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Visegrád, the gem of the Danube bend (Visegrád)

In medieval times the residence of the Hungarian kings was here in this town. Today, this site on the Danube Bend (Dunakanyar) is full of listed heritage buildings.

Visegrád first grew in importance at the time of Roman Empire's rule. An entire chain of watch-towers (őrtornyok) was erected along the military road leading to Esztergom.

Among the sights which can still be seen are the Citadel, built by Béla IV above Visegrád on the steeply rising 328-metre hill, the Lower Castle (Alsóvár) on the hillock below Castle Hill (Várhegy), and the Water Bastion (Vízibástya) on the Danube bank.

Visegrád rose to national, then international fame in the 14th century. Around 1320 King Károly Róbert began construction work on the Royal Palace which was to become the seat of the court within only a few years. In the late 14th century, the Royal Palace was already acknowledged as an outstanding work of Hungarian secular Gothic architecture.

With the arrival of steamboat traffic on the Danube in the early 19th century, Visegrád quickly became a popular location for outings. Its current settlement structure developed at that time, while the first holiday villas date from the early 20th century.

Nevertheless, there were further difficulties in the late 20th century. The construction of one of a series of dams, known as the Bős-Nagymaros Danube River Barrage project, was planned opposite Visegrád. Fortunately this plan was later abandoned. The area along the Danube bank was given a new lease of life and a large enclosed sports bay was developed near the Lepence Lido.

 

SIGHTS

CitadelCitadel Visegrád

The double fortification system was built around 1250-1260 for Béla IV and his wife Mária Lascaris from the money she received for the jewellery that she had brought with her from Byzantium. The castle consisted of the fortified walls around the hilltop, two towers, and a residential palace.

Over the centuries, beginning with the Anjou Kings and ending with King Matthias, this citadel was expanded and modernised by many Hungarian rulers.

 The Old Tower was finished by 1251 on the north-eastern part of the Citadel most open to attacks; it also served as a castle refuge. The enclosed pentagonal building with its protruding V-shape to the east had an important role in the defence of the Citadel. The enemy's catapult shots bounced off its massive walls and the archers could counter-strike against the attackers to protect the fortification. According to research, the castle chapel consecrated to St Elizabeth of the Árpád House, was most probably on the second floor of the tower.

The Citadel was built as a castle refuge for the Dominican nuns of Rabbit Island, among them Princess Margaret, so a residential palace was added; archaeologists have also uncovered the remaining fragments of the walls.

Today the Citadel also hosts a museum exhibition.

 

King Matthias Museum

The Museum's exhibits are held in the reconstructed buildings of the Royal Palace and the Solomon Tower. Among the displays are sculptural remnants from the Royal Palace and the history of Visegrád.

The exhibits in the early Gothic Solomon Tower show the history of Visegrád from Neolithic times up to the expulsion of the Turks, as well as the Gothic and Renaissance wells and sculptural remnants from the Royal Palace.

The reconstructed halls of the late-Gothic and early-Renaissance Royal Palace are home to the palace's archaeological finds and stonework, as well as an area set up as it may have been in medieval times. The most outstanding work of art is the Hercules' Well dating from the period of King Matthias, the first significant remnant of Renaissance sculptural art made outside of Italy. A restored copy of the late Gothic 'Well with a lion' (Oroszlános-kút) is also on view in the palace, the original fragments of which are in the Solomon Tower.

A replica of the Hungarian Crown is on display in the Citadel.

The Museum has a noteworthy public library.

 

Royal Palace

Royal Palace VisegrádThe excavated and reconstructed parts of the former Palace show both Gothic and Renaissance features. For a while the official seat of the Hungarian sovereign, it later became their summer residence.

The excavated remnants of the 14th- and 15th-century Palace cover an area over 500 metres in length and 150 metres in width at the foot of the hill. The terraced Palace complex consists of three large units: the northern Matthias Palace, the Chapel and the southern Beatrice Palace.

This vast building complex comprised about 350 halls and rooms. This is revealed in a book written by the humanist Antonio Bonfini, a member of King Matthias's inner circle. He recorded the Palace's hanging garden, the colonnades, and the marble fountains. Two of these still ornament the inner courtyards. One, a red marble fountain with a baldachin and lions, is on the 4th level courtyard. The other, a red marble fountain considered to be the most beautiful piece of Hungarian Renaissance sculptural art, stands in the middle of the upper formal courtyard. Excavations brought to light the remnants of the Medieval Palace's most stunning buildings. The museum building and the stonework finds are directly connected to the excavation area.

In the summer, the Palace becomes the location of castle games that conjure up the past.

 

Solomon TowerSolomon Tower Visegrád

The tower of the lower castle, known as 'Solomon's Tower', was built in the 13th century. It is a virtually unique construction of Hungarian architecture of its day. It has been damaged on numerous occasions, but has always been repaired. It is currently a museum.

The lower castle consists of fortress walls, fortified with gatehouses and watchtowers, and a large tower. It was simultaneously home to the ruling class and the land-steward, and also a fortified building for military purposes. It was connected to the citadel by a barrage-wall which ran as far as the watchtower on the Danube bank.

The main entrance to Solomon Tower opened from the first floor; upstairs rooms were heated by columnar fireplaces and were lit by richly proportioned coupled windows. The roof-terrace on the sixth story, was surrounded with a machicolated gallery and battlemented walls from which it was possible to access the outer gallery.

Vlad Tepes, better known as 'Dracula', ruler of Wallachia was held captive here between 1462 and 1474, but was then returned to his rank by King Matthias (Mátyás király) in 1476.

Today the Solomon Tower is a museum and exhibition hall.

  

Visegrád Excursion Centre

The Visegrád Excursion Centre run by the Pilis Park Forest Plc. consists of a forest cultural centre, a game reserve and a playground.

Workshops about ecological awareness are held in the forest cultural centre and children may book for one-week camps in the conservation camp on the hill.

 

Accommodation in Visegrád: http://www.hungaryrooms.com/hotels/Visegrád/

Map of Visegrád: http://www.hungaryrooms.com/map/Visegrád/

Along the Ipoly, Friend

The Ipoly (Ipel) – a river running along the border with Slovakia – is a feeder for the Danube. It embraces Borzsony, the mountain that – together with Visegrad – characterises the Danube Bend. The volcanic, 900m-high mountain is covered with typical Hungarian woodland: oak, beech and hornbeam. The Danube-Ipoly National Park contains a diverse range of flora and fauna, including 70 protected plant species and more than a hundred protected types of bird. tovább »

Visegrad, Danube Bend, Nogamstar

Visegrad is a synthesis of the past, present and future. At one time the border of the Roman Empire, the limes, ran past the settlement; you can still see the ruins of Roman watchtowers along the Danube. The first king of Hungary, St. Stephen, established a stewardship here and raised the archdeacon’s church, the foundations of which still stand on Castle Hill. The view from here is superb, encompassing the incomparable Danube Bend. tovább »

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