Written references to the castle date back to 1449, but it is thought that the central and oldest part of the castle would have been erected in the 14th and 15th centuries, by Janos, son of Anthimus, while in public office in Slavonia.
The castle is a national symbol of the tragic resistance against invading Turkish armies, whose forces vastly outnumbered those of the Hungarians. In 1566, when defending the castle was no longer a viable option, the castle's defenders, under the command of their captain, the Croatian Miklós Zrínyi, stepped out of the castle to face their destiny in what was to be a heroic battle against the Turks. This act of heroism has been commemorated on many occasions in Croatian and Hungarian literature, as well as in many paintings and sculptures.
This historical past of Szigetvár Castle, famous throughout Europe, constitutes a legend best articulated in a 17th century letter written by the minister Cardinal Richelieu: (sic) "A miracle was necessary for the Hapsburg Empire to survive. And the miracle happened in Szigetvár. It was here that it was finally determined whether most of Europe would be ruled by the Cross or the Half Moon for the next few centuries.”