The History of Thury Castle, or as formerly known: Palota

The beginnings

Reliable written documents concerning the foundation of Várpalota originate from the time of King Béla IV, when the whole neighbourhood was part of the estates of the Csák and Szalók families. The beginning of our urban history is intertwined with the origin and history of Pusztapalota. The construction of the citadel situated in the Bakony mountains can be dated to the beginning of the 14the century, supposedly after 1326, as it was then that the original estate-holding Szalók family handed the territory over to King Lajos the Great. Not long afterwards, in 1350, Pusztapalota, along with the surrounding estates, was presented by the king to Miklós Konth, who was one of the biggest landlords, a diplomat of Lajos the Great and the palatine of the country.

Therefore this castle is certainly identical with the castle of Bátorkő, which had been searched for earlier, although there are some researchers who doubt this. Legend has it that the castle of Pusztapalota was King Mátyás's favourite hunting lodge. This is not out of the question although, as we shall see, the castle of Várpalota also served the king, as both castles provided good hunting opportunities with the game in the mysterious forests of the Bakony mountains.

Here is how an anonymous poet records Pusztapalota and King Mátyás [in prose translation, the FAIR one referring to King Mátyás].

The image of decay stands fallen, solitaire
In the late ruins of Puszta-palota
It had great fame centuries ago
In the line of Mátyás Hunyadi.

An unsightly ruin, a mere frame,
No one lingering within its walls
Only the dead century lying above
Its cerecloth the long and wistful silence.

A good resting place …
On the green soil of the deep-lying valley
Of beautiful, silent solitude
A hero lived here: the FAIR one!

King Lajos the Great gave Miklós Konth, along with the Újlaky state, the right to use the noble pre-name Újlaky. When he died, his son, László Újlaky Konth, inherited not only his great fortune but also carried on with all of his important offices. As the castle did not readily lend itself to extension due to the character of the terrain, in the second half of the 14th century the Újlaky family erected a dwelling place more commodious and comfortable than Bátorkő. Miklós and László together started to build a manor-house more becoming their rank, as they were unable to manage the huge estate and their affairs of national magnitude from the small, outpost-like castle.

They chose for the construction the site of the present Thury-castle. The area situated at the meeting point of the Bakony mountains and the Sárrét wetlands was already at the time a small settlement with favourable circumstances, lying next to the ancient Roman road leading to Fehérvár [present-day Székesfehérvár] and Veszprém. All we know about the building process with any certainty is that the palace was already standing in 1397. Therefore we can proudly say that the memories of the past in Várpalota are guarded by walls over 600 years old! In its original design, the U-shaped block was fortified with a tower on the north-east corner and the courtyard was closed off by a wall. The name Palota [meaning palace] first occurs in a charter in 1397. The name was quite fitting, as the building was bigger than a manor house but smaller and less fortified than a castle or a fort.

The most valuable part remaining to the present day is the old palace part, whose worldly frescoes, stone windows and broad-stone facade are unique in the country. The excavation work done in 1989 made the original stone framed windows and the two rose windows on the original facade visible, so the ornamental facade of the palace now reveals a precious memory of the past.

Great artistic and cultural value is represented by the above-mentioned unique worldly frescoes in the sediled windows and on the internal walls of the palace, which have remained unharmed. One of them depicts a female, the other a male figure, presumably immortalizing the members of the family who commissioned the building. The well in the courtyard is also worthy of attention. Despite the fact that almost all the wells and springs in Várpalota have dried up by now, the rich water of this well has been flowing for over 600 years. Now it flows under the town into the stream Köves.

In the castle chapel remodelled and consecrated in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary, independent pastoral service was provided by a clergyman. He was probably a member of the Franciscan order, as at the same time as he built the castle, Újlaky also had a monastery built for the poor  Franciscan friars, which was opened on May 16th, 1456.

