Monday, January 7, 2013

The Palace of Visegrád, Hungary

I haven't done a historical post in a while, so I thought since the start of book two in my Draculești series begins here, I will talk a little about Visegrád, a town in northern Hungary that holds one of King Mátyás Corvin's palaces.

Visegrád Coat-of-Arms.

Visegrád (Veesh-ay-grahd) is located about twenty miles (32 kilometers) north of Budapest on the east bank on the bend of the Danube River. The area is filled with dense forests and rolling hills and mountains, and from the top of the great hill shadowing the town one can take in the beautiful views from the partially reconstructed ruins of the thirteenth century fortress. Visegrád was first settled as a Roman military camp in the 4th century in a place called Sibrik Hill, located a little north of the current upper castle. The camp was later abandoned in the 5th century and a castle was built in its place, and thus the town had formed. In 1009, Visegrád was first mentioned as a county town and the chief town of an archdeaconry. During the Mongol invasion of 1242, the castle and town was destroyed, but then rebuilt a little further south from the original site.

Sibrik Hill, enclosed by the winding road leading to the upper castle.

In the mid-13th century after the Mongol invasion, King Béla IV of Hungary and his wife rebuilt the castle in what is now the current site of the fortification. The castle consists of two parts, the upper castle and the lower castle, plus the palace which is situated in the shadow of the hill from where the upper castle was built.

Upper Castle:

The upper castle is laid out in a triangular plan and originally consisted of three towers at each of its corners connecting the curtain wall and protecting the keep within. In the 14th century, the castle had been expanded with a second curtain wall and buildings and became the royal residence of the Angevin kings of Hungary. In the early 15th century, the castle yet again saw more expansion with another curtain wall under King Sigismund and the enlargement of the existing buildings. When King Mátyás had come to rule, he renovated the castle as well. The upper castle has historically been where the most sacred of Hungary's treasures had been kept, including the crown of St. István (Stephen). Its many walls and strategic placement made for easy defense and security for such prized sacraments.

Upper Castle.

Lower Castle:

Very little remains of the lower castle today. A many-towered curtain wall extended from the upper castle down to the lower castle, ending at Solomon's Tower. A wall had once spanned the shore of the Danube and surrounded the town, lower castle, and the palace. The hexagonal Solomon's Tower, the last remains of the lower castle, was built in the 13th century and in the 14th century had curtain walls built around it. By the mid-16th century, Soloman's Tower had been partially destroyed, as well as the rest of Visegrád during the Turkish invasion. The tower is now reconstructed and serves to hold exhibits by the King Mátyás Museum of Visegrád. On a side note, Solomon's Tower is known to have held Vlad the Impaler for a portion of his imprisonment by the king, though it may just be another of the many myths surrounding the infamous 15th century Wallachian voivode. The king was known to treat his political prisoners well, and a high profile prisoner such as Vlad would have enjoyed special treatment.

Solomon's Tower.
The Palace:

First built in 1325 as a royal house by King Charles I of Hungary, the palace enjoyed many renovations by a succession of new residents, and had become the seat of Hungary before that honor had been given to Buda during King Mátyás's reign. King Louis I enlarged the house into a palace in the 14th century after succeeding his father, King Charles. During the latter part of the 14th century, King Louis, and his successor, King Sigismund, dismantled the building and rebuilt it on a different plan, expanding the palace further. Under the rule of King Mátyás, the palace enjoyed further reconstruction and expansion during the years of 1477-84 to accommodate his young Neapolitan wife, Beatrice, giving it a Gothic style and decorated with the Italian Renaissance influence. It had become their summer home. After 1544, much of the palace had been dismantled and destroyed by the Turks, and further abuse from landslides of earth from the surrounding hills buried what had remained. The palace had been an archeological site since the 1930's, but major reconstruction of the palace hadn't started until 2000, and now it is open to tourists. If you can't make it to Visegrád (like me), this site offers a 3D virtual tour of the palace. It is updated periodically and is interesting to see.

The Palace.

Aerial view of the palace.
Visegrád is where my main character, Vlad, had spent a good seven years of his life living in the upper castle as one of the king's guards dedicated to defending the castle and protecting the treasures inside. The second book begins there, but it's not long before Vlad is summoned to join in the war against the Holy Roman Emperor in Austria. I won't say how or why he is placed in Visegrád, that would only spoil the story for y'all (for if and when it gets published), but it is his home for seven years in the gap between the end of book one and the beginning of book two.

Visegrád in 1480.


Tex said...

This is one of those things that make me salivate with impatience when I think about your book. For you, the history isn't just a cool Transylvanian varnish you paint on to your story. It IS the freaking story. And the way you immerse yourself in this stuff, the way you just, like, take it apart and wear its skin on your face, is what convinces me that this book is going to be GREAT when it crosses the finish line.

(The fact that you, personally, are okay with writing 200,000 words, starting over, rewriting 200,000 words, and cutting out a cool 50k before darkening an agent's door, is also really rad. I meant to say that on your finishing-post a few days ago and forgot.)

K.E. Skedgell said...

Thank you so much, Tex! Your post makes me think I need to speed things up a wee bit, but also I don't want to rush things either. I want things to be right (with a little fudgery thrown in). I think it helps that I'm very much into this region of Europe and someday when I have the funds would like to visit. Preferably before I'm old and gray.

Sandie Docker said...

Hungary is beautiful. I hope you get the chance to visit one day. Your book will be amazing with all the research. All the best.

K.E. Skedgell said...

Thank you, Sandie! I hope to one day, too.

Robert Evert said...

You have such a cool blog. I really enjoy reading it. Thanks for posting.

K.E. Skedgell said...

Thanks, Robert! I'm glad you like my blog.