The History of Bojnice Castle and its Nobility


Bojnice Castle is one of the oldest and most remarkable of Slovak fortresses. It stands on a travertine hill towering over the own of Bojnice. The first written mention of the existence of this former fortress goes back to 1113 from the Zobor Abbey scrolls. In this Latin written document, King Koloman confirms the property of the Benedictine monastery Saint Hypolite in the Upper Nitra region. The inhabitants of Bojnice are referred to the rein as extramutal "suburb" settlers, the warm springs rerferred to as hot "feridus fons" spas, and the town of Prievidza as "preuga".

The initial fortress was constructed of wood having evolved from an older Slavonic fort. Throughout the course of the 13th century, the forth was gradually transformed into a stone structure, most probably as the prperty of the Poznanovec lineage. The conversion meant the reorganisatin of the defence system of the country following the Tartar invasions. The external walls were joined to the irregularities of the rocky terrain, creating an uneven outline with broad fortifications. The fort contained a palace, living quarters, with a defensive tower being likely too. A water moat was created around it, with the access road spiralling upwards as it would round the fortress. This crossed the moat somewhere along the south-western flank coming out onto the travertine terrace, probably at the point where the equestrian steps to the third courtyard end today. The outcome today of building activities of the time is preserved elongated oval outline of the central living sections of the fort, going around the small courtyard that houses the well.

At the end of the 13th century, Bojnice was forcefully taken by the Hungarian magnate Matúš Cák Trenciansky, with the fort remaining in his hands until his death in 1321. As Hungarian palatine, he received the Bojnice estate by deed of donation in 1302 from the Czech King Václav II. This was presented as a reward for supporting King Václav II. In the battle over Hungarian crown with Karol Róbert of Anja.

Bojnice fort and estate were the property of the crown. The king would them put up as a pledge or proffered priviledge of inheritance to allegiant magnates. Such was it following the death of Matúš Cák in 1321. At that time, Mikuláš Gileth was presentad with Bojnice by King Karol I. for services rendered. Gleith was cited as Bojnice castellan and later as Hungarian palatine. during his absence, the fort was ruled by his sons Mikuláš and Ján. Following the Gileths the property pertaining to the Bojnice estate took on greater proportions The town of Bojnice rose up under the fort, with it receiving town status on the basis of "krupin" right. The privileges of township were confirmed by King Louis I.

During te reign of Louis I., more exactly from 1367, the hungarian palatine earl Ladislav Opolský is recorded as being the owner of the fort. His possesion of the fort was short lived however, with the other more distinguished owners of the period not being known. At that time, Bojnice once more became the property of the crown with administration being entrusted to less significant trustees.

Since 1395, the palatinate Leustach de Illava became the owner of the estate. He was also not in possesion of the fort for long, as he fell at Nikopol in the battle against the Turks in 1396. His ons Peter and Juraj inherited Bojnice, and as Peter soon died, this left Juraj as sole surviving owner. The Leustachs represented the principal support for King Žigmunt in the fight against the Hussites. Their reward was expansion of Bojnice estate, its developement and even creation of an independent parsonage in Bojnice in 1397. Juraj Leustach died in 1430 without heirs, and so the fort once more fell to the crown.

King žigmund then presented Bojnice to the sons of Bard Nofry - Leonard, Valent and Jacob. The Nofrys proved to be an even greater support for the monarchy in the anti-Hussite campaigns than the Leustachs. The complacement Hussite raids were very often directed at the upper Nitra. In 1432 they even destroyed Prievidza, but the bojnice fortress proved unconquerable for them as the old fortification had already been repaired by this time. The nofrys were skilful politicians and diplomats. On one hand they supported King Žigmunt, while on the other hand they maintained amicable relations with Ján Jiskra. They later joined the followers of the Hungarian palatine Ján Hunady. The Nofrys assisted both sides, but above all put themselves in first place, using their influence to increase their assets and reinforce their power in their own territories. In 1485, the last male heir of the Norfy lineage died, and so the estate of Bojnice once more fell to the king. Over the next four years, administration of the property was entrusted to the Liptov Governor Matúš Czece.

