Guarding Šariš Castle

IN THIS postcard from 1935, the town of Veľký Šariš in eastern Slovakia is shown in the foreground and on the tall hill behind stands Šariš Castle, which for many years had determined the character of life in its surroundings.

IN THIS postcard from 1935, the town of Veľký Šariš in eastern Slovakia is shown in the foreground and on the tall hill behind stands Šariš Castle, which for many years had determined the character of life in its surroundings.

šariš Castle was built during the 12th century on a volcanic hill 570 metres high. In 1538 it became the site of Upper Hungary’s Chamber and it kept this privileged position for the next 20 years. This meant in practice that the area from the High Tatras to the Torysa River was administered from the castle. It is reported that at the start 200 infantrymen protected the castle and its massive fortification had 14 bastions.

Other sources report that things had not gone very well at the castle during this time. Šariš Castle was under the command of Juraj Werner, a famous humanist of the period and during his command serious problems seem to have arisen at the fortress. When an imperial committee came to make an audit after Werner’s death in 1556, it found that the castle was in a disastrous state: military equipment was chaotically scattered all around the castle, totally rusted and unusable. The committee also found poorly managed foodstuffs – either rotten or partially eaten by rodents.

However, the most alarming discovery was the lack of preparedness of the garrison, which by then consisted mostly of craftsmen. Previous castle commanders allowed the soldier-craftsmen to move freely around the nearby towns and villages where they routinely did their everyday work, sometimes leaving the castle for days on end. The committee ordered the commander to ban soldier-craftsmen from leaving the castle for any reason and initiated various kinds of military training.

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