nickname=Hungarian Rome, Hungarian Sion,
City of St. Stephen
map_caption=Location of Esztergom in Hungary
subdivision_type = Country
subdivision_type1 = County
Tamás Meggyes( FIDESZ)
established_title = Established
established_date = around 972
established_title2 = Capital of Hungary
established_date2 = 972-1249
website= [http://www.esztergom.hu/ www.esztergom.hu]
footnotes=Postal codes: 2500-2509
Area code: 33
Esztergom (known by alternative names) is a
cityin northern Hungary, about 50 km north-west of the capital Budapest. It lies in Komárom-Esztergom county, on the right bank of the river Danube, which forms the border with Slovakiathere.
Esztergom was the capital of Hungary from the 10th till the mid-13th century and it was the Royal Seat until King
Béla IV of Hungarymoved to Visegrádand later to Buda.
Esztergom still is the seat of the "prímás" (see Primate) of the
Roman Catholic Churchin Hungary. The city has the Keresztény Múzeum, the largest ecclesiasticalcollection in Hungary. Its cathedral, Esztergom Basilicais the largest church in Hungary.
One of the newest sights of Esztergom is the
Mária Valéria bridge, connecting Esztergom with the city of Štúrovoin Slovakia. Originally it was inaugurated in 1895, but the retreating German troops destroyed it in 1944. It was rebuilt in 2001 with the support of the European Union.
The name Esztergom was first mentioned in 1079. Some think the name comes from Isztergam (Iszter meaning
Danubeand Gam referring to the nearby river Garam). The town is the seat of Etzel / Attilain the Niebelungenliedas Gran (Audio-de|Gran|Gran.ogg). In Croatian Ostrogon, in Polish Ostrzyhom, in Slovak Ostrihom, in Latin Strigonium, in Turkish Estergon.
= History [http://www.esztergom.hu/wps/portal//varos?docid=ADMR-6WQKVH] =
Esztergom is one of the oldest towns in Hungary. Throughout its rich history, times of great kings, significant events, rich palaces and churches were followed by the massacres of battles, the raids of the
Tatarand the Turkish hordes – devastation, followed by reconstruction.
Esztergom, as it existed in the
Middle Ages, now rests under today's town, and can only be accessed via archaeological explorations, since the old town was destroyed during the 150 years of Ottoman rule. Its residents were killed or imprisoned. At those times, much of the population fled from the region. Following the defeat of the Turks, the new settlers cleared away the ruins and built a new town. The results of the most recent archeological excavations reveal that the Várhegy (Castle Hill) and its vicinity have been inhabited since the end of the Ice Age20,000 years ago. The first people known by name were the Celtsfrom Western Europe, who settled in the region in about 350 BC. Under their center on the Várhegy (oppidum) lay their expansive flourishing settlement until the Roman legions conquered the region. Thereafter it became an important border province of Pannonia, known by the name of Solva. The German and Avar archeological finds found in the area reveal that these people settled in the period of the migrations that were caused by the fall of the Roman Empire. Within the borders of the town, remains of its founding ancestors were found.
The settlement gained significance after 960 when
Géza, the ruling prince of the Hungarians, chose Esztergom as his residence. His son, Vajk, who was later called Saint Stephen of Hungary, was born in his palace built on the Roman castrum on the Várhegy (Castle Hill) around 969-975. In 973, Esztergom served as the starting point of an important historical event. At Easter of that year Géza sent a committee to the international peace conference of Emperor Otto Iin Quedlinburg. He offered peace to the Emperor and asked for missionaries.
The prince's residence stood on the northern side of the hill. The center of the hill was occupied by a
basilicadedicated to St. Adalbert, who, according to legend, baptised St. Stephen. The Church of St. Adalbert was the seat of the archbishop of Esztergom, the head of the Roman Catholic church in Hungary.
By that time, significant craft and merchant settlements had been founded. (According to some scholars, the town got its name after Esztrogin, a Bulgar settlement of leather armour makers.)In 1000, Stephen was crowned king in Esztergom. From the time of his rule up to the beginning of the 13th century, the only mint of the country operated here. At the same period the castle of Esztergom ( "Estergon Kalesi" in Turkish ) was built, which served not only as the royal residence until 1241 (the
Mongol invasion) but also as the center of the Hungarian state, religion, and Esztergom county. The archbishop of Esztergom was the leader of the ten bishoprics founded by Stephen. The archbishop was often in charge of important state functions and had the exclusive right to crown kings.
