This text was written by Doc. Mgr. Ivan Chalupecký on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the death of Count Csáky, which we commemorated on 30 May 2010.
The Csáky family
The Csáky family played an important role in the history of Spiš region. In 1638, he became the owner of Spiš Castle, including the towns and villages that belonged to it, and at the same time he received the hereditary rank of the main county governor of Spiš, which its members executed for more than 250 years. It was a very branched family, because its Spiš founder had 24 children and during the division of the huge property in 1702 he shared it with his 8 sons, which created separate branches this family. One of them was the Iliašovce-Smižany family branch. Unlike the evangelical Thurzó family, their successors, the Csáky family, were Catholics and thus much of the Spiš region contributed significantly to the return to Catholicism. However, they did not do it violently. The best evidence of this is that e.g. even the Iliašovce, one of their residences, remained partly evangelical.
Founder of the Iliašovce branch
The Csáky family also held important positions within the Kingdom of Hungary, but also later Hungarian state. They were taverns, ministers, chairmen of the House of Lords, etc.
The Csáky family has been in Iliašovce since the 17th century. They were given during the division by one of the 8 sons of István Csáky (1603 – 1662) Tamás (1675 – 1705), the founder of this branch. He settled here in a manor acquired by the Csáky family from the third wife of István, Krisztina Mindszenti, who bought it together with a large estate from Vavrinec Fekete. The Csáky family rebuilt the manor into a palace and settled in it. Tamás had two sons. The first of them, František, acquired the property of the Kluknava family, the second, István, belonged to Iliašovce.
István Csáky received a good education in Vienna with the Jesuits. However, he was quite different from the other members of the family. Enlightenment Vienna impressed him in the sense that he did not show interest in public functions but devoted his entire life to property management and their enhancement, as well as culture and art. Through his marriage to Júlia Erdődy, he also acquired properties in Humenné, which he took similar care of as properties in Spiš region.
However, his marriage failed. They were divided by what united them at first: an affection for enlightenment ideas as they penetrated to us from France. While he leaned more towards Rousseau’s ideas, his wife was rather subject to the radicalism of Voltaire, whose writings and books she eagerly read and disseminated. Their only daughter died as a child. Just because of the effort to influence the ideas of the enlightenment into our conditions and the huge investments in culture and art associated with them, they can be considered as important personalities of their time in the Kingdom of Hungary. Although, to our surprise, we do not find the name of our István Csáky in almost any biographical dictionary, lexicon or encyclopedia.
Štefan Csáky embodied his thoughts and ideas of a man based on ancient culture but returning to the common people in the position of a magnificent summer house Sans Souci in Iliašovce in the years 1773 – 1776. There is enough knowledge about him in Iliašovce, but only few people know that Csáky built similar summer houses or gardens also in Humenné or in the village near Humenné, Viťazovce, where he spent his last years. Summer houses, especially Sans Souci, were an attempt to materialize the enlightenment ideas of István Csáky, not only in the level of entertainment and rest or education, but also in the spiritual level. There were not only playrooms and dance halls or a library, but also a chapel or a hint of a pagan temple. In addition, however, he went even further. In a hidden corner of a great French-English park, he built a cave into which he could retreat for meditation, to be with himself. Rousseau’s influence can also be seen in the fact that the ordinary citizens from the village, not only as servants, had access to the park. Csáky went too far in his imagination. Over time, even under the influence of the revolution in France, he realized that it was all beautiful in thought, but it could not be put together, and some knowledge of it – apart from the problems with his wife – led him to have his work demolished.
Building the churches
However, Csáky’s generosity did not end in parks and summer houses. He also donated huge resources to the church. Proof of this is the Illiašovce’s church, which was rebuilt from the ground up and refurnished with an advanced Baroque interior in years 1768 and 1770 and completed it in later years. The beautiful furnishings of the church point not only to his generosity, but also to his good taste. Thus, this relatively small village received a church which in many ways surpassed some city churches. When he lived in Humenné in his last years, he also showed his generosity to church buildings and their equipment. To this day, e.g. the parish in Udavské praises the beautiful monstrance he brought for it in 1773. And there were certainly many such gifts. It is a pity that the Humenné’s manor and the church were insensitively rebuilt in later years.
Founder of Starý Smokovec and tourism
Csáky also took care of the buildings of parishes and schools. He built e.g. a school in Smižany, but also elsewhere. However, little is known about the fact that he is actually the founder of Starý Smokovec and Tatra’s tourism. As an enlightened man, he loved nature and was also a passionate hunter. Therefore, at the initiative of the Evangelical pastor from Veľký Slavkov, Tobiáš Mauksch, he had the first hunting lodge built at “Kyslá voda” under Slavkovský štít in 1793. Nearby, in 1795 he built two guest buildings and a small chapel. Later, other buildings were built here and so the settlement of Starý Smokovec was established.
Human approach to servants
When we talk about Csáky’s enlightenment thinking and enthusiasm, the event that took place in Iliašovce in 1790, after the Great French Revolution, somehow doesn’t fit in. Meanwhile, Maria Theresa also carried out urban regulation in our country, Joseph II abolished slavery. This was found in two leaflets, which were found only on the Csáky estates in Smižany and in Iliašovce. Leaflets encouraged to e.g. Let the county perish, let slavery cease…, or Lift up the axes, threaten the lords’ servants, expel the lords from their courtyards….
It seems that it was the Csáky family who treated their servants more humanly than other landowners. The rebellion in 1831 also affected almost exclusively Csáky’s property. But that’s another matter.
In summary, we must state that we should be proud that such an important and extraordinary personality as István Csáky lived and is buried in the church in Iliašovce. After all, where else in Spiš region was there such a Sans Souci?
Doc. PhDr. Ivan Chalupecký