History of the Uzhhorod Castle

Uzhhorod castle is the oldest and the most imposing building of modern Uzhhorod. The fortification is located on the top of a volcanic hill in a very suitable place.

The castle and the town had the name Ung, Ungvar over a long period of historical time and till the end of the First World War. The last one consists of two parts: ‘Ung’- the word of Turkic origin, ‘water’, ‘river’ and ‘var’ – ‘fortification, castle, fortress’ from Hungarian. Thus, the name Ungvar is read as ‘Ung castle’ or ‘Castle on the river’. A modern name Uzhhorod is comparatively young. It appeared in the XIX c, but it became an official one only after the First World War.

According to the archaeological finds, the slopes of the Castle Hill were the place of settling for people during many Millennia. A fortified settlement appeared in the X c, and it became later the centre of Ung comitat. In spring 1241, in the period of Mongol and Tatar expansion, the fortification of Uzhhorod was apparently destroyed, but a few years later (1248) a ‘new’ castle Ung was already mentioned. The same fortune overtook the last one (1317).

From the beginning of 14 c. and almost during the whole 15 c. Uzhhorod castle was not mentioned in the written sources. The announcement about Ungvar castellum arose only in 1499 in one of those times deeds. It belonged to the Italian family of French origin Counts Drugeth.

After the collapse of Hungary (1526) Uzhhorod castle got into the zone, where the political interests of Habsburgs and Transylvania Princedom were in common. As a result, the castle was repeatedly yielded to siege, gun-fires and storms (1558, 1564, 1644, 1679, etc).

Imre Tekely, the leader of kuruts, executed the last representative of Drugeth male (Gyordy Drugeth) in Kosice, in 1684. A bit later the castle changed hands. The owner became count Miklos Bercheni, Kristina Chaky husband (1692). The last one transformed Uzhhorod into the centre of cultural and social political life of Northern Hungary. A large library of Bercheni, a considerable archive and a painting collection prove the fact. During the war of Independence of 1703-1711 Uzhhorod castle, as well as Mukachevo castle, became the centre of rebels, under the leadership of Ferenc II Rakoczi, whereas Miklos Bercheni became the first assistant of Ferenc II Rakoczi. Ferenc II Rakoczi has repeatedly been to Uzhhorod Castle. In 1707 he spent almost the whole year receiving foreign ambassadors here. After a short storm in spring 1711, the castle was occupied by imperial army and the military garrison settled down here. In 1728 it was almost completely destroyed by fire. From 1735-1740 Baron Ferenc Gyulai owned the castle. It became the Treasury after his death. In 1775 Maria Theresa, being asked by Bishop Andriy Bachynskyy, altered the castle to Mukachevo Greek-Catholic Episcopacy. They turned it into the theological seminary, which existed in the castle until 1947. The Transcarpathian Museum of LOcal History has been in the castle since 1947 and up to now.

Uzhhorod castle was built on the rock of volcanic origin. It is protected by precipitous slopes of the hill and high walls from the north, and there is a deep, dry moat on the other three sides. As to the form, the castle is irregular, a bit stretched, quadrangle with one bastion of an Old Italian type in every corner. It is a typical building for the epoch of the late Renaissance. A three-storied palace with four bastions, an inner yard and a well (over 40 m deep) are on the highest place of the castle courtyard.

The castle was repeatedly rebuilt during its history. The first reliable sources about building labour in Uzhhorod castle refer to 13-18 c. and they are connected with the name of Istvan Drugeth. It is that time, when the palace building was almost finished in 1598, as the engraved date on the front of the main entrance to the castle and Drugeth’s family coat of arms testify. The castle was considerably fortified during 17 c. Modern walls and bastions of the castle (except for one) were built in 1653-1658. A bit later, but until 1691, one more bastion was completed to the main’construction from the north side. In 1692, when the owner of the castle became Miklos Bercheni, it was in a very neglected condition. A new owner did a lot to fortify its walls and tidy the palace up. The last changes in the castle were done under the leadership of an architect Stubich in 1709-1710. Loggia with arcades in inner courtyard of the palace was built at that time.

Windows, doors, stairs, tiled stoves, etc. were changed. The castle was surrounded by luxury gardens. One of them- the Flower garden- reminded French parks.

The castle was damaged by fire in 1728. Reconstruction was done only in ten years time. Ferenc Gyulai put all his efforts and money to restore it to its former appearance.

Changes also took place after it had been transferred to Mukachevo Episcopacy. At the close of 18 c. a two-storied apartment was completed to the east tower of the palace and a bit further, under the walls and economic structures.

Nowadays, as well as in old times, the palace is the most attractive part of the castle. Apart of the very architecture, the mural decorations of the former chapel of the theological seminary were done by Ferdinand Vidra in 1857 worth notice.

One can see the ruins of the Catholic Cathedral of 14 c. in the southern east. Uzhhorod Church Union was taken here on 24 April 1646. For a long time the Cathedral basements were urial place for the members of Drugeth family, and later on for Barkoczi, Sennyei and Oroszi families.

Wonderful works of local iron founding art of the middle of 19 c. one can see on the castle courtyard: ‘Hercules and Lernaean hydra’ and ‘Hermes resting’.

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