The settlements of regal servants, merchants, craftsmen at the foot of the Várhegy (Castle Hill) developed into the most significant town of the age of the
Árpád dynasty– as being the most important scene of the economic life of the country. According to the Frenchman Odo de Deogilo, who visited the country in 1147, ‘…the Danube carries the economy and treasures of several countries to Esztergom’. Ca. 1250, the town was known to Germans as Österheim. [ "Barnes & Noble"s Revised Atlas of World History ]
The town council was made up of the richest citizens of the town (residents of French, Spanish, Belgian, and Italian origin) who dealt with commerce. The coat of arms of Esztergom emerged from their seal in the 13th century. This was the town where foreign monarchs could meet Hungarian kings. For example,
Emperor Conrad IImet Géza IIin this town (1147). Another important meeting took place when the German Emperor Frederick Barbarossa visited Béla III. The historians traveling with them all agree on the richness and significance of Esztergom. Arnold of Lübeck, the historian with Frederick Barbarossa, called Esztergom the capital of Hungarian people ("quae Ungarorum est metropolis").
In the beginning of the 13th century Esztergom was the center of the country's political and economic life. This is explained by the canon of
Nagyvárad, Rogerius of Apulia, who witnessed the first devastation of the country during the Tatar invasion and wrote in his Carmen Miserabile("Sad Song"): '...since there was no other town like Esztergom in Hungary, the Tatarswere considering crossing the Danube to pitch a camp there...', which was exactly what happened after the Danube froze. The capital of the Árpád-age was destroyed in a vicious battle. Though, according to the certificates that remained intact, some of the residents (those who escaped into the castle) survived and new residents settled in the area and soon started rebuilding the town, it lost its leading role. Béla IVgave the palace and castle to the archbishop, and changed his residence to Buda. He himself and his family however, were buried in the Franciscanchurch in Esztergom, which had been destroyed during the invasion, and which had been rebuilt by him in 1270.
Following these events, the castle was built and decorated by the bishops. The center of the king’s town however, which is surrounded by wall, was still of royal authority. A number of different monasteries did return or settle in the religious center.
Meanwhile the citizenry had been fighting for maintaining or reclaiming the rights of towns, against the expansion of the church within the regal town. In the chaotic years after the fall of the House of Árpád, Esztergom suffered another calamity: in 1304, the forces of
Wenceslaus II, the Czech king occupied and raided the castle. In the years to come, the castle was owned by several individuals: Róbert Károly, and then Louis the Greatpatronized the town. In 1327, Kovácsi, the most influential suburb of the town, lying in the southeast, was united with Esztergom. The former suburb had three churches with mainly blacksmith, goldsmith, and coiner residents.
In the 14th and 15th centuries Esztergom saw events of great importance and became one of the most influential acropolis of Hungarian culture alongside with
Buda. Their courts, which were similar to the royal courts of Budaand Visegrád, were visited by such kings and scientists, artists as Louis the Great, Sigismund of Luxembourg, King Matthias Corvinus, Galeotto Marzio, Regiomontanus, the famous astronomer Márton Ilkusand Georg Peuerbach, Pier Paolo Vergerioand Antonio Bonfini, King Matthias’ historian, who, in his work praises the constructive work of János Vitéz, King Matthias’ educator. He had a library and an observatory built next to the cathedral. As Bonfini wrote about his masterpiece, his palace and terraced gardens: ‘… he had a spacious room for knights built in the castle. In front of that, he built a wonderful loggiaof red marble. In front of the room, he built the Chapel of Sybils, whose walls were decorated with paintings of the sybils. On the walls of the knights’ room, not only the likeness of all the kings could be found, but also the Scythian ancestors. He also had a double garden constructed, which was decorated with columns and a corridor above them. Between the two gardens, he built a round tower of red marble with several rooms and balconies. .. He had Saint Adalbert’s Basilica covered with glass tiles… ‘. King Matthias’ widow, Beatrix of Aragon, lived in the castle of Esztergom for ten years (1490-1500).
The time of the next resident, Archbishop
Tamás Bakócz(†l521) gave the town significant monuments. In 1507 he had Italian architects build the Bakócz chapel, which is the earliest and most significant Renaissancebuilding which has survived in Hungary. The altarpiece of the chapel was carved from white marble by Andrea Ferrucci, a sculptor from Fiesolein 1519.