The era of castle-builder Miklós Újlaky and King Mátyás

The large estate was inherited by Miklós Újlaky Konth's grandson, Miklós Újlaky, who had stopped using the name Konth, in 1426. The diet of 1445 passed a law ordering the owners of castles having been built without royal permission since the troubled times of King Albert's reign to demolish them or else they would be charged with treason, which was one of the most severe crimes of the time, punished with the death penalty. However, an exception was made for the castles of Slavonia because of their military importance in the protection against Turkish attacks, as well as five other castles, including Várpalota.

Miklós Újlaky was one of the greatest lords of the country, a clever, proud Hungarian aristocrat with ambitious plans. He claimed to be a follower of János Hunyadi and he participated in the triumph of Nándorfehérvár [present-day Belgrade], but later he turned away from Hunyadi and in 1457, when it came to filling the throne, he did everything in his power to win it.

Not long afterwards, the year 1458 brought some important events to the castle of Palota. This was the year when King Mátyás took the castle over from Miklós Újlaky, so it became, albeit only for a short while, a royal castle. There are no authentic records about whether Mátyás went to the castle or not, but several authors mention his relationship with Palota. For example, Sándor Kisfaludy writes thus:

"Mátyás would often attend Palota,
Which was his own estate
And hunted he there
In the wild heart of the Bakony."

Not long afterwards, thanks to King Mátyás's fruitful activities, the economic rise and serial successes of the country convinced Újlaky, who gave up his old views and became a great respector of the king, who therefore received the noble family into his fold again. Mátyás was an expert on how to win the enemy over to the service of the country, which he also did when he returned the castle to its builder. A further proof of a deep affection which later developed between the king and Újlaky is that Újlaky became the godfather of King Mátyás's illegitimate son János Corvin.

The roles of Lőrinc Újlaky, László Móré and János Szapolyai

After the death of Miklós Újlaky, his son, prince Lőrinc Újlaky, inherited the castle and estate. However, he did not build onto the castle, but on the contrary, lived a life of waste and he was also using the castle in Várgesztes, which became his main reseidence.

The castle of a regular design with four corner towers was owned by the Újlaky family (one of the most important landlords of their age() until they died out in 1524. The widow of Lőrinc Újlaky married László Móré, the brother of the bishop of Pécs. Móré had participated in the battle of Mohács, whence he returned unharmed. Making use of the doubtful political situation in Hungary (the country having two kings as well as the strongest possible enemy also marching in its territory), Móré lived the life of a real robber knight, murdering and plundering in the neighbourhood. In 1533, King János Szapolyai sent troops aginst him, fortified by allied Turkish troops and miners of Mecenzéf, who were experts in mine-making. Móré waited for the attackers and, trusting the strength of the walls of Palota, resisted hard. However, his captain was killed by a cannonball during the siege and the persistence of the defenders was weakened. Móré gave away part of his money to encourage his soldiers to resist further and, leaving his children behind, he descended on a rope from the castle wall and escaped to the forests of the Bakony, which then reached right up to the castle. Meanwhile, the miners drilled a mine under the walls, which partially fell down due to the detonation, and thus the fate of the castle was sealed. Móré himself did not live free for very long. He fell into Turkish captivity along with his children and died in the Yedi Kula (the Seven Towers) in Istanbul together with Bálint Török and István Maylád.

János Szapolyai, the Podmaniczkys and the beginning of the building of the border castle

After the expulsion of László Móré, the castle of Palota became the property of King János Szapolyai. Although the castle remained in royal hands through great fights and sacrifices, King János gave it to the Czech Podmaniczky brothers, János and Rafael on September 30th, 1537. Thus Palota became the estate of the Podmaniczkys, who often turned their coat from King Ferdinand I to King János and back. Now suppporting one Hungarian king and then the other, they increased their fortune by making use of the situation. Pursuing their own selfish interests, they pledged allegiance to both kings and terrorized the countryside. They were robbing and pillaging jointly with the Turks and they even dismissed the remaining Franciscan monastery as well as destroying the cistercian monastery in Zirc. In 1540, the bishop of Veszprém notified the king that there was no authentic place to hold a church service. The priests ran away and hid in fear and the monastic orders spread all over the Transdanubian region.

