localities names found in written documents from second half of the 13th
century evidence presence of Slavs: Gala, Bystrica, Lubica, Lomnica,
Bela, Verbev, Ruskin, Vysoká
was formed from four settlements, the oldest being the Slovak settlement
at the Church of St. Michael above today's
Their inhabitants were fishermen and watchmen of the road next to river
is first time mentioned as a town in 1269, when Hungarian King Belo
IV. Granted it city
rights and privileges. The town was situated near important business
routes from Orient to Northern Europe and this supported its fast
development. In 1380 it
became a free royal city with several political and economic privileges
(the right of two annual fairs, the right of the sword, the right to use
coat of arms, etc.). These privileges up to that day were confirmed also
by king Zigmund in 1399 and in 1411 he added the right of free fishing,
in 1412 he gave freedom to the inhabitants and buyers from paying duty.
In 1417 freedom to use the forests.
In 1433 the city was conquered by the “Taborites.”
In 1441, in the period of the struggles for the Hungarian throne,
witnessed the arrival of Ján Jiskra. The city was freed from the hands
of Jiskra’s people in 1462. Probably in the year 1463 the sovereign
Matthias granted the census tax of Kežmarok to the Hungarian noblemen
Imrich and Štefan
Zápoľský, who built a castle in the town. This is also the year
the castle is first mentioned in the written documents. By the arrival
of the castle lords Kežmarok got under the rule of the landlords that
lasted for nearly 250 years.
son Ján took advantage of the situation in the country following the
Battle at Mohacs in 1526, in which the king died, and caused his own
person to be crowned. Nearly at the same time Ferdinand Habsburg became
the sovereign. Both rivals met in fights afflicting also the city of Kežmarok.
the period of the Thokölys, who wanted to change the city into a common
serf community, Kežmarok suffered from the deepest political and
economic oppression. Controversies between the city and the castle
culminated in between 1647-1651. The burghers were assaulted by the
castle soldiers who persecuted and even murdered them and robbed not
only the houses but the craftsmen’s workshops as well. When the city
promised to the sovereign an enormous sum of 200,000 pieces of Gold, the
sovereign was willing to declare Kežmarok a free royal city, although
the city had never lost its privileges. The agreement was reached in
1651. Kežmarok paid Thoköly as well and forever broke contacts with
the castle lords.
contention was put an end to by death of Štefan Thoköly II, who
participated in the anti imperial conspiracy and the emperor confiscated
all his property. For a short time the castle was in the hands of Štefan’s
brother Žigmund, the former owner of Spišský Štiavnik.
last of the family, Irmrich was the leader of the anti imperial uprising
of Hungarian nobility between 1678‑1684. After his failure he
secluded himself and lived in Turkey where he also died in 1705. His
mortal remains were moved to Kežmarok in 1906 and in 1909 they were
mowed to the new mausoleum.
the sovereign promised that after the confiscation the castle will fall
to Kežmarok, in 1687 he sold it to Ferdinand Rueber. The new contention
was solved by Rueber’s
death, the town bought the castle from his heirs in 1702, but it became
its ultimate proprietor as late as in 1720. The city located barracks,
grain storage rooms, various workshops, hospital, etc. at the castle.
Several fires in the 18th-20th centuries considerably changed the looks
of the castle.
Castle belongs to the type of the city castles that were built inside
the cities as their fortification strongholds. Also the original Gothic
building of Kežmarok Castle, which originated due to the Zápoľský
family, looked in this way. In order to attach the castle building to
the city fortification, the Zápoľský’s
builders utilized part of the fortification wall and one of its towers.
first mention of the castle castellan dates back to the year 1463. The
Lasky family made no alterations to the castle. Rueber modified it only
after the fire in 1575. Thokoly family rebuilt the castle changing it
into luxurious Renaissance structure and they constructed a Baroque
ground plan of the castle is that of an irregular ellipse. In addition
its walls it had also a forward outer wall. The castle could be entered
by entrance tower, which is connected, to all the other towers and the
ceiling wings by means of galleries.
the entrance tower the castle had the oblong tower the former
treasure‑house, the semicircular watch tower, the dungeon, and the
so-called eastern watch tower once having belonged to the city
fortification. From the dwelling wings only the western wing and the
north eastern one have been preserved. The fires in the 18th century
destroyed the southern, northern and eastern wings. The latest part of
the castle is the Baroque chapel that was constructed by rebuilding of a
part of the north eastern wing and the northern wing of the semicircular
tower in the years 1657-1658.
the courtyard of the castle one can see the foundations of the Church of
St Elizabeth from the Saxon settlement, which were discovered in the
archaeological research in the years 1964-1967. In the elevated position
are also the foundations of the eastern and southern dwelling wings. In
the place where the fascists put to death 20 partisans and civilians in
September 1944 is the statue bearing the name “Vďaka"
(Gratitude) sculpted by Meritorious Artist Ľudovít Korkoš. An
extension of the castle from the northern side is the Stables. In the
northern side, in the immediate vicinity of the castle is a roundel of
the town entrance gateway called the Lower Gateway. The castle is the
property of the Museum in Kežmarok. The efforts to establish a museum
in Kežmarok date back to the second half of the 19th century, the plans
were realized, however, as late as during the 1st Czechoslovak Republic
when the Museum situated in the entrance castle tower was opened in the
1931. In 1935 it was enlarged by the oblong tower. During the World War
II some items of the museum collections were stolen. The museum was
reopened in 1947.
spite of the growing number of collections, the number of the
exhibitions had remained unchanged besides the museum the castle housed
several firms and store houses. The museum buildings themselves were in
a poor condition the reconstruction in 1951-1953 damaged and destroyed
plenty of precious wall frescoes and paintings. In 1959 the project for
reconstruction of the museum and the castle was given approval, however
the ultimate reconstruction works were taking place as late as in
1962-1985. All the places in the castle were given at the museum's
present the castle spaces of the museum house the following exhibitions:
Exhibition of Archaeology,it presents a selection of the archaeological
findings from Kežmarok and its close vicinity, and is focused
especially on the castle.
2. Exhibition of Feudalism it has three parts: the city privileges, the
guilds and crafts, and the town hall parlour.
3. Exhibition of Weapons.
Gun Club it includes relics once belonging to the oldest Kežmarok Gun
Clubs dating back to 1510.
Kežmarok and the High Tatras;
6. History of Kežmarok Fire Brigade;
7. Club of Spiš Doctors and Pharmacists is focusing on work of a native
of Kežmarok and a pioneer of roentgen logy in the Hungarian Empire
Vojtech Alexander, MD.
administrating the castle the Museum in Kežmarok is in charge of six
other objects, which are on its property.
Stables, that are an extension of the castle, are utilized as offices
and common rooms. In one part of the building of the Lyceum old Kežmarok
School is the Exhibition of Literary Traditions of Kežmarok Lyceum. The
wooden articular church is now opened to public. Two burgher houses
serve as depositories; one of them is intended to house the Exhibition
of Housing Culture. The last object is the tower of the former city
fortification housing a depository.
of the Museum in Kežmarok, which is a museum with a district range, are
focused exclusively on the field of social sciences.
Hrad, Nora Baráthová, Neografia, Martin 1989, ISBN 80-217-0085-8
TO SLOVAKIA'S CASTLES
Published in the Slovak Heritage Live
newsletter Volume 10, No.2, Summer 2002
Copyright © Vladimir Linder 2002-3
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