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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 Andrassy family.

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 remained intact.

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 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 Betliar.

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 captain.


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 Horka (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 estates.
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 Hungary.
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.


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 relatively modest.
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 Hungary.
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.


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 structure.
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 Monument.
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 Gyorgy



Published in the Slovak Heritage Live newsletter Volume 6, No. 4, Winter 1998
Copyright © Vladimir Linder 1998
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.