In the scenic village of Zehra in Spisske Podhradie, Slovakia, tourists cannot help but lie in awe upon seeing the massive ruins of the Spis Castle. It is referred to as one of the biggest castle locations in Central Europe. The historical spot had been part of the exclusive list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 1993.
But before the ruins became a popular tourist destination in the country, the castle was once a major political, cultural, and economic hub in the vicinity. It also has a very colorful back story as the center of the Szepes Country during its prime.
Spis Castle History: Glory Days
The massive castle was constructed in the 12th century on the same site as a previous castle within the Kingdom of Hungary. It was originally owned by the Hungarian monarchs before 1464, then transferred to the Zapolya clan until 1528. From 1531 to 1635, the Thurzos lorded over the castle, then transferred to the Czaky family from 1638 to 1945.
The ownership of the castle belonged to the country of Czechoslovakia then left to Slovakia after the Astro-Hungarian Empire was dissolved.
Upon its construction, the Spis Castle was initially created as a Romanesque stone castle made with fortifications. The complex also included a two-story palace and three-nave basilica under the same architectural style. During the 14th century, the monarchs established another extramural settlement to increase the castle’s floor size.
During the 15th century, the castle was completely reconstructed to add more height. By 1470, a chapel with the late Gothic style was included in the property. The Zapolya family members introduced several late Gothic changes in the establishment to turn the upper portions of the castle into a cozy residence for their members.
Spis Castle History: Painful Decline
The castle was abandoned by its last owners, the Czaky family, during the early part of the 18th century. They chose to vacate the massive structure because they felt that it was a very uncomfortable place to reside in. Instead of living in the grand castle, the family chose to stay in the newer village castles and palaces in the town of Hodkovce, which is located near Zehra and the village of Spissky Hrhov.
Under the ownership of the Czaky, a destructive fire rummaged the castle in 1780. According to reports, the world never discovered the cause of the fire. But conspiracy theories claimed that the Czaky burned the palace down to lessen the taxes they needed. Another story claimed that the castle was struck by lightning, while a third theory mentioned that several soldiers manning the castle were creating moonshine, which may have caused the fire.
Spis Castle Today
Efforts to reconstruct the castle took place during the second half of the 20th century. All the reconstructed areas were used to display several items from the Spis museum. But the rest of the property remains a magnificent reminder of the old monarch’s glory while living in the massive and historical castle complex in the country.