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Mukacheve

Mukacheve is Situated 42 kilometers from Uzhgorod. At least in the 11 th-6 th centuries B.C there existed a settlement on the hill of Toupcha. However, first written record of the town was made in the “Hungarians’ Acts” chronicle. In 1086 the fortress was ruined by the Polovtzy, and in 1241, by Batu-khan. For some time Mukacheve and the surrounding lands, on behalf of the Ukrainian prince Lev Danylovych, were under the rule of Istvan Gergel. In 1376 Queen Elizabeth issued a charter on giving the town its own seal, thus strengthening its position to a large extent. In 1445 the owner of the dominion and the castle, the regent of Hungary Janos Guniandi granted Mukacheve the Magdeburg Law. In the middle of the 18th century amongst the Ukrainian and Hungariar population of the town appeared German settlers. From the end of the 17 th century there was a considerable influx of Jews.

The name “Mukacheve” remains to be a subject of vari­ous speculations. At least one of them is the best known. It says the hill upon which stands the castle is an artificial one. It was supposedly made by ordinary people at the expense of their great effort and torment. Hence the name “Mukacheve” (Ukr. “muka”-torment). However, this is not true. The hill is 188 m. high above sea level. It is absolutely natural, of volcanic origin. And troubles with it had only those who tried to capture the castle.

For a long time Mukacheve was the main political and trade competi­tor of Uzhgorod, however, Uzhgorod was geographically closer to political capitals, and Soviet authorities, having “obtained” beauti­ful administrative buildings from their Czech counterparts, finally decided in Uzhgorod’s favor.

In the past the main purpose of the Mukacheve castle was to inspect and control the way from Hungary to Galicia through Veretsky Pass. The attacks of the Polovtsian khan Kutesk and Mongol-Tatar troops severely damaged the fortress, so King Laslo I the Saint (1077-1095) ordered to strengthen its walls. In 1321 King Karl Robert invited Italian craftsmen to continue construction. One of the best owners of the castle was the Podolian prince Fedor Koriatowicz, the nephew of the Hungarian king Zsygmond of Luxemburg. He was the first to install cannons on the castle walls. A ditch was dug around the hill and surrounded with an oaken fence, which is called “palanka.” In the courtyard a donjon was built. A well was dug in the courtyard. It was 85 m. deep and is considered the deepest in Ukraine.

In the 16 th-17 th centuries Mukacheve and adjoining lands became an arena of fighting between the state of the Hapsburgs and Transylvania. In the course of military actions the fortress was destroyed several times, resold and even pawned. Finally, in 1633 the Transylvanian Prince Diord 1 Rakoczi bought it for 200 thousand forints. In 1648 the reconstruction of the castle was continued by his wife Zsuzsanna Lorantffi. Two coats of arms carved in stone are found over the entrance to the tower of the upper castle, and at the museum. They were executed under her supervision and depict the combined coats of arms of Transylvania and the Lorantffi family. For many years the fortress belonged to this family. It was first inherited by the prince’s son Diord II Rakoczi, and then by his grandson Ferenc I.The prince was an active participant in the anti-Austrian rebellion. When it was quelled, many plotters were executed. Ferenc I ransomed himself for 400 thousand forints. Forgiven, he abandoned politics, and died some time later. In the summer of 1676 his widow, daughter of the Croatian ban (king’s deputy) Zrini Llona, was threatened with a loss of the castle by the count Imre Tekeli, the leader of the Kuruc. The situation was saved by her marriage to the count in 1682. However, family happiness didn’t last long. In 1686 the great vizier Kara Mustafa heading the Turkish army of many thousands tried to seize Vienna. The count decided to take advantage of the situation and set out against the Austrian monarch. However, the Turkish campaign ailed. The enraged Turks imprisoned the count, interning him later. Meanwhile the Mukacheve castle proved under the siege by the 12 thousand-strong Austrian army of General Eneas Kaprari. Defenders were few in number, Llona Zrini rejected the proposition to surrender, and as a token of her resoluteness to fight to the end she ordered to hang out flags on every corner of the castle. The defense lasted almost three years., Llona was a true example of courage and self-sacrifice. Together with her 10-year – old son – the future leader of another rebellion, Ferenc II Rakoczi – she often came to the bastions under the fire to help the wounded. The Austrian Emperor Leopold I was dissatisfied with how the siege was conducted and appointed General Antonio Karaff a new commander. However, the situation didn’t change. When the Austrian army temporarily retreated, Llona sent her men to neighboring Galicia to sell her valuables to raise money for the defense needs. The defense lasted three years. To prevent further victims the act of capitulation was signed in 1688. Meanwhile the Austrian Emperor Leopold I ordered to ruin part of Mukacheve castle fortifications and made it look as we see it today.

