Castle and Manorhouse - History
Valentín was born and raised in Zvolen castle. He spent his youth in Liptovský Hrádok castle where he learned Slovak language and local customs. He received a very good education – Balassi spoke eight languages. Valentín studied at a University in Germany, he travelled a lot and led a Bohemian way of life. He then joined the army and fought in Transylvania and in Poland, he fought the Turks and became a respected sodier. After his father’s death, Balassi returned to Hungary and in the late 1570s he again lived in Liptovský Hrádok castle, which he was very fond of. He had several legal disputes with his own family because of family properties. Along with his brother František they renovated the castle and had new castle walls built. According to the preserved documents we know that in 1579 they invested more than 3,000 gold coins into renovations. Later, Valentín again joined the army, but died as the result of a severe leg wound in Ostrihom (Esztergom) in 1594, only 40 years old. He is buried in a family tomb in Hybe, not far from Liptovský Hrádok.
From the Balassa period in Liptovský Hrádok castle and estate, there is also the first written record about Roma in the Liptov region. In 1563 the Balassas allowed a group of Roma (probably from the Spiš region) to settle at the castle and make iron tools (hoes, axes, pitchforks and nails) for the needs of the castle and neighbouring villages, and halberds for night wardens.
Magdalena Zai, after the death of her second husband, legally secured her position of the castle owner by marriages to other claimants to the property. Her fourth husband Imrich Mérey preferred to marry the widow than to pay her a forfeit for the castle. Altogether Magdalena Zai married five times, she buried every husband in less than four years of marriage and all her husbands are said to have died a natural death.
In uneasy times of the beginning of the 17th century, Liptovský Hrádok castle was most probably a secure place, since the Crown of St Stephen was momentarily hidden here in March 1622.
The castle withstood all waves of anti-Habsburg uprisings and it played the most important strategic role during the period of Estate uprisings in the 17th century. The commanding imperial general built a strong defence against the rebels of František Rákoczi. Later, at the beginning of the 18th century, the King Leopold I gave the castle and the property to the Prince of Lichtenstein.
In 1709 the important Battle of Švihrová was fought between rebels and imperials troops. They withstood the attack but the rebels seriously damaged the castle during the battle.
After a destructive fire of the castle and manorhouse in 1803, only the manor house was renovated and since then the castle has been in ruins... Not only did this tragedy strike the property. In the rainy summer of 1813, catastrophic floods hit Liptovský Hrádok castle.
For centuries, the remains of Hrádok castle along with the manor house have been a dominant feature of the town Liptovský Hrádok and of the whole picturesque upper Liptov region. Since the 1930s the ruinous state of the castle and manorhouse worried minds of the people which were not indifferent to the destiny of the cultural heritage in Liptov. However, this historical monument was not reconstructed either between the two World Wars or during the period of socialism. Deterioration of the buildings continued also into the 90’s and locals as well as tourists were troubled by the look of the old buildings falling apart.
From 1989 the place was empty, the buildings were unheated, all valuable parts and objects were stolen. Only empty walls without doors and windows remained.
Castle and Manor house before reconstruction in 2002
In 2001, when Mrs Dagmar Machová visited the ruined castle and manorhouse, she laid eyes on it and the idea was born. She decided to rebuild and renew the property which was built by Magdalena Zai who lived here the longest of all the owners – for about 23 years.
Later that year, Mrs Machová’s company Avans s. r. o. (originally DM Plast s. r. o.) bought the complex of the castle and the manorhouse from the Liptov Museum and thus branched out activities of the company. At this time there were no possibilities to receive a grant. In 2004 the company got a grant for reconstruction but it was relatively small compared to the sum for the purchase and consequently saving of this property. The company received some partial grants from SPP and from the Ministry of Culture - from the OSSD fund.
Phases of reconstruction:
Architectonic solution and arrangement was designed in cooperation with Ing. arch. Katarína Smrečanská, née Alexy. Then we had to receive a building permission, after which we made a thorough reconstruction against dampness, fixation of broken static, installation of electricity, connection to public sewerage behind the bridge overpass and building of heating in the South Wing. Thorough conservation of the ruined castle walls was carried out to ensure security so that stones falling down would not endanger construction works.
We made further reconstruction works, reconstruction of roof, planting in the park, paving the courtyard, renovation of wells, purchase of antiques, furniture and equipment. We opened the „Hotel and Restaurant of Grandcastle“.
Year 2003 - 2004
Wellness with a swimming pool and the hall Stone Gallery were built, renewal of rooms and reconstruction of the Sandorfy Apartment were made.
Year 2005 - 2010
The year 2011 is the 10th Anniversary of the reconstruction and renewal of the castle and manorhouse.
This year is also the 410th Anniversary since Magdalena Zai had the Renaissance manor house built and this year marks 670 years since the first written record about the existence of the gothic castle.