Muráň – castle

History

   The first stone castle was built on a rock, providing insight into the river Muráň valley, probably shortly after the Mongol invasion of 1241. It was erected as a royal foundation of Bela IV, controlling the trail through the Slovak Ore Mountains to the Spiš and further to Poland and securing local iron ore minesDue to its location on a hilly and inaccessible mountain, it is also possible that it served as a refuge. The first notice of the castle, in which it is mentioned as Castrum Movran, dates from 1271.
   In royal hands, the castle was not long, Stephen V of Hungary gave it to land judge Mikulás from the Monoszlo family. At the end of the thirteenth century, at the end of the Arpad dynasty, when the strength of the noble oligarchs grew, the castle could pass under the rule of Matthew Csák. There is no information about Muráň from this troubled period, it is only known that in 1321, when Csák died and his rule fell, the castle was described as destroyed. It could, however, be the effect of abandoning, not military operations. It was probably rebuilt during the reign of Charles I of Hungary, although confirmed information dates back only to the beginning of the fifteenth century, when it was in the hands of the Ratold family. Their representatives, and specifically the branch from Jelšava, in the second half of the 14th century, ran an intensive settlement activity in Gemer region, but they did not care for the castle and did not pay attention to it.
   
In the 40s of the 15th century the army of John Jiskra took over the meaningless, and perhaps even abandoned castleHe was on the service of Queen Elizabeth, who fought along with the Habsburg followers with Władysław Jagiellończyk, who was chosen to be the king of Hungary. At that time the castle was enlarged and became one of the largest in Upper Hungary. After the withdrawal of Jiskra’s army, the castle was taken over by a post Hussite rebels called bratrzycy. In 1461 it was recaptured on behalf of king Matthias Corvinus by Štefan Zápolya, thanks to which he was able to incorporate Muráň into the family estate. Just before 1500, the Zápolya family donated the castle to their supporter, Jacob Tornaly. In their times, at the end of the 15th and the first half of the 16th century, the castle was significantly expanded.
  
In 1528, after the death of his father, the four-year-old John Tornaly became the owner of the castle. The legal guardian of the minor heir, Maciej Bašo, sent the boy to Poland and, together with his brothers, took over the castle, making it a nest for robbery activities, covering the entire Gemer region. It was not until 1548, after a long siege, that the castle from the hands of the knights robbers was recaptured by graf Nicholas from Salm. The stronghold was then incorporated into the property of the royal goods, and for fear of the Turkish threat it was staffed with a strong garrison. In 1600, the emperor Rudolf II gave the castle to his favorite Johann from Rottal, but already in 1612, the castle together with the feudal “state” Muráň bought for 100,000 zlotys Thomas Szèchy, the main zupan of Gemer. After him the castle was ruled by his son George, and after the death of George in 1625, one of his sons-in-law, Illeshazy.
  
The most famous figure in the history of the castle was Maria Szèchy, daughter of George. Beautiful and intelligent, called “Venus of Muráň “, was at first a loyal ally of the emperor Ferdinand Habsburg. In 1644, she gained power over the castle from the hands of her brother-in-law Illeshazy, who was on the side of the insurgents of George Rakoczi, and then married Francis Wesselényi, commander of the fortress in Fiľakovo. In 1655, Wesselényi became a palatine of Hungary, and in 1666 he became the head of the anti-Habsburg conspiracy of Hungarian magnates. After his unexpected death, “Venus of Muráň” defended the castle for 4 years. Castle was finally conquered by the army of Charles V of Lorraine in 1670. This date marks the end of the “golden era” of the stronghold.
  
In 1678 and 1683 it was taken twice by Emeryk Thököly, the leader of the great anti-Habsburg Kuruc insurrection. After its final fall in 1688, the castle was taken over by the royal commissioners
Christopher Breiner and Paul Medňanský. In 1710, the castle was taken over by Francis II Rakoczi, and then he was given it to his general Mikuláš Berčenyi. In 1720, the emperor Charles VI Habsburg donated the castle together with the neighboring estates as a reward for loyal service to Stefan Koháry. In 1760, the stronghold burned down and began to deteriorate, the damages were never repaired. In 1816, the ruins passed into the hands of the Coburg-Kohara dukes, who were the owners of the castle until 1945.

Architecture

   The oldest, gothic buildings were erected in the southern part of the lonely Cigánka Hill (935 meters above sea level), on its rocky ledge. A residential tower measuring 11 x 8 meters was located there (the internal space on the first floor was 5.6 x 8.8 meters). The thickness of its walls was not too big and was about 1 meter. Next to it was a tank, carved in the rock, supplying residents with rainwater. It was covered by a one-story building on a four-sided plan. At that time, the protection of the castle was a rock-cut dicht, about 7-8 meters wide, separating the stronghold from the rest of the hill. This remaining part of the hill probably already in the 14th century was used as an economic outer ward.
   The rebuilding of the castle from the 15th century caused its extension to the area of ​​almost 2.5 ha. The defensive walls of the castle surrounded the entire hill top, adjusting to the terrain configuration. They were not high due to standing over several dozen kilometers cliffs, but were provided along the entire length of the sidewalk for defenders and battlement, supplemented in some places with shooting holes for firearms on the ground levelAt the turn of the fifteenth and sixteenth century, it were additionally strengthened by three semicircular towers. One was on the west side and two in the eastern part of the fortification. The entrance gatehouse, preceded by wide stairs carved in the rock, was located on the south-western side. It was guarded by a four-sided gate tower behind which there was a small courtyard, and then walls in a form of a barbican, flanked by another quadrilateral tower measuring 8.7 x 8.7 meters, behind which the guard building was located. In the northern part of the castle there was another tower with an elevator for transporting heavy loads to the castle hill.
In the first half of the 16th century, at the time of Zápolya family, apart from a smaller buildings, a large two-bay palace was erected.

Current state

   Currently, the best preserved elements of the castle are the square northern tower and the entrance gate. The remaining, few relics of buildings are lost among bushes and trees. Of them, the main residential house in the central part and the southern part, adjoined to the defensive wall, has been best preserved. In the southern, oldest part of the castle, a viewing platform has been set up. In addition, considerable sections of the defensive wall have been preserved.

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bibliography:
Bóna M., Plaček M., Encyklopedie slovenských hradů, Praha 2007.
Bóna M., Tihányiová M., Najstaršie vyobrazenie hradu Muráň, “Pamiatky Mureň” 2, 2015.
Janura T., Tihányiová T., Šimkovic M., Hrad Muráň z pohľadu najnovšieho archívno-historického a architektonicko-historického výskumu [w:] Najnovšie poznatky z výskumov stredovekých pamiatok na Gotickej ceste – Zborník Gotická cesta 2/2016, Bratislava 2018.

Wasielewski A., Zamki i zamczyska Słowacji, Białystok 2008.