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and the blood countess Alžbeta Báthory

Čachtice castle is located on a hill above town of Čachtice and on the other side of the castle is village called Vrbové. It is situated where a ledge of the Podunajská lowland in Považie connects with the Smaller Carpathian hills, 7 Kilometers south of Nové Mesto nad Váhom. Beckov castle is a bit northwest from here and Trenčín is north of Beckov. Southwest from Čachtice high in the mountains is Tematín castle.
The first written mention of the Čachtice village originates from the king Béla IV in the year 1248. Čachtice had been awarded town privileges in the year 1392 together with market rights. It was a town of landlords.
Čachtice castle dates back to the second half of the 13th century and it was one of the first castles that were safeguarding hot western border of Hungary. The first owners of the castle were Peter and Pongrác from family Hunt-Poznan, and for certain time it was property of Matúš Čák the owner of Trenčín castle. In 1392 it becomes property of Stibor from Stibotice who was owner of 15 castles in Považie region. Nádasdy family owned the castle from 1569. 

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In 1708 it became victim of František Rákoczi II army that burned it. The castle was repaired in 1715 and it was used as a jail for some time. Soon it burned again and from then on it started to deteriorate.
At the highest point there was a palace with horseshoe shaped watchtower in which a chapel was located, built in second half of the 13th century in the place of a late Bronze Age fortified settlement. Surrounding the upper courtyard were several residential buildings built by Stibor of Stibotice and his son (1392-1436). Lower courtyard had defense character and it was accessible from the upper part by a tunnel carved through rock above the moat. Fortifications embracing the new group of buildings were retained from the latest Renaissance reconstruction ordered in the 17th century by the notorious Elizabeth Báthory.
In first half of the 16th century a manor house was built under the castle, they called it the castle manor house, but it burned down in 1772.
The ruins of the castle can be seen from far away. There are some fragments of the defense walls and in the upper castle even some fragments of stucco with frescoes.
Recently I finished reading six books on Alžbeta Báthory. Four were novels. Andrej Šiavnický: In the underground of Čachtice castle, Alžbeta Báthory in jail and freedom, and Countess of Čachtice before the highest court and from Jožo Nižňanský: Čachtcká Pani. This was such fantastic reading that I couldn’t put the books to rest. Next one was by Pavel Dvořák and Karol Kállay (famous Slovak photographer): Blood countess Alžbeta Báthory/Facts and Fiction. And the last book is by Jozef Kočiš: Alžbeta Báthory and Palatine Thurzo, The truth about the Countess of Čachtice.
Alžbeta Bathory the bloodthirsty mass murderess, countess of Čachtice was born in Nyirbátor (today’s Hungary) in 1560. She was a noble woman who came of one of the most important and richest Hungarian families especially in Transylvania. Štefan Báthory, a Polish king, was her uncle on her mother’s side. At this time the serfs in Hungary did not have any rights, it the time of Turkish wars, riots, burning down villages, religious fights, torturing and executions.

