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BECKOV CASTLE


Beckov Castle is 16 Kilometers south of Trencin at the place where the river Vah (the longest river of Slovakia) finishes its journey through the Trencin's valley and enters the lowlands of Dunaj. I have traveled by Beckov Castle many times on my travels through Slovakia, however I never visited it. I could find many excuses for me not stopping by as weather, time of the day, clouds or not enough time. So I made it a point on this Summer 1997 Journey through Slovakia to visit as many castles as will be possible and not to find any excuses anymore for not visiting. It was in the afternoon; partly cloudy I found the road without any problem.

Beckov Castle lies on a steep 30 meters high rock over the village of Beckov. It is one of the oldest castles of former Hungary and Austro-Hungarian Empire.

The first written records of the castle date back to 1208. It was mentioned together with Trencin, Cachtice and Tematin among the castles protecting the western Hungarian borders in the Vsh Valley.
It first belonged to the King who gave it to his magnates for their services during the wars. In 1388 Duke Ctibor and his sons became the owners of the castle. Soon Ctibor started a massive reconstruction of the entire castle. He built the upper castle with a chapel and made such extensive modifications of the object as a whole that he was many times by mistake, being considered for it's founder. Ctibor was also owner of many large estates all the way from Orava to Modra. From these estates he was earning large income that had enabled him to finance the construction of many gothic buildings in the surrounding towns and villages.
From Ctibor family the castle returned again to the hands of Banffy family and they owned the castle until 1646 when itís male members of the family died out by the sword and the estates passed on to the female descendants and divided between six families.
The upkeep was very expensive, lacking proper maintenance the castle was in rapid decay until 1729 when it burned down and from then on it was deserted.
Visitor to now almost completely restored ruins can still see rich Gothic and Renaissance decorations and also archaeological excavations carried out by the Slovak Institute of State Monument Preservation in Bratislava. They revealed stone water tanks in the upper level courtyard where they stored water from the water well located on the northern side of the bottom level courtyard. They also found a section of a Gothic staircase in the castle chapel, Gothic stone ribs, column capitals and a number of architectural details and elements. Most significant find was the castleís bread baking oven, numerous pieces of ceramic tiles from wooden stoves, pottery and other objects used by the inhabitants of the castle.

First mention of the Beckov village dates back to 1228, situated near parish church, in immediate vicinity of the castle. An independent settlement was gradually developing to the north with fortified walls and it was granted townís privileges during the time of Ctibor's rule.
The prior Jakub Hrasko launched the construction of a Franciscan church and a monastery in 1691 in the center of the town.
For centuries Beckov served as a seat for a number of rural aristocratic families and still now it is one of the major centers of rural gentry architecture in western Slovakia.

The prevailing trades in the village were the draper's and horticulturists. After the castle destruction, the importance of the town below was declining and its character was completely lost after the new railroad line bypassed it. You have read similar story in the article about Spisska Sobota near Poprad. The ruins of the castle and picturesque surroundings however continue to attract thousands of visitors per year from Slovakia and many foreign countries.

Beckov is also a birthplace to several Slovak personalities who contributed to the development of science and cultivation of the national and political life of Slovakia.

Jozef Miroslav Hurban, Slovak writer, editor and leader of the Slovak national movement of 1848 was born here on March 19, 1817. He was the closest associate of Ludovit Stur whose name is connected with each important manifestation of the Slovak national movement in the second half of the nineteenth century.

Painter Ladislav Mednansky was born on April 20, 1852 to a baronís family. His paintings of nature and simple man achieved world recognition. An offspring of the same family Alojz Mednansky was born here on April 20, 1784. He is known for his travel books and collector's work. Many of the songs from his collections have later appeared in Jan Kollar's: "Narodne spievanky" (National Folk Songs).

Well known geologist and phyto-paleontologist was born in Beckov on February 2, 1817 in family of local teacher Jozef Stur. He was one of the first workers and organizers of the Imperial Geological Institute in Vienna, his employer for many years. He carried out geological surveys of many parts of the former monarchy and drew a number of geological maps. In recognition of his great achievements in his field he was appointed to the post of the imperial-royal advisor and later director of the Vienna Imperial Geological Institute.

Physician MUDr. Jan Ambro, renowned scientist was born here on March 27, 1827. He developed reputation for his work in the Hungarian health care system, obstetrics and social care. He was an advocate of a new methods of work in obstetrics and he is the founder of the first ever school for midwifes. He is also an author of several school textbooks.

We shouldn't forget to mention Stefan Pilarik, one of the most important writers of the second half of the seventeenth century who described in his writings the atrocities by the Turks in the territory especially around Beckov area.

The town museum is located at the north end of the town square below the castle in the completely restored manor house of the Ambro family. There is an exposition of the castle's history, community, people, folk art and folk craft. On the upper floor is a display of historic furniture from near by aristocratic residences and manor houses, paintings by Ladislav Mednansky and other historic portraits. The exhibition is complimented with materials on the history of the struggle for and the codification of Standard Slovak language. In the cellar of the manor house there is a display of finds from the castle. Overhang roof covers part of the courtyard and it has a display of agricultural utensils and wagons used during working the fields and in households.

GO TO SLOVAKIA'S CASTLES

Literature: Expozicia dejin Beckova, CSTK Pressfoto Bratislava, Jozef Ondrejka

Published in the Slovak Heritage Live newsletter Volume 5, No. 4, Winter 1997
Copyright © Vladimir Linder 1997
3804 Yale Street, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada V5C 1P6
The above article and photographs may not be copied, reproduced, republished, or redistributed by any means including electronic, without the express written permission of Vladimir Linder
. All rights reserved.