Hardly any town in Slovakia has such a dominant skyline as ancient Nitra. Mainly Nitra Castle gives it its unforgettable character. Already from far it welcomes everyone who has decided to discover its fame, and it promises historical and artistic atmosphere that can be perceived on all the castle hill. Nitra Castle rises on a hill in heart of the town, originally it was bathed by stream bed of the river Nitra that was rerouted. But enchanting arched gate remained that is the only access point across which you can set out on the route from County Square across historical Upper town to gates of the castle.
The first gate from 1673 was commissioned by bishop and Hungarian chancellor Tomáš Pálfy. It is therefore decorated with his coat of arms, also traces left by chains of drawbridge can be seen here. The second gate was commissioned at the end of the 16th century by Zakariás Mossóczy, bishop and big humanistic thinker, the gate is also decorated accordingly. Only few visitors will come to realize that the castle is accessible through functional gate, being the oldest used gate in Slovakia. After crossing both gates there is a courtyard. Your steps can lead to the Gothic moat, not occupied anymore by soldiers protecting the castle, but it serves for relaxation, entertainment. The Diocese of Nitra, having its residence in castle, has transformed this defense area into summer amphitheatre where also the latest movies gain a touch of historical taste. Movie is not the only popular cultural summer activity in the castle. After twilight this place cedes its enchanting atmosphere to concerts. But if you come during the day, be sure to go up the stairs leading to majestic cathedral – St. Emmeram´s Cathedral, the cradle of Christianity in Slovakia. Already the oldest church was probably situated at the place of cathedral. The present cathedral’s appearance will amaze with its Baroque decoration and with many secrets that are hidden there. If you feel you have lack of knowledge of our forefathers, as we call Saints Cyril and Methodius, be sure not to miss the Diocese Museum. You will find even documents written by brothers there. Cathedral treasure, situated in the museum underground, will be icing on the cake. The space hides precious jewels, some of them going back to the 15th century. Also military fortifications from which guard performed supervision of the castle have their atmosphere. Casemates are accessible to visitors and only the glass bridge separates you from remains from the 8th century. Castle’s fortification, called Great Moravian bulwark, will not pass unnoticed to the avid eye. The statue of the Pope John Paul II is on guard of Nitra already from 2012, „selfie“ under his spread arms is a popular attraction that visitors are taking from this place. The castle has a sacred atmosphere where history, Christian tradition and artistic values are united. Visit of the castle will take you away from present fast world, you will cheer up at views of vibrant town, historical houses and also green hills that surround Nitra. If you want to have a great view of Nitra, to feel like Great Moravian noblemen who had used to stay there, but first of all, if you want to know history not only of Nitra, but of whole Slovakia, be sure to visit the Nitra Castle.
History of Nitra Castle
Nitra Castle is one of the oldest extant buildings in the Nitra Region. Strategic position of the castle hill, originally surrounded by meander river bed of Nitra river, was settled already from ancient times. According to archeological findings we can trace beginning of construction activity on castle hill back to Roman times, when the settlement in the castle was Celtic, Dacian and later Germanic.
The first written reference to fortified castle in place of today’s castle comes from 871. It mentions construction activity of the prince Pribina and consecration of his church in Nitra around 830. Fortified settlement of Nitra remained an important settlement centre after incorporation of the Principality of Nitra into Moravian dominion. In the period of Great Moravia the prince Svätopluk had been staying in Nitra and in 880 - 892 there was also the episcopal residence. This Bishop´s residence ceased to exist after downfall of the Great Moravia, it was reinstated after formation of Kingdom of Hungary in the second half of the 11th century. The Maurus legend from 1064 - 1070, mentioning St. Emmeram´s Cathedral in the castle with remains of St. Andrew and Benedict confirms the importance of the Nitra Castle at that time.
After formation of the Kingdom of Hungary the Nitra Castle remained a seat of appanage governed by successor to Hungarian throne. In this period original bank walls were transformed into stone walls. As a strong and stone castle Nitra had withstand invasion of Tatars in 1241, but three decades later, in 1271, it was very damaged by a fire during siege of the castle by Ottokar II of Bohemia. After the fire not only the church was reconstructed but probably also castle´s fortification. At the beginning of the 14th century it was conquered twice consecutively by Matthew III Csák and in 1432 it was besieged by Hussites. In the first half of the 15th century, under government of the king Sigismund, the new castle fortification was built, only small part of which is still preserved because the castle was devastated again in 1465 by the army of Matthias Corvinus. Another fortifications were built in the 16th century, at the time of Turkish threat, when Renaissance palace and new internal castle gate were built.
At the time of uprising of the estates in the first half of the 17th century the castle was the centre of military operations and in 1663 it fell into hands of Turks for a short period. After removing damages in 1673-1674 all the defence system of the castle was rebuilt according to requirements of a modern fortification. Big construction and reconstruction activity took place only after the end of uprising of Francis Rákóczi at the beginning of the 18th century, when so called upper church was rebuilt and the new Bishop’s palace was constructed.
Constant rebuildings have almost completely erased its original look. From the oldest evolution stage revealed is part of the Great Moravian palisade that can be seen in open casemates. From Romanesque period only part of St. Emmeram´s Cathedral from the first half of the 13th century persisted. Part of castle wall and big Gothic (so called upper) castle from the first half of the 14th century remained from the Gothic period. Internal castle wall persisted from the 16th century. The only buildings in relatively good condition are those from the end of the 17th and from the 18th century. Accessible for public are castle courtyards, casemates with the Great Moravian fortified line, Vazul’s Tower, St. Emmeram´s Cathedral and the Diocese museum.
Open during all year | Monday – Sunday from 07.00 h – 18.00 h
St. Emmeram´s Cathedral
Open seasonally | Visiting days in summer season:
Monday – Saturday from 09.00 to 12.00 h, and from 13,00 to 18,00 h
Sunday from 10.00 to 12.00 h and from 13.00 to 17.00 h.
Visiting days in winter season:
Monday -Sunday from 9.00 to 12.00 h. and from 13.00 to 16.00 h
Group visits must be ordered in advance
Casemates and Vazul’s Tower
Open only in summer season
Tuesday – Sunday from 10.00 to 18.00 h, entrance every 20 minutes from the whole hour
The Diocese Museum
Open only in summer season | Visiting days:
Tuesday - Sunday from 10.00 to 18.00 h
Jána Pavla II. Square no. 7, P. O. Box 46/A,
950 50 NITRA, Slovak Republic
mob. 0903 982 802