HOUSE IN BETLIAR
The history of the Manor
house in Betliar is very closely connected with two well-known
Transylvanian-Hungarian land-holding aristocratic families: the Bebeks and the
Andrassys. In the 15th century, the Bebek family laid the foundation for it.
Later, at the beginning of the 18th century, it became the residence of the
During the WW II the manor
house was untouched, none of the furnishings had been stolen or vandalized and
after the War, it became the property of the state. Due to centuries of
collecting by Leopold, Emanuel and Gejza Andrassy, the collection has
Collection of home
furnishings and accessories from the 16th to 19th century is of immense value.
There are numerous paintings, the majority of which are portraits of the
family and of Hungarian aristocrats, as well as pictures of a historical,
genre or religious nature. There is a priceless collection of hunting rifles
and combat weaponry as well as the collection of medals. Useful, every-day
objects in the collection include historical glass, clocks, ceramics,
porcelain, silver tableware sets and other items.
The character of the interior
has been kept intact with its authentic furnishings reflecting the original
tastes of the Andrassy family. The last large-scale reconstruction had
occurred in 1882-1886, when the manor house was completely reconstructed.
Complete renovation became possible when, in 1985, the Slovak government
decided to declare the entire area of the Betliar Manor house including the
surrounding park as well as its rare artistic and historical collection a
National Cultural Monument. The Manor house was reopened on May 21st, 1994 on
International Museum Day.
Betliar, as an estate, is one
the oldest settlements in Upper Gemer region. The first written records of the
community date back to 1330. In 12th century the people were involved in
mining due to the rich deposits of iron ore situated in Gemer's Ore Mountains.
Betliar's population was originally engaged in mining. They were also involved
in tub production and the manufacture of special wooden trough-shaped carts,
which were used to transport the ore. The expansive area of the Gemer region
was a royal property. Later, loyal supporters and members of the kingís
retinue were granted sizable portions of his domain.
THE BEBEKS IN
The Bebeks came from the old
land-holding Akos family. In 1241, the brothers Ditrich and Philip took part
in battles against the Tartars and managed to help the king Bela IV escape and
thus, save his life. In 1243, the king richly rewarded them with a sizable
area along the Slana River, which included an area of Gemer from Dobsinna
to Turna. Until that time, Betliar, along with Krasna
Horka, had belonged to the Brzotin nobility.
After 1320, the Bebeks
divided their large property. They created the Plesivec branch, which was
established by Dominic and the Stitnik (Csetneky) branch, established by
Ladislav. The Plesivec branch, in particular the descendants of Dominic Bebek,
were instrumental in the development of Betliar.
The first half of the 14th
century didn't only see the creation of new castles for the Bebek nobility (Plesivec,
Kamenany and Krasna Horka), but the development of towns as well. In
1326, under provisions of the Krupina Town Charter, the Bebeks founded the
mining town of Dobsina. Two years later, they were granted charter rights
for Plesivec and Stitnik and in 1330, they arrived at the mining estate of
The economic prosperity of
the region earned high distinction for the Bebek family. They held a number of
important feudal posts. For example, they served as zhupans (district
administrators) in Heves (1346) and in Liptov (1351) as well as royal court
advisers and judges. George Bebek was lord of the castle at Makovic and
Ditrich became a palatine. Systematically, they became among the elite at the
royal court. One of them even served as archbishop of Kaloc.
The Bebeks became the
absolute rulers of Gemer and gradually, became one the most powerful Hungarian
feudal families. At this time, the Krasna Horka Castle became their seat as
it was high on the hill and had fortified walls and was easy to defend.
