Branč by Katarína Koreňová
There are more than 100 castles in Slovakia, and many of them are ruins. Although we would sometimes prefer the rooms, armors and artifacts to be preserved, walking in castle ruins is inarguably a romantic and sometimes even adventurous experience because almost everything is left to our imagination. The Záhorie Region in the west of Slovakia offers a wide range of monuments; some well preserved and some that require more imagination skills. The latter are…
…Pajštún in Borinka, Plavecký Hrad in Plavecký Mikuláš, Korlátko in Cerová, Ostrý Kameň in Buková, and Branč in Podbranč Podzámok. This relatively dense network of castles is probably a result of the region’s closeness to the Morava River, which for many centuries formed a natural frontier. The main function of a castle, apart from being a building to live in, was protection. Fortified buildings were needed to protect the noble lords from their enemies. Many times they also provided shelter for common people from nearby villages during attacks and, what is equally important, they functioned as archaic security systems. When the enemy was spotted the guards sent smoke or fire signals from one tower to another. The alarm signal could spread this way over hundreds of kilometers.
From Pajštún to Plavecký Hrad, from Plavecký Hrad to Korlátko, from Korlátko to Ostrý Kameň, from Ostrý Kameň to Branč.
Branč (1279 Berench, 1309 castrum Berench, 1420 castrum Brancz) is situated in the north of the region, in the county of Senica. It towers above a little village called Podbranč Podzámok. It was built in the second half of the 13th century in the frontier area of Hungary and, together with other castles, protected passages in the Carpathian Mountains. The 13th century is known for a frantic construction of castles in the area of today’s Slovakia after a brutal invasion of Tartars in 1241. In order to protect the country, King Béla IV of Hungary provided the nobility with financial resources to use stone as the strongest building material then known.
The castle had many different owners. One of them was Count Stibor of Stiboritz of Polish origin, whose family owned Branč for almost 60 years from 1394. He was a member of the Order of the Dragon founded in 1408 by Sigismund, King of Hungary (later Holy Roman Emperor) in order to protect the country from the Ottoman Turk threat.
Later the castle played an infamous role in the Counter-Reformation. When the Catholic Church started violent confiscations of Protestant churches in the towns of Myjava, Senica and Turá Lúka in the second half of the 17th century, the inhabitants organized an armed uprising and Branč consequently became a jail where the insurgents were tortured. There is a monument in the area of the castle which commemorates the imprisonment and death of protestant priests from Bratislava.
The castle was abandoned at the beginning of the 18th century and the Turks didn’t meet with any resistance when they came to burn it.
The remains are situated on a hill above a village, and the height of 475 m.s.l. offers a wonderful 360 degree view of the surrounding hills, woods, meadows and villages. The area of the castle stretches on 7500m2 and looks different in every season. Snow in winter stays there longer and it gives the whole country a fairy-tale like atmosphere. For winter sports lovers there is a possibility to go skiing in the 20km distant Stará Myjava.. On the other hand, in spring and summer months when the land is in full bloom the countryside is filled not only with colors, but also with a calm and joyful atmosphere. It is an ideal place for those who are stressed from work and need to relax. The surrounding woods are suitable for long walks during which a sight of deer, roe deer, or hare is nothing unusual. For those who prefer swimming to walking, the nearby Kunovská priehrada (Kunovská dam) is an ideal option. The region also offers bike-routes and hiking paths.
How to get there:
A bus to Senica goes from AS Mlynské Nivy, the main bus station in Bratislava. In Senica take a bus to Podbranč Majeríčky. From there, one can either walk for 2,5km or take a bus to Podbranč Podzámok. The castle is only a few minutes’ walk from the bus stop.
NOTE: The bus from Podbranč Majeríčky to Podbranč Podzámok goes only a few times a day.
Useful websites in Slovak:
The official website of the village Podbranč: www.podbranc.sk
Bus timetables: www.cp.sk
Kollár, Daniel - Nešpor, Jaroslav: Kultúrne krásy Slovenska, Hrady najkrajšie zrúcaniny. Bratislava, DAJAMA, 2007
Pisoň, Štefan: Hrady, zámky a kaštiele na Slovensku. Martin, OSVETA, 1973
Slovenské hrady. Branč.[30.11.2011] 1998-2011 www.hrady.sk:
Zrúcanina hradu Branč. [30.11.2011] eion 2009:
text and photos: Katarína Koreňová