History of Visegrad Hungary
Visegrad (Visegrád) was always in the center of attention during history due to its favorable amenities and essential strategical role.
The earliest traces of a human presence lead us to the New Stone Age, and from the Bronze Age the town and its surroundings have continuously been inhabited. During the historical times Celtics, Germans, Romans, Avars and Hungarians were populating the Danube Bend area.
The Romans under the reign of Constantine I (Constantine the Great) built the Ponts Novatus fortress on the Sibrik Hill, which was the most significant construction of the `limes` system by the Danube. Besides that we can find Roman relics at several places in the town, so such as the watchtower remnants in Szentgyörgypuszta, or the fortress remnants at the Gisela Manor built around 330.
When the Hungarians were settling in this area it was the ancient demesne of Kurszán, the brother of Arpad Prince. The first, Latin document mentioned Visegrad for the first time in history in 1009. The word Visegrád means high fortress.
The first fortress of Visegrad emerged on the castrum, by using its stones, but this fortress was demolished during the Mongol invasion.
Bela IV and his wife Queen Maria built the current fortress complex in the 1250's. The fortress consists of the Citadel on the top of a 328 meters high hill, the Lower Castle situated on the hill underneath the Fortress hill, and the Water Bastion on the Danube embankment.
The town became internationally important in the 15th century during the reign of the Anjou Dynasty. Charles Robert started the construction of the Royal Palace on the main street of the town close to the Danube Bank around 1320. Within couple of years this centre became the royal headquarters and the favourite residing place of the King.
The famous ballad of Klára Zách describes the unsuccessful assassination attempt against the royal family organized by Felicián Zách, and afterwards the bloody revenge.
The famous Royal Summit took place here in 1335, when Charles Robert King of Hungary invited John of Luxembourg, King of Bohemia, Casimir III, King of Poland, Charles, the Moravian Marquis; Heinrich Wittelsbach, the Bavarian Prince and Rudolph, the Saxon Prince. They created such a significant agreement, which secured the economic independence of the affected countries from Vienna and from the Western merchants.
The Royal Palace historical walls hosted the signing of the coöperation in 1991, called the Visegrad Four. The Hungarian, Czechoslovakian and Polish Presidents followed the example of their ancestors. After the death of Charles Robert, the Polish delegation visited his son, Louis the Great in Visegrad, and offered him the Polish crown.
After the coronation ceremony the Polish crown joined the Hungarian Holy crown which was guarded in the treasury of the Visegrad Citadel by the crown-guards.
The next days of glory for the town came under the reign of King Matthias. The King started colossal constructions and renovation activities. He created the Palace complex enriched with late Gothic details, which is on display in the museum.
Matthias's renaissance court was often visited by the prominent figures of the era, who were philosophizing in science, philosophy and literature and they were supporting the arts and they were leading the innovations. Visitors arriving from faraway countries described Visegrad as the "paradise on Earth".
This prosperous period lasted until the Turkish times, when similarly to other parts of the country immense regression and destruction started. During the fights for the fortress and for the town Visegrád nearly got completely devastated. The survivors went into hiding and left the uninhabitable town.
The remnants of the fortress were exploded under the command of Leopold I, Austrian Emperor in 1702.
The settlement's development started once more in the 19th century, when the Danube steam boating begun and the Danube Bend and Pilis-Visegrad Mountains became favorite excursion targets of the hikers arriving from the capital.
Around this time took off the excavation activities by the incentives of József Viktorin Parish Priest who had Slovakian origin. The most famous archaeologists of the era, e.g. János Schulek, excavated the ruins and restored the historic monuments.
Today Visegrad is the popular target of national and international tourism, which is in one of the most visited recreation area, in the Danube Bend. Though the size of the population is less than 1,700 people and this is the smallest town in Hungary, the area hosts 300,000 visitors a year.
Most of our visitors are paying a visit to the Citadel, the Royal Palace and the Solomon Tower, but more and more coming to our area due to the hotel and thermal bath in the Thermal Valley. This famous water with its extraordinary high mineral content is bottled and sold in shops.
The town offers a continuously improving high-standard accommodation and catering facilities for its visitors. Why not to visit us, where the river takes its amazing curve and you can admire all this from the Pilis Mountains, where history left it remnants at all times and in all places.
The Visegrad Citadel (Fellegvár) and the Lower Castle double castle system is one of the castles built by Béla IV recognizing the consequences of the Mongol invasion. The fortress preserved its significance until the Turkish invasions.
The Citadel had a multi-functional role: it was protecting the valley of the Danube, it was controlling the main commercial route between Buda and Esztergom, and served as a custom’s house as well. The fortress consisted of two parts.
Construction of the Lower Castle started under the reign of Béla IV around 1247. It was unique, as the fortress was not located next to the road differing from the common traditions, but the road was crossing the territory of the castle. The most interesting part of the Lower Castle is the Solomon Tower. The Tower was named after a false story, stating that Solomon was guarded in this Tower after loosing in the battle for the throne against King Saint Laszlo and Geza.
Construction of this unique Hungarian building is based on a southern-German design. Under the reign of Louis the Great King of Hungary, the famous bell-founder Konrád Gaal was operating in the fortress. Today the Tower is hosting a five-storey museum, introducing the history of Visegrad to its visitors.
In 1246 Béla IV started constructing the Citadel on an area with outstanding geographical characteristics, by the using the money from the family jewels of his wife, Mária Lascaris to build a refugee for the Dominican Order nuns living on the ’Rabbits Island’ (today’s Margaret Island). At that time the plan of the fortress was triangle-shaped, with two towers.
The Old Tower was erected at a location most at risk, and the Gate Tower protected the southern entrance. The fortress its significance considerably improved during the Anjou era. Once Charles Robert obtained the fortress from Máté Csák, he moved the royal court here in 1323.
The Visegrad Citadel hosted the famous Royal Summit of Kings, and the first Anjou King died in the castle in 1370. The Saint Crown of Hungary was guarded here. When Louis the Great became the King of Poland in 1370, the Polish crown was also stored in the castle. The palace wings and a new external wall was erected during the Anjou reign. Sigismund of Luxemburg extended the fortification with a third set of walls and carried out several lavish constructions.
Following the Turkish reign, after Buda's liberation in 1686 the Habsburgs conquered the fortress after a 5-day siege. Due to the dissolution of the border castle system the fortification became unwanted and was left to ruin.