After the siege of 1552, Eger castle was all but destroyed; so badly damaged was the castle (and so unpredictable the financing for its renovation) that its reconstruction was still underway when the Turks succeeded in capturing it on their second attempt in 1596, a full 44 years later!
The largely unrealised plans were ambitious, however; renowned Italian castle engineer Octavia Baldigrano was commissioned to turn Eger Castle into a large Italian bastion type fortification.
The Casemate Barracks - now a museum housing artifacts from the Romanesque and Gothic cathedrals.
The casemates are from this time and well worth a visit, though the guided tour provided by the castle (you can only go into the network of tunnels with an approved guide) can drag on, particularly if you don't speak Hungarian.
A casemate (or casement) was an Italian defensive innovation; casamatta can be translated from the archaic Italian as `dark house`, and in the sixteenth century would have referred to a vaulted chamber sited under the rampart of a castle or fortress. They were usually used by troops to shelter or for storing supplies.
Sometimes, as was the case in Eger, they also had an offensive role. Guns were placed in the casemate and fired through an aperture (an embrasure) in what was usually a very thick wall (6 metres in some places in Eger).
A Casemate - both offensive and defensive uses
In Eger Castle there are a number of casemates joined by a system of tunnels on three levels.
The first and second levels were used to move troops and supplies quickly and safely from bastion to bastion; due to their defensive strength they also provided soldiers and animals with a relatively safe place to rest and recuperate during lulls in fighting.
The third level was employed primarily as a mine detecting shaft. It was a common tactic for besieging forces to tunnel (or mine) under castle walls in an attempt to destabilise/destroy them with explosive charges.
The third level was there to provide the Eger garrison with the means to detect, using an ingenious pea and drum method, any enemy tunneling and then to launch a counter-mining operation to cut off and neutralise the enemy.
The way they detected enemy tunneling was to place a drum in the tunnel and put dry peas on the taut skin. Any vibrations caused by Turkish digging would cause the peas to move, making a noise which would alert the defenders. Incredibly simple, this method could pick up even the slightest tremor.
Third level of the casemates - one of the counter mines dug by the Hungarians to try and cut off the Turkish tunnelers
The Eger Castle's system of subterranean tunnels and casemates made it a formidable stronghold.
It was state of the art castle engineering, and should have guaranteed the castle staying in Hungarian hands for a long time.
I say should, because it was not to be, the Turks
overran the garrison in 1596 after a relatively short siege: the
sophisticated defences proved useless when manned by non-Hungarian
mercenaries with little interest in defending the castle bar money
Only around 300 metres of the casemates are open to the public. it is estimated that there are 20 km of tunnels running under the castle and town.
Some suggest that the tunnels run as far as the village of Sirok, a full 25 km from Eger!
The Dark Gate - Today`s entrance to the casemates
As stated above, you can only view the casemates with an approved guide. Every hour, on the hour, a tour for the casemates and the Heroes Hall leaves the information desk (see green cross on map below), the cost of which is included in the ticket price to the castle. If you only paid for a walking ticket, however, then the tour is 550 huf .
Plan of Eger Castle - the meeting place for the tour of the casemates is marked with a green cross
You do not need to register for the tours, you just wait for the guide to appear at the information desk. The tour will invariably be in Hungarian, sometimes the guides do speak some English. If you want to be sure of an English speaking guide, then you will need to ask at the information desk.
Alternatively, you can call us and we will arrange for you a complete castle tour with an English speaking guide.
Our tour takes in the Castle Museum, the Art Gallery, the Panopticum, the Casemates, Heroes Hall, the Dungeon, the walls and the remains of the Cathedral and lasts a full two hours. Please contact us for more details and a quote.
For opening times, ticket prices etc. for the castle please see our page on Eger Castle
Please note, the Casemates and all the other exhibitions in the castle are closed on Mondays