The Turkish conquest of
Mohácsin 1526 brought a decline to the previously flourishing Esztergom as well. In the battle of Mohács, also the archbishop of Esztergom died. In the period between 1526 and 1543, when two rival kings reigned in Hungary, Esztergom was besieged six times. At time the forces of Ferdinand I or John Zápolya, at other times the Turkish attacked. Finally, in 1530, Ferdinand I occupied the castle. He put foreign mercenaries in the castle, and sent the chapter and the bishopric to Nagyszombatand Pozsony(that is why some of the treasury, the archives and the library survived). In 1543 Sultan Suleiman Iattacked the castle with an enormous army and countless cannons. Following two years of heroic struggle of resistance, the foreign (Spanish, Italian and German) guards betrayed the castle. This was the period when the outskirts were finally destroyed. The damaged buildings were not rebuilt any more. All means were used to rebuild and strengthen the fortresses or to build new ones. At the same time, the eastern section of the Saint Adalbert Church and other significant buildings of the castle were devastated.
Esztergom was the centre of a Turkish sanjak controlling several counties, and also a significant castle on the northwest border of the Turkish Empire – the main clashing point to prevent attacks on the mining towns of the highlands,
Viennaand Buda. In 1594, during the unsuccessful but devastating siege by the walls of the Víziváros, Bálint Balassa, the first Hungarian poet who gained European significance, died in action.
The most devastating siege took place in 1595 when the castle was reclaimed by the troops of Count
Karl Mansfeldand Baron Mátyás Cseszneky. The price that had to be paid, however, was high. Most of the buildings in the castle and the town that had been built in the Middle Ageswere destroyed during this period, and there were only uninhabitable, smothered ruins to welcome the liberators. From 1605 to 1683 the Turkish ruled in the castle, as well as the whole region again.
Though the Turkish were mainly engaged in building and fortifying the castle, they also built significant new buildings including Jamis, mosques, minarets, baths. These instalments, along with the contemporary buildings, were destroyed in the siege of 1683 resulting in the liberation of Esztergom - though some Turkish buildings prevailed up to the beginning of the 18th century. The last time the Turkish attacked Esztergom was in 1685. During the following year Buda was liberated as well. During these battles did
János Bottyán, captain of the cavalry, later the legendary figure of the Rákócziwar of independence disappear. All that had been rebuilt at the end of the century was destroyed and burnt down during Ferenc Rákóczi’s long lasting, but finally successful siege.
The destroyed territory was settled in by Hungarian, Slovakian and German settlers. This was when the new national landscape developed. In the area where there had previously been 65 Hungarian villages, only 22 were rebuilt. Though the reconstructed town received its free royal rights, its size and significance marked only the shadow of its old self.
Handicrafts gained strength: in around 1730, there were 17 independent crafts were operating in Esztergom. Wine-culture was also of major significance. This was also the period when the
Baroqueview of the downtown area and the Víziváros (Watertown) was developed. Its main characteristic is the simplicity and moderateness of citizen Baroque architecture. The most beautiful buildings can be found around the market place (the Széchenyi square).
In 1761 the bishopric regained control over the castle, where they started the preliminary processes of the reconstruction of the new religious center: the middle of the Várhegy (Castle Hill), the remains of Saint Stephen and Saint Adalbert churches were carried away to provide room for the new cathedral.
Although the major construction work and the resettlement of the bishopric (1820) played a significant role in the town's life, the pace of Esztergom’s development gradually slowed down, and work on the new Basilica came to a halt.
By the beginning of the 20th century, Esztergom gained significance owing to its cultural and educational institutions as well as to being an administrative capital. The town’s situation turned worse after the
Treaty of Trianonof 1920, after which it became a border town and lost most of its previous territory.
This was also the place where the poet
Mihály Babitsspent his summers from 1924 to his death in 1941. The poet's residence was one of the centers of the country's literary life; he had a significant effect on intellectual life in Esztergom.
Esztergom had one of the oldest Jewish communities in Hungary. They had a place of worship here by 1050. King Charles I (Caroberto) gifted a plot to the community for a cemetery in 1326.
According to the 1910 census, 5.1% of the population were Jewish.The 1941 census found 1510 Jews here. The community maintained an elementary school until 1944. Jewish shops were ordered to be closed on April 28, 1944, the short-lived ghetto was set up on May 11. The former Jewish shops were handed over to non-Jews on June 9. The inmates of the ghetto were sent to Komárom in early June, then deported to Auschwitz on June 16, 1944. Two forced labor units, whose members were mainly Esztergom Jews, were executed en masse near Ágfalva, on the Austrian border in January, 1945.
Soviet troops captured the town on December 26, 1944, but were pushed back by the Germans on January 6, 1945, who were finally ousted on March 21, 1945.