The Turkish invasion of
Hungary turned Gemer into a border territory. It marked a new period for
Francis Bebek in his relationship with the rulers. In 1554, the Turks occupied
the Filakovo castle, which belonged to the Bebek family. Francis Bebek
decided to take back the castle from the Turks. When he found out that the
king had agreed to hand over Filakovo, he defected to the opposing side
and went on a rampage, destroying royal property. For his treachery, in 1556,
Francis, together with his son, was sent into exile and stripped of his
property. He fled to Transylvania, where he lived in the court of John Sigmund
until 1558, when he was murdered. His son George decided to stay home. Soon
thereafter, in 1556, he was pardoned by the king and got the family
possessions back. He fought in the emperorís army against the Turks, but he
failed to win the complete confidence of the court. Furthermore, he was
suspected of having been appointed by John Sigmund to organize a revolt
against the king. His fate and the fate of his entire family were then forever
sealed. By order of the emperor, his property was confiscated again and he
left for Transylvania, where he died in 1567. He left no descendants and thus,
the Bebek family line died out by sword. The death of George ended more than
two centuries of Bebek family rule in Gemer. The Bebek's property was
transferred to the emperor's court and was administered by castle captains. In
1578, the first of the Andrassys arrived serving as Krasna Horka castle
The Andrassys came from the
Transylvanian community of Csik-Szentkiraly. Peter Andrassy, the son of an
army commander, participated in the 1575 Habpsburg Uprising in Bekes against
Prince Stefan Bathory. As a result, he was forced to flee Transylvania and
came to Hungary. At first, he served as a castle captain at the fortress in Komarno
(1577). From there, he was chosen to be the castle captain at Krasna
(1578). Betliar and another 23 communities were under the Krasna Horka
domain. Peter Andrassy intensively looked after not only the castle garrison,
but the entire estate as well. In 1585, Emperor Rudolf granted Peter Andrassy
a ten-year lease on the property and was granted 80,000 Gulden to cover
operating expenses. Along with the title of castle captain, the emperorís
court held out the possibility that his descendants could inherit the castle
later on. This state of affairs ended up lasting nearly fifty years.
Peter's sons Mathew I and
John I continued trying to earn the right to inherit the Krasna Horka
estate. Upon their early death, the administration of the castle fell to Peterís
energetic wife, and was then passed on to her grandson Mathew II, who was at
that time still a child, upon her death in 1627. Not only for his duties as a
castle captain, but also for his consistently loyal service, Emperor Ferdinand
II subsequently awarded Mathew ownership of the castle. In 1642, Ferdinand III
granted Mathew the right to inherit the Krasna Horka Castle as well as
extensive property in 23 communities in Gemer. Thus, the Andrassys increased
their fortune and became one of the most prominent feudal families in Gemer.
Their family fortune grew even further with Mathewís marriage to Anna
Monokiova, from whom he acquired the Monocky, Stitnik and Drienovca
Mathew II died in 1653 and left three sons, two of whom, George I and John II
met untimely deaths and didnít leave any descendants. All of the vast
fortune went to the third son Nicolas I, who not only maintained the inherited
property, but expanded it as well. He had not only a distinguished military
career, but a distinguished political career as well. One of his early
successes was in battle against the Turks under Montecucolli's command in
1664, and later at Novť Zamky. For distinction in his public service,
Emperor Leopold I elevated him and his family to the rank of baron in 1676.
Later, the emperor named him to the post of captain at Kumanov, he became a
royal adviser and he was chosen to be zhupan of the Gemer district. In
connection with its function in the district, Krasna Horka became the
location of the district assembly as well as the political center of the
district. With his first wife Klara Zichy he had six sons and two daughters
and from his second marriage son, Mathew.
Nicolas's I sons - like most male members of the family - entered military
service. Peter III his first born, distinguished himself in the eyes of the
emperor at a relatively young age, where for distinction in the line of duty,
he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel. He actively served in
civilian life as well and after the death of his father, he was named as the
Gemer zhupan amid festive celebration in Roznava in 1686. At the time of
the Rakoczy anti-Hapsburg uprising, he was serving in Vienna at the emperor's
court. At the Satmar peace in 1711, he returned to the district and carried on
with his functions until his premature death in 1715. He left no descendants.
The other five sons: Stephen I, George II, Paul, John III, and Nicolas II, as
well as Mathew from the second marriage, also elected to serve in the
military, but on the opposing side of their brother Peter II. They were
devoted supporters of Francis Rakoczy II and joined his anti Hapsburg rebel
army. As soldiers, they attained renowned standing.
Paul, John III, and Mathew died at relatively early ages and thus, not much
attention is devoted to them in the history of the family.
Stephen I and George II, as supporters of Rakoczy II and serving as high
ranking officers in his army led many successful battles in the Danube region.
