Ukrainian Nevytsky castle – History and Legend

Nevytsky castle

Nevytsky castle, one of the most mysterious Ukrainian castles, is an impressive Roman-Gothic building rising on the hill near Kamyanytsya village in Zakarpattia. This castle is not just a perfect example of fortification architecture of the XIII-XIV centuries – it is also a place full of old romantic and enigmatic stories. Let`s get to know historical facts and legends about Nevytsky castle in the West of Ukraine.

History of Nevytsky castle

walls of medieval castle
In the XII century, the border between Principality of Halych and Hungary passed along the Uzhok mountain above Uzh River. The first wooden fortification on the place of the modern Nevytsky castle was built in that time in order to protect the border and to protect lands from Tatars, Mongols and nomad tribes. The first mentioning of the Nevytsky castle dates back to 1241, when the weak wooden fortress has been destroyed by the army of Tatars and Mongols.
The Hungarian king Bela IV reconstructed the fortress according to all defensive requirements of that historical period. After the reconstruction, Nevytsky castle turned into a powerful stone fortress with a watchtower and a well for collecting rainwater. The renewed castle was able to withstand serious attacks and sieges. The reconstruction process lasted for few decades and ended in 1274. These facts as stated in written documents.
old stone castle
During the end of the XIII – start of the XIV centuries, the fortress played significant role in the fight of the Hungarian noblemen for the crown. For some years, the fortification served as a stronghold of Zakarpattia feudal lords protesting against the new Hungarian king Charles Robert. In 1322, Nevytsky castle became the property of the duke family Drugeth for the next three centuries. The new owners reconstructed the castle in accordance with Italian patterns: they expanded it, built new towers and arranged a deep ditch. In the course of fire-arms evolvement, the castle had been continuously reconstructed and upgraded; it took its final shape only in the beginning of the XVI century. In that period, Nevytske village near the bottom of Zamkova mountain (the mountain on which the castle stood) was founded.
In 1644, the castle was destroyed by the Transylvanian duke George II Rákóczi during religious wars (Drugeths were Catholics, while Rákóczi were Calvinist Protestants). No serious reconstruction works have been done on Nevytsky castle since then, so nowadays we can see ruins of the castle from the XVII century.
entrance to old castle
The life in Nevytsky castle revived only in the end of the XIX century, when the European elite became interested in its history. From that time, the castle became the location for holding theatre performances and celebrations against the background of the old powerful walls.
During the World War I, the castle was forgotten once again. Only in the end of the XX century, insignificant restoration works had been done there so that Nevytsky castle could open its doors for tourists.

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Nevytsky Castle in Modern Times

Nowadays those who visit Nevytsky castle can see square donjon tower, four towers on the corners and a tower above the gates. Besides, there is a chance to see parts of defensive walls, ditch, earth walls and a well of 3.5-meter diameter in the yard. In 1970s, the castle was partially restored so now the visitors can see a roof with four facets and observation platform. The ruins of Nevytsky castle are currently situated on the territory of “Verkhovyna” recreation camp. Admission to the castle for tourists is free.

Legends and Mysteries of Nevytsky Castle

medieval castle at night
Apart from interesting history, Nevytsky castle is famous for numerous mysterious legends. The most well-known legend says that the castle was built by a Turkish princess witch called Evil Deva. To make her castle impenetrable, she ordered to add eggs, breast milk and even human blood to the mortar of its walls. The king Matthias got to know about Deva`s cruelty, he decided to punish her, but he failed to take the castle by assault. Then the smart king used stealth. He gathered all the cows from surrounded lands and ordered to tie small bells to their horns. After that, warriors with torches made cows run in front of them. The bells produced loud noise so Deva got scared, ran out of the castle and tried to escape. But Matthias caught the evil witch and cut off her head. The legend says that Deva`s head rolled for few miles, yelling out curses to the king! By the way, Evil Deva had a real historical prototype – a Hungarian princess from the Dugreth family, and she was really involved in the reconstruction of the castle. However, no one can be sure that she used human blood for it.
ruins of medieval castle
Another legend about Nevitsky castle is more romantic than creepy. The locals often say that the name of castle “Nevytsky” comes from the word “nevesta” (“bride”), because in the old times families hid the young girls behind the powerful castle`s walls before the time of their marriage. Still many newly wedded couples come to the castle on their wedding day to make their marriage stronger.

How to Reach Nevytsky Castle

yard of old medieval castle
The castle is located only 12 km away from Uzhgorod – the capital of Zakarpattia. If you go to Nevytsky castle by car, you will have to ride along international highway Kyiv – Chop and then turn to the direction of Nevytske village. You can also choose to go by bus from Uzhgorod bus station. The buses run every 30-40 minutes. Just go out at “Zamkova Gora” station in Nevytske village and go across the bridge to the mountain with castle on the top.
Though Nevystky castle surely belongs to the list of the best medieval castles in Ukraine, here you will not meet crowds of tourists. This is a great place to enjoy magnificent view, special atmosphere, to feel the breath of history and to take amazing pictures.
Photo source: All photos belong to their rightful owners.

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