Solomon’s Tower built as the lower fort for the citadel in the 13th century is one of the most popular attractions of Visegrád. It was named after Solomon, King of Hungary by mistake. It offers an exhibition, medieval shows and a fascinating view over the Danube Bend.
Constructing the concentric defence of Visegrád was commissioned after the Mongol Raid in the 1250s by Béla IV and it was extended and upgraded several times throughout the centuries.
The Lower Castle (Alsóvár) included a large keep defended by a curtain wall with a barbican and towers. It simultaneously served as a royal retreat, housing for the count and a military construction. Salamon’s Tower is the core part of the Lower Fort with a height of 31 metres.
It was named after King Solomon by mistake. It was in the late 11th century when former king Solomon was kept in captivity for two years by Ladislaus I in a castle nearby. This event was relocated in folklore to the Lower Castle, which did not even exist at the time. So, despite it is anachronistic, the name remained.
The legend has it that while Solomon was kept there, pumpkin lanterns (not to confuse with jack-o'-lantern) were used in the castle for the purpose of surveillance at night. The tower with the lights also proved useful for navigation on the Danube. This is what explains the Hungarian saying “It shines like Solomon’s pumpkin”. Because the Hungarian word “tök” for pumpkin is also used informally in the sense “balls”, that is “testicles”, the saying provokes alternative associations in native speakers.
The living quarters on the four upper storeys of the tower were accessible via a staircase in the southern corner. The luxury of life here is evidenced by the stone columned fireplaces and the ornamental windows. The thickness of the walls reaches 8 meters at some spots.
The Lower Castle was connected to the Citadel with a fortified wall stretching to the guard tower by the river. One of the castle’s main functions was to control the road connecting Buda and Esztergom as well as river transport. The tower was well-located to monitor both.
The Lower Castle survived several conflicts and changes in ownership but during a siege by the Turkish in 1544 it was completely devastated. Although it had lost its military function it was again involved in later sieges due to its proximity to the Citadel. At the end of the 17th century, the Lower Castle was burned down by the Turkish troops while evacuating and locals reinhabiting Visegrád scavenged castle stones for their own use.
Restoration was first initiated in 1872. It was planned to rebuild the tower as a hunting castle designed by Frigyes Schulek (reputable Hungarian architect renowned for design and restoration of several landmarks in the country), but the project was prevented by financial issues. In the 20th century, minor progress was made, but a fire in the 1950s halted construction works. The current shape of the tower had been given by the mid-60s by plans of architect János Sedlmayr János.
Today it is home to an exhibition hall of Matthias Corvinus Museum (Mátyás Király Múzeum) presenting the history of Visegrád. Its main attraction is a 14th century ornamental well from the Visegrád Palace.
The bailey serves as the venue for popular medieval shows and the top of the tower offers a splendid view over the Danube Bend.