They attained their highest success in the huge battle at Gyor in 1706.
Stephen later became the commander in Levoca.
In 1710, seeing the intolerability of the anti-Hapsburg uprising and the
growing failures of the rebel forces, and taking advantage of the emperorís
offer of amnesty, he left Rakoczy and defected to the emperorís side. For
his loyalty, the emperor rewarded him the Andrassys' former property in
Transylvania that had been confiscated from his great-grandfather Peter in
1575. At that point, the Andrassys became one of the richest magnate families
In 1695-1696, the brothers divided up the family fortune. After this division,
two branches of the Andrassy family were created: the older Betliar branch
founded by Stephen I and the younger Dlha Luka branch founded by George II.
Krasna Horka was retained in the property of the older branch, and as such
it was chosen to be inheritance castle.
BRANCH OF THE ANDRASSY FAMILY
After the death of his wife
Sophie Seredy, Stephen Andrassy left his family castle and, after making
improvements on the property, moved to Betliar. His financial situation didnít
allow him to build a more impressive seat; thus, the manor house remained
Stephen Andrassy is also the hero of the well known novel "The White Lady
in Levoca" by the Hungarian writer Jokai Mor. The novel was
written after the writer visited the Andrassys in 1883. The naturally
preserved body of Stephenís wife lies today in a glass coffin in the chapel
at Krasna Horka.
Of Stephen's two sons-Francis I and Joseph I -Joseph became the sole heir
since Francis died relatively young, leaving no descendants. Joseph married
Elizabeth Balassova and they had three sons: Joseph II, who became a Jesuit,
Ignatius who died as a child and Charles I.
Charles I is among the best known members of the Betliar branch of the family.
Like his predecessors, he too served in the military. As an officer, he took
part in many celebrated battles for Maria Theresia. Until his death in 1792,
he lived in Betliar with his wife Rebecca Nadasdy, with whom he had three
sons: Charles II, Jeseph III, Leopold, and one daughter.
Joseph III served in the military. After 1792, he returned to his property in
Nizna Slana, where he spent the rest of his life. He dedicated himself to
the arts, sciences, and his family. He spent the last 20 years of his life in
bed with a critical illness. Literature of that time described his wife
Valburg Csaky, with whom he had one son III as the most beautiful woman in
Leopold Andrassy, like his brother, served in the military until 1792. After
his return, he settled in Betliar and for most of his life, devoted himself to
the arts and sciences. He traveled to most of the countries in Europe-he
returned many times to Italy and Vienna. In Betliar, he established the large,
several thousand-volume library, which the members of the Hungarian Historical
Society have declared a unique treasure. His coin collection, unique in
Hungary, was well known. It contained many historical samples.
Individual attention was
given to mining and smelting, of which he contributed to the rise in industry
standards. As an expert, he was named an advisor to the Banska Stiavnica
Mining Board, of which he assumed full responsibility. He wanted to develop
Betliar as a center of agriculture, which led to many craftsmen settling here.
He was a member of the secret Free Mason Society, which was forbidden in this
time. In accordance with his last will and testament, his remains were laid to
rest in the Betliar Nature Park. He died without leaving any descendants.
Charles' II sons divided up
the family property. Ladislav received his portion in Transylvania, Imrich got
Betliar, and Francis got Somoska and the son of Joseph, Charles III-Vlachovo.
Ladislav lived a reclusive life. He lost his entire fortune. He died and was
totally forgotten. Imrich lived a rebellious, carefree life and after the
death of his father, lost the Betliar property, which was then bought by Count
Thomas Nadasdy. Nadasdy died leaving no descendants and his wife Isabela
Donati left the property to Jakobina Grovestinska-Palfy. The Grovestin and
Palfy families left the Betliar property to ruin. Imrich Andrassy's nephew,
Emanuel Andrassy, rescued the property by buying it back from the Palfy
family. Francis lived a carefree life and lost all of his fortune. Charles III
lived in Vlachovo. He married Etela Szaparyova, a member of one of the
wealthiest families in Hungary. Charles established the reputation of the
Andrassys as entrepreneurs, where they were actively involved, as well as
educated men and politicians. The freedom of man was his political cause,
which he actively supported as Gemer's representative in the Hungarian
Parliament in Bratislava from 1839 to 1844. He was the president of the
Society to Regulate the Tisza River, on which his property in Tiszadoba was
located, and he actively supported it financially. He personally oversaw
large-scale development of mining and smelting. He was the founder of the
Gemer Ironworks Society in Ozd. His sudden death in 1845 came about on his
last study trip in Brussels. His remains were laid in the sacristy in Velka
(nowadays Gemerska) Poloma. He had three sons: Emanuel, Julius and Aladar.
