The existence of the castle is confirmed in 1321, but it was created a little earlier, probably at the end of the 13th century. Its builders is considered the Balass family, who thanks to its construction could control the Rajčanka River valley and defend the northern border of the Hungarian kingdom. At the beginning of the 14th century, it was taken over by the magnate Matthew III Csák, who sovereignly ruling the western part of today’s Slovakia. After his death in 1321, Lietava was taken over by king Charles I of Hungary, and then by Louis the Great. In 1360, the castle was granted by the king to Stefan Bebek, and his descendants ruled the stronghold for another hundred years.
In 1474, Matthias Corvinus granted the castle, along with all the property to Paul of Kiniza, which resulted in its greatest expansion in the years 1475-1494. The next owners were John Zapolya at the turn of the 15th and 16th centuries and Nicholas Kostka since 1512. The daughter of the Nicholas married a rich nobleman, Francis Thurzo, who is associated with the further development of the castle and rebuilding in the renaissance style. In the 17th century, it became an impregnable fortress in which the Thurzons protected their most valuable possessions during wars and unrest.
In 1616, the Hungarian palatine George Thurzo died, and his only son Imre gone away childless, five years later. The castle became a common property of sisters and daughters. The ownership situation was difficult to regulate and meant that no one wanted to get involved in maintaining the stronghold, so in 1698 it was almost deserted. There was only a family archive here, which in 1760-1770 was moved to the Orava castle. In the nineteenth century, the castle Lietava has already fallen into total ruin.
The original medieval building was limited to the later upper castle, which included a 6×6 meter square tower, incorporated into the perimeter of the defensive wall, separating an irregular courtyard on the north side. The tower had storeys separated by wooden flat ceilings, narrow slit openings and a ladder entrance accessible from the courtyard. The defensive wall was led along rocky cliffs, particularly high on the eastern side. The access road to the castle at the end of the 13th century led from the south, passed under the tower, and then after the wooden bridge reached the portal of the gate leading to the courtyard.
Until the middle of the 15th century new residential buildings were erected on the south and east sides of the inner courtyard. The walls were extended to the east, so that they occupied a characteristic, narrow, placed on a protruding headland corner, which was filled with buildings. A castle chapel was situated there. Since the rebuilding from the end of the 15th century it was crowned with a net vault.
During the great extension of the years 1474–1492, a second, larger courtyard on the west side was added, which initially served as the outer bailey. From the south, it was enclosed by a quadrilateral residential tower, next to which a gate tower was located in the wall. The entrance was preceded by a vast foregate, based on the slope and a residential tower from the east, and a semicircular half tower on the west, next to the gate tower. The defensive wall of the outer bailey was reinforced with a horseshoe tower in the north-west corner, and a second, more elongated in the north-east corner. Both were adapted for the use of firearms. The four-sided residential tower had one room on each floor. They were accessible through a spiral staircase located in the corner of the courtyard. For defensive reasons, the staircase was also connected to the sidewalk in the crown of the defensive wall. To secure the entry road, the upper castle residential buildings were topped with wooden porches, perhaps hoarding. The culmination of the great reconstruction was the digging in the courtyard of the outer bailey of a new well for the functioning of the enlarged castle.
In the first half of the 16th century, the entrance to the castle was changed, moving it to a better protected north side. The old gate was walled up, and the new entrance was located on the opposite side, in the wall flanked by two cannon towers. The horseshoe north-west tower, which has since played a key defensive role at the entrance road, has been thickened. Works on it probably were carried out as early as the second half of the 16th century, when another courtyard called the second outer bailey, or rather the zwinger area on the west and north, was built, through which the entry road was led. In the 16th or early 17th century it was strengthened by the north-eastern small horseshoe tower and two new gate buildings. The road to the upper castle then led through five gates, along the older defensive walls. On the eastern side, a half-round, large wall with a diameter of 25 meters was added in the 16th century.
The castle survived as a ruin in the form of the 15th-17th century with clear elements of the oldest building. Among others a square main tower up to a height of about 14 meters has preserved on the upper castle. In the middle castle, that is the first bailey, in the best condition is a horseshoe tower and a residential and defensive tower. In the worst condition, the lower castle with a defensive tower with two gates has been preserved. Currently, the castle has restoration works, aimed at securing and providing ruins for visitors.
Bóna M., Plaček M., Encyklopedie slovenských hradů, Praha 2007.
Wasielewski A., Zamki i zamczyska Słowacji, Białystok 2008.