János Szapolyai died on July 22nd, 1540 and his death unfortunately lead to further complications. When he was still alive, he made György Fráter Martinuzzi, the main representative of his royal power, swear that his son would be crowned king after his death, despite the fact that the two kings had made an agreement behind Suliman's back, when in 1538, in the peace treaty of Várad they had acknowledged each other's kingship and promised that after Szapolyai's death, his part of the country would also go to King Ferdinand. The Sultan frowned on the secret peace treaty.

However, Szapolyai did not keep the agreement, but married the Polish princess Izabella, who bore him a son in 1540. He did not surrender his part of the country to Ferdinand but had his infant son crowned king. His guardians were György Fráter Martinuzzi and Bálint Török and his mother, Queen Izabella, took over the right to rule the country on behalf of the few-days-old Zsigmond János. This is how János Arany, in his poem entitled Török Bálint, describes Queen Izabella's concern and difficult situation:

Queen Izabella in Buda,
She knows not what to do in her sorrow
Two enemies pressing her from both sides
Worries covering her heart from all sides.

She gathers the council of Buda,
"Good men, give me council:
Shall a Turkish or Christian flag
Fly atop the church spire?"

Not long afterwards, on August 29th, 1541, on the fifth anniversary of the battle of Mohács, the castle of Buda fell without a stroke of the sword, by a Turkish trick. Suliman I was paying a visit to the terrified Queen Izabella. He ordered the infant king and his guardian to visit him in his tent, where he kept them while the Turkish army conquered the castle. Thus the one hundred and fifty-year Turkish rule started in Hungary.

The role of Palota as a border castle after the occupation of Buda

The occupation of Buda castle urged Hungary to join all forces against the Turks. A new military strategy had to be devised as soon as possible to prevent them from advancing further. Setting up the border castle system during the Turkish oppression in Hungary offered the only possibility of saving the country. The Turkish army could not move on through the country until they broke the resistence of the border castles. If they had left the forces of the castles behind them it would have been impossible to get reserves as well as cutting off a prospective retreat. The plan proved right: the sieges of the border castles significantly weakened the Turkish forces and rendered them unsuitable for further fighting because the reinforcement became very slow due to the great distances.

Diverse buildings were designated to become border castles. They included knight's castles, fortified manor-houses, monasteries and even churches. Therefore it is not surprising that the four-towered, rectangular castle of Palota with a large courtyard was also designated as a border castle like several others in Transdanubia. Besides the qualities of the building, its geographical location was also favourable. Situated at the foot of the Bakony mountains, the castle of Palota gained great importance as the defence point of the passageway through the valley.

Transdanubia was ruled by King Ferdinand I, who acted in the interest of Austria. After Szapolyai's death, King Ferdinand also gave Palota to the Podmaniczky family in 1543 and promised aid to reconstruct it as a border castle on behalf of the treasury, as it was also in the interest of the court in Vienna.

In 1541, Fehérvár was endangered by the Turks and they overran it in 1543. After the occupation of the city, the surrounding settlements also fell in the hands of the enemy, therefore Palota also became isolated. Its inhabitants were driven away or forced into labour and the neighbourhood was pillaged. The Turks first attempted to siege the castle of Várpalota in 1543, shortly after occupying Székesfehérvár, but they failed. Bey Hamza launched more and more frequent attacks against the castle, but it resisted steadily. The Turks were trying hard, but the Hungarian army held fast under the captainship of János Mednyánszky.

The financial affairs of the castle were in ever greater disarray due to the carelessness of the Podmaniczky family, even though its military importance became more and more apparent. In 1548, the treasury took over responsibility for the border castle, although the Podmaniczky family reamined its owners. This is the third important period of the history of the castle building.