One of the most important events of the 1930s was the exploration and renovation of the remains of the palace of the
Árpádperiod. This again put Esztergom in the center of attention. Following World War II, Esztergom was left behind as one of the most severely devastated towns. However, reconstruction slowly managed to erase the traces of the war, with two of Esztergom’s most vital characteristics gaining significance: due to its situation it was the cultural center of the area (more than 8,000 students were educated at its elementary, secondary schools and college ). On the other hand, as a result of the local industrial development it has become a vital basis for the Hungarian tool and machinery industry. Those traveling to Esztergom today can admire the most monumental construction of Hungarian Classicism, the Basilica, which silently rules the landscape above the winding Danube, surrounded by mountains.
The building that might be considered the symbol of the town is the largest church in Hungary and was built according the plans of
Pál Kühnel, János Páckhand József Hildfrom 1822 to 1869. Ferenc Lisztwrote the Mass of Esztergom for this occasion. The classicistchurch is enormous: the height of the domeis 71,5 meters; it has giant arches and an enormous altar-piece by Michelangelo Grigoletti. On one side, in the Saint Stephen chapel, the glittering relics of Hungarian and other nations’ saints and valuable jewellery can be seen. On the south side, the Bakócz Chapel, the only one that survived the Middle Ages, can be seen. The builders of the Basilicahad disassembled this structure into 1600 pieces, and incorporated it into the new church in its original form.
The treasury houses many masterpieces of medieval goldsmith's works. The western European masters’ hands are praised by such items as the crown silver cross that has been used since the 13th century, the ornate chalices, Francesco Francia’s processional cross, the upper part of the well-known ‘
Matthias-Calvary’ which is decorated in the rare ronde-bosseenamel technique. The Treasury also has a vast collection of traditional Hungarian and European textiles, including chasubles, liturgical vestments and robes.
The sound of the enormous bell hung in the southern tower can be heard from kilometers away. From the top of the large dome , visitors can see a breath-taking view: to the north, east and south the ranges of the
Börzsöny, Visegrád, Pilisand Gerecsemountains rule the landscape, while to the west, in the valley of the Danube one can see as far as the Small Plains.
The winding streets of the town, with its church towers create a historical atmosphere. Below the Basilica, at the edge of the mountain stand the old walls, bastions and rondellas – the remains of the castle of Esztergom. The remains of one section of the royal palace and castle that had been built during the Turkish rule had been buried in the ground up until the 1930s.
Most parts of the palace were explored and restored in the period between 1934 and 1938, but even today there are archeological excavations in progress. Passing through the narrow stairs, alleys, under arches and gates built in Romanesque style, a part of the past seems to come to life. This part of the palace was built in the time of King
Béla III. With his wife - the daughter of Louis VII - French architects arrived and constructed the late-Roman and early-Gothic building at the end of the 12th century.
The frescoes of the palace chapel date from the 12th-14th centuries, while on the walls of the mottes, some of the most beautiful paintings of the early Hungarian Renaissance can be admired (15th c.). From the terrace of the palace one can admire the landscape of Esztergom. Under the terrace are the houses and churches of the Bishop-town section, or ‘Víziváros’ (Watertown) and the Primate's Palace. Opposite the palace is the Saint Thomas hill, and surrounded by the mountains and the
Danube. The walls of the castle still stand on the northern part of the Basilica. From the northern rondella one can admire the view of Párkány on the other side of the Danube as well as the Szentgyörgymező, the Danube valley, and the So-called ‘Víziváros’ (Watertown) districts.
The Víziváros (Watertown) section was named after being built on the banks of the Kis- and Nagy Duna (Small and Great
Danube). Its fortresses, walls, bastions and Turkish rondellas can still be seen by the walk on the banks of the Danube. By the northern end of the wall, on the bank of the Nagy-Duna, an interesting memorial is put, a stone table with Turkish writings commemorates Sultan Suleiman’s victorious siege of 1543. The narrow, winding streets within the walls hide the remains of Turkish mosques and baths.
Along the delightful streets of the Víziváros (Watertown), surrounded by
Baroqueand Classicistbuildings stands the Primate's Palace, designed by József Lippert(1880-82). The Keresztény Múzeum(Christian museum), founded by Archbishop János Simor, is located in this building. It houses a rich collection of Hungarian panel pictures and sculpture of the Middle Agesas well as Italian and western-European paintings and handicrafts (13th-18th c.). This is where one can admire the chapel-like structure of the late Gothic ‘Úrkoporsó’ (Lord's coffin) from Garamszentbenedekthat is decorated by painted wooden sculptures (c. 1480), the winged altar-piece by Thomas of Coloswar(1427), paintings by Master M.S.(1506), the gothic altars from Upper Historical Hungary (Felvidék), handicrafts of Italian, German and Flemish artists from the 13th–17th centuries, tapestries and ceramics.