In 1728 the Austrian Kaiser Karl IV handed over the castle and the city to Lotar Franc Schonbom. Until 1787 the castle was used as a prison, which was ill-famed. Sometimes it was called Austrian Bastille. Among the famous persons imprisoned here at different times were the Hungarian enlightener F.Kazintsi, the Russian revolutionary and philosopher M.Bakunin, the fighter for Greece’s independence A. Ipsilanti, the French ambassador Camille Tournod. Interesting but depressing recollections were left by the Hungarian poet Sandor Petofi after his visit to the castle on July 12,1847.

The Hungarian revolution of 1848-49 freed the prisoners. As a token of this event a lime tree – the tree of freedom – was planted on the slopes of the hill. The tree had been growing until 1960, when a heavy hurricane swept over the castle.

In 1896, to commemorate one thousand years of the Hungari; tribes’ migration to the Middle Danube lowland, the prison was closed, and the castle began to decline. In the 20 th century the fortress was used by Czechoslovak and Hungarian armies. In the 1940 s-50 s it was occupied by the NKVD, later it was transformed into a machine-operators’ school, courses for collective farm heads, and a trade school. Since 1993 it has been housing the Museum of History and Local Lore, and a picture gallery.

In the 19 th century the Mukacheve castle became a place where the greatest relic of the Hungarian state – the Crown of St. Stefan – was kept for three months. Sometimes this relic is called a symbol of the past and present of the united Europe. The crown is composed of two parts. The first one is a gift for the Hungarian kings from Pope Sylvester II, and the second one is the confirmation of power from a Byzantine Emperor.

The crown has passed through many adventures. During Napoleonic wars the relic was under the threat of being captured. So in 1805 the crown under the guard of Captain Joseph Czpleni’s squadron was transferred to and kept at the Mukacheve castle. In the 20 th century the relic left Hungary again, and it was only in 1978 that it returned to its place in the Hungarian Parliament.

The Town Hall (2 Pushkin St.) was built in the early 20 th century in modern style. On the Town Hall’s tower there was installed a clock made by the master Joseph Czovinski. The smaller bell of the clock chimes every 15 minutes, and the bigger one, every hour.

The “White House” (16 Mvr St.), known also as the palace of the Rakoczi family, obtained its name due to the color of its white walls with red ornaments at the corners. The palace was reconstructed and converted into a family residence in the middle of the 17 th century, particularly after 1633, when Diord I Rakoczi became the governor of the Mukacheve castle. In 1726 the castle and neighboring lands became the property of the Schonborns family.The Austrian architect Balthazar Newman, on instructions of Count Ervin Schonborn, executed later improvements, which have been preserved to our time.The building is a combination of Renaissance and baroque styles. Especially effective are the baroque portal and open stairs leading to the central entrance.

Not far from the White House, in Myr Square, stands a monument to the outstanding artist of the 19 th century, Munkaszi Mihaly (1844-1900), a native of Mukacheve. The artist is considered one of the most important figures in Hungarian art. Unfortunately, to give his paintings more brightness, he had grounded his canvases with dark brown bitumen, which with time revealed its ruinous effect. The best works of the painter are kept in special storages, but it is quite likely that in half a century most of them will be completely lost.

