There is a full house in the Transcarpathian ‘castle of love’, castle of St. Miklós (Chynadiyevo) at this weekend. The stone fortification has become a special place for the loving pairs long ago. They propose, organise quiet romantic dates with candles, wine, fine music and poetry and weddings here. The latter differ: traditional with a bridal veil and white dress or even in plate armour. This happens for a particular reason. The castle has a specific aura, its walls give blessing on love. The phenomenon of the fortress of St. Miklós was discovered by the renter Yosyp Bartosh, artist and composer. He has decided to renovate the castle. To rebuild it from ruins in the name of a great women Ilona Zrínyi who resided, dreamt and loved in this castle.
THE LOVE THAT CHANGED THE FATE OF A NATION
– I have not invented anything new, – says Yosyp Bartosh. – It has been a well-known tradition for a long time, to marry in a place of worship for the happy fate of the loving pair. I only got the honour to restore the place that is filled with such energy.
The walls of the fortress are historically connected with the great history of Ilona Zrínyi’s love with the rebel Imre Thököly.
PHOTO Castle of ‘St. Miklós’
– An interesting fact has remained in the historical chronicles. Today, it is the main conception of the castle of ‘St. Miklós’. In the far 1682, countess Ilona Zrínyi (of Croatian origin; her birth name was Jelena) chose this place for her romantic encounters with Imre Thököly, the legendary hero of the Kuruc arms’ revolts. The quiet and calm castle of ‘St. Miklós’ was far away from the violent hostilities and the watchful eye of the Austrian imperial yard. It became the fortification of love and passion. Still, when you enter the room, that once was the bedroom of Ilona Zrínyi, you do not need to possess any extraordinary perception to feel the power of low once ruling here. This love changed not only the fate of two beloved persons but the history of whole nation. A lot of literary and historical books mention this fact as one of the most important not only in the life of the countess but in the fate of the whole nation. Since this love resulted in the strengthening of the state.
PHOTO Yosyp Bartosh among the portraits of the castle-owners
Ilona Zrínyi was a well-educated woman. She spoke Hungarian, Croatian, Czech, Slovak, Serbian, Polish, German, French, ancient Greek and Latin. She knew mathematics, law, fortification and ballistics well. She was 17 when she married Francis I Rákóczi. They had three children. The Rákóczis were a noble family with powerful royal ambitions. At that time, they opposed the Habsburgs and were looking for allies in Turkey. Ilona Zrínyi and Francis I Rákóczi, perhaps, were marry together, however, Ilona had a terrible mother-in-law. Her name was Zsófia Báthory. Probably, she hated her daughter-in-law at once. However, as if ironically it was the widowed Ilona who inherited the Mukachevo Palanok castle after Zsófia’s death. Ilona was almost 40 then but she saved her beauty. She married the second time. Now, it was Imre Thököly. He was 14 years younger than Ilona. They were secretly meeting at the very Castle of St. Miklós.
The renovated hall of the castle of ‘St. Miklós’
What concerns politics, Ilona was the heir of her first husband. She was an enemy of the Habsburgs and tried to receive help from Port, where count Thököly – the leader of the rebels at that time – went with a diplomatic mission. However, the mission was not accomplished and the beloved one was captured. The Habsburgs immediately sent an army of twelve thousand soldiers with general Eneas Caprari on the head to cal down the defiant countess and to take away the Mukachevo castle. Ilona had to defend only with two thousand guardsmen and several hundred villagers. With such a small army she was defending the castle for three years! She was giving orders, planning outgoings, checking posts and sentinels, cured the wounded and prepared food personally. However, it was not without bribery and treason. It is said that Antonin Obslon, the head of the chancellery due to the not mutual love of the owner of the castle either forged the letter of her husband, or poisoned the water in the well. Shortly, Ilona had to capitulate. The invaders took all her lands, forbade her meeting her children, captured her and later even expelled her from the territory of Austro-Hungary. She spent the last years of her life in Turkey together with her husband.
In fact, it was an offering. Ilona Zrínyi sacrificed everything for the sake of her love and for her nation. Today, Hungarians highly preserve the memory of this outstanding woman. The castle of ‘St. Miklós’ is considered to be the fortress of unity where visitors swear fidelity to each other. Men propose to their chosen one, more and more pairs get marry and organise their weddings here.
SOVIET BARRACKS TO TOP-VISITED TOURIST OBJECT
Yosyp Bartosh has created a precedent in Ukraine. He has become and remains the only one whom the government gave a medieval castle in rent in order to renovate it. And now, there is an actual cultural-historical centre in the provincial settlement. As a result, Chynadiyevo has become famous not only outside the region but also the country.
Yosyp Bartosh, the renter of the castle of ‘St. Miklós’
However, locals do not bow before the artist couple of Bartosh whose property is the castle of ‘St. Miklós’ now. The villagers consider them strange: they are dealing with ruins as if spreading culture, they just have nothing to do… Local businessmen are also angry. They say that such a great are has been lost. There could have been built a hotel, it could have been a gold mine! Although the married couple is moving towards its aim. They want to make Chynadiyevo the cultural centre of Transcarpathia and the castle of ‘St. Miklós’ – a place of pilgrimage for all lovers, something like the Shrine of St. Valentine, Dublin or Juliet’s House, Verona.
