Wesselényi Castle, former home of Baron Miklós Wesselényi (1796–1850), the famous Transylvanian sportsman and politician, was bought by a Hungarian company. The Hungarian News Agency MTI reported that the 18th century estate located in the Transylvanian city of Zsibó (Jibou) recently became the property of a Hungarian company belonging to the Hungarian National Asset Management Inc. Just before this news broke, the Szilágy County Municipality announced that it could not exercise its pre-emption right to buy the property and will seek legal action. The heir of the castle, András Janicskó, told MTI that the county municipality did not exercise its right of pre-emption before the legal deadline. He sold the castle to a small company based in Kolozsvár (Cluj-Napoca), which then sold it to the Hungarian company.
It came as an unpleasant surprise to the Szilágy County Municipality that it could not exercise its pre-emption right to buy Wesselényi Castle, as the heir had already sold the property.
The former home of Baron Miklós Wesselényi, the famous “boatman of the flood” who saved hundreds during the great flood of Pest in 1838, is rightfully considered to be one of the most beautiful aristocratic castles in Transylvania. It is also the most remarkable architectural heritage site of Szilágy County in northwestern Romania. On April 28, the Szilágy County Municipality adopted the decision to purchase the castle and had allocated the necessary amount, RON 4 million (EUR 812,000), from its budget to buy the property, but it turned out that the estate had been sold about a week before.
As Róbert Szilágyi, vice-president of the municipality announced on his Facebook page, they are seeking legal action. Szilágyi was head of the commission entrusted to conduct the purchase.
On the other hand, the heir of the castle, András Janicskó, pointed out to MTI that the deadline for the municipality to exercise its pre-emption right had already passed on April 28, when the council decided to make the purchase. The castle was bought on April 20 by a business consulting firm based in Kolozsvár. According to the latest land registry abstract Janicskó sent to MTI, since then, the estate has changed ownership again: Wesselényi Castle was recently bought by a Hungarian company called Manevi Zrt.
As we have previously reported, the heirs had been trying to sell the castle since 2014, having realized that they are not capable of ensuring the finances to properly restore and preserve the historic building complex. The castle was listed for sale with Artmark Historical Estates, an auction house that combines a network of real estate brokers and art vendors. According to Artmark, the estimated value of Wesselényi Castle was between EUR 1.5 and 1.7 million. As there had been no buyers in the past years, Artmark decreased the price; the latest amount they asked for was EUR 800,000.
According to Romanian law, the institutions representing the Romanian state – the Ministry for Culture, the County Council and the City Hall – have the right of pre-emption when historic buildings are on sale. After Artmark had dropped the price of the real estate, the Ministry for Culture did not claim the right of pre-emption, while on March 29, the Szilágy County Council expressed its intention to purchase the castle.
As Róbert Szilágyi told maszol.ro, Artmark called on the county municipality to present by April 30 the decision proving that pre-emption procedures had been initiated and the necessary amount of money was allocated, as they had a client who would buy the property by April 30. At the municipality meeting on April 28, a five-member negotiating committee was appointed to handle the process. Subsequently, no reply was received from the heir nor from Artmark Historical Estates, said Szilágyi.
Wesselényi Castle was built in the last decades of the 18th century and finished by 1810. The usable property surrounding it is about 2,200 square meters. The baroque-style stately home and imposing stable near it were built by the father of the “boatman of the flood,” the older Baron Miklós Wesselényi, who was also a well-known figure of 18th century Transylvanian public life. However, the most famous owner of the castle and property was the younger Baron Miklós Wesselényi (1796–1850), a leader of the so-called Reformer opposition in Hungarian political life, a sportsman and politician of legendary strength in both senses of the word.
During nationalization, the rightful owners were cast out from the castle and sent to a mandatory residence. The interiors of the castle were completely changed. Its beautiful decorative elements, window and door jambs, and the wood paneling were removed. Everything that could be moved was stolen — furniture, stoves, paintings and decor — and Franz Neuhauser’s paintings were whitewashed. During communism, the castle functioned as a school and also as a “house of pioneers.” The beautifully designed English park became a botanical garden, the riding stables became a mess hall, and a go-cart track was established in the castle’s courtyard.
After the regime change, Miklós Wesselényi’s descendant, Éva Teleki Janicskó, claimed back the property. In 2012, the castle and 1.3 hectares of the original 10 hectares of gardens were given back after more than 15 years of lawsuits. The family had begun repairs on the main building, but they realized they did not have the means to sufficiently renovate the property.
Title image: Hopefully, the former home of the “boatman of the flood” now has an owner with the means to preserve its valuable heritage and have a vision for its future