The oldest castle: the Szabolcs hillfort and Abaújvár hillfort
One of our oldest castles is the hillfort of Szabolcs. Located in the northern corner of the village on the Tisza shore, 12 km from Tokaj, above Rakamaz and opposite Tokaj, it is the most intact and largest earthen castle in Hungary. As the name suggests, the hillfort accommodated one of the tribal chieftains of the Hungarians who settled in the Carpathian Basin, Chieftain Szabolcs. This is also confirmed by the chronicle of King Bela's clerk, Anonymous III. Szabolcs was the son of one of the seven allied tribal chieftains, Előd, and later the founder of the Csák clan.
This means the castle was built around 950 by the conquering Hungarians.
How to imagine a hillfort?
Stone was also used to construct the foundation of hillforts built mostly of wood and earth and the wooden beams were joined together with twig stumps, while the space between the twig stumps was filled with rammed earth. This provided a strong foundation for the former structures. In the case of the Szabolcs Castle, the walls were on average 11 metres high relative to the inner level of the hillfort, and extended up to 20 metres from the floodplain. Here, the hillfort is bordered on two sides by the Tisza River, while on the third side, a canal seven metres wide and three metres deep was built, thereby creating an artificial island. The main entrance to the island was connected to the mainland by a bridge. A watchtower probably stood in each of the three corners of the fort. Today, you can only see its triangular ridges, but you can still imagine its true size. Not far from the castle lies a three-nave monastery built in the time of St Stephen, which is also of special significance because King St Ladislaus held his first legislative council here in 1092. The Romanesque building functions as a Reformed church today.
11th century hillforts
Also of significance is the Abaújvár hillfort along the Hernád River, which dates from a little later: its heyday was between the 11th and 14th centuries. A Roman settlement previously stood in its place. The hillfort itself was probably a fortress carved into a raised rampart and surrounded by a wooden wall, which presumably also had a balustrade. In the 11th century, a multitude of pit houses and wooden buildings housed the inhabitants of the castle. At the time, the bailiff’s courthouse and a church that had to be built by order of King Stephen were the only buildings constructed of stone, built in the Romanesque style according to the tastes of the age. The castle was protected by both light-armour archers and armoured horsemen. Borsod Castle, located in the embrace of the Bódva stream and its swamps and located right on the border of Edelény, was built in a similarly well-protected place. The hillforts of Domony and Gyöngyöspata were built using the same technique.