The development of the Fortress in Komarno from the ancient times until the modern times

      Because of the trading and military importance of river crossings, they have played a strategically significant role for thousands of years. Komarno’s earlier settlements controlled the waterways of the Danube, Vaag and Nitra rivers. Not only did they control the rivers, but also the roads that went through the Nitra River valley. This placed the occupants of this junction in a key position.
Owning this important international trade intersection (being no other crossing nearby) meant one had power over the region.

      It is likely, though not proved, that the Romans, who usually secured all the river crossings and confluences, built the first fortress within the Limes Romanus in the location of the present Old Fortress. The area of the present town situated on the right bank of the river Danube belonged to the region of Brigetio (Szőny), which was situated slightly to the east.

      After the defeat of the German kvad people, the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius also ordered fortresses built on the left side of the river in 171. One of these fortresses can be found 4 km from Komarno, in the region of Izsa. (Celemantia – Leányvár). The encampment, which was surrounded by earthen ramparts, was built under the reign of Domitianus. These ramparts were later strengthened with stone walls by the soldiers of the first Roman legion. Some centuries later the stone walls of the encampment were demolished, and a significant part of the material was used for the building of the so called “Old Fortress” in Komarno. It has not been proved yet whether a similar Roman fortress existed in the territory of the present Old Fortress. Anonymus (1173-1196) was the first who reported the location of the fortress in Komarno, the inhabited parts of the area and the possibilities of  natural defence. In his book, Gesta Hungarorum, Anonymus says the following about the foundation of the town:

      ”But Ketel received not only this part but a lot more, as after invading Pannonia  Arpad gave him a large area where the Vaag flows into the river Danube in exchange for his loyalty. Here, later the son of Ketel, Alaptolma, built a castle, which he called Komárom.

      He sent two-thirds of the people he brought with him and two thirds of the people he won from the leader to serve in the stronghold of Komarno. After many years Ketel and his son Tolma were both buried in this place.”

      Komarno was a royal town, near the western border of the country; therefore, it was natural that it had been constantly strengthened and developed throughout the centuries. The Tartar invasion  - during which the major part of the country was devastated – proved the necessity of these strengthenings. After the Tartars left the country, King Béla IV strongly supported the developments of towns. He gave significant privileges to 25 settlements, including Komarno, which received town rights in 1265. King Béla IV sold the castle and its estates to Earl Henel. The sons of Henel, however, could not settle their debts, so the king confiscated the castle and in 1265 presented a bailiff called Walter with Komárom and the surrounding settlements. Walter built walls around the castle and the area of the present Old Fortress. However, because we do not have any documents about it, we suppose that these walls were built from stone. Thus we can define the date of the first stone fortress or castle somewhere in the years of 1265-68.

      Unfortunately, our knowledge about the castle in Komárom is very insufficient from the 13th century until the reign of King Matthias (1458-1490). In 1317 Matthias Csák defended the castle against Charles Robert. The castle was so badly damaged during the siege that it had to be rebuilt. Master Donch, the Lord Lieutenant of Znojmo County supported the building operations financially so much that in 1333 he received the castle in Komárom from the king in exchange for other castles.

      King Matthias frequently stayed in the castle with the greatest of pleasure. He had it rebuilt by Italian masters. In his other work he praises the beauty and greatness of the royal castles in Buda, Komárom and Visegrád.  Bonfini also writes about the castles built by the greatest Italian masters: “a bit further, in the corner of the island, the castle of Komárom can be seen built on a vast area. In its spacious courts, huge palaces arise built at great expense with timber framework ceilings. Here, the pleasure boat called Bucentaurus, wich is furnished like a palace with a dining room, bedrooms and separate lounges for men and women is stationed.”

      There are no engravings or drawings from this era, however based on the available data it can be stated that by the end of the 15th century the castle in Komárom with its magnificent palaces became a building complex which satisfied royal needs.

      Since the siege in 1317,  the castle had not been the scene or target of military attack, so the reconstruction and development of military objects became a secondary task. It is understandable that the contemporary architects were first interested in artistic aspects. The Turkish invasion, which lasted for a century and a half, changed the character of the castle and its further development. The royal castle, which was maintained for entertaining the royal court and served as the centre of state offices, again became the most important element of the defensive system of the country and the scene of important battles and sieges.


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