Nevytsky Castle is a semi-ruined castle in Zakarpatska Oblast, in Ukraine, 12 km north of Uzhgorod (Kamyanytsya village, Uzhgorod district, Transcarpathian region). It was founded on the hill above the Uzh river in 13th century. In 1241 it was destroyed by the hordes of Mongol-Tatars, but in the second half of the 13th century was restored. With the development of firearms the castle has been constantly improved and reconstructed and its final contours acquired at the beginning of the 16th century. At the beginning of the 17th century, Nevytsky Castle belonged to the Drugeth family and as a result of civil wars has repeatedly passed from hand to hand. In 1644 the castle was captured and destroyed by the Transylvanian Prince George II Rákóczi. Since then, the castle was not restored, and got to our times in the form of ruins.
“Nevytsky Castle is a very interesting monument of European castle architecture as an authentic example of fortification art of the Gothic era and the transition to Renaissance. Today the castle is in disrepair, but it does not detract from its value.
In 1644, the castle survived the last attack and has not been used since. The architectural ensemble has not changed much since then. There have been several attempts to conserve the castle, in order to preserve its architectural integrity, but they did not give the desired result.
Researchers began to study the castle over 25 years ago. During the last archaeological expedition to the Nevytsky castle, it was found out that it has already existed in the 13th century and was built on the site of an ancient settlement of the 7th century BC. Later, the researches found out that even before, people of the Bronze Age had lived here”, – a historian and archaeologist Oleksandr Dzembas said. Oleksandr Dzembas is one of the few activists who for several decades now have been appealing for the preservation of the monument of architecture.
Nevytsky Castle is especially rich in folk legends and stories. The history of the castle is linked to the historical figure whom in the folk memory is called as a Pohan-Divka/Pohan-Divcha (Bad Girl), Pohana Diva (Lady Bad) or a Ginger-Girl.
Once long time a Turkish princess settled in the valley of the Uzh river. She was a cruel witch, and people called her Pohana Diva (Lady Bad).
So Pohana Diva has decided to build an impregnable fortress on a steep hill above the Uzh river, in the dense forest. All people have been driven to carry the mountain stones and build a stronghold. For the strength of the walls Pohana Diva has ordered to add milk and eggs white to lime. But then it seemed not enough for her, and she has ordered to add mothers’ milk to the lime. Newborns started to die. Weeping could be heard across the valley but Pohana Diva was only smiling. Later she decided to add human blood as well.
Even after the construction of the castle has been finished, people didn’t feel better. Soldiers of the Pohana Diva were spying in the village and she watched all the passers-by from the top of the castle. If she saw someone was passing by without a low bow, addressed to her, she was ordering to chop his head off. People began to avoid that road.
A young man, slave Ivanko has lived not far from the castle at the Orehovitse village. Once he told his Master that when he becomes a King, he will save people from Pohana Diva.
The Master took an iron stick for cleaning the plow and stuck it into the ground with the words: “When this iron starts blooming, you will become a King!”
Suddenly, just in front of his eyes, the iron stick turned into a lush green bush of roses. The Master let Ivanko go. The young man went to Uzhgorod, where at that time the King has be chosen. Princes couldn’t decide between themselves who will become the King, so someone suggested to throw a golden royal crown into the air, – on whose head it would fall on, so he would be the King.
The crown was thrown into the air and fell down on Ivanko’s head.
The simple man cannot become the king, princes said. So, they threw the crown again in the air, and again it fell on Ivanko. For the third time they threw the crown into the air and for the third time it fell down on Ivanko’s head. Nothing could be done – Ivanko became the King. He gathered a large army and ordered to bring huge herds of cattle. When it became dark, Ivanko ordered to tie a bell to each animal, and to tie a lit up candle to the every horn.
When all the flock roaring started to get closer to the castle, Pohana Diva woke up. Scared by this terrible noise, she jumped on her horse and rushed towards Uzhgorod. Ivanko has noticed Pohana Diva and began to follow her. They have passed Uzhgorod and when they were going through the dense oak forest, Pohana Diva’s long luxurious hair got stuck in thick branches and she hung on them, but her horse galloped further on.
The princess begged Ivanko not to kill her, even proposed her heart to the young man. But Ivanko killed the cruel witch. Her body was burned and the ashes scattered over the mound. And now this mound could be seen in the valley.
photo from nowyny.com. See more photos and read more in Ukrainian
The beginning of the legend is similar to the first one.
Long time ago a cruel mistress lived above the Uzh river. People called her Pohan-Divcha (Bad Girl, because she was fiercely torturing peasants and taking their belongings. When she decided to build a magnificent and impregnable castle, Pohan-Divcha made all people get to work: old, weak, ill, pregnant women and even small children. Everyone had to carry stones, water and lime up a steep mountain. She was taking milk and eggs away from the farmers to add to the lime to make it stronger. Nursing mothers were forced to give their milk too. During the construction, Pohan-Divcha was punishing people for the smallest mistake, by beating them to death with sticks.
Finally the bloody castle was ready. Pohan-Divcha let the villagers go home, but first ordered them to crawl around the castle on their knees, and those who did not listen, she cut the heads off. She also ordered that everyone who was passing by the castle, should take his hat off and bow down.
For a long time Transcarpathians have been tortured by Pohana-Divcha, until a new Hungarian King Matias has started to rule. He was the wise and righteous ruler. When Matias found out about people severe distress they suffered from Pohan-Divcha, he gathered a large army and besieged the Nevytsky Castle.
Bad-Girl, seeing that the castle will not be able to stand against the great strength of the Matias army, took her horse and got out secretly of the castle. But Matias saw her and started to follow her. Pohan-Divcha didn’t know that her horse and horse of the King Matias were children of one mother, so all her attempts to urge the horse have failed. Her horse kept stopping to wait for his brother. Finally Matis has caught her in the Zahonsky woods. There were lots of acorns in the forest. They covered all the ground like a carpet. Bad-Girl’s horse slipped on the smooth acorns and King Matias managed to catch her. He waved his sword over her head and killed the cruel lady. But before her death, Pohan-Divcha had time to curse the oak forest, and since then oaks never bear acorns in it.
photo from nowyny.com. See more photos and read more in Ukrainian
There are many other variations of these legends.
Oleksandr Dzembas, the historian and archaeologist says, that “the castle today is in the state of emergency, but not critical. This situation must be corrected. The roof of the central tower of the castle is in the most threatening condition. It might fall and damage other buildings of the ensemble. However, with professional and systematic approach, this situation can be improved. Since Ukraine is a member of the UNESCO, we must address these issues. There is no other way.”
There were attempts to change the situation in 2013, in particular Uzhgorod.in has repeatedly raised this issue. In recent years, the condition of the Nevytsky castle has deteriorated. The walls started to crumble and the roof of a small watchtower, which several years ago was partially covered, has collapsed completely.
See photos of how the Nevytsky Castle looks now on uzhgorod.in
Cover photo by Heavenrice