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Visegrád (high fortress), the site of the summer palace complex of the Hungarian kings, became home to Dracula for over a decade (and possibly the most stable period of his life) following his arrest in 1463. The year previously, Vlad the Impaler, the historical Dracula, had fought a losing war against the Turks. Driven from his capital at Tirgoviste, he fled to his castle on the Arges River. Pursued, he escaped through the mountains into Transylvania, hoping to gain the support of Matthias Corvinus, the Hungarian king. Instead, he was arrested and taken to Hungary. Although Matthias’s father, John Hunyadi, had killed Vlad’s father, Vlad Dracul, Vlad the Impaler could have had some hope in Matthias, the first Hungarian king of Romanian extraction.
Matthias journeyed to Transylvania in the fall of 1462. He seemed inclined to support Dracula, but once the Turks had defeated him and withdrawn, he found it convenient to accept at face value a letter, most likely forged by Dracula’s enemies in Brasov, in which Vlad pledged his support to the Turks in overthrowing Matthias. Thus, once in Transylvania, Vlad was arrested and carried back to Hungary by Matthias. He was imprisoned, according to an account written by Kuritsyn, the Russian ambassador, for the next 12 years. Visegrád had been founded in 1323 by Charles Robert Angevin, who as king of Hungary moved his court there. Matthias refurbished it in elaborate style and turned it into a showplace, the center of the Hungarian Renaissance. The complex included a fortress on top of a mountain overlooking a bend in the Danube some 30 miles north of Budapest. The palace was located near the river’s edge at the foot of the mountain. Political prisoners commonly resided at Solomon’s Tower, about half a mile downriver from the palace. Dracula most likely was placed under house arrest and treated more like a guest than a prisoner. He might have been confined for a while at the fortress at Vác, near Budapest, but during most of the 1460s he probably moved seasonally between Budapest and Visegrád. His name was not included on the register of names of prisoners kept at Solomon’s Tower. It was during his years in Hungary that the famous portrait now in an Austrian museum was painted. It was also during these years that many of the stories about Dracula were written and circulated throughout Europe.
Dracula’s situation eased considerably in the 1470s. His imprisonment ended, he formally converted to Roman Catholicism, he married a relative of the king, and he settled in Budapest to raise a family. Eventually, Matthias backed him in his drive to return to the Wallachian throne. He finally left Hungary in the fall of 1475 to assist in Matthias’s latest campaign against the Turks, after which he finally, if briefly, became the prince of Wallachia again. Today, Viségrad is a popular tourist attraction, especially the mountaintop castle. Matthias’s Palace is under restoration and Solomon’s Tower now functions as a museum. The first document mentioning Visegrád, written in Latin, is dated to 1009. In 2009, the town celebrated its one thousandth anniversary.