Cachtice Castle, Blood Countess Elizabeth Bathory, and the Murders of Vienna
Cachtice Castle is situated in the illustrious Carpathian Mountains in Slovakia. Originally it was constructed as a guard post on the thoroughfare to Moravia. Cachtice Castle gained prominence when it became the home of Elizabeth Bathory, otherwise known as the “Blood Countess” or the “Bloody Lady of Cachtice”.
Originally, Cachtice was constructed in the Romanesque style during the 13th century by Kazimir of Hunt-Poznan, but was later renovated to both Gothic and Renaissance styles from the 15th to the 17th century. In the latter half of the 16th century, Cachtice Castle fell in to the hands of Elizabeth Bathory as a wedding present for her husband, Ferencz Nadasdy.
Elizabeth Bathory was a Hungarian Noblewomen and part of one of the most illustrious Protestant families in Europe. Bathory grew up at a time when women were pawns so to speak of their husbands. She was a tomboy at heart, wearing boy’s clothing and playing boy games. In 1575, at the age of 15, she married Ferencz Nadasdy, son of another prominent Protestant family, arranged to promote good breeding and extension of property lines.
Elizabeth Bathory had some intelligence, however her husband Ferencz Nadasdy was not as fortunate. He did develop into a brilliant soldier and athlete, successfully campaigning against the Turks and gaining notable recognition. While he was on campaign, Elizabeth Bathory was in charge of running the household at Cachtice Castle. Beginning in 1585, Elizabeth Bathory started her bloody murders on peasants and servants that were employed at the Cachtice Castle, and also the daughters of the local gentry. She used what was called “Star Kicking” where a servant would have a piece of paper placed between their toes and set on fire. This would in turn make them kick and see stars.
The Murders in Vienna
In Bathory’s Vienna Mansion, her cellar acted as a sadistic torture chamber, fashioned with a cage of spikes. The spikes could be raised or lowered by use of a pulley. Peasant girls and seamstresses with ample bosoms were locked in the cage, while Elizabeth Bathory’s maid Dorothea Szentes prodded the girls with a red hot poker. Elizabeth Bathory would shout perverse words at the girls, forcing them to be impaled upon a spike. She would later bath in their blood, believing it would preserve her youth.
Elizabeth Bathory’s sadist and psychopathic actions led her to many indiscretions, including a bisexual affair with her Aunt Clara. She also would partake in sexual horseplay with Istvan Jerzorlay, her manservant known to have exceptional sexual prowess.
After several years, Elizabeth became involved with several accomplices, their deeds gaining notoriety in the beginning of the 17th century. In 1610 Emperor Mathia ordered an investigation, uncovering hundreds of Elizabeth Bathory’s gruesome acts. Over 650 murders had been documented by Elizabeth Bathory, kept in her chest of drawers.
Elizabeth Bathory’s noble status allowed for her to be sentenced to house arrest, rather than execution. She died in 1614, four years after her sentence. In 1708, Cachtice Castle was captured by Hungarian rebels from the army of Francis II Rakoczi. For years, Cachtice Castle has continued to crumble and has fallen into ruin. The site itself represents a history of bloody murders, however flowers and rare plants continue to grow on the hill, making it a national reserve.
Count Thurzo said it perfectly whereas “You Elizabeth do not deserve to breathe the air on earth, nor see the light of the Lord”. Ironic really, as the rarest of nature grows without reserve at Cachtice Castle.
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