01 October 2019

The Legend of beautiful Hedwig and her ill-fated love at Povazskom Castle

Middle Europe in the 16th century symbolizes the battle for the thrones of Czech and Hungary kingdoms between Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor [Ferdinand I Habsburg] and John Zápolya.  Many battles were lost, including Mohács [Mochacz] battle in 1526, where the Ottoman Empire army defeated the Hungarian Army led by the Jagiellonian King Ludwig. 











It was a time when the honorary knight code was in effect, and each of the candidates for knighthood knew the so-called eight virtues, which included the following:


• life in truth

• faith

• repentance of one's sins

• exemplification of evidence of humbleness

• cherishment of justice

• being compassionate

• being honest and good-hearted

• endurance of persecution


The most notorious, but at the same time, most brutal warrior of those days in kingdom of Hungary was Ladislav of Podmanína. He gained recognition during his rule with an iron hand, thanks to which in a relatively short amount of time he acquired ownership of almost all Povazskom castles and settlements, except for one - Budatín.


Ladislav Podmanický became an exemplar for his grandchildren - brothers: John and Rafael, who after his death took over a part of the Podmanický Clan fortune. Their main residence was the Považský Castle built on a steep hill over the Wag River.


Considering the fact that both brothers were raised in accordance to the rules of knighthood, as well as the times they lived in, were marked by perpetual wars. This made a negative impact on them, which subsequently turned into unheard of brutality which manifested in many aspects of their endeavors. They became well-known for their robbery excursions, which were frequently accompanied by murders, grief, and tears of innocent people. They had such strong power and authority that nobody was able to defeat them, and stop the crime wave until repercussions of a certain meeting in 1545 (or 1543) led to their submission to the king. 1


John and Rafael always planned their excursions and journeyed together.  However, one-time John said "I think we are strong enough and experienced. We could separate at the start of our next excursion. I will head with part of the troops to the Moravia, while you go towards to Žilina [Żyliny], through Kysunice Valley and Jablunkov Pass[Przełęcz Jabłonkowska] to Silesia". The idea appealed to Rafael, the brothers shook hands and later on they both carried out their plan.


After few days of journey, Rafael’s couriers informed him of carriages moving in their direction, with one of them carrying a Silesian nobleman along with his daughter Hedwig.

Sudden meeting the beautiful lady on the road had impelled the adult Rafael into passion to conquer this Polish Lady's heart. He knew though that the only way to accomplish his goal was a brutal assault on her carriage. Rafael jumped down off the horse and together with the troops attacked the Poles. They tied the nobleman and his subordinates with ropes, and threw them into the mountain river; the beautiful Hedwig, on the other hand, was put in Rafael's carriage, and immediately set off on their way back. That same night they returned to Považský Castle, and the lass was locked in a guarded chamber. Only one person could bring her food and drink, and it was an aged woman servant.

Enamoured Rafael immediately professed his love to Hedwig, but she turned down his advances, which subsequently elicited frustration on his part. In the mean-time the wounded Polish nobleman set himself free of the ropes, and managed to reach the nearest household where he received help. As a result he went back to Silesia and at once notified his son what had happened. This brave young man decided to rescue his only beloved sister, and arranged an expedition to Považský Castle. Unaware of his brother's adventures, John returned to Považie.  Having found out about the beautiful lady, and Rafael's unfortunate love, he was eager to get to know the woman who immensely changed his brother.


Having broken into the guarded chamber without his brother's consent, he caught sight of Hedwig, and being captivated by her charm, he desired her hand in marriage. Great love for the same woman divided the brothers, who, in the heat of overwhelming emotions began to fight, right in front of her eyes. At the sight of both men, Hedwig's frightful scream summoned the guards into the chamber, who separated both brothers, and led each of them to his own chamber.


At the dawn John threw Rafael a gauntlet, at the same time challenging him to a duel, which was scheduled to take place in three days’ time. When the brothers company found out about this news, they resolved - for fear of their future - to reconcile both brothers, and convince them that they will only be powerful when they are as one. Therefore they suggested deciding on the winner who will ask Hedwig to marry by lot. Good fortune was in favour of John, and the other brother could only hide his anger and sadness deep inside. After few days of nuptials preparation, the courtly informants conveyed information that the castle in Budatín was abandoned by the Szunyogh clan, just summoned to imperial court. Brothers, for quite some time were preparing for the conquest of Budatín, and now an exceptional opportunity presented itself before them. Without hesitation they organized an excursion and set off.


Rafael took advantage of the situation and after few hours of journey he started to pretend he felt very sick, and after conversation with his brother he returned to the castle. There he decided to persuade the Polish lady to accept his love, however she still refused him and started to threaten him that her beloved will come to her rescue and will take vengeance.


And so, great desire and love turned into hatred, and Rafael threatened that if he cannot have her, then no one else will ever could either. Rafael went to the elder servant woman, who brought lady the food, and arranged with her that Hedwig will be served with poison, and the brother will never find out what happened. They poured the poison into wine, and Rafael invited the lass to dinner with plea for forgiveness. She accepted the invitation and the moment she had the chalice in her mouth, the guard entered the chamber with the news that unknown knights just attacked their castle. Rafael managed to escape through the back gate, and the unknown knight turned out to be Hedwig's brother coming to the rescue. Alongside with their troops siblings took valuable possessions and on their way out they burned the castle down.


Rafael managed to get to John and told him the news about the attack, then both brothers decided to save their property and return to Považský Castle. However, when they reached their destination they found nothing more than piles of ashes, with not a single sight of their robbed goods or the beautiful Polish lady. After these experiences they decided to rebuild the castle and their life, from now on to live only with each other. Aware of the undermined trust and downfall of power they once possessed, they decided to surrender themselves to king who granted them with clemency.


After the death of Podmanický brothers the splendour of Považský Castle began to fade. In 1895 the ruins of the castle were bought out by baron Leopold Popper, who belonged to one of the most wealthy clans of those times - Austrian-Hungarian monarchy, however not until 2007 the process of securing the ruins, conservation and rebuilding the castle began. Nowadays the works are almost finished, and we may enjoy the beautiful views and history of knights-robbers, whose tombstones were placed in Považský church.


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