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Castle and Family history

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"What the emperor can do, I can do as well!" The country's largest and most luxurious Baroque-Rococo palace was built in this spirit in the marshy, game-rich area of the Lake Neusiedl, bordered by reeds. Count József Esterházy was the first to construct on the extensive estate, in 1720 he commissioned a Viennese architect to build a 22-room hunting lodge.

"The Hungarian Versailles" - the splendour during the time of Prince Miklós Esterházy, "the Magnificent

The heyday of the palace during the reign of József's second son, Prince Miklós Esterházy, in the second half of the 18th century. The prince continuously expanded the palace until his death in 1790. He created a residence that rivalled European royal courts. The buildings, furnishings, artworks, library, theaters, garden, and forest all contributed to the image shaped by the prince, portraying Esterházy as a refined magnate, generous patron, connoisseur, and artist in the eyes of his contemporaries. The adjective used to describe his intention reflects this: "the Magnificent". The Baroque, Rococo, and Louis XVI style palace hosted lavish festivities where guests such as Empress Maria Theresa and Emperor Paul I of Russia attended, and the renowned composer Joseph Haydn served as court conductor. The opera and puppet theater built on the estate premiered the immortal works of the father of Viennese classicism. The park of the palace is also notable, representing the most mature Hungarian Baroque garden artistry. In addition to aristocratic extravagance and entertainment, Prince Miklós, as the captain of the Hungarian Royal Noble Guard, also operated a military training institution in Eszterháza*, where noble youths learned languages, music, architecture, and literature alongside military knowledge under the guidance of Haydn, Hefele Menyhért, and Bessenyei György.

Years of neglect

After the death of Prince Nicholas, the glory disappeared. Prince Miklós II Estherházy, the founder of the famous Esterházy gallery, returned his seat to Kismarton and developed the palace there. The former fairy realm of Eszterháza* was lost to the darkness of the past, Haydn, musicians and the theatrical troupe, left the palace, the lights on the stage of the opera were extinguished for a long time.

The second heyday of the palace

The second golden age of the palace can be linked to the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, when the apartments were restored for Prince Miklós IV Esterházy and his wife, Countess Margit Cziráky. Margit put her heart and soul into Eszterháza: all of her dowry was spent on the renovation of the palace and the renewal of the gardens. In the early 20th century, the park was reconstructed to the taste of the time. The famous rose garden is located partly on the site of the former opera house. 

The history of the palace in the 20th century

The Esterházy family used the palace complex until the end of World War II. However, at the end of the war, the Soviet army moved in for a while. After the soldiers left, the future of the castle became uncertain. Crops were stored in the ceremonial hall, the valuable furnishings were taken by the Soviet army and the local population. A horticultural technical school and vocational school were established in the western wing, a research institute for plant breeding in the eastern wing, and accommodations were also created. After the war, the people's republic nationalized the estate without compensation, making it state-owned. Restoration works began in 1957 and has been ongoing ever since. Since 2014, the palace in Fertőd has been a prominent monument of the Eszterháza Cultural, Research, and Festival Centre. The Centre is doing everything possible to restore the former glory of the palace, so that the baroque fairy realm can once again enchant visitors.

The Palace Park

The Baroque park of the palace was created during the time of Prince Miklós Esterházy, "the Magnificent". The ceremonial courtyard was adorned with fountains, and the 300-hectare park with its statues, fountains, waterfalls, amusement pavilions named after mythological gods, and a Chinese pagoda all served the exuberant rococo splendour. At the border of the amusement forest and the French garden, there were two artificial waterfalls, and further in the forest were the temples of Diana and Apollo, Fortuna and Venus, several fountains, as well as a Chinese garden pavilion. They all served the several days long entertainment of high-ranking visitors, along with the puppet theater and opera house built near the palace.