It was in 1487 that King Matej Korvín betrothed his son Ján to Blanka Sforzov. Among other gifts, he ppresented him Bojnice fort, which ján elected as his seat and occupied it. According to hearsay, King Matej himself took great pleasure in visiting Bojnice and would sit under the lime tree opposite the entrance to the fort, this being called the King Matej lime tree by cosequent generations. In this shade, he would dictate official letters beginning: " Sub nostris dilectis tilliis Bojniciensibus"-"Under our favourite Bojnice lime tree".

Following the death of King Matej in 1490, the fortresses of Prince Ján Korvín, including that of Bojnice, were under the jurisdiction of the royal cashier bishop Urban Dóczy, who collected pertinent charges to his own pocket. Ján korvín therefore decided to replace the Bojnice vice-castellan Raphael Majthény with Peter Póky. He was not aware however, that he had gone from the frying pan into the fire so to speak. Poky turned out to be a person with very low nature, willing to convert the enemy for money and even betray his own master.e handed the fort over to Štefan Zápolský, and even went so far that he planned murdering Ján Korvín himself. Under the influence of dirty intrigue, Ján Korvín acknowledged occupation of Bojnice by zápolský, but accused Poky with treason before King Vladislav II. Póky was sentenced to death and his execution by being drawn and quartered on Saint George square in Budín in 1496 was made public.

Bojnice fort belonged to zápolský from 1494 until 1526. During this period a mighty castle fortification was built, construction of which commenced already during the period when Ján Korvín was the owner of the fort. This system of forification has remained preserved in the walling together with the defensive towers up till the present day. Internal castle walls interrupted at regular intervals by four towers were added to the entrance gate with drawbridge. Currently, external fenced fortifications were built too. The access road to the fort already led along the moat at the time to the northern edge of the new entrance tower. Even today, the grooves for the falling lattice used for closing the gate , have been preserved in the walls till today.

Following the death of his father Štefan, the ambitious and immensely rich Ján zápolský endeavoured with all his might to gain the Hungarian Royal Crown form himself. After the catastrophic defeat of the Hungarian troops by the Turks At Mohác in 1526, Hungaria remained without a king. It was Ján Zápolský and ferdinand I. Habsburg who fought over the vacated throne. Both of them were crowned as king, their power struggle continuing for ten years, with battles mostly taking place in the territory of Slovakia. Alexej Thurzo fought on the side of Ferdinand I., while Ján Zápolský once again joined forces with the Turks. In 1527, the armies of Ferdinand I. forced Zápolský to retreat to the east of Slovakia. Thus, Zápolský lost Bojnice together with other estates.

In 1528, King Ferdinand I. presented the Bojnice estate to his faithful follower Alexej Thurzo from Betlanoviec. Thurzo was one of the richest of Hungarian nobles, holding many a high function in the country end even maintaining his own army. His army excelled in battles against the Turks and Zápolský, as the Turks mainly attacked Thurzo`s property. This happened for the first at Christmas in 1530. At that time , they burned down the town of Bojnice, although were unable to conquer the fort. The consequences of further Turkish expansion were felt by the subjects of Thurzo`s estates in 1599, when apart from the Bojnice estates they once more razed Nitrianske Pravno. In 1604 a different kind of calamity swept throug the land: the armies of the Sedmohrad prince Štefan Bockaj and then for a "change", the imperal mercenary Gneral Basta. Later in 1623, the army of Gabriel Bethlen ravaged the whole area of Bojnice once more.

The turbulent years of the 16th and 17th centuries were a period of permanent threats from the Turks, anti-Habsburg period insurrection, period refrmation and consequent anti-reformation. From 1564, the Thurzos became the sympethisers became the sympathisers and principal representatives of reformatin in Slovakia. In fact, Juraj Thurzo was elected as Hungarian palatine in 1609 as the first Protestant to hold the function.

