Palanok or Mukachevo Castle is one of the oldest and most famous in Ukraine. When and who erected it is not known for sure, but already in the 11th century, there was a mountain of volcanic rock 68 m (223 ft) high and covering 14,000 m2 (150,000 ft2). At the foot of the mountain lies the town of Mukachevo, and the castle can be seen from any point in it.
Palanok became famous during the Transylvania struggle against the domination of the Hapsburg Holy Roman Empire in the second half of the 16th century. Defense of the castle and command of the garrison of 2,500 soldiers was assumed by the legendary countess Ilona Zrínyi, the mother of the famous Hungarian freedom fighter Francis Rakoczy, who was only 10 years old at the time. In order to inspire her warriors, the countess, with sword in hand, rose to the bastions under enemy fire, leading her son by the hand. For two years, Mukachevo castle withstood sieges and attacks, while other Rakoczy castles, including Uzhhorod, had fallen long ago. And only the help of a traitor who wrote a forged letter led the Austrians to victory.
Mukachevo Castle is one of the most famous in Ukraine.
Later, during the Napoleonic Wars, one of the most important Hungarian relics was hidden in Palanok Castle from the French emperor, the Crown of Saint Stephen (the first Hungarian king), which is part of the national coat-of-arms of Hungary.
In the 19th and 20th centuries, the castle lost its strategic importance. In the 1960s, when Mukachevo was part of the Soviet Ukraine, it became a museum, which it still is today. In 2006, a monument to Ilona Zrínyi and her son Francis was erected at the castle. The castle hosts evening torchlight tours with a guide dressed as a chronicler monk. You can also take photos in medieval costumes here.
This article was published in the book Interesting Ukraine.
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© Sky Horse Publishing House (Kyiv) / Nahs Haus, 2019
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