The fortress of Somló is situated next to Doba, on the northern side of the basaltic Somló hill, in a dense forest. Back in the past the fortress was difficult to approach; its southern side is surrounded by an eight-meter long dry moat that terminates in a precipice at one end and is closed by the mountain at the other. The ground plan of the fortress is irregular; it has interior towers and several courtyards.
A well-preserved drawbridge leads over the precipice to a passageway which now gives access to the forecourt. This area is delimited on the west by the guards’ barrel vaulted quarters; its southern and eastern walls are pierced with arrow slits. From the forecourt, a drawbridge and a narrow passageway lead to the inner court. Here we find the most characteristic tower of the fortress, a hexagonal one. According to ancient documents, this part was used as kitchen. At present, it is supposed to have been a chapel.
Oral tradition says that it was a stone castle built after the Mongol invasion. However, it is first mentioned in the written records only in 1352 when Louis the Great’s son took it away from Csenik’s son John to give it to Heim’s son Benedict. In the document, the fortress is called ‘castrum Somlo’.
Between 1370 and 1380, it was a royal castle. In 1389, Sigismund of Luxemburg donated it to the Palatine Garai Miklós and his brother, then it was in the possession of the Rozgonyi family between 1443 and 1463, but before 1464, they exchanged it with the Anthimi family, lords of Tapsony. As a result of king Matthias Corvinus’ sentence, they lost the fortress in 1464 and it passed to the possession of the Master of the Horse, Kanizsai László who lost it in 1470 when the Garai family took it back. After several sale and purchase transactions, the king Matthias Corvinus donated the fiefdom to Kinizsi Pál.
After this, the fortress had to face mortgage and financial problems. In 1495, it went in the possession of the Szapolyai family who sold it in the same year to the bishop of Eger, Erdődi Bakócz Tamás for 12,000 golden forints. That was when the fortress started to play an important role in the region’s life.
Bakócz Tamás spent a considerable sum of money to the complete renovation of the fortress. From guardian castle, it was transformed to a fortified castle in the Italian renaissance style. In accordance with his ecclesiastical dignity, he was the first to add a chapel to the fortress. The construction works included the carved door and window frames that we can see still today as well as the chapel’s tower.
After the Mohács disaster (1526), the fortress was devoted to destruction but it resisted bravely the passage of smaller Turkish troops. In 1543, Somló saw a big battle between the Turkish and the Hungarian that ended with the massacre of 3,000 Turkish soldiers. The fortress became not only the surrounding area’s but the region’s strongest Hungarian fortress as well.
In 1548, Erdődy Péter mortgaged then sold the fortress to Csoron András to be able to redeem an other family property (Vörösvár). The family’s ownership over the fortress was interrupted for some centuries.
Csoron András took his mission to fight the Turkish very seriously. He built his second fortress in Devecser, thus the two fortresses together were able to assure the protection of the Hungarian territories against the Ottoman troops. After Csoron’s death, the fortress passed to his daughters, and then the Listi family inherited it from Csoron Anna in 1597. This was followed by long inheritance proceedings against the royal court.
In the meantime, the state of the fortress deteriorated gravely and dangerously. The members of the Listi family fell one after another in the fights against the Turkish. Finally, the fortress passed to Listi László, also known as a poet. The lord of the fortress published his versified chronicle in two volumes about the Mohács disaster in 1653 and thus deserved a place in the literary history. After Bakócz Tamás, he was the most significant person in the history of the fortress. In 1638, he reinforced the edifice. Despite all this, he was an outlaw because the Habsburgs sentenced him to death for murder, incendiarism, false coining, and robbery.
During Rákóczi’s War of Independence, for a long time, the fortress was in the hands of the Imperials due to its northern situation. It was only liberated in 1707 by Blind Bottyán, and after Rákóczi’s War of Independence, it lost his strategic importance once and for all and started to deteriorate.
After 1721, the fortress of Somló was in a deplorable state. After Rákóczi’s War of Independence, the Erdődy family tried to regain the fortress’s property through a legal process and for a significant sum of money. They bought not only the fortress but the neighbouring villages as well (Alsóság, Bánd, Szergény, Doba, Csúr, and Jánosháza), thus, in 1820, they got the fortress ruins as well as its whole surroundings.
However, instead of rebuilding the fortress, they built a new ‘Fortress of Somló’ in Doba. The Erdődy family was the castle domain’s proprietor until 1945.
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