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Majestic and romantic ruins of the Strečno castle are a dominant above the Váh river and are standing high on the hill as a symbol of feudal power in the region of middle Považie. The castle has been in ruins for three centuries, but it still belongs among the best known castles in Slovakia. Its surviving architecture is an evidence of development of a middle-age fort from the Gothic style to the Baroque style. Although the recorded history of the castle started in the half of 14th century, the first settlement at the castle hill is much older. In early Iron Age up to late Roman Age there was a settlement of the Púchov culture and in the 9th century there was not only a Slav residence but probably it was also the oldest fort. Artifacts of the settlement from early Stone Age - a copper pick axe was found on the Zvonica hill, Slav tumuli was found in the area of Dedová and a fort was located at Bašta hill from 15th century.

In the area of the Žilina district there are more middle-age castles being always in the middle of tourists' attention, however, their present conditions are only ruins of the original extent and fame. The oldest castles are Starý castle, Hričov, Lietava, Budatín, Súlov and another two castles were in Žilina and in Rajec. They were destroyed in the 15th or 16th century. However, the Strečno castle is the most important among the castles because of its relatively good conditions as well as of a good access to its walls and a suitable location above the highway connecting the east and west part of Slovakia.

When was the castle built? The very first mention of the Strečno castle is dated 1321 when the King Karol Robert set citizens of Zilina town free from paying toll duties in the following towns: Trenčín, Budatín, Kysucké Nové Mesto and Strečno. Perhaps the castle wasn't built at that time, but it was built very short after that date like as a toll duty station protector situated in a fort across the Váh River. In 1358 there was a mention of "castelanus de Strychen" and therefore it is possible that there was a royal castle and a castle tower and the oldest fort already. The castle existence in 1384 is mentioned as "comitatus castri Strechyn."

The Royal family owned the castle till the end of the 14th and in 1397 there is a mention of the first private owner, a Polish noble Sudivoj of Ostroroh. In 1424 the castle becomes again a part of Queen Barbora's marriage portion as the wife of Siegmund of Luxembourg. At the turn of the 14th and 15th centuries there was a Gothic chateau probably constructed, whose foundations were found during an archeological research in the northeast direction from the tower.

The castle has changed many owners since the half of the 15th century: Jan Čapek of Sany, Štefan Pongráč, Jan Trnka of Ratiborice and Teofil Turzo of Betlanovce. The situation stabilized only in 1484 when the castle as well as the dominium had become a property of Pavol Kinizi, the captain of the Upper Hungarian lands and the owner of Lietava castle. After his death in 1494 the Pongráčs, owners of the Starý hrad castle, claimed their rights because they had got the Strečno castle for 12, 000 guldens, paid still in 1443. The disputes regarding the Strečno castle lasted for almost 100 years and the owners of both castles made war and destroyed their properties.

The widow of Pavol Kinizi called Benigna protected the castle until 1523 when she sold it to the Zápolsky's. During the period when she was owner of the castle lot of buildings and houses were built there. Two new wings were added-the north one with a chapel and the south one with two buildings around the internal courtyard. On the West Side around the castle a new settlement was formed. On the East Side a new two-story building with windows of late Gothic style and bow windows was built. When the war with the Pongračs started there was much better fortification and entrenchment of the castle than before and that is the reason they failed to win.

The Zápolsky's owned the castle only till December 21, 1526 when Burian Svetlanovský of Vlčnov leased it, but already in 1529 the Kostkas bothers Peter and Mikuláš are mentioned to be owners of the castle and the dominium. After Peter's death in 1532 when his brother joined Ferdinand I, Burian Svetlovsky started a suit regarding his original property and in 1534 even the Pongrac's laid their claims again. In 1547 all the disputes and suits, wars and robberies lasting from the half of the 15th century were stopped and Mikuláš Kostka became the final and the only owner of the Strečno castle.

After his death in 1556 his daughter Ann, married to Jan Nari inherited the castle. Later she married Štefan Dersfi and gave birth to two sons, František and Mikuláš. Among the last owners of the castle there was also a paladin František Veseleni who inherited half of the property from his father who married daughter of Mikuláš Dersfi. The Esterhazys got another part of the castle and dominium because they married into the family.

In the Renaissance period a fortification with semi-round towers on the West Side and a new gate on the south were built. In the 17th century three massive bastions shifted in front of the Renaissance fortification and two gates in the south were added. The sizable fort of 165x 61 m became the best-fortified castle in the region of middle Považie. The whole internal area was gradually filled with buildings and the courtyard under the main tower was roofed. At the north direction from the tower rainwater vessel and in the west direction under the main gate a well 88 meters deep was found.

During the last years of the 17th century the castle experienced very dramatic events. After František Veseleni's death it was revealed that he was preparing rebellion against the Emperor. In 1676 his son Ladislav lost the whole property and the Lovenburgs got it. Tokoly soldiers invaded the castle in 1678 and 1686 and therefore the Emperor Leopold I ordered the castle to be destroyed. Fortification and roofs were demolished, the castle well and the rain water vessel were buried and so the castle has been in ruins for three centuries. During the final inspection prior to the destruction soldiers found in the crypt of the castle chapel intact body of Frantisek Veseleni's wife Žofia Bosňáková. Later on her body was taken by Lovenburg, the castle owner of that time, to the church in Teplička nad Váhom.

The chapel, the main tower, the main gate, and the south chateau forming the core of the reconstructed Strečno castle were in relatively good condition and all the buildings are again roofed. The Strečno castle belongs among the most important sights of our vanished past and its silhouette will tower over the Váh river at the foothills of Malá Fatra forever. It is a symbol of perseverance of people from the region who were not abased even in the worst periods when they sung a song: "it's danger still near the Strečno hill."


Bibliography: Povazske Muzeum-Strecno Castle ISBN 80-88773-01-6

Published in the Slovak Heritage Live newsletter Volume 6, No. 2, Summer 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.