Almost in the end of Myr Street stands the Church of St. Martin (51 Myr St.), which was built in 1904 in place of a Gothic structure. This is one of the city’s main relics, at least due to the 1940 s-50 s it was occupied by the NKVD, later it was transformed into a machine-operators’ school, courses for collective farm heads, and a trade school. Since 1993 it has been housing the Museum of History and Local Lore, and a picture gallery.

In the 19 th century the Mukacheve castle became a place where the greatest relic of the Hungarian state – the Crown of St. Stefan – was kept for three months. Sometimes this relic is called a symbol of the past and present of the united Europe. The crown is composed of two parts. The first one is a gift for the Hungarian kings from Pope Sylvester II, and the second one is the confirmation of power from a Byzantine Emperor.

The crown has passed through many adventures. During Napoleonic wars the relic was under the threat of being captured. So in 1805 the crown under the guard of Captain Joseph Czpleni’s squadron was transferred to and kept at the Mukacheve castle. In the 20 th century the relic left Hungary again, and it was only in 1978 that it returned to its place in the Hungarian Parliament.

The Town Hall (2 Pushkin St.) was built in the early 20 th century in modern style. On the Town Hall’s tower there was installed a clock made by the master Joseph Czovinski. The smaller bell of the clock chimes every 15 minutes, and the bigger one, every hour.

The “White House” (16 Mvr St.), known also as the palace of the Rakoczi family, obtained its name due to the color of its white walls with red ornaments at the corners. The palace was reconstructed and converted into a family residence in the middle of the 17 th century, particularly after 1633, when Diord I Rakoczi became the governor of the Mukacheve castle. In 1726 the castle and neighboring lands became the property of the Schonborns family.The Austrian architect Balthazar Newman, on instructions of Count Ervin Schonborn, executed later improvements, which have been preserved to our time.The building is a combination of Renaissance and baroque styles. Especially effective are the baroque portal and open stairs leading to the central entrance.

Not far from the White House, in Myr Square, stands a monument to the outstanding artist of the 19 th century, Munkaszi Mihaly (1844-1900), a native of Mukacheve.The artist is considered one of the most important figures in Hungarian art. Unfortunately, to give his paintings more brightness, he had grounded his canvases with dark brown bitumen, which with time revealed its ruinous effect. The best works of the painter are kept in special storages, but it is quite likely that in half a century most of them will be completely lost.

Almost in the end of Myr Street stands the Church of St. Martin (51 Myr St.), which was built in 1904 in place of a Gothic structure. This is one of the city’s main relics, at least due to the fact that St. Martin is the protector of Mukacheve. In the courtyard, to the left of the entrance, there is another unique Transcarpathian sacral memorial – St. Joseph’s Chapel. Initially it served as an altar of the church. Of great artistic value are the fragments of mural paintings and stone sculptures that have come down to us from the 14 th century. Frescos supplement the ornaments around the narrow arrow-shaped windows and the outer buttresses. Outside, to the left and the right of the entrance to the church, between the buttresses, you can see ancient epitaphs.

St. Nicholas’ Monastery on Chernecha Hill, and the monastery Church of St. Nicholas (2 Pivnichna St.) are outstanding memorials of sacral art.

According to folk legends the monastery was founded in the 11 th century by the monks that came from the Dnieper slopes. The monastery was patronized by the daughter of Prince Yaroslav the Wise, Anastasia, who was the wife of the Hungarian king Endras I. However, the monastery achieved the acme of its development during the rule of Fedor Koriatovych. The monastery received from him moneyed assistance and countenance. After his death in 1414 he was buried in a monastery crypt.

The castle’s well has its own legend. They say that the water appeared in the well only with the help of the devil. The latter proposed his services to the lord in exchange for a bag of gold. The prince decided to play a trick considering the fact that the devil hadn’t specified the size of the bag. After the water appeared the devil was given only several coins. Angry and ashamed he jumped into the well, and ever since has been fright­ening all those who want to drink some water with strange sounds coming from the depth.

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