In 1549, Bey Velicsán of Fehérvár again attempted to occupy Palota, but again in vain. During the Turkish campaign of 1552 (when there was the famous, unsuccessful siege of Eger with István Dobó leading the defenders), Veszprém also fell into Turkish hands, making Palota one of the most important border castles of Transdanubia. The Turks made a surprise attack in 1554, which was partially successful: they managed to force their way into the Hussar castle and loot a hundred horses and a lot of equipment. The attack was repeated in the next year, 1555, but was again beaten back by the vigilant defenders of Palota.

Turk-beater György Thury, Captain of Palota

Besides the continuous border castle reconstruction, the continuous Turkish attacks also had to be beaten back. The most famous Turk-beater of the period, György Thury appeared in Palota in about 1554, during the great reconstruction works. A contemporary chronicler describes him like this:

"I have not power enough to tell of,
To enumerate his valiance,
Even to write one third of it
To let my listeners know of it."

Thury was one of the greatest figures of the valiant Hungarian border castle life. He was a heroic soldier, a great patriot, a clever commander and a valiant fighter. Several chroniclers noted him to be a good man and true, with an honest character, who regarded his soldiers as his friends and brethren. His fame swept through all of Europe, yet he was not haughty, nor vain, but only proud and cruel towards the enemy. Thury was fearful, hard and brave in battle, and would risk his life for his country without second thought. Therefore it is not surprising that his men loved him almost fanatically. Legend has it that whoever fought under him never wished for another leader. He was famed for being a champion never beaten in duel. The painting at the entrance of the castle depicts a scene when he is riding off to duel, accompanied by his pages. His fame reached far-away countries and warriors came from far and wide to duel with him. He set a beautiful example of courage, love for his homeland and self-sacrifice all over the Turkish-invaded countries.

By the time of György Thury's arrival, the castle of Palota was greatly impoverished militarily as well as financially. On top of the reconstruction, supporting the soldiers caused a lot of concern. That may be the reason why Rafael Podmaniczky entrusted Thury with the most difficult financial task right after his arrival. The miserable garrison was just about to leave the service as they would not fight without payment and proper supplies.

Podmaniczky died in 1559, so Palota became a royal castle again, but this time already under King Ferdinand's rule. After the dissection of Hungary, the all-powerful king immediately awarded Thury captainship, as Podmaniczky's widow released him from the oath he had paid the family. Then Thury pledged allegiance to King Ferdinand and took over the management of the castle. By this time the castle was very poorly equipped and the number of cavalry and infantry hd fallen below 200 strong. They were not prepared for greater defence and were fighting in rags, hungrily and desperately. Faced with this sad picture, Thury wrote a letter requesting aid and sent it to the king in Vienna by a mounted courier.

"Palota, 22 April, 1559
Your Mightiest Royal Majesty, My Most Merciful Lord,

I have again understood Your Majesty's gracious and most merciful wish from Ferenc Thurzó. Therefore I am also most humbly offering to be satisfied with the amount of five thousand Hungarian forints for the upkeep of Your Majesty's castle called Palota and as most of the infantry presently in the castle is about to leave the service, so I shall hire new ones instead of them, therefore I am humbly begging Your Holiest Majesty to grant at least part of the prescribed amount of five thousand forints to me now, and please give the remaining part of the mentioned amount later from the war tax of Nyitra county. As Your Majesty had agreed with the late Lord Rafael Podmaniczky earlier. Indeed, my Merciful Lord, if we look at the size of the castle and the horse and foot guards necessary to man it, this my humble request will be regarded as most rightful by Your Majesty. Your Majesty can wisely judge what kind of amount is necessary for the upkeep of only a hundred cavalry and as many foot-soldiers for a year, not to mention the need to constantly store provisions in the castle for future needs.

