Košice Castle was one of the largest in Slovakia

The project of revitalising the castle and making the archaeological site accessible will not only bring a more pleasant, local recreation zone, but also an interesting area for cultural and educational activities. It is one of the investment projects of Košice 2013 – European Capital of Culture.

The castle ruins on Hradová hill above Košice have disclosed their secrets in recent months. Since May, employees from the Archaeological Institute of the Slovak Academy of Science (SAS) have been carrying out preservative archaeological research. Its aim was to survey the terrain where the building works are taking place within the castle revitalisation project, to document uncovered buildings as well as to verify hypotheses to date on the creation of the Castle and Košice itself.

Archaeological research in Hradová is one of the largest archaeological surveys currently being carried out by the Archaeological Institute of SAS. It is even more interesting because it is being implemented in a ‘cursed’ location in terms of information to date. Much has been written about this location but we still know very little about it, “ said the Director of the Archaeological Institute of SAS, PhDr. Matej Ruttkay, CSc. As he stated, they expect the survey findings to show how old the castle is and whether it has ever been finished, and they will also verify data about even older, prehistoric settlements in the location. “On the other hand, it is also important because we don’t really consider it to be research for building an infrastructure, but we also see it as the start of other interesting activities which could be connected to presenting this location to the wide public,” added Ruttkay.

Mayor of the City, Richard Raši, is observing the progress of the works with great interest. “Due to the small amount of accessible information, this place has been the subject of speculation for a long time in relation to the historic significance of Košice Castle. I hope that this will be a breakthrough year for Košice in terms of learning the history of our city. This is not only commemorating 700 years since the battle of Rozhanovce which determined the direction of Košice for many years after, but thanks to the European Capital of Culture project, we have the chance to unveil the so far unknown history of our city. At the same time, we will reconstruct the surrounding area and turn it into a pleasant recreational zone for the people of Košice, where a number of cultural and social activities will be held and I believe will be enjoyed by visitors.”

Field research in Košice Castle, which will take place until the end of August 2012, is being carried out by archaeologists in cooperation with the Košice 2013 non-profit making organisation, within the grant program of the Ministry of Culture of the Slovak Republic – Renovate our Home. According to the archaeologist, head of research of Košice Castle, PhDr. Peter Bednár, CSc., the castle was completely surveyed last year. The discovered area, approximately 6.2ha, signifies that it is one of the largest Slovak castles in the area of the former Hungary. Building of the castle commenced in the first half of the 13th Century at the latest, when Hungary was under the reign of King Belo IV (1206-1270).  “It is definitely a castle established by a king. It’s proven by its large area as well as the dimensions of the two preserved towers. Apart from its size, Košice Castle also has another rarity – a tower with a triangular ground plan on the northern side of the fortress. Another particular feature is its fate – it is either an unfinished castle or a castle which was almost completely demolished after it ceased to be used,” said the Head of Archaeological Research.  A lack of building stones in the surrounding area supports the opinion that in the 16th to 18th Centuries, the castle was gradually and thoroughly taken apart, which also answers the question of why there are no castles or residential buildings in its interior space. “I suppose that after processing the obtained material, we will be clearer on the questions of the castle’s development and we will also contribute towards finding out how Košice was created. It seemed so far that it grew from nothing and didn’t have any predecessors, and there were also thoughts that there was an early medieval castle here. So far there has been no sign of this. It rather seems that Košice was created as a foreland or economic centre for colonising the surrounding ore rich hills. However, we have to wait for the results to be processed,” added Bednár.

Apart from archaeologists, builders are also working in the location. The Castle Revitalisation Project on Hradová hill in Košice is being implemented by Vrch Hradová Association, consisting of two joint stock companies, Váhostav-SR and Hydrostav Šaľa. The total value of works is €1.16m. Construction works commenced in mid-July 2012 and the date for completion of works is the 31st December 2012. “We will try to complete everything on time and we are doing the maximum to achieve this. There are currently 20 to 40 people working on Hradová hill, others are in workshops producing constructions and preparing equipment which will be assembled later. However, the majority of work is in the terrain and therefore we can’t rule out a delay which could be caused by an early start of winter or inclement weather,” reminded the Building Project Manager, Ing. Vladislav Vanta from   Váhostav-SR, a.s.  Building in Hradová consists of nine building objects.

The authors of an architectonic-urban study for castle revitalisation are Ing. Arch. Ján Sekan and Ing. Arch. Richard Krajči. According to Ing. Arch. Ján Sekan, the aim of the project was to give Košice a unique place for walking, hiking and culture, and provide space for cultural events, historical awareness and monitoring the archaeological research. “For these purposes, we have designed a natural scene for seasonal performances, conservation of the preserved castle ruins and a visitor’s centre for presenting findings as well as for organising exhibitions and similar activities. A panoramic trail on the rock ridge will be partially technically secured. By following the assumed fortifications, it will provide an exceptional view of the city and countryside. At the same time, it will provide visitors with a feeling for medieval builders and castle defenders,” is how Sekan explained the architectural aims. It will also include a traditional educational path and children’s forest playground. There will be a symbolic gate as a sculptural artefact where the assumed castle gate is located.

According to the Director of Košice – European Capital of Culture 2013 non-profit making organisation, Ján Sudzina, the revitalised castle area will create an authentic backdrop not only for various folklore events but also for performances showing period tableaux. “We would like to provide space for groups which focus upon, for example, historic music, traditional crafts or historic fencing and who wish to present their art to the public. It is important for us to be aware of our history and this location is just right for this,” said Sudzina.   

Archaeologists can also picture using the castle location for building an archaeo-park. Using successfully working archaeo-parks in Western Europe as an example, people could take part directly in archaeological research and also see how historical objects were built and how ancient production technology worked. “I can imagine that in the future, this large location could become not only a visiting centre for the people of Košice, but also become an educational entry to the ancient history of our predecessors,“ added the Director of the Archaeological Institute of SAS.

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