Turiec castles route

The Turiec region offers to the admirers of medieval castles the ruins of the Zniev, Blatnica and Sklabiňa castles. There were other medieval castles and forts as well, e.g. the castle at Šiance in the village of Slovenské Pravno and the Sučany castle (deteriorated as early as in the Middle Ages and replaced by a smaller hill fort in the 15th century). The mentioned structures, however, were not preserved until nowadays. Apart from these finds, the predecessors of the Turiec castles in the form of stone and wooden fortifications must also be mentioned. These hill-forts had been constructed in the Turiec Region from the primeval ages, mainly on the hillsides of the Malá Fatra Mountains (e.g. the villages of Turčianske Kľačany, Bystrička, Priekopa or the town of Vrútky) and the Veľká Fatra Mountains (e.g. Belá-Dulice, Turčianske Jaseno, Záborie), but also on mounds situated in the central part of the Turiec basin (eg. Martin-Košúty). The Vyšehrad hill-fort was undoubtedly the most significant fort in this region. In the 9th century, during the period of Great Moravia and Pribina´s principality, but even throughout the first centuries of the Hungarian Kingdom, it became the administrative centre of the region. It is supposed, that in the 10th -11th centuries this task was passed to the brick-built castle of Šiance. Its destruction is connected with the fact that in 1092-1094 the Turiec Region became part of the Hungarian Kingdom.

The bike tour along the Turiec castles starts in the village of Kláštor pod Znievom. The remnants of the Zniev castle, the then Turiec castle, can be found on the hill above the settlement (985 meters above sea level). Until 1339 the Turiec Region belonged to the Zvolen County. Consequently, a castellan of the Zniev castle was at the same time adviser for the Zvolen County administrator and represented the royal authority in the Turiec Basin until this task was passed to the Sklabiňa castle. The extensive reconstruction of the Zniev castle was carried out after the Tartar invasion in 1241-1242 during the reign of King Bela IV. (1235-1270). The castle is not accessible by bicycle. However, visitors are given an opportunity for an undemanding walk if they decide to follow the green tourist sign. Calvary chapel could be observed during the route as well. It became a pilgrimage destination as early as in 1637. In the Middle Ages the municipality of Kláštor pod Znievom was significant not only because of its castle, but also because of the monastery owned by many religious orders such as the Benedictines, the Dominicans, the Premonstratesians and the Jesuits. During the period of Premonstratesian rule the monastery had a right to execute documents and their transcriptions. The importance of the village of Kláštor pod Znievom can be clearly seen from the fact that it received town privileges as early as in 1266; 74 years earlier than Martin.

The Zniev castle- The first written record of the existence of the Turiec castle (castrum Turuc) is from 1243. In 1253 King Bela IV issued a document in which he praised bravery of count Ondrej Forgáč who apart from other loyal deeds managed to save king´s life. After the defeat of the royal army by the Tartars near the river Slaná he gave to the king a very fast horse for escape. Despite the fact that the castle had already existed in the 11th-12th centuries, Forgáč had it reconstructed and had huge fortifications built around it. In addition to that, in 1241-1242 a fortified habitable tower called ´Forgač´s tower´ was constructed in the distance of 250 metres from the castle. Although the legend says the Zniev castle gave refuge to Bela IV from the Tartars, his escape across the Turiec basin is highly improbable. In January 1243, however, the King and the royal family paid visit to the castle. Not everybody agreed with the construction of it. The religious orders of Dominicans and Benedictines probably left the monastery because of property disputes. The Premonstratesians, who replaced them, managed to obtain economic stability that gradually enable them to achieve a respectable position not only in the extramural settlement, but also in the region. From the middle of the 13th century the Zniev caste became the seat of the Turiec County so-called ´Turčianska stolica´. At the beginning of the 14th century this task was passed to the Sklabiňa castle because of its better strategic position. In 1312-1313 the Zniev castle was owned by the powerful noble Matúš Čák Trenčiansky, who at that time had an absolute power over Turiec. The castle, however, gradually lost its importance, changed its name from Turiec to Zniev and became the property of the Premonstratesians. In the following period it constantly passed through various owners until it was in 1681 looted and burned by the army of Tököli. Since that time the castle has not been settled. At the beginning of the 18th century, however, an archive was kept there.

Beneath the Zniev castle ran the second most important route connecting the Ponitrie and the Turiec regions. The survived record indicates that toll had been collected there as early as in 1183. The route ran through ´black woods´ (čierny les), the valley of Vríce, the village of Kláštor pod Znievom to Saint Mary´s ford (brod vo Svätej Mare) near the village of Socovce where it joined the main route that ran from the Ponitrie region through Vyšehrad hill-fort and the villages of Slovenské Pravno and Blatnica. The former route continued from here passing along the left bank of the Turiec River via the Záturčie and Trnovo villages to Vrútky. From the middle of the 13th century, however, the main route leading from the Ponitrie region passed through Saint Mary´s ford to Blatnica. In order to follow this route as exactly as possible, the blue-marked Zniev bike path number 2415 must be taken. Continuing in a southerly direction the village of Socovce will be reached. The market rights were granted to this municipality in the vicinity of the Church of Saint Mary even before the Tartar invasion. Following the yellow-marked bike path number 8414 northwards along the Turiec River the village of Valentová will be seen. Follow the same bike path across the village of Karlová to the Blatnica village.

