Nagymágocs in the south of Hungary is famous for its palace where the Károlyi family lived until the Second World War. The palace is famous for the Devil behind the altar, which accidentally also looks like Batman! Watch the video for a few shots of the marble image of Batman and scroll down for more photos. The building now functions as a care home for mentally disabled people but with advance notice you can arrange a visit to the various rooms of the building. The park is open to the public without any need to book prior to your visit.
How to Get to Nagymágocs in Hungary
If you are travelling from the direction of Budapest, take a bus or train to Bekescsaba and change their to a bus to Nagymágocs.
You can also travel by train to Hódmezovásárhely and take a direct bus from there. There is also a direct bus from Budapest Népliget Bus Terminal to Nagymágocs Sports Center.
Either way it will take about 4-5 hours to get there unless you have a car.
Cycling to Nagymágocs
Nagymágocs is about three hours from Budapest and the nearest railway station is Hódmezővásárhely or Székkutas. The road to Nagymágocs is very quiet and part of it is lined with tall trees, providing some shade in the scorching summer heat.
On the way there you will cycle past the entrance to a local national park. This area used to be a big salt lake and every autumn the rains fill up the swamps, bringing thousands of birds here with it. You will find dozens of bird species here and also the grey bull, which is a Hungarian speciality. The local farmers now use water in the canals around here to irrigate the fields and this lead to the draining of the swamp in recent decades.
Nagymágocs & Székkutas Research Center
The Hungarian Plant Species Research and Development Center is between Székkutas and Nagymágocs. The building used to belong to the owner of the palace, but the communists confiscated it after the war. It was here where my father started his career after graduating from the Budapest Agricultural University in 1968.
Related: Read about nearby Hodmezovasarhely in this article
Cycling to the palace and the surrounding area is super easy as Nagymágocs is on the blue cycle path in the Hungarian plains. The entire area is flat so cycling is very convenient.
The Palace and the Károlyi Family
The castle has stood here in its current form the 19th century and now functions as an elderly care home. This palace was the home of the Károlyi family until 1945 when they had to flee. At that time, the peasants from the surrounding villages came here and ransacked the whole place. My grandmother was 18 at the time and she also came to look at the inside of the castle. What she told me was that she saw pictures thrown off the walls, and some people were tearing down the stairwell with axes and hammers.
Looking at this enormous castle, I wondered whether the owners were happy and felt entitled to all this wealth. The Károlyi family built the chapel in memory of their son, Tibor Károlyi, who died in the nearby lake aged just eight.
The Devil (or Batman) Behind the Altar
The parents were distraught and ordered this chapel using Italian marble. Accidentally, just behind the altar the lines in the marble merged to form a head in the shape of the devil, which also looks like a Batman head mask. There are now rumours that this room got saved because of the superstitions of the locals about the devil behind the altar.
The owners of the castle were the Károlyi family, one of the oldest noble family in Hungary. They were so well connected that their ancestors were even related to the English royal family. The landowners owned nearly 50,000 acres around here and obviously the peasants didn’t think they deserved it because in 1945 they came here to ransack the place.
The artificial lake in front of the palace is where the first born son of the count drowned. He was only eight years old when he went out to the lake on a boat in the morning but unfortunately he drowned when he tried to swim.
The Nagymágocs Palace Grounds and Park
During the summer temperatures can rise up to 40 degrees Celsius, so make sure you take plenty of water, a cap and sunglasses. Proof of the Károlyi Family’s wide reaching connections is their family tree in one of the corridors. They even had relatives in the English Royal Family! Even the name of their dogs and horses were English!