History

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  • The Nitra Castle is located on top of a hill where an old, Slavonic fortified settlement once stood. This was surrounded by a meander of the Nitra River. The first written reference to the settlement dates back to 871. In the note construction works ordered by Prince Pribina are mentioned, along with a specific reference to a consecration of the ruler’s church back in 828. In the Great Moravia era, Prince Svätopluk resided in the city. Nitra also played a role in the mission of Sts. Cyril and Methodius. In 880 the city became the center of the newly founded Nitra Bishopric.

 

  • After the collapse of Great Moravia at the beginning of the 10th century, the castle stopped fulfilling its functions for a time. The princely dynasty of the Arpáds, however, managed to incorporate it back into the district organization of the forming new state. Since the 970s, this castle became the seat of an appanage duchy. At this period, church architecture was being renovated. The castle became the center of a county.

 

  • Since the 12th century, we once again find many references to the Nitra Bishopric, which preserved the Great Moravian tradition. In those times, the castle occupied an area of nearly 8.5 hectares, making it one of the largest in medieval Hungary. The complex did not perform solely secular (military) duties; it was, at the same time, a place of ecclesiastical importance. There was a chapter here, and, traditionally, the Bishop of Nitra also administered the county. In times of war, even people from more distant areas sought refuge in this castle. By far the grandest stone building was the Cathedral of St. Emmeram, St. Svorad – Andreas and st. Benedict. It is also mentioned in a legend written by Maurus in the years 1064 – 1070 as the site where the remains of St. Svorad – Andreas and St. Benedict  were put to rest. It is believed that where the present-day episcopal palace lies today there stood a 12th c. Romanesque episcopal palace. Accordingly, the municipal leaders must have had a due residence. Of course, storage facilities were present, too. We may also expect that this period saw the onset of the building of wine cellars. Here the bishop’s and chapter wines, which were produced in Nitra and the surrounding regions, were stored.

 

  • In the years 1241 and 1242 the Nitra Castle withstood a Mongolian invasion. Because of this the king, Béla IV, granted privileges to the settlements around the castle. Thus, a self-governing community led by a mayor and a town council emerged. In 1273 the castle, along with the town, was burned down. Many treasures from the cathedral, parchment manuscripts, and codices were destroyed. At the beginning of the 14th century, Matthew Csák’s troops, following his orders, rampaged through and burned down what buildings and fortifications had still been standing. The site was left in ruins. Afterward, a continual reconstruction of the castle took place. Older parts of the fortification were expanded with new brickwork, a contrast discernible even today.

 

  • The castle was facing upheaval in the 15th century as well, so additional fortifying was underway. This continued in the 16th century, troubled by Ottoman raids, when a Renaissance palace and a new inner castle gate were built. The reconstruction in 1622 – 1642 under Bishop John Telegdy brought about a radical change in the castle’s church buildings. During the 17th century feudal rebellions era, the Nitra Castle was a military strategic point. In 1663, briefly, the Ottomans seized it and damaged the cathedral. After its reconstruction the entire fortification system was rebuilt in the most up-to-date manner in 1673 – 1674.

 

  • Further construction and reconstruction works followed after the suppression Francis II Rákóczi’s rebellion in 1704. Then Bishop Ladislaus Adam Erdödy had the so-called Upper Church rebuilt, and with it came a new episcopal palace. Renowned artists had been invited to Nitra to decorate the church. This series of reconstructions gave the castle its present-day look.

 

  • At the end of WWII, on 26th March 1945, the Nitra Castle was bombed. The spire of the cathedral was destroyed, and a fire broke out in the complex. During the Communism period, the Institute of Archaeology of the Slovak Academy of Sciences resided here along the Nitra Bishopric. The castle buildings were used as offices and for storage. Even today the castle still serves the needs of the Roman Catholic Church. The Cathedral of St. Emmeram and the episcopal palace, the bishop’s residence and administrative headquarters, lie at the heart of the bishopric.