Emanuel was born in 1821 in Vlachovo, where he spent his childhood. He
finished his university studies in Budapest. Already in his youth, he
journeyed with his father throughout Europe and visited Morocco, and later
India. He entered the social and political arena in 1847 in the Zemplin
district. In the same year, he was elected to Bratislava's parliament
representing the Turnian district and later, he was named the zhupan of the
Turnian district. He actively participated in the political events during the
revolutionary yearís 1848-1849. Seeing the failure of the revolution, he
fled to India. From this journey, he created his great literary "Journey
in Eastern India," which he richly illustrated himself. Removed from
politics, he lived in Betliar, dedicated to farming, industrial activities and
fine arts. His picture gallery, his archeological and coin collections, and
his fine art collection were among the most important in Hungary. In 1860, he
was elected to membership in the Academy. He actively painted and 92 of his
most significant works were on display at the National Museum. Gemer became
his true home. He spent all of his free time first in Vlachovo and later at
the Betliar manor house, where he oversaw the last large-scale renovation in
the 1880ís based on a proposal by the architect Mueller. Emanuel had four
daughters and a son Geza. Emanuel's brother Julius also spent his childhood in
Vlachovo. He studied law and in the revolutionary years, he was a member of
the Kossuth Parlimentary Youth. The 24-year-old was elected to the Bratislava
Parliament as a representative from the Zemplin district and later, became
the zhupan in Zemplin. He went to Constantinopole on a special mission, where
word reached him of the unsuccessful revolution. In 1851, Emperor Franz Joseph
I sentenced him, along with the other revolutionaries, to death in absentia.
First he lived in London, and later in Paris, where he married Katka Kendeffy.
He was a member of Francis Dedak's political party. In 1860, the Emperor
granted him amnesty and he returned home. In 1866, he became vice-premier of
the government and in 1867, itís premier. As premier, he presided over the
Austro-Hungarian Ausgleich (Dual Monarchy) in 1867 and the coronation of Franz
Joseph I as the Hungarian King on June 8, 1867. Immediately after the downfall
of Chancellor Beust, he became the Austro-Hungarian foreign minister. With the
emperor's mandate, he oversaw the resolution of the Balkan problem and
concluded a pact at the Berlin Congress in 1878. In 1879, he asked to be
relieved of his duties. He retreated to his property and lived there until his
death in 1890. His remains along with those of his wife are laid to rest in
the family crypt in the manor house park in Trebisov.
Emanuel's son Geza, who
inherited the Betliar estate, continued to care for the property which, in
1891, was chosen to be entailed estate for his only son. Geza was actively
devoted to enlarging the familyís collections and preserved the estate even
after the abolition of entailed estates in the First Czechoslovak Republic. In
1933, the land and forests were turned over to the Czechoslovak State. Geza's
son Emanuel, who left Betliar before the Second World War, held the estate
until 1945. The last male descendant of the Bettiar family, Emanuel's only son
Geza II, is currently living in Vaduz, Lichtenstein.
OF BETLIAR MANOR
Beginning of the core of
Betliar, today's southern part can be dated to the middle of the 15th
century-in the years 1441-1451. It originated as a two-story building with an
interior courtyard with five flat-ceiling rooms. A roof enclosed it, which was
inclined to the inner courtyard. The exterior walls had loopholes on the
ground floor, the enlargements of which are responsible for the present day
windows. The exterior fortification was most likely surrounded by a moat. At
the end of the 15th century, diagonal towers were built on corners of the
In the first haft of the 16th century, before 1526, another two-story
structure was build on the north side, turned to face the old structure with
the interior court yard, such that it wasn't connected to the old structure.
