The second largest castle in Slovakia – “Šariš Castle” – Veľký Šariš.
Šariš Castle was built on a hill created during a violent volcanic eruption in the Tertiary. Basic information: when measured against the level of the Adriatic Sea, the castle stands on a hill 570 meters high. The relative height of the castle hill, measured from the river Torysa, is 300 meters. The total area of Šariš Castle is 154 ha, of which the area of the castle courtyard, which is a volcanic crater, covers 3.5 ha. The geographical position: 49´ northern latitude and 21´ eastern longitude. The geological structure of the castle: volcanic andesites sitting on layers of hard sandstone. The castle hill served as a place where pagan religious ceremonies and celebrations were held. Šariš Castle is one of the oldest castles in Slovakia.
The fertile floodplains, created by the river Torysa, have been attracting settlers since prehistoric times. During the 5th millennium BC, the top area of the conical hill (571 meters above sea level) was used by the Tiszadob groups and the Bukovohorská culture (Neolithic). However, the findings dating to the Eneolithic (Baden culture), the Late Bronze Age, the late Hallstatt and the Early Latin Period are not enough to come up with any conclusion regarding significance of this highland place. The medieval buildings, which were built around the entire top area of the hill over the centuries, all but destroyed the finds that could tell us more about the significance of the place. However, some evidence suggests the hill could serve as a refuge to the inhabitants of the surrounding lowland settlements, and maybe also enabled the strategic monitoring of prehistoric roads in a wide river floodplain.
The castle was built on the initiative of the Austria-Hungary king in a strategically important location dominating the vast territory of Šariš. Thanks to its position, the castle was not only of military importance, but above all served as an authority overseeing trade roads to Spiš and Poland. The importance of the location in the Bronze Age is also evidenced by a massive rampart fortification situated along the entire perimeter of the top plateau. The fortification was later rebuilt into a masonry wall in the 14th century (according to the latest research). In the 11th – 12th centuries, the territory of Šariš was part of the royal county Novum Castrum with its seat in Abaújvár. At the beginning of the 13th century a new political-administrative unit – Šariš, with the seat at the eponymous castle, separated from the royal county. Until the period before the establishment of the Šariš Chair (county), the territory and the castle were administered by representatives of the Novum Castrum county – comes curialis. The first of them was Petur – curialis comes Dionýsii appointed in 1217. However, based on archival sources and the evidence provided by the historic fortified settlement, we can assume the construction of the castle began well before 1217. This assumption is also supported by a period document describing a visit of the Austria-Hungary king Bello and his entourage to the castle in 1132. Throughout the entire 13th century, the castle served royal purposes. It was the seat of the administrator of the royal property and an important military-strategic point of defense. The first known Šariš comes curialis to live in the castle was comes de Sarus Miko. The Hungarian kings Bello IV, Stepehn V. and Ladislav IV occasionally stayed there. With the gradual feudalization of the country, the castle passed though the hands of various noble families. The best-known owners is the Omodej family who lost the castle after the defeat in 1312 in the battle of Rozhanovce. The empty royal treasury forced the king Sigismund of Luxembourg to return the castle in 1393 to the nobles of Štítnik, later to Peter of Perín, the chairman of Šariš county. Later, the castle was owned by Šáš family. After the death of King Sigismund of Luxembourg and his successor Albrecht of Habsburg, the queen Elizabeth recruited a mercenary captain Ján Jiskra of Brandýs to not only maintain the vast property located in Slovakia, but above all to protect the successor rights of her underage son Ladislaus the Posthumous. In March 1441, Jiskra’s army conquered Šariš Castle and for the next almost 20 years Jiskra ruled over it as the Count of Šariš. In a difficult period of anti-Turkish campaigns, the situation in the country was complicated by a growing Hussites movement (Bratríci). At one point, the rouge group established its headquarters at the castle itself. The rule of the Jiskra family ended in 1461, when the army of Matthias Corvinus conquered the castle. The king handed over the castle to Ján of Perin, who took care of it until the middle of the 16th century. However, in the complex internal political struggle for the throne between John Zápolya and Ferdinand Habsburg, the family of Ján of Perin took the wrong side, and a few years after the battle of Mohács, the castle was conquered by the imperial army in 1537, too. The humanistic scholar Juraj Werner was appointed the burgrave. However, Werner’s administration meant a considerable decline for the castle. In 1645, the castle became the property of the Rákoczi family, who, however, chose a manor house built under the castle as their seat. Under the rule of the Rákoczi family, the castle itself served military purposes (it now included barracks) and gradually lost its former privileged position. A huge explosion of gunpowder meant the beginning of a long and slow decay of the castle. The castle changed owners several times after the incident – the Aspremontc, the Szirtnars and the Puilski families. In the 19th century, the castle ruins attracted students of the Evangelical College in Prešov who spent their free time making trips to the castle. The castle captured the attention of the great minds like P.O.Hviezdoslav, S. Petofi, and F. Kerényi.
Currently, the castle is slowly being restored and offers amazing views not only of the surrounding hills, but also of the surrounding castles and castle ruins. Those interested may also use binoculars which was installed by OOCR Šariš Region in 2019 on the top of the Donjon Tower. Throughout the year, the castle becomes alive with many events. The most popular summer events are the July Film Night at the Castle and the Šariš Castle Days, which take place in early September.
The Šariš Castle is part of the Šariš Castle Route.