The ruins of the second sight on the Turiec castle route will be found there. The Blatnica castle has never been the seat of the Turiec County. It was intended to defend the route across the Turiec basin which connected the Zvolen castle with the Turiec, Orava, Liptov regions as well as the protection or royal properties against greedy nobles. The names such as ´Castrum regalis´ (the royal castle) and ´villa regalis´ (the royal village) prove the connection between the castle and the municipality which was originally an extramural settlement. The Blatnica castle, not accessible by bicycle, is situated on a limestone low ridge of Plešovica (658m). In case of interest in the castle tour, continue in an eastherly direction via Blatnica village to the Gaderská Valley and take a walk along the 1,8km long trail with its 5 information panels.

The Blatnica castle was built before 1323. In the 14th century it was owned by the Zvolen district administrator Donč but later it passed through various owners. In the 14th century this narrow rectangular palace protected by two round towers had already lost its strategic importance since the route from the Ponitrie region northwards it watched over was changed. In 1539-1945 it belonged to Revay family. Among castle estates in that period were also the villages of Blatnica, Sebeslavce, Belá, Laskár, Ďanová, Mošovce, Vieska with the spa in Teplice, Trebostovo, Jahodníky and part of Bystrička. In the period of anti-Habsburg uprisings the castle was two times looted and seized by the armies of Tököli and Rákoczi. In 1744 count Jozef Révay had it reconstructed; however, since 1790 it has not been inhabited and has deteriorated.

Blatnica and its surroundings are significant archaeological sites. Among the most valuable finds are the Slavic noble tomb from the 9th century together with the double-edged sword, ´the Blatnica Sword´, and its sword hilt with the rich Franco-Carolingian decoration. It is the Hungarian National Museum that holds the entire collection. The village of Blatnica was a crossroads because the routes from the cities of Banská Bystrica and Zvolen and the route from the Upper Nitra region met there. Travelers futher continued along the ´via magna´ through the villages of Necpaly, Belá, the Upper and Lower Turčianske Jaseno, Sklabiňa, Turčianska Štiavnička to the village of Sučany and the Liptov or the Orava regions. The importance of these municipalities in the Middle Ages can be seen not only from the surviving sacral findings /see Turiec Gothic route/, but also from the existence of significant squire families in Turiec e.g. the Folkušovský, Dulický, Jesenský, Záborský etc. / see more in the sections Turiec nobility and Personalities that brought fame to the Turiec basin/. In the 14th century the name of the route was changed to the ´antiqua via´ since the main route passed through the town of Martin.

In order to follow the authentic route ´via magna´ take the red-marked Turiec bike path number 32 and from Blatnica continue in a northerly direction passing through the villages of Folkušová, Necpaly, Belá-Dulice, Turčianske Jaseno, Horný a Dolný Kalník, Dražkovce, Záborie, Sklabiňa and Sklabinský Podzámok. Here you can admire the ruins of the most beautiful medieval castle in the Turiec basin. Until the half of the 18th century the Sklabiňa castle, following the Zniev castle, was the seat of the Turiec County. Later on it was transferred to the newly-built regional office in Martin.

The Sklabiňa castle was mentioned for the first time in written records from 1309. It is assumed, that it was the Zvolen County administrator Donč who shortly after having entered his office had the castle built in the place of the former hill-fort. After the foundation of the Premonstratesian monastery in the village of Kláštor pod Znievom Donč lost his interest in the Zniev castle and concentrated his ambitions on the sphere of building activities in Sklabiňa. During his reign the figure of castellan, similarly to the Zniev castle, was under the influence of the Zvolen County administrator. In 1337 King Charles Robert cancelled Donč´s role of a Zvolen County administrator, however, the Turiec and Liptov regions quickly managed to gain independence from the Zvolen region. The first record of the Turiec County administrators called Mikuláš and Ján came from 1339. The Sklabiňa castle became the seat of the Turiec County. Since 1527 it had been owned by count František Revay that received the successive title of the Turiec County administrator. Nowadays the castle is a ruin. The remains of the Gothic castle walls from the 14th century are the oldest parts of the structure. Late Gothic architecture from the end of the 15th century is represented by ruins of the cross vaulted chapel that was originally built in a castle bastion, the northwest gate tower and the southern prismatic gun tower. During the following centuries count František I Revay had the Renaissance gun towers built together with the palace in Renaissance style from the 50´s of the 16th century. In 1610-1612 a comfortable Renaissance manor house was built in the third extramural settlement by the Revay family. It was inhabited until 1944, when it was burned by Hitler´s army.