After the heroics of the siege of 1552, Eger Castle went into a slow decline.
Initially it looked very different, the castle`s captain, István Dobó, hero of the 1552 siege, went about fortifying the castle and having a new mill built by the Eger stream. Yet, he soon resigned along with his second-in-command, István Mekcsey as they both felt they were not getting the financial support necessary from Vienna to repair the castle.
Eger Castle today, rising above the modern town
Gergely Bornemissza, who had done so much to repel the Turks in 1552, then assumed command and had a bastion built (now called the Bornemissza Bastion) in the south wall of the castle.
He was not long in his job, however, when he was captured by a Turkish raiding party while on patrol. Taken to Constantinople, he was hanged in September 1555.
The Bornemissza Bastion (1554)
Although time and money was being spent on the castle defences, the cathedral which had been as good as destroyed in the 1552 siege was now completely abandoned. Not only that, Eger no longer had a bishop, as Protestantism had gained the upper hand in the town.
The most significant modification to the castle at this time was the construction of the casemates (casamatta in Italian). We have Italian castle engineers, widely regarded the best of their day, to thank for these which, although never completed gave the Eger garrison a much stronger position from which to defend.
Despite all the innovation and rebuilding, Eger Castle remained in Hungarian hands for only another 40 years. In 1596, the Ottomans returned and after a relatively short struggle occupied the castle on October 12th, exactly 44 years to the day of the decisive battle in the 1552 siege.
The gate into Eger Castle - Not the same one the Ottomans would have faced, that`s further up.
Talk to Hungarians today about this rather ignominious defeat and they will point out that in 1596, although more in number, the defenders were primarily mercenaries with little or no vested interest in holding the castle, unlike the defenders of 1552. Had they been Hungarian, the result may well have been very different.
Ottoman depiction of the victory parade in Istanbul following the taking of Eger Castle. The central figure is Sultan Mehmed III.
The Turks occupied Eger for 91 years. Little remains of this time. They did add to the castle, today this extension is known as `The Turkish Garden`, they also erected many minarets (one of which still stands today - see image below left ), 18 in all, and mosques.
They exploited Eger`s natural hot springs, which until this point had been no more than a curiosity. At least two bath houses were constructed: one, the Sultan Valide Bath, is but a ruin, the other, however, can still be visited -please follow this link to discover more about using this bath.
Most Hungarians fled Eger once it fell, and bar the building work outlined above, the town gradually decayed during the occupation.
We know little of this time in Eger`s history, our only source is the Turkish travel writer, Evlia Cselebi, but he is hardly a balanced witness.
Slowly the tide turned against the Ottomans in Europe and their expansionist adventures; a resurgent Hapsburg Empire recaptured Buda in 1686. It wasn`t long before Austrian forces blockaded Eger Castle (July,1687) in an attempt to starve out the defenders. TheTurks held out until December when they capitulated and, and as part of the surrender terms, were allowed to leave unharmed.
Interestingly, they were given the opportunity to stay as long as they converted to Christianity, and around 600 did. Even today, you can find families in Eger with the surname `török`, which means Turkish.
Concrete (literally) memories remain of the Ottoman occupation
Once the Ottomans had been seen off Hungarian territory, Vienna ordered that Eger Castle be demolished, their fear being that it could be used by Hungarians rebelling against Hapsburg rule. They were right to be worried, as it was used during the Rákóczi Insurrection (1703-1711).
Once this had been put down, dismantling of the castle gained pace, many of the stones were reclaimed and used to build the Baroque buildings that grace Eger`s streets today
Over the subsequent years the castle faded away, both figuratively
and literally. It was until the nineteenth century and the rise of
nationalism and the emergence of Hungary as an equal partner in the
Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, that Hungarians began to rebuild their past.
In the late nineteenth century excavations began on the site of the now completely obliterated cathedral, and later work began on the rest of the castle.
Eger Castle is a creation on the twentieth century, it has been rebuilt over the last 70 years or so, prior to that the site was a pile of stones. This doesn't, however, take away from what it was.
It has, despite many obstacles, been reconstructed and, although not perfect it, and the museums/exhibitions within its walls, tells a story that reflects that of Hungary herself.