When I was spending my summer vacation in Slovakia last year my brother took me to the ruins of the castle Čičva. I wanted to visit the castle for a long time but hadn’t find the right moment before. It took us around an hour to get to the foothill by car. It was a warm summer day, perfect for an easy hike.
Castle Čičva is towering above the village Podčičva and the river Ondava, nearby the city of Vranou nad Topľou.
To this date, we don’t know the exact year and circumstances of the construction of this castle. It is believed that it was built either towards the end of the 13th or the beginning of the 14th century. Some say that it could even be built in the 12th century due to its strategic position on a hill. Maybe It could belong to the border fortress system of the Kingdom of Hungary as the border of the kingdom was in this region at that time.
It is not clear when and why it was built, but it is undisputed that the castle played a very important role as a guard in a pass called Porta Polonica (Polish gate). The castle was constructed at the intersection of important transport roads from Hungarian Sárospatak through Slovak Stropkov to Poland. This was the most important Hungarian-Polish road in the medieval times.
There are two starting points to reach the castle – one at the church in Podčičva, climbing up the stairs around the Holy Cross and St. Mary cave chapel, and the second one from the Podčičva bus stop, and walking up the road until you get to the castle. We chose the first one as we parked the car close to the church, so it was more convenient for us.
Let’s explore the castle!
ARCHITECTURE OF THE CASTLE
The oldest part of the castle was its core. It had an irregular shape and it was protected by a stone fortification. Its architecture was different to any other Slovak castles and therefore it is even today considered unique. The architecture of the special Round bergfried (tall, round tower) came here during the colonization time from North Germany. The castle was built in Romanesque-Gothic architectural style. It is a pity that we can’t see much of how it looked in the past.
The castle was enlarged in the 15th century by a large bailey. It was initially surrounded by a wooden fence, but this was very easy to destroy by enemies, so later it was secured with thick stone walls. Part of the bailey were buildings servings as stables, barns, sheds, granaries, and so on. These were wooden buildings and therefore they did not survive over the centuries. We know over them because of the archaeological research that happened here at the end of the last century.
An interesting fact is that some of the walls in the castle were 3.5 meters thick. Can you imagine that? This is what I call protection!
We learned a little bit about its construction and now we can learn about people who used to live there.
OWNERS OF THE CASTLE
The castle was owned by the Rozgonyi family for over 3 centuries. The founder of this family was Reynold who was the administrator of the royal stables and commander of the guard sections. He was a successful soldier too.
The king Stefan V. gave the castle to Reynold Rozgonyi for his loyal services to the kingdom. The Rozgonyi family didn’t take the best care of the castle and at the end of the 14th century it was dilapidated and not suitable for living. The family built a smaller castle not that far away from Čičva which was more comfortable for them. At that time, this castle had a military guard function.
In 1523, the castle changed its owners because there was no male successor of the Rozgonyi family to take over the duties. The family Bathory owned the castle until 1610 when it became part of the Drughet family that received the castle because of the wedding of Katarina and Juraj. In 1684 Imrich Thököly occupied all castles that belonged to the Drughet family, including the castle Čičva.
The most famous character of the Bathory family is Elizabeth Bathory. She was a Hungarian woman and reputed as a serial killer. Elizabeth is also known as the Blood countess. It was said that she enjoyed torturing and killing young girls because she believed that drinking the blood of young girls would preserve her youthfulness and her looks. She tortured these girls and used the most inhuman tactics. Later, it was added that she liked bathing in the blood of these young girls, but we don’t know if this is true or not.
In 1704, the Churts occupied the castle and kept it until the end of the civil war. It changed its owner a few more times until it was destroyed in the 18th century and left in decay.
Today, there is an ongoing reconstruction of the castle. It will take many years as everything is done on a volunteer basis, using traditional methods and materials.
The Castle is known as well for its Book of Lies and Liars held here in the 16th and 17th centuries, also famous as the Book of Čičva in which curious lies and names of liars were noted. The Slovak idiom “it should be entered in the Čičva Book” is still used and it refers to bold lies.
I am happy that I finally managed to visit this magical place with its turbulent history. Even though I was sweaty, tired and hungry I was still happy and smiling all the way down.
I hope that you have enjoyed our castle tour!
Thank you for visiting!