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As fifteen years old she was married to František Nádasdy who was a nobleman and captain of Hungarian army, on May 8.1575 in Vranov nad Topľou. It is said that 4500 people took part in the wedding celebrations.
They had five children. Two of them died at early age. Between the years of 1585-1610 she tortured and at the end murdered young girls. The number of her victims probably exceeded 650. Her victims were lured to work for her as servants. They were all young and beautiful and mostly from poorer nobility families or orphans. Her servants were also grabbing girls on roads or kidnapping them from their homes. Most girls were tortured and murdered at castle in Sárvár, but many also in Čachtice, Vranov nad Topľou, Bratislava, Vienna, Fúzer and during her travels between her residences
There is nobody whom so many books have been published abroad about except her. She is written about in press, movies are made regularly. As a mass murderer she is registered in the Guinness Book of Records.
Her husband, František Nádasdy, was born on October 6, 1555 in Sárvár (today’s Hungary). He was an important aristocrat, a counselor to the king, and a head commander of the Hungarian army-and also a robust man, a cruel person, a soldier whom Turks were afraid of, as well. He was called Black Beg. He used to dance with dead bodies of killed Turks and throw their heads high to the air after a battle. He did not behave in a different way during negotiations with inhabitants of Čachtice when they complained about his manners to the ruler-obviously uselessly. Nádasdy obtained Čachtice in 1602 by purchase from the king Rudolf II. At the time of her husband’s absence, it was his wife who controlled huge property of the family. It was not simple for her. In 1605, the Čachtice Domain was destroyed by later Hussite soldiers from Moravia and Turkish attacks represented a permanent threat, as they plundered Čachtice (together with Piešťany and other villages) in 1599. Crops used to be poor and permanent arrivals and departures of armies deprived people of almost everything they had. Her husband died in January 4, 1604. Day before his death he wrote letter to his friend and Palatine Juraj Thurzo in which he entrusted his family to his protection and favor.
Evidently she committed torture and murder of young girls continuously from 1585 to 1610. According to the story, the countess of Čachtice was a very beautiful woman and she was afraid of looking old. Once her servant-girl hurt her accidentally with a comb. The Alžbeta hit her with such a force that she was squirted by the girl’s blood. When she looked to a mirror later, she had an impression that her skin seemed younger in the squirted spot. She succumbed to the temptation to become younger and wanted to have baths in the girls’ blood. Girls from the environs were lured to the castle where they were killed using special iron maiden. The iron maiden had a necklace around its neck. When a girl wanted to take the necklace off the iron maiden, it gripped her and long knives coming from the maiden breast killed her. Blood then drained via channels in the ground to a bath in the next room. But these horrible deeds were discovered; the countess of Čachtice was caught red-handed.
Inhabitants got to hate her so much that she and her servants used to go out only under armed escort. In 1609, a priest from Čachtice accused her in public of killing young girls. Complaints about Báthory piled up and they came even from Vienna, where she had a manor house. Finally, they came to the king Mathias II, who ordered the palatine count Juraj Thurzo to start investigation. But the palatine was a good friend of Nádasdy family and he found himself in a non-enviable situation. Obviously, he informed the Báthory’s family first and protected huge property of Nádasdy family against possible confiscation, as Alžbeta wrote her last will in 1610 in which she bequeathed the property to her children. Three months later, the palatine Thurzo came to Čachtice during Christmas unannounced and caught Alžbeta torturing. Being caught in the act was the only possibility how to put such important person as Báthory was on trial at that time.
Alžbeta was commanded by palatine Juraj Thurzo to house arrest for life at the prison in the Čachtice castle

Investigation took place immediately, more than 200 witnesses gave evidence in the trial. Many honored people were among them. Her servants were sentenced but the trial with the principal offender had never taken place. Many shocking statements on torturing of girls were heard at the trial. She tortured young girls with burning candles, burning their genitals with hot iron, pricked with needles, sprayed outside with cold water in frosty weather until they froze to death. Witnesses stated that they saw young girls so burnt that they could not get into a coach. Dead bodies were buried in different ways-in a cemetery, in a field, in grain pits, in the crypt of Čachtice church. Her supporters stated different numbers of victims-37 or 50 tortured young girls-in the trial. There were about 650 victims according to the list, which is said to be found among Alžbeta’s things. Báthory’s servants Ilona Jó and Dorota Szentés were sentenced to cutting off fingers on their hands with pinchers first and to death by burning on the stick, Ficko-less than thirty years old Ján Ujváry-was beheaded. He was executed at the river Váh close to Bytča.

Alžbeta Báthory lived in the solitary confinement in the underground jail of Čachtice castle for another four years and died there on August 21, 1614. She was buried in the crypt of Čachtice church on November 25, 1614.

I visited Čachtice castle in summer of 1997.


Published in the Slovak Heritage Live newsletter Volume 12, No.1, Spring 2004
Copyright © Vladimir Linder 2004 
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.