I, My Merciful Lord, am not seeking my own good, but if it were possible, I would be ready to serve Your Majesty for even as little as a hundred forints, but because this castle is right in the throat of the enemy, I do not see myself fit to defend it without the necessary guards. A small army is not enough to defend it, as such is its size and condition. Indeed, My Merciful Lord, there may come a time and way when I could gain a profit of over one thousand forints for Your Majesty and the country with my service in a single day or hour. Looking forward to Your Majesty's most merciful reply.

Your Highest Majesty's faithful and humble servant,
György Thury"

Although many a glorious battle followed, the fate of the guard at Palota continued to be hard. In vain did they wait for their pay in arrears, in vain did Thury write the letter, he received nothing but promises from Vienna. No money arrived, and the military support is well represented by Count Salm's reply: "The castle of Palota lies at a perilous place and I do not want to be ashamed." To this Thury wrote a second letter, but in order to help their miserable state himself, he would launch attacks on the Turks encampments in the neighbourhood and wreak dreadful destruction among them, returning from his forays with plentiful loot. He seized arms and horses and carried many Turkish prisoners into the castle, as the building work continually required labour force. He enraged the Turks with these actions thus making his predicament even worse.

Although Buda (1541), Fehérvár (1543), Esztergom (1543) and Veszprém (1552) were already in Turkish hands at the time, the Bakony breezes still waived a Hungarian flag atop Palota castle. Bey Hamza, in his final desperation and anger, invented a trick againt Thury. He blindly believed his spy who smuggled some kind of potion into Palota castle, which did not kill the person drinking from it but made him so stupefied that he was virtually unable to master his actions for three or four days afterwards. The spy gave the potion but at the same time also spilled the beans to Thury. Then the spy reported to the Bey that he had accomplished his mission and had even seen Thury drink from the potion along with his soldiers. Making use of the situation, the Bey launched a great attack against the castle. Thury, knowing of the trick, was prepared for the Turks and directed the counter-attack from the background. The attempt ended in Turkish failure again. To crown the failure, so as not to reveal the collaboration with the spy, Thury sent a message to the Bey:

"I have heard that your worship had been here to attack, but some malady was come over me for days, although we would have had a good fight with each other."

This event was followed by further frequent Turkish attacks, but the enemy's troops always retreated to Fehérvár without any success. Finally Bey Hamza, ashamed of his many failures, appealed to Sultan Suliman for help, who sent Pasha Arslan's army from Buda against Palota to succeed in the occupation of this important Bakony passageway and to finally defeat György Thury for good.

The great siege of Palota castle in 1566

On June 5, 1566, Pasha Arslan of Buda was preparing for the attack with great force and determination as well as with a lot of good military equipment, cannons and almost 8000 men. Two-tailed Turkish flags, lances and cannons were teeming on Mount Sintér and on the hills of the Kopasz promontory. The preparation of the Turkish side was frightening. Thury recruited some helpers from the border castles nearby, but even so the manpower was less than 200 strong. In vain was Captain Thury shooting at the preparing Turks and decimating their numbers, they were so many that it did not even show.

The preparation for the siege did not cease, but on the contrary: the Turks answered by peppering the castle with cannon-shot. Therefore two soldiers, Péter Papp and Péter Literádi undertook the mission of escaping from the castle and blowing up the Turks' gunpowder store. They accomplished their mission but the Turks captured, tortured and interrogated them. The two valiant soldiers misled the enemy by lying to them that the wall was multiply fortified and very thick where the Turks were shelling it, whereas in reality it had almost fallen down. The scheme worked, the Turks started shelling the wall at another place and thus it did not collapse, thanks to the two brave soldiers. They paid with their lives to save the castle: the Turks cruelly impaled both of them.

