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Monday - 15 November 2021     Amielii, Idalii, Leopolda     "Życie tylko dla samego siebie jest korozją osobowości". Wiktor Hugo    
Portal -> Kamenica

Seen from the Kamenica castle…
When you look at the Kamenica castle from the village, you have to lift your head high up. The remnants of the walls built of fine, today greyish, pieces of limestone, seen against the sky, do not reflect its real size, but it is the second largest castle complex in Slovakia, although now it is hard to imagine. The stronghold occupied two neighbouring rocks joined by a narrow crest and a vast depression below. From the north, where the approach is very gentle, the castle was protected by a wall and a moat. Stone castle on a bare rock must have seemed to be a monolith. In its heyday, Kamenica – called Tarkö in Hungarian – must have looked impressive. Today, the place offers, first of all, magnificent views. Looking from the lower rock, contemporary buildings are almost invisible and as far as the eye can reach stretches uninhabited, green expanse, with settlements looming on the horizon.
For the first time, the castle was mentioned in written sources in 1306 as castrum Thorkou. The name Kamenica itself is older though. In 1270 it is mentioned as a hunting area of Hungarian rulers, stretching as far as the Polish border. Most probably, there existed some kind of building in Kamenica at that time, as the closest castle in Sáros area was situated too far away.
King Stefan V (1270-1272) gave Kamenica to the sons of Saxon knight named Detrich. As a result of multiple exchanges between the heirs of Detrich and the successors of Rudiger (another Saxon knight), in 1296 Kamenica and Červenica passed to Kokoš and Jan – sons of Rikolf I. They gave origin to the famous families of Berzevics and Tarcsays, whose fates more than once intertwined with the history of Poland. Kamenica remained in the Tarczays’ hands till mid-16th century. In 1438, during the struggles for the Hungarian throne, the castle was taken for a short time by the supporters of Queen Elżbieta (Elisabeth). Then, in 1456, The Bohemian Brothers tried to capture the castle, but their attack was repelled. In 1532 Dorota Banffy, the widow of Mikołaj Tarczay killed in the Battle of Mohács in 1526, had to give back the castle to Hieronim Łaski. Łaski, who performed the function of zupan of Szepes County, governed the castle till 1540, when it returned to the Tarcsays’ hands thanks to Dorota’s marriage with Maciej Łobocki, Łaski’s grandson. The last owner of Kamenica, and at the same time the last of the family, was Anna, wife of Jerzy Drughet from Humenne who supported the Zapolyas during anti-Habsburg rebellions. Victorious Habsburg troops besieged the castle, whose fortifications were already very outdated at that time. Bombarded by cannons brought from Zborów, Sáros and Lewocza, the castle was captured on the 16th of July 1556. Anna’s properties, together with the ruined castle, fell into the hands of the supporters of Maximilian Habsburg – the Dessewffy family. New owners did not undertake the reconstruction of the castle, which started to deteriorate with time. In 1816, the next owners, the Tahyovecs, demolished defensive walls and used the acquired stone to build an oil mill in nearby Lucca, thus speeding up a total ruin of the castle.
The oldest castle buildings are located on the higher, western rock. Here stood a stone round tower 4-5 storey high and a two-bay residential building erected most likely in the Gothic style. These were surrounded by defensive walls on a plan of irregular triangle. After 1275 the castle expanded to the eastern rock, where another residential building was erected and incorporated in the line of defensive walls. It was rebuilt in the Renaissance period. In the western part of the courtyard a water cistern was cut in the rock. A depression marking that place can be seen till today. The castle had no problems with water supply anyway. Apart from the cistern filled through the pipes from beneath the castle, from the place called “the master’s well”, there were also springs near the walls. They function also today. During the period of the Hussite Wars, earthen ramparts were added from the west and east, upon which a new ring of walls, three stone and one earthen bastion were built in the 16th century.
The part that joined the two “cones”, situated about 12 m beneath the rocks, was protected by a defensive wall partially preserved till today. From the south, there was a retaining wall “supporting” several meters thick earthen embankments which levelled the courtyard. The youngest element of the fortifications was a horseshoe-shape tower added to the northern part of defensive walls in late Middle Ages. It cannot be excluded that it served as a barbican protecting the entrance to the castle. Beneath the stronghold there were two, or perhaps even three fortified baileys. However, the existence of the so-called “second” one has not been unequivocally proven. The first bailey was located on a terrace situated below the castle from the north-east. It was surrounded with a defensive wall with two towers – polygonal and round. The so-called third bailey, very extensive, was situated in a depression between the eastern peak of the crest and another, lower rocky peak. It was 157 m long and 43 m wide. From the north, it was protected by a huge defensive wall with towers at the ends. From the south, very steep slopes provided an effective barrier and no fortifications were constructed there. From the north-east and north, the access to the castle was closed by a moat 5 m deep and 21 m wide, and an outer rampart whose crown is in some places 4.5 m wide even today.
The castle’s ruins have yielded a number of artefacts, including those made of gilt bronze, bronze and copper (book fittings, appliqués, buckles, belt fittings, bosses, brooches, rings, a base of a chalice or candlestick), lead (balls, beads, a cross, decorative rivets, seals) and iron (nails, staples, keys, knives, clasps, fragments of spurs, axes, war hammer, cannon balls, horseshoes).
When writing about the Kamenica castle, one must mention a moving story which, according to a legend, it witnessed. It is about unhappy love of the owner’s son and a peasant girl, beautiful and kind Helena. Ruthless father got in the way of their happiness and forced the young master, in love but passive, to marry one of his equals – the neighbour’s daughter. Helena was left with only tears and memories.

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