Žilina castle

Žilina castle

Žilina castle belongs among the greatest mysteries of the town. In 2008, during the construction of a shopping centre on the periphery of the Urban Conservation Area near Žilina’s rectory, remains of a circular structure, not dissimilar to that in Budatín, were discovered. Since then, many say it is no longer a secret. Could it be true? The existence of Žilina castle is known from numerous sources. It has appeared in documents for more than 130 years. However, its actual location was unknown. It was sought after by historians, archaeologists, conservationists and enthusiasts. For many decades it was believed to have been placed under today’s parish church or in its close proximity. Other locations in various parts of Žilina appeared as well.

The mentions of the Žilina castle
Žilina castle appears in sources for the first time in 1318. Shortly after the first written mention of the town of Žilina. In 1318, the Bishop of Nitra Ján, excommunicated Matthew Csák of Trenčín and his castellans. Among them Joanes de Zoldvár et Zelena is mentioned. This first written material directly documents the existence of the castle by this time. Joanes was thus administrator of the castle and the town. In this case, the prominent historian of Žilina professor Marsina speculated that the aforementioned Joanes might actually have been Ján Pezold – the first mentioned hereditary mayor of Žilina. Today, thanks to historian Ján Lukačka who completed the latest research, we know that it did not concern Žilina but a place close to Hlohovec. Thus the first mention of Žilina castle could not have appeared in 1318. It only surfaces in 1350 - more exactly on the 26th of July, when the provincial judge Alexander confered inherited mayoralty of the village of Konská to a certain Mikuláš, son of Helbrand. The document states that Konská belonged to the district of Žilina castle. Another document mentioning the castle yet again is dated seven years later. With this document, Peško, son of Žilina citizen Mikuláš, was granted hereditary mayoralty of the village of Stráňavy, belonging to Žilina castle.

There are two references about Žilina castle from 1384, one of which also specifies the ongoing construction of the castle. Žilina county and a castle surrounded by walls were mentioned in a deed of donation by Queen Mary of Anjou regarding the village of Nededza. This is the first mention of the castle fortifications. The second reference is about a group of unidentified insurgents who tried, probably in vain, to conquer the castle.

A document mentioning the castle appears in 1397. In this document Hungarian King Sigismund I. Luxembourg gives the castle to Polish noble Sudivoj from Ostrorog to simultaneously manage and repair. The castle disappears from history after 1454. The year in which the last written account of Žilina castle occurs. Then, the Hungarian and Czech King Ladislav called "Posthumous", asked Ladislav Pongrác to return Žilina castle (Castrum Regis Solna), which he  appropriated contrary to law.  At the same time he left him Žilina’s mayoralty.   

Where was situated Žilina castle
From this moment, only speculations begin. In the 19th century, Alexander Lombardini arrived with his article (1888) which re - opened the issue of Žilina castle. The search for the greatest mystery in the history of Žilina began once again.
The theory of the castle being located here was disproved after archaeological research in the vicinity of today’s Parish Church. Archaeologists clearly reject the theory. Then where did it actually stand?
The remains of a circular building were discovered during the construction of a shopping centre on the 800th anniversary of the first mention of Žilina region. The first sign was clear. It was the long sought out castle of Žilina. Yet, ongoing archaeological research raised further questions.  All findings from the excavations came from the 15th century. Apart from the foundations of a circular building, no remains of fortifications or ramparts were found. No features typical of other castles in Europe and Slovakia appeared. And what about a document of the Trenčín governor Matthias Corvinus from 1457, where he demands his castellans, including those in Žilina, not to abolish the privileges of Žilina’s inhabitants? Is it an indirect reference to the castle? In all likelihood it was still in existence. It can be concluded that the mystery of Žilina castle’s location has finally been resolved for some. For others there still remain many rational questions. Eg. Žilina’s longtime archaeologist Jozef Moravčík says the circular building makes sense only if  it was part of the fortifications of the town and not a separate castle.

Source: according to academic literature, edited by M. Mrva.

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