Castle and mansion


a Magical place with a family background

At the beginning of the 14th century, at the confluence of the Bela and Váh rivers, under the outcrops of the Low Tatras, Donč, the counsellor of Svolen, had a Gothic stone castle built on a low dolomite rock.

The castle was surrounded by a moat, which makes the castle a unique example of a plain castle in Slovakia. One of its strategic tasks was to control the important trade route called Via Magna. The first written mention of the castle, named Wywar, dates back to 1341, in later documents it is also mentioned as Novum Castrum – New Castle or Hrádek. In 1399, Emperor Sigismund of Luxemburg personally visited the castle and spent the night here. In 1433 it was captured by the Hussites and later occupied by the Jiskrovci. Throughout its history, the castle changed hands frequently.

An important figure in the castle was Valentín Balaša. Balaša came from a prominent noble Hungarian family of the Balasa family. He was born in Zvolen and spent his childhood and youth mainly at the castle in Liptovský Hrádek. At Hrádek and its estate he acquired the Slovak colloquial language and local customs. He was given a good education – he knew up to eight languages. He studied at the university in Germany, then travelled extensively and led a turbulent life. He became a well-known anti-Turkish fighter. After his father’s death, he returned to Hungary and in the late 1670s lived again in the castle of Liptovský Hrádok, which he liked very much. He had several legal disputes with his own family over the family estates.

Together with Brother Francis they took care of the restoration of the castle. Later Valentín returned to the battle again, was severely wounded and died of his injuries at the age of 40 in 1594 in Esztergom. He is buried in the family tomb in Hybi. Valentín Balasa was also the first important representative of Renaissance poetry in Hungary. He wrote in Hungarian, Turkish and Slovak.

In 1600, Mikuláš Šándorfy was given the castle and the estate. He married the young castle lady Magdalena Zai, the widow of the previous owner. At the initiative of Šándorfy and his wife, a Renaissance manor house and other buildings were built around the castle between 1601 and 1603 to ensure the running of the estate.

On the first floor of the manor house, representative rooms were set up for the owners and their guests, and on the ground floor there were warehouses and accommodation rooms for the servants. The manor house transformed a medieval, uncomfortable Gothic castle into a luxurious Renaissance mansion. Mikuláš Šándorfy did not live to see the completion of the reconstruction, he died in 1603. After the death of her second husband, Magdalena Zai legally secured her position as the castle’s owner by marrying other claimants to the property. Although she was one of the few women who owned the Castle and Manor House, she lived there the longest of all the owners – more than 30 years.

Hrádok was probably a safe place for many centuries, as the Crown of St. Stephen was kept here for a short time in March 1622.

The castle withstood all waves of the anti-Habsburg uprisings and played a significant role in them, whether as a defensive fortress or a troop base. It was conquered and destroyed several times during this period. However, it was no longer managed by its owners. They merely maintained it. Later, at the beginning of the 18th century, Emperor Leopold I donated the castle and its estate to Prince Lichtenstein.

In 1731, the castle and the manor were bought from Emanuel Lichtenstein by the royal chamber. Since then, the castle and the manor have been in decline.

After the devastating fire of the castle and the manor in 1803, only the manor was rebuilt and the castle has been in ruins ever since. But it did not stop with this disaster.In the rainy summer of 1813 a disastrous flood occurred.

In the 2nd half of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, the manor was the seat of the District Court as well as of the Royal Forestry Office of Hungary. From 1960 until the Velvet Revolution, the Liptov Ethnographic Museum was housed here.The ruins of the castle and the slowly crumbling manor house have been troubling the minds of people who were not indifferent to the fate of Liptov’s monuments since the 1930s. During this period, the first association of volunteers caring for the castle in the former Czechoslovakia was founded – the Association for the Rescue of Hrádok Castle.

However, this complex of monuments could not be reconstructed either in the period of the First Republic or in the period of socialism. During the socialist period, only archaeological and art-historical researches were carried out under the leadership of prof. Gejza Balasa. The dilapidation of the buildings continued in the 1990s, and locals and tourists alike were tormented by the sight of the crumbling buildings. Since 1989 the premises have been abandoned, unheated, exposed to unwanted visitors and everything that could be taken was stolen.All that was left were bare walls with no windows or doors.

In 2001, when Ing. Dagmar Machová visited the ruins of the castle and the ruins of the manor, a vision of restoration and revival of this estate was born in her mind.

At the end of the year, the company of Mrs. Machová – Avans s.r.o., bought the castle and manor from the Liptovský Museum and thus expanded the activities of the company. At the time of the purchase, there were no possibilities to raise funds.

The reconstruction was carried out in stages:

The architectural solution was designed by Ing. arch.

Katarína Smrečanská, born in Ing. Katharina Smrečnác, architect Katharina Smrečnác. This was followed by obtaining a building permit and thorough remediation against moisture, removal of damaged statics, bringing in utilities and heating of the west wing. The walls of the castle ruins were preserved from the point of view of safety, so that the falling rocks would not endanger the construction work.

2003 – 2004:
Reconstruction, restoration of the roof, planting of the park, paving of the courtyard, restoration of the wells and Renaissance arcades in the corridors of the manor, purchase of antiques and equipment. Opening of the ‘Grandcastle Hotel and Restaurant’.

2005 – 2012:
Renovation of the wellness area with swimming pool and the Stone Gallery Hall, restoration of the rooms, renovation of the chambers and suites.

2012 – 2022:
During this period, work was underway to restore the old Gothic castle. The ground floor of the west tower was renovated and the castellan’s room was opened. The last part of the old castle to be restored is the eastern tower, where the castle chapel has been established. In the near future we plan to open the floor of the western tower, where work is still in progress.

You can find out more information and interesting facts about the history of the castle, whether older or newer, on the castle and manor tour from our guides.

You can listen to Mrs. Machová’s story of how she came to buy the Castle and the Manor in the RTVS archive at this link .