Of course, Thury saw the great calamity and felt the end approaching. Therefore he asked his two bravest lieutenants, his brother Farkas Thury and Ferenc Pálffy to do a life-threatening mission. They undertook the task of riding through the Turkish camp to Vienna, to let Emperor Miksa know that unless he gave some help they would not be able to keep this important castle at the entrance of a passageway through the Bakony mountains. It would have meant a great danger for Vienna if the Turks invaded Transdanubia. The two soldiers bandaged their horses' hooves and quietly, knowing the mysterious ways of the Bakony, they reached Emperor Miksa and Count Salm in Vienna with the last warning. In the castle, desperation took over when the defenders saw the collapsing walls. The password was life or death, they did not trust anybody and they could only count on their own strength.

On June 14, 1566, Pasha Arslan put an end to the shelling and was preparing for the final attack the next day, as he had been informed by one of his spies in Vienna that a relief army was on its way to help the Hungarians. Turkish scouts were sent out to the Bakony to signal if they noted something unusual. The Turks wanted to rest before the battle, so Arslan ordered his men in for the evening prayer and sleep. Using this state of mind and the fearful silence before the battle, Thury made up his mind to attack.

Night fell, it was pitch dark, the chains of the castle gates and drawbridges were greased and the 200 soldiers left the castle without any noise and attacked the sleeping Turks. There was wild uproar and panic in the camp. Storehouses, stables and haystacks were set on fire. Thury rode towards the pasha's tent, surrounded by a whole Turkish army, but Thury was  ceaselessly slashing into the enemy with his broadsword.

This was when their good fortune happened, which was also the reward for their courage. The Turkish scouts that had been sent out were returning in terror and reported to the pasha what they had seen in the forest. They said that a huge relief troop was approaching. What really happened was that at that time the chief justice of Győr had sent a lot of carts to the Bakony to fetch wood to reinforce the dikes along the river Danube. They were raising a lot of dust, making a lot of noise and shouting in Schwabish and Hungarian while working. The Turks thought that they were the relief army and reported it to the pasha. Upon hearing the news, Arslan, screaming and shouting, ordered his troops to retreat. By daybreak, the Turks retreated to Fehérvár with great losses, leaving behind provisions, animals, tents, cannons and gunpowder as well as many victims around the castle. The relief army arrived three days after the Turks' departure and it was certainly not thanks to them that the castle was saved!

Over fifty Hungarian hussars fell victim to the daring raid. Suliman had Pasha Arslan beheaded for his failure, as they had so nearly occupied the castle and he had to answer for his flight. Mustafa was appointed in his place, and attempted further attacks but failed regularly. Like in the times of Beg Hamza, the castle of Palota would always beat back the attacks.

Shortly afterwards, György Thury asked for exemption from the office of captainship and his place at the head of the castle was taken by his younger brother Benedek. The Turks besieged the castle again in 1567, but then too it was without success.

The thirteen years between 1554 and 1567 were the most glorious period of Palota castle, while György Thury was defending its walls. Having been transformed into an important border castle, Palota resisted the Turks. Thury's valiance was immortalized in The Peril of Sziget, an epic poem writtten by poet and commander Count Miklós Zrínyi, grandson of the defender of Szigetvár castle:

"Leaving good order within, Thury with his 200 men
Comes out of Palota along with many a famous hero,
Attacking the Turks with daring valiance,
Killing many of them by courageous hardness."

The Heroism of Captain Tamás Erdődy Pálffy as the defender of the castle

In 1573, Tamás Pálffy became  the captain of Palota, and immediately the rebuilding of the castle started. Meanwhile, the soldiers led numerous victorious incursions against the Turks. At times, there were only thirty people defending the castle, yet they managed to keep it. Finally in 1593, at the beginning of the fifteen-year war, Palota fell into Turkish hands. During the captainship of Péter Ormándy, the soldiers of Palota resisted heroically, and then, within the walls shelled to ruins, they chose to surrender by negotiation. However, the Turks, despite their promise, slaughtered most of the soldiers as they were leaving the castle. Although Péter Huszár, captain of Pápa, charged the Turkish garrison on their way to Palota and seized a large quantity of loot, this did not change the facts.

