In the times of the Great Moravia a huge hillfort was built on the hill, and in the eleventh century a stone castle was erected here, which was one of the oldest in Slovakia. From the very beginning it was a royal property, it quickly became the capital of the county and its lease was connected with the dignity of the Šariš zupan. The development of the castle was briefly suspended in 1241, when it was conquered and destroyed by the Mongols. Soon, however, it was rebuilt, or actually built from scratch.
The castle was one of the most important in Hungary, a few royal visits took place in the 13th century. At the end of the thirteenth century, Šariš passed into the hands of the Soos family. At the beginning of the 14th century, they were supporters of Matthew Csák in his conflict with the king, so in 1312 the castle besieged the army of Charles I of Hungary. The first siege was ineffective, however, Šariš fell two years later. The king gave the castle to the knight Nicholas, but after the rebellion of the gentry to which Nicholas joined, Šariš was confiscated and remained in royal hands for over one hundred years. In 1436 it became the property of the Perenyi family, and in the years 1441-1461 it was occupied by the army of John Jiskra. After a long siege, it was captured by the royal army, led by Stefan Zapolya, just before the agreement between Jiskra and the king. Matthias Corvinus later returned it to the former owners.
During Ferdinand’s war with John Zapolya, the then owner of Šariš, Peter Perenyi, kept his neutrality for a long time. However, when he finally turned to the Zapolya side, the castle was besieged and captured by the army loyal to Habsburgs. Like other Perenyi possessions, it was confiscated and for almost a century became a royal property again.
In the sixteenth century, Šariš completely changed its face. Its expansion began even in the times of Peter Perenyi and continued almost until the end of the century. In 1620, Šariš became the property of Rákóczi and from that time it served only as a fortress, because the magnates erected the palace in the town where they lived. In 1660, a powerful explosion in the castle’s powder magazine destroyed the part of the castle. The surviving parts were still used until 1687, when the crew commander ordered them to set on fire. Around the burning castle gathered crowds of the surrounding population, ready to extinguish the fire, but the soldiers did not allow it.
Around 1260, a massive tower with dimensions of 13.2 x 13.2 meters, was erected in the central, flat part. Its interior with a side length of 4.5 meters certainly also had residential functions. Thus the tower had a donjon (keep) character, a height of about 28 meters, a wall thickness of 4.4 meters and entrance at the height of the first floor. A timber bridge led to it, connecting the tower with the sidewalk of defenders on the walls. The central chamber at the height of the first floor was illuminated only by one window, located opposite the narrow entrance. The dark room on the ground floor could only be accessed through the flap on the first floor. Originally, the keep had at least three floors. From the first floor, topped with a rib vault, stairs in the thickness of the wall led to the second floor.
At the beginning of the 14th century, the donjon together with the buildings next to it was surrounded by rectangular circuit of defensive walls with rounded corners. In front of them, a moat was dug and an earth rampart was built. This circumference in the fifteenth century received a small, four-sided tower on the eastern side. On the south – east side, at a certain distance, still in the 13th century, a cylindrical tower was erected, constituting a separate defensive – warning site. Two centuries later it was incorporated into the extensive lower ward circuit.
In the 16th century, the castle was enlarged considerably, a new ring of walls with a height of 10 meters was placed along the edge of the flat top, on the earth ramparts of the old Slavic settlement. The older part of the castle was inside, it kept own independent walls and moat. The extended castle was thus divided in half, and on both sides of the old castle, two courtyards with crew quarters and economic buildings for various purposes were created. The solid outer wall had 13 towers in its line. Their size and shape were different, mostly smaller semi-circular ones, but there were also three square ones in the plan and a large, cylindrical tower in the south, dating back to the 13th century. The castle was additionally protected by an earth ramparts surrounding the entire stronghold, except for a short section west of the gate, where its role was taken over by a vertical rocky cliff. Later, in this place, over the road to the castle, an external cannon bastion was built. The entrance to the walls led through a barbican with a double gate, which was reached on a movable bridge over the still visible moat. In this way, the Šariš Castle with the area of 4,5 ha became one of the largest strongholds of Slovakia, its permanent crew consisted over 200 people.
The castle has been preserved in the form of a ruin. One of the best preserved buildings is the main keep, other buildings are in a much worse condition. The outer, perimeter defensive wall has survived almost the entire length, but today it is much lower and is about 2-3 meters high. All towers of external fortifications have survived. In recent years, the castle is undergoing renovation and rescue works.
Bóna M., Plaček M., Encyklopedie slovenských hradů, Praha 2007.
Wasielewski A., Zamki i zamczyska Słowacji, Białystok 2008.