History

  1. Overview
  2. From the Romans to the Renaissance
  3. A Royal and Princely Residence
  4. Property of the Banffy Family
  5. Barcsay-Banffy Property

Overview

From the Romans to the Renaissance

Situated near the remains of a Roman camp, the oldest part of the castle was built in the 1300's for the Bishop of Transylvania but is not mentioned in documents until 1428. During the 1480's the bishop's residence is embellished in early Renaissance style. Only fragments remain of this rebuilding activity.

A Royal and Princely Residence

After the fall of Buda to the Turks in 1541, Gyalu castle becomes the residence of Queen Isabella, the widow of King John I of Hungary. Renovations begun before the queen's arrival are completed by 1543, as shown by an inscription on the north-west tower.

In 1633, the castle is acquired by George I Rakoczy, Prince of Transylvania, who undertakes an ambitious rebuilding programme to give the building its present appearance. A striking feature of the new interior is the famed "tiled room" whose walls are clad with decorative Turkish tiles imported from Istanbul.

Property of the Banffy family

After the death of Prince George II Rakoczy, the castle is granted to Baron Dennis Banffy de Losoncz in 1663. His family is to retain ownership of the castle until after the Second World War. In 1707, the castle is looted and burned: the Banffy family does not inhabit it for the next hundred and twenty years.

Count Dennis Banffy decides to restore the ruined structure in 1838. Walls and towers are conserved or rebuilt where necessary. The ancient vaulting of most ground floor rooms is maintained. The moat is filled in and replaced with an English garden.

After the death of Count Dennis Banffy, the castle is inherited by a relative who sells it to a prosperous businessman in 1877. The new owner repairs the damage caused by a fire in 1861. The second storey is removed and replaced by a huge pitched roof.

Barcsay-Banffy Property

In 1911 the castle and estate are sold to Katherine Barcsay de Nagybarcsa, born Countess Banffy de Losoncz. Thomas and Katherine Barcsay modernize and restore the castle. After the death of Thomas Barcsay in 1936, the estate is managed by his son, Joseph Barcsay. Joseph and Eva Barcsay make improvements to the interior of the building in the 1940's.

After 1945, the castle is looted and eventually confiscated; it is used by various state institutions for several decades. It is being reclaimed, in accordance with Romanian restitution laws, by Thomas Barcsay.