Spis Castle: Slovakia’s Most Famous Castle

Spis Castle, originally known as Spišský hrad, is one of the oldest and largest castles in Europe. It is also the most famous castle in Slovakia and found itself a place on the UNESCO heritage list a long time ago. The castle lies over an area of 39,000 m2.

spis castle complex

The history of Spis Castle begins in the 12th century. However, even before its construction there had existed a castle in the same location. Spis was built upon the ruins and remains of the former castle and a development in every way possible.

spis from above

In the 13th century, the castle served as an important defensive fortress against the Tartar raids. At that time, Slovakia belonged to the Hungarian Kingdom. After the raids ended, Spis Castle became the social, cultural, and political center of Szepes County.

the tower in the complex

Until the 15th century when the castle went under the ownership of the Zapolya Family as a gift, the castle belonged to the Hungarian Kings. Although the Zapolyas owned more than 70 castles in the kingdom, they made Spis their central seat and made a lot of changes to the castle.

spis walls and the land

Spis was originally a Romanesque design but the Zapolyas made renovations to turn it into a Gothic structure. They added towers, a chapel, and balconies, thickened the walls, and turned the top of the castle into a royal residence which was a characteristic of medieval castles.

the walls close up

The Zapolya Family who owned Spis Castle were one of the most noble families in the Hungarian Kingdom at the time. Ján Zápolya who was the last Hungarian king before Hapsburgs was born in the castle. Spis holds a highly important place in Slovakian and Hungarian history.

the renovated stairs in the castle
Dani Kendi Schmidt

However, entropy is surely real and it visited Spis as well. As time passed, especially during the 18th century, the castle’s state deteriorated. A fire nearly destroyed the walls and left the castle in ruins. Following the fire, the castle was abandoned until the end of WW2.

spis and the trees

After the war, Slovakia was a part of Czechoslovakia until 1989. In the 1970s, the government decided to stop the total decay of the castle and started renovations and excavations. Today, Spis Castle is a museum and one of the most famous and popular historical places in Europe.

spis from the ground level