Considering the Turkish sieges, the castle of Palota stood its ground well. Despite its limited military supplies, live force and material goods and unfavourable location, it survived at least six attacks, including that of the pasha of Buda. It was securely in Hungarian hands for fifty years, and the crew was able to make incursions of local importance, although they failed to retake Fehérvár due to the lack of support coming from the court in Vienna.

The retaking and glory of Palota castle

The castle of Palota was under Turkish rule with minor interruptions for ninety-four years between 1593 and 1687, which is almost fifty years less than the general Turkish occupation in Hungary. Besides the glory, this period was an era of hard fighting and lots of sacrifices in the history of Palota and surroundings.

November 21th, 1687 was another key date in the history of Várpalota, as the castle finally shook off the Turkish yoke on this day. On November 17th, 1687, János Esterházy, famous for his courage, appeared at the castle with his cavalry and infantry of 3000 and started shelling it. Relief armies joined in the fight from the liberated castles in the neighbourhood, so the attack could start with substantial numbers of well armed forces. The Turks, who were significantly decreased in numbers and without reserves, acknowledged the emergency and announced without being called that they would surrender the castle if they were granted free passage to withdraw together with their women and children. The Hungarians promised this and kept to their word, unlike the Turks ninety-four years before in 1593. Thus on November 21th, 1687, sixty-eight armed men, ninety-seven women and thirty-nine children, altogether two hundred and four Turks left the castle. They were accompanied to Buda, whence they were transported to Turkey proper.

Shortly afterwards, in the peace treaty of Karlóca, the Turks surrendered the Hungarian territories. The 150-year-long Turkish occupation was finally over in Hungary and a new era followed under the exclusive rule of the Habsburgs.

The Zichy era in Palota

When in 1686 the siege cannons quieted under the walls of Buda, the ascending smoke revealed a mere few hundred houses. This was typical of almost the whole country after the expulsion of the Turks, but the long-suffering Palota and surroundings were exceptionally ruined and depopulated. The government in Vienna was in favour of settling the country with great landowners in its own interest, as well as resettling with inhabitants of other ethnicity. Agriculture suffered greatly in many parts of the country when the Turks had carried off the inhabitants, and especially the countryside around Palota was lying fallow without cultivation for a long time.

István Zichy took over the castle and the estate belonging to it in such poor condition after 1687. The most urgent task was therefore to restore the building. First the side walls of the castle were renovated in the places of the bullet scars, then the moats were drained and filled up and the picket fence built of wooden poles removed. As the work progressed, the castle started to look more like a palace than a fortification and the Zichy family shortly moved into the refurbished building.

After 1690 following the quick restoration work, the lord of the castle, István Zichy, started to resettle the area by helping the inhabitants rebuild their lives in the community. He allowed them free farming, free movement, sale of property, free grazing and free use of the wood in the surrounding forests for firewood and timber. However, this peaceful flourishing was followed by further fights between 1703 and 1711.

Landless serfs and those hiding from their landlords were already gathering under the banners of Rákóczy and Thököly. These soldiers became known as Kuruts. Within a few years, the Hungarian people, forced from the Turkish yoke straight into the Habsburg one and extorted by factious landlords, once again rose up to defend its freedom under the banners of Ferenc Rákóczy II. During the legendary Kuruts times, the military fame of Palota castle once again shone with its old glory. Kuruts brigadier Ferenc Domonkos defended the castle with his handful of an army against the cruel Austrian soldiers called Labants who, with their infamous leader, Heister, tormented and plundered the inhabitants of the neighbourhood. The people moved into the castle to take part in beating back the attacks and fought ceaselessly at Domonkos's word. They succeeded in defending the palace, but the Habsburgs burnt down the village in revenge and caused much damage in the newly built community. Those who had remained outside the castle were carried off and slaughtered.