The castle of ‘St. Miklós’
Today, life is boiling around the castle of ‘St. Miklós’. Tourist buses approach the castle gate one after another. Moreover, there is a library and an author cinema club in the castle. Concerts of classical chamber music and exhibitions are held. There is a beehive in the yard as well, as the castle park is being arranged.
‘Silver Tatosh’ festival
The castle of ‘St. Miklós’
The excavation of underground tunnels is planned soon. There is an art school near the castle. Children attend it and study painting, music, foreign languages and martial art at the weekend… The ‘Silver Tatosh’ festival dedicated to medieval culture is traditionally held in May.
‘Silver Tatosh‘ festival
Ten years ago, here was a car depot with the hidden half-ruined stone fortress behind its rusty gates. However, the artist Yosyp Bartosh once came to this yard. He asked the director to set a plein air in the territory. He said that although the castle was ruined, it inspired painters… Despite the solid ‘no’, Bartosh did not give up. He submitted documents to the local administration with a request to have the permission to rent the ancient castle. As a result, he received an equally solid ‘yes’.
Restoration work of the hall of the second floor in process in the castle ‘St. Miklós’
– The head of the village put our petition on the concession of the castle on vote. We received the support of the deputies. It took two years to issue the documents. There was no law on the rules of renting a historical building by a private person. We had problems with money then. We had to repair the building: the roof was leaking, there were no windows on the second floor, we had to erase the signs of the Soviet government (there had been a barrack, a jail and a storage since 1947). We collected money and every little helped then… We began to welcome the first guests. However, there were other options too. I was offered the whole sum for repairing the castle on the condition that there would be a hotel. I did not want to let anyone make this place into a brothel. Thus, we chose the road through the thorns. However, to the stars!
HE CHANGED AFRICA TO TRANSCARPATHIA
The main two women in his life led the artist on this way. The first is Ilona Zrínyi, the most famous owner of the castle of ‘St. Miklós’. The second is the artist Tetiana who first brought Yosyp among these walls. Since then, a new history has begun in the castle. It was Tetiana who inspired Yosyp to go through the hardships and rent the castle. When the ‘paperwork-war’ was won, she became his wife. Undoubtedly, the wedding ceremony was conducted in the fortress.
Other love stories of pilgrims are also remembered in the castle.
– We had a bright Valentine’s Day two years ago, – recalls Yosyp Bartosh. – One American gentleman brought her beloved one here. He travelled in Transcarpathia. I have conducted an excursion for them with torches and left them alone on the top floor. Several minutes later, they came down. There were tears of happiness in the girl’s eyes, the boy confessed her in love and presented her a ring. Not long ago, a man from Lviv proposed his chosen one. He kneeled down, opened the sacred little box with the ring inside and it was shining. It was a surprise. A minute later, the couple began to call their parents and friends to inform them about the happy news that the were going to marry.
It is popular to organise wedding ceremonies among the locals too. The aristocrat’s children like to get married in the castle. In addition, they always order romantic evenings with candles and chamber music. Shortly, the love is truly among these walls.
THE BED OF ILONA ZRÍNYI
There is a special place for the loving pairs in the castle. It is the bedroom of Ilona Zrínyi. Here, the spark of love flashed between Ilona and Imre for the first time.
– The had conducted their night of love when they first met – instead of political negotiations. Then, their whirlwind romance began. They git married in the Mukachevo castle in June. Yosyp Bartosh dreams about that in the future the newlyweds will be able not only to conduct their wedding ceremony in the castle of St. Miklós but also their wedding night in this bedroom. Unfortunately, this will not happen soon.
– There is a tradition in Europe, especially among Germans, to conceive a child in a place of worship blessed by one’s love story. The example of Ilona and Imre is perfect for this. However, the contemporary people are far away from their deeds. If I did this now, there would be a lot of willing people. But this would be, roughly speaking, a brothel. And I has rejected this idea long ago. Therefore, the bedroom will be renovated in the last place. It is not excluded, that it will be repaired only by my follower.
Artist Yosyp Bartosh turns the Chynadiyevo castle of ‘St. Miklós’ into a Palace of Love
However, the newlyweds can go to the bedroom of Ilona Zrínyi. They can take photos there, raise a glass of champagne in the name of their love, or spend a few minutes with the beloved person, and seep the spirit of this room… This room is not being repaired at the moment. They just do not allow the walls to ruin.
– I think, Ilona and Imre would not be against of such guests. Since we honour their love in such way, – says Yosyp. – I think, that the pair that spends some time among these walls, will carry along, consciously or unconsciously, such ideas as true love, loyalty, devotion, sense of humour. Modern newlyweds might be far from such views. But I think, if we have to take anything from the past, we have to take the skill to love, defend and sacrifice demonstrated by Ilona Zrínyi and Imre Thököly. You can call it a code message for the descendants: for what they lived for.