Visegrad Tourist Attractions
Visegrád is picturesquely situated at the exit of a loop in the Danube in the Danube Bend about 40km (25mi.) north of Budapest. This historical town is a popular destination for excursions because of the ruins of the royal palace and the views from the citadel.
HistoryThe Romans took advantage of the strategic location above the Danube founding a military camp on the Sibrik Hills in the 4th C (reconstruction of a watch tower near Fo utca). In the 9th C Slavs settled in the ruins of the Roman fort and named the settlement Visegrád (Slavic: high castle); later the conquering Magyars took over the castle. After the invasion of the Mongols in 1241, to which Visegrád also fell victim, King Béla IV built castles to defend the land. In Visegrád a lower castle was built with a defended residential tower in the center (the Solomon tower) which was connected by a wall with the massive citadel on the hill (upper castle). During the regency of Charles I of Anjou, who transferred his residence here in 1316, Visegrád developed into a flourishing political and cultural town. Charles kept the Hungarian coronation insignia, and following the coronation of his son Louis as the king of Poland (1370), the Polish crown jewels in a purpose-built tower inside the citadel. A new royal palace was built on the slope of the castle mound in 1330 which was the summer house of his son Louis, who moved his residence back to Buda. Visegrád experienced a final if brief climax in the second half of the 15th C when King Matthias I had the royal palace rebuilt in Early Italian Renaissance style.On Matthias's death the town began to decline. The upper castle was laid siege to several times during the Turkish wars, taken by various parties and destroyed; the towers which were left standing were blown up by the Austrian Emperor Leopold in 1702. In the 18th C German settlers lived in Visegrád who built their houses from the stones of the ruined palace. A landslip buried the rest of the palace; the only evidence of its former glory until its discovery in 1934 being the comtemporary written sources.
In its day, primarily the 15th C, the Royal Palace in Visegrád was a splendid and lavish residence. Following the Turkish wars it was abandoned and later used as a quarry, leaving the ruins which are visible today.
A signposted road in the middle of the town leads up to the 315m (1033ft) high (Fellegvár) citadel, which is still a majestic sight today, even from a distance. In 1250 King Béla IV founded the fortification which was further expanded by his successors up to Matthias and was of great political importance as the place where the royal insignia were kept for a while. Despite repeated sieges and conquests the castle survived the Turkish wars but not the punitive expedition of the Habsburgs against the Rákóczi uprising in 1702. Since then it has remained in ruins and is open to visitors. The middle of the castle, which is surrounded by several protective walls and fortified with a system of gates, narrow passages and drawbridges, consists of three wings around an enclosed courtyard (upper castle yard) which form an irregular triangle. In the east wing is the treasury tower, the former hoard of royal insignia.A steep staircase leads up to the reconstructed Inner Tower in the east which has the best views over the countryside of the Danube Bend.
As part of the lower castle the Vizibástya on the banks of the Danube was connected to the Solomon tower by a wall and served as a watch tower for the waterway and the palace's water supply. The multi-storied Romanesque construction was an obstacle to laying a road and so was torn down. The reconstruction was built on the same site in 1937.The hexagonal originally 311m (102ft) high Solomon torony (walls up to 8m (26ft) thick!) is an impressive relic of the Visegrád lower castle. The road along the river bank was surveyed from here. A popular explanation of its name is that in the 11th C. King Solomon, who was under the protection of Emperor Henry IV was kept prisoner here by the Hungarian aristocracy. However, this cannot apply to the present tower as it was not built until the 13th C.The tower, which suffered damage during the Turkish wars, has been successfully restored and houses a museum with finds from the former splendid palace.In the Anjou room on the ground floor is the superbly crafted Anjou fountain from the second half of the 13th C, a major work of medieval Hungarian stonemasonry, which in its present form is the result of exemplary reconstruction out of numerous minute original pieces. King Matthias removed it from the courtyard of the royal palace in the 15th C and replaced it with a "modern" Renaissance style Hercules fountain which is in the adjoining Matthias room. This valuable red marble fountain is thought to be the work of an Italian sculptor from the circle of the Florentine artist Desiderio da Settignano. He is also thought to have sculpted various other works in the royal palace which are kept in the Solomon tower, including the red marble Madonna relief from the high altar of the palace chapel, which earned him the name "master of the marble madonnas". Remnants of the lion fountain which stood in the royal private garden of the palace, can also be seen in the Matthias room. On the top floor of the Solomon tower the medieval vaulting has been reconstructed by means of metal netting. There is a marvelous view over the Danube and the Visegrád Hills from the roof terrace.
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