In the years 1532-1540, construction continued with the addition of connecting
ramparts. The 16th century (1557-1565) saw further construction of dwelling
purposes. Cloistered arches were built into all the rooms on the first floor
in the southern part and similar arches were added to the interior courtyard
and in the hallways of the second floor as well. Further stages of
construction continued in the beginning of the 18th century, from 1702 to
1712, by Stephen Andrassy and those who followed.
Large-scale alteration of the
southern part was carried out at the end of the 18th century (1783-1795). The
arches in the hallways were lined with tuft stones in order to resemble a
cave-a grotto. In two rooms of the old part on the ground floor and in one row
of rooms on the first floor, either classic vault or Czech arches were
installed. Some arches were adorned with rich geometric stucco frames. This
adjustment led to the widening of the manor house. It acquired a classical
facade that was a response to the current trends and was typical of Gemer
architecture. Along with this work, the surrounding area was modified as well.
In the front part of the park along the left bank of the stream, a stylish
rotunda building was built, where the library established by Leopold Andrassy
was located. At the end of the 19th century (1880-1886), Betliar underwent
complete renovation. In the West Side, a large four-story annex with central
staircase was built. Three-story towers were attached to both north-facing
corners. They were built to resemble the old towers. A floor was added to the
south part, bringing it, as well as the towers, to a height of three stories.
Inside, a new courtyard was built on the first floor and a blueprint based on
what we can see today was drawn up for the second floor. In keeping with the
ownersí cultural standard of living, the function of the building changed,
becoming the center of the estate. And as the social position of the family
grew, it acquired a more impressive function, which is reflected in the
interior as well as the exterior appearance.
81-Acre Nature Park surrounds
Betilar manor house. In 1977, the park was entered on the list of Historical
Landscape Gardens of the World, which is compiled by the International
Committee for Historical Gardens ICOMOSIIFLA. In 1985, the Slovak government
proclaimed the park, together with the manor house, a National Cultural
The ground floor exposition is spread out in the original, lower, vaulted
rooms that (for the exception of the winter garden and the grotto) were used
as living and working quarters for the staff.
Betliar manor house is sure worth a visit. I would like to mention the Gallery
of Exotic rarities that includes complete Eskimo outfit made of seal skin
coming from Greenland. Samurai outfit from Japan, some extraordinary exhibits
from Africa and Asia, like preserved head of a Polynesian from New Guinea,
stuffed elephant feet and head, Egyptian mummy from 2000 BC. I mustn't forget
to mention the incredible Historical Library. The collection of the historical
library contains about 15000 volumes, most of it Latin, German, French and
English literature from the 18th century. Leopold Andrassy, who was
especially devoted to the sciences and fine arts, founded the library. The
succeeding generations continued to add to the collection. The library tended
to the needs of the family, to the education of the children and researchers.
The Gemer-Malohontsky Education Society used it as well. The furnishings in
the library are indicative of the eclecticism of the late 19th century and
appropriately complement the function of the library. The Golden Salon
construction of the ceiling in this salon is done in an interesting way: three
horizontal and five vertical neo-Gothic beams create the cassette form. The
ribs that are on the walls come to semi-circles with wooden capitals
consisting of leaf ornamentation. Priceless and interesting seating sets are
on display in this room. The first set is Rococo style, and is upholstered
with a pink tapestry weave, it's central motif being flowers in an oval and
coming from the 1770's and 1780's. Second smaller late-Baroque seating set is
covered with a dark (Bordeaux) red brocade complemented by a golden wicker
braid. A priceless piece of furniture is the small Rococo ladyís table, the
top of which is richly encrusted with colorful metal, ivory and pearls. In the
gold-plated display cases, there is a display of decorative porcelain objects
made in Meissen, Herend, Berlin and Vienna.
Bibliography: The Betliar Chateau Museum A National
Cultural Monument, Published by the Betliar Museum 1994, Prom. Ped. Tibor
GO TO SLOVAKIA'S CASTLES
TO THE MANOR HOUSE IN BETLIAR AGAIN
Published in the
Slovak Heritage Live newsletter Volume 6, No. 4, Winter 1998
Copyright © Vladimir Linder 1998
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