The commander of Lipót I called Rabutin had been the tyrannical governor of Transylvania, but he was transferred to Transdanubia in 1706. Then he had the two north towers of the Palota castle destroyed, which have not been restored ever since. After the peace treaty of Karlóca (1699) following the expulsion of the Turks, many castles were destroyed in the middle of the country so that they could not be used for fights /fighting against the Habsburgs. The fights abated after the peace treaty of Szatmár in 1711 and the castle of Palota could also find some peace and quiet.

More peaceful era in and around the castle

From 1715 onwards the border castle character of Palota was completely eliminated, the garrison dissolved and the neighbourhood started to live a more peaceful life after many long years of fighting. The outer walls protecting the moat were taken away for building material and the huge moat has also been filled up in due course.

During these years, the castle also started to create its new image becoming the new times. In the first half of the 18th century, from 1715 to 1750, the castle was significatly changed by rebuilding. The outer wall and the two south towers were restored. The supporting pillars were chiselled off on the south side and stone-framed windows were put in on the main facade. During the final landscaping, the moat, the rondella and the protective foundation wall disappeared. It was also when the stone-framed windows of the 14th century palace, built by the Konth family back in 1397, were walled in. Further storeys were erected above the ground floor, which were heated through air channels by a furnace installed on the ground floor. In the staircase, early baroque and classicist stone banisters were artistically carved by great masters from Pozsony [present-day Bratislava]. The baroque facade facing the courtyard received its dignified surroundings in the inner courtyard. In the second half of the 18th century, the old chapel was also rebuilt, whose internal structure still preserves its contemporary style. From here you can see the historic remains of the 14th century sanctuary and sacristy, the remains of ceiling arches and diagonal ribs on the eastern side and the chapel parts of outstanding beauty. The loggia in front of the knights' hall and the new facade parts with tympanum were also built at this time, with a connecting row of arcades on the west and north sides of the yard.

The Zichy family gave significant help to the financial development of the community at all times and also led the way in the political life. In the meantime, great political changes happened in the country. The victory and fall of the war of independence of 1848 had been and gone. The Zichy family set a great example of patriotism. It was from the castle of Palota that twenty-three year-old Béla Zichy set out to fight in the war of independence. He answered Lajos Kossuth's call by recruiting three hundred Hungarians from the neighbourhood to take part in the counter-attack organized against Yellachich in the area of Varasd and Zágráb.

The castle of Palota was owned continuously by the Zichy family from 1687 to 1889, who were involved in the improvement of not only the castle but also the community. The last member of the family, Countess Paulina Zichy died in 1890. She was also buried in the Catholic cemetery in Várpalota like the other members of her family. Their memory is respectfully kept and their graves taken care of by the present inhabitants, who fondly think of the noble deeds of old that the family did for the progress of this country town.

Palota and surroundings are well suited for military purposes due to the drill ground, therefore the army had ambitious plans for the military use of the castle. However, after the first world war it came into the possession of the Salgótarján Coal Mining Joint Stock Company. Later it served military purposes again until 1945. The second world war and its aftermath started a new historical era for the castle of Palota.

Traditions and legends relating to the castle

Legend has it that King Mátyás visited the palace as the guest of the Újlaky family. Besides the name Thury Castle, after the famous defending captain of the Turkish era, the castle is often called Újlaky Castle, after the owner who was the friend of the fair King Mátyás. It is also believed that on December 11, 1476, would-be Queen Beatrix prepared herself for her wedding with King Mátyás and her coronation in Fehérvár the next day. It should also be mentioned that the Hungarian crown and crown jewels had been brought from Buda castle to the castle of Palota in order to prevent the coronation of Ulászló [Wladyslaw], but Queen Beatrix sent the Black Army to bring them back. As János Corvin did not want to become king as a result of sacrifices, he passed up the crown and thus renounced the throne.