The great wealth of his family came about mainly as a result of lucrative trade with metatals. At the break of the 15th and 17th centuries, the thurzos controlled the production of precios metals in Hungaria and together with the Fuggers they had a monopoly status on the world martket with copper. Evn the town of Bojnice witnessed a great economic boom under their reign. They held marketing rights in the 15th century already and in the 16th century, trade with saltin Bojnice took on an european character. The significance of the town and fort rose even more following the division of Hungaria by the Turks into two parts in 1541. At that time, Bojnice stood at the junction between Vienna and Sedmohrad.

The Thurzos paid great attention also to building up the fort. They repaired and converted it into a comfortable renaissance seat. In this way, the original Gothic fort adopted the character of a renaissance castle with equally high living quarters grouped around the internal courtyard. It soon showed however, that not even a complete conversion of the central fortress could satisfy the high demand of the Thurzos for accomodation. It was such a reason, that at the break of the 16th and 17th centuries they began to build another two accomodation wings in the fore-castle. Apart from building activities on the fort, vivacious building work was intense also at the Bojnice spa, where the Thurzos had two new baths be constructed. One of them was with cooled water for the nobles, and the other with hot water for the common people.

After the death of te Thurzo lineage in 1636, the fort became the property of the throne once more. One year later in 1637, Emperor Ferdinand III. gave the Bojnice estate to Pavol Pálffy by pledge for two hundered thousand pieces of gold. In the end, the Pálffys acquired hereditary tenure to Bojnice in 1643. The Pálffys were among the chief supporters of the Habsburg dynasty in Hungaria in the 16th century already. They held distinguished military and political functions. They became prominent in the battles againstthe Turks and mutinous Hungariannobles. They were also uncompromising sympathies of re-Catholicism on their own estates. Where Bojnice is concerned, this was mainly down to Francesca Khuben, widow of Pavol Pálffy, who abolished the rights of the evangelists. She did it in such a throrough manner that in the records accounting people in the Bojnice estate from 1678, there was not one evangelist mentioned.

After 1643, a building fever once more possesed Bojnice, and the fort received its baroque appearance. In this stage of building, they did not account too much with the old stone of the fort recieved its baroque appearance. In this stage of building, they did not account too much of the old stone of the fort. The living quarters and representational rooms were conclusively moved to the fore-castle. Upon implementing such redevelopment, the two sides flanks that the Thurzos had begun were utilised. One of the flanks connects the tower of the central fort with today`s four-sided tower. The other one makes up the so-called Hunady wing with its large hall through two floors. The original circular courtyard was thus divided into two halves thereby creating today`s castle courtyard. The first courtyard was surrounded by administrative and commercial buildings. At the same time, they introduced the new low front gate entrance tower with baroque portal. This part of reconstruction has also been preserved till the present day. Building activity on the fort diminished following the death of Pavol Pálffy in 1653. After the death of her husband, Francesca Khuen finished off the chapel and had it consecrated in 1659. Work on other sections of the fort continued until the 1680`s, or they were never finished.

Even in the second half of the 17th century, the territory of th upper Nitra was not saved from other disasters, Turkish raids, attacks of rebellious troops of Sedmohrad Prince Juraj Rákoci and looting by mercenaries of the Kuruc armies Imrich Thokoli. The strong walls of the fort continually resisted. in this period the town of Bojnice itself already had its own rock fortification. In 1703, the fort was undr siege for eight months and its garrison eventually had to surrender to the troops of Francesco Rákoci II. It was only after four years that the fort was seized back by the Imperial General Ján Pálffy.

After a long period of stagnation and decadence, in 1852 Bojnice estate together with the fortress was aquired by the castle`s last owner - Count Ján František Pálffy. In October 1822, františek Pálffy, the father of Ján was forced to legally freez all of his properties in Slovakia due to debts.

Following his death his idebted properties were conferred to his son Ján, who managed to pay off the debts and liberate the legally frozen properties.

Ján Pálffy was a distinguished private collector, with his collector`s enthusiasm far reaching that of a local character. This proven by the fact that after his death in 1910, experts assesed the value of his property at 90milion Slovak koruna.