for museum purposes, but only after a partial renovation of the main tower in 1931, the first museum exhibition was opened. In the years 1962-1985 extensive archaeological excavations were carried out at the castle, combined with its thorough conservation.
The castle was erected in the north-eastern part of the town, in the place of the church of St. Elizabeth from the thirteenth century, from which building materials were taken during the works on the stronghold. The gatehouse tower was the first one to be built, and in the following years defensive walls were erected, which were connected with the then existing town walls. In this way, the castle obtained approximately its current shape on the projection of an irregular ellipse. Inside, along the defensive walls, residential and economic buildings were built, including a gothic palace. The oldest ranges were western and north-eastern. In the southern part of the castle, besides the gatehouse, there were two towers: a rectangular and cylindrical eastern tower. The remaining ranges of the walls were shorter, in both were placed one round tower, erected in front of the wall line. Outside the defensive wall ran a low fencing wall with arrowslits and ditch.
The castle has been preserved until the present times in the form of a renaissance-baroque style, but with a clear layout of its original appearance. Currently, it serves museum purposes. The exhibitions presents the development of Kežmarok from its inception to the 1930s against the background of the history of the ruling families. The castle courtyard is available without restrictions, and the exhibitions are visited in organized groups with a guide. Beginning at any full hour from 9.00 to 16.00. From Saturday to Monday there is no entry at 11.00, out of season also at 12:00.
Bóna M., Plaček M., Encyklopedie slovenských hradů, Praha 2007.
Sypek A., Sypek.R., Zamki i obiekty warowne Słowacji Wschodniej, Warszawa 2005.
Wasielewski A., Zamki i zamczyska Słowacji, Białystok 2008.