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Castle and Family history

Home Széchényi-heritage
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The Széchényi family, originating from Szécsény in Nógrád County, served their country for generations. The Széchényi family members achieved merits as politicians, statesmen, clergymen, and soldiers, and were granted the title of Count in recognition of their services. Archbishop György Széchényi of Kalocsa laid the foundation of the family wealth and changed the lands of Cenk, which became closely associated with the Széchényi family.

The first lords of Nagycenk

The first construction befitting the rank of the noble family in the village was started around 1750 by General Antal Széchényi in Baroque style. The ground floor hall series, the staircase, the chapel, and the upper hall preserve the 18th-century state. Antal Széchényi's nephew and heir, Ferenc Széchényi, ordered moderate renovations in 1799. The most noticeable change was on the facade, which then acquired the neoclassical appearance still visible today. Ferenc housed his famous collection of tens of thousands of items in the mansion, consisting of manuscripts, incunabula, books, coins, prints, and maps.

István Széchenyi

Count István Széchenyi looked at his home and the whole country with innovative intentions based on his experiences from his European travels. He donated his father's collections kept in Nagycenk to the nation, creating the foundations of the National Széchényi Library and the Hungarian National Museum. His extensive nation-building activities were already acknowledged by his contemporaries, with Lajos Kossuth calling him the "greatest Hungarian." The Nagycenk estate played a defining role in István Széchenyi's life, which he often mentioned in his diary. He renovated and expanded the inherited mansion following foreign models. The new building sections included the latest Western advancements, such as bathrooms, flush toilets, and gas lighting. Several high-ranking guests at the housewarming ceremony praised the mansion's spacious, romantic living quarters and technical novelties. In addition to renovating the mansion, István Széchenyi established a model farm on the estate and launched a series of social and public innovations that also impacted the village life. The development of the stud farm, significant improvements in sheep farming, silk cocoon breeding, and the construction of a silk reeling mill on the estate provided job opportunities for many peasants.

Between the two World Wars

After the death of István Széchenyi, the mansion was inherited by his older son, Béla, who only carried out minor renovations on the building. During this time, the biggest changes took place around the mansion, as Széchényi Béla and his wife, Hanna Erdődy, planted numerous rare plants in the garden. The village and the mansion remained in the possession of the Széchényi family until 1945. The bombings of the Second World War caused serious damage to the building, a significant part of the furnishings were destroyed, and the mansion fell into decay.

The rebirth of the Nagycenk Mansion

The comprehensive restoration of the mansion began in 1969, and after the completion of the works, the István Széchenyi Memorial Museum was opened in 1973, which has been a member institution of the Eszterháza Cultural, Research and Festival Center since 2014.

The chapel and the mausoleum

From the hall on the ground floor of the mansion opens the baroque chapel with an oval floor plan, the ceiling fresco of which was painted by the famous Austrian artist István Dorfmeister. The end of the family mausoleum opens from here. The intimate, baroque-style crypt was built by Ferenc Széchényi so that he and his heirs could rest together after their death. In the past centuries, forty-seven family members were buried in the mausoleum, including Ferenc and his son István. The burial place of the Széchényis was a national pilgrimage site not only today, but also in the 20th century. Mari Jászai, one of the greatest Hungarian tragedians, visited here several times.

The park

The park and baroque French garden surrounding the mansion were planted by Antal Széchényi and his wife in the 18th century. The defining element of the French garden is the sunken fountain, the vegetation cut into geometric shapes and the hedge maze. The image of the estate was also shaped by the later heirs, Ferenc, István and Béla. In the 19th century, the park was transformed according to English taste, and the California giant pines and sycamore trees were also planted at that time. The creation of today's image praises the work of Béla Széchenyi, who decorated the garden with special American and Asian evergreens. Today, more than a thousand specimens of forty types of trees stand tall in the park. In addition to the rarities of plants, the meandering stream running through the property, the artificial hill cave, the row of linden trees running to Fertő and the old oaks of the Fácános-forest make the park of the world heritage site Nagycenk Mansion special.