Uhrovec was founded at the beginning of the second half of the 13th century as a refuge in the event of another Mongol invasion. Hence its location – among the mountains, away from cities and trade routes. The castle was built with the consent of king Bela IV, by Trenčín zupan Basa. In 1295, the new zupan and Hungarian palatine, Matthew Csák, demanded that Peter, son of Basa, hand over the castle and several villages belonging to him. In return, he offered three small villages in Tekov region. Peter had the choice to agree to the transaction or to resist and die. That is how Csák created his dominium. Uhrovec remained in his hands until his death in 1321. In the same year, the royal army led by Nicholas Gut-Keled captured four important castles on the way from the Upper Nitra Basin to Trenčín, whereby the crews in Oponice and Uhrovec surrendered without a fight. The castle was confiscated and became a royal property.
In 1398 Uhrovec was given to Stibor of Stiboricz. At that time, it was the center of a great estate, encompassing 21 villages and towns, including nearby Banovce. After the Stibor family died in 1434, the castle returned to the king. Sigismund gave it to his wife, queen Barbara. Five years later, the new king, Albert II of Germany, took away estate from Barbara and handed over to his wife, queen Elizabeth. In the next decade, the owner of Uhrovec was Pograncz from Mikulas, after him the owners or tenants changed many times. That is why the castle remained somewhat neglected until the early thirties of the sixteenth century, when Peter de Zylagy took it. At the end of the sixteenth century, the facility was already well prepared for defense, according to the census of 1572 there were 24 cannons, adequate stocks of cannon balls and 32 tons of gunpowder. Peter de Zylagy died without without progeny, after him the castle was taken over by Francis Zay.
In 1570, his estates was divided among several sons who built a palace in Uhrovec. Since then, the castle began to lose its importance as a magnate residence. In the restless 17th century, it served as a shelter, the local nobility deposited their valuables, acts of land assignments and property of the estates in it, and in the event of greater danger, they protected themselves in castle. Located far away from important cities and trade routes, it was not besieged by Hungarian insurgents. The Zay family was divided into several lines, and although the castle remained their common property, there was no one to pay for its maintenance and expansion. Throughout the eighteenth century, the building slowly fell into a ruin, the only residents were a vestigial crew. After the fire in 1848, it was finally abandoned. Although the vast majority of the castle walls were preserved, at the end of the 20th century they were already in a state of advanced destruction. The first cleaning work began in 1998.
The original castle was built on a steep rock, had the shape of a triangle and covered the area of the later upper castle. Eastern, the most inaccessible top of the triangle was the romanesque chapel, the north-west top was a four-storey defensive tower, and from the south-west there was a gate tower. Other buildings were added to the perimeter walls. In the time of Stibor, or slightly earlier, the defensive walls were significantly raised, and the buildings around the courtyard were subjected to far-reaching reconstruction.
In the first half of the 16th century, today’s lower castle was built, which stood on the west side, on a lower, large, rock ledge. The whole object has increased the area almost twice, maintaining the shape of a triangle. Access to the lower castle was defended by two corner towers and a drawbridge over a moat carved into the rock. Its courtyard was larger and had looser, partly wooden buildings. In the same century, a new, renaissance palace was added to the southern wall, and at the turn of the century a large, brick, economic building. The entrance to the upper castle led through a narrow gate, built into a solid, four-storey, trapezoidal tower.
The castle survived in the form of a well-preserved ruin, and the reconstruction and renovation works will further increase its attractiveness. Currently, it can be visited without restrictions, but in the future the admission will probably be limited to specific days and hours.
Bóna M., Plaček M., Encyklopedie slovenských hradů, Praha 2007.
Wasielewski A., Zamki i zamczyska Słowacji, Białystok 2008.