Spiš Castle

Spiš Castle (Spišský hrad)
Spiš Castle
Country Slovakia
Region Košice
District Spišská Nová Ves
Municipality Žehra
Elevation 634 m (2,080 ft)
Coordinates SK 49°00′02″N 20°46′06″E / 49.00056°N 20.76833°E / 49.00056; 20.76833Coordinates: SK 49°00′02″N 20°46′06″E / 49.00056°N 20.76833°E / 49.00056; 20.76833
Area 41,426 m2 (445,906 sq ft)
Styles Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance
Material masonry
Founded 12th century
Abandoned 1760
Visitation 170,000 (2006)
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Name Levoča, Spišský Hrad and the Associated Cultural Monuments
Year 1993 (#17)
Number 620
Region Europe and North America
Criteria iv
Location of Spiš Castle in Slovakia
Location of Spiš Castle in the Košice Region
Wikimedia Commons: Spiš Castle

The ruins of Spiš Castle (Slovak: Spišský hrad,  pronunciation ; Hungarian: Szepesi vár; German: Zipser Burg) in eastern Slovakia form one of the largest castle sites in Central Europe. The castle is situated above the town of Spišské Podhradie and the village of Žehra, in the region known as Spiš (Hungarian: Szepes, German: Zips, Polish: Spisz, Latin: Scepusium). It was included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1993 (together with the adjacent locations of Spišská Kapitula, Spišské Podhradie and Žehra). This is one of the biggest European castles by area (41 426 m²).


Aerial photography of the castle
Spiš castle - the central part.

Spiš Castle was built in the 12th century on the site of an earlier castle. It was the political, administrative, economic and cultural centre of Szepes County[1] of the Kingdom of Hungary. Before 1464, it was owned by the kings of Hungary, afterwards (until 1528) by the Zápolya family, the Thurzó family (1531–1635), the Csáky family (1638–1945), аnd (since 1945) by the state of Czechoslovakia then Slovakia.

Originally a Romanesque stone castle with fortifications, a two-story Romanesque palace and a three-nave Romanesque-Gothic basilica were constructed by the second half of the 13th century. A second extramural settlement was built in the 14th century, by which the castle area was doubled. The castle was completely rebuilt in the 15th century; the castle walls were heightened and a third extramural settlement was constructed. A late Gothic chapel was added around 1470. The Zápolya clan performed late Gothic transformations, which made the upper castle into a comfortable family residence, typical of late Renaissance residences of the 16th and 17th centuries. The last owners of the Spiš Castle, the Csáky family, abandoned the castle in the early 18th century because they considered it too uncomfortable to live in. They moved to the newly built nearby village castles/palaces in Hodkovce near Žehra and Spišský Hrhov.

Decline and reconstruction

In 1780, the castle burned down. It is not known how it burned down, but there are a few theories. One is that the Csáky family purposely burned it down to reduce taxes (no roofs back then meant no taxes). Another is that it was struck by lightning, which started the fire. A third is that some soldiers there were making moonshine and managed to burn the castle. Whatever the case, after the fire, the castle was no longer occupied and began to fall into disrepair.[2] The castle was partly reconstructed in the second half of the 20th century, and extensive archaeological research was carried out on the site. The reconstructed sections house displays of the Spiš Museum and things inside it, such as torture devices used in the castle.


  1. Kenneth Meyer Setton, The Papacy and the Levant, 1204–1571, American Philosophical Society, 1984, p. 315
  2. (Slovak)
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