The building of the Balassa Bálint Museum that was built in
Baroquestyle on medieval bases and is located in Víziváros (Watertown), served as the first town hall of Esztergom county after the Turks had been driven out of the region.
The parish-church in the centre of the Víziváros (Watertown), which was built by the
Jesuits between 1728 and 1738, and the single-towered Franciscanchurches are also masterpieces of Baroquearchitecture.
The Cathedral Library standing in the southern part of the town, which was built in 1853 according to plans by
József Hildis one of the richest religious libraries of Hungary, accommodating approximately 250,000 books, among which several codicesand incunabulacan be found, such as the Latin explanation of the ‘ Song of Songs’ from the 12th century, the ‘Lövöföldi Corvina’ originating from donations of King Matthias, or the Jordánszky-codex, which includes the Hungarian translation of the Bible from 1516-1519. Along with Bakócz and Ulászló graduals, they conserve also the Balassa Bible, in which Balassa’s uncle, Balassa András wrote down the circumstances of his birth and death.
The main sight of the nearby ‘Szent-Tamás hegy’ (Saint Thomas Hill) is the
BaroqueCalvary, with the Classicistchapel on the top of the hill, which was built to commemorate the heroes who died for Esztergom. The hill was named after a church built by Bishop Lukács Bánffyin memoriam the martyr Saint Thomas Becket, who had been his fellow student at the University of Paris. The church and the small castle which the Turks built there were destroyed a long time ago. On its original spot, the top of the hill, the narrow winding streets and small houses that were built by the masters who were working on the construction of the Basilica at the beginning of the previous century, have an atmosphere that is similar to that of Tabánin Buda. At the foot of the hill are the swimming pool and the Classicist building of the Fürdő Szálló (Bath Hotel). This is where Lajos Kossuthstayed in 1848 on one of his recruiting tours.
On the southern slopes of the hill there is a Mediterranean, winding path with stairs that lead to the
BaroqueSaint Stephen chapel. The main square of the town is the Széchényi square. Of the several buildings of Baroque, Rococoand Classiciststyle, there is one that catches everyone’s eyes: the Town Hall. Originally, it used to be the single-floor curia of Vak Bottyán ( János Bottyán, Bottyán the Blind), the Kurucgeneral (1689). The first floor was constructed on its top in 1729. The house burnt down in the 1750s. It was rebuilt in accordance with the plans of a local architect, Antal Hartmann. Upon its façade there is a red marble carving which presents the coat of arms of Esztergom (a palace within the castle walls, protected by towers, with the Árpáds’ shields below.) On the corner of the building the equestrian statue of Vak Bottyán (created by István Martsa) commemorates the original owner of the house.
The Trinity-statue in the middle of the square was created by György Kiss in 1900. In Bottyán János Street, near the Town Hall, there are well decorated Baroque houses. This is where the
Franciscanchurch is located (built between 1700-1755). Opposite this building there is a Baroque palace which used to belong to the Sándor Earl family.
In the direction of the Kis Duna, the downtown parish-church, built by the architect Ignác Oratsek can be admired. A bit farther is the
ClassicistChurch of Saint Anne. The orthodoxchurch at 60 Kossuth Lajos street was built around 1770 by Serbian settlers in Esztergom.
This town, with its spectacular scenery and numerous memorials, a witness of the struggles of Hungarian history, is popular mostly with tourists interested in the beauties of the past and art. However, the town seems to regain its role in the country’s politics, and its buildings and traditions revive.
Espoo, Finland, since 1974
Štúrovo, Slovakia, since 1991
Bamberg, Germany, since 1992
Cambrai, France, since 1992
Ehingen, Germany, since 1992
Maintal, Germany, since 1993
Gniezno, Poland, since 1994
Mariazell, Austria, since 2002
Canterbury, England, since 2004Partner City
Szekszárd, Hungarysince 2007
¹ 9,349 living in the royal city
Archdiocese of Esztergom-Budapest
* [http://www.civertan.hu/legifoto/legifoto.php?page_level=163 Aerial photography: Esztergom (Part 1)] [http://www.civertan.hu/legifoto/legifoto.php?page_level=164 (Part 2)]
* [http://sabin.ro/gallery/esztergom Esztergom Photo Gallery]
* [http://www.esztergom.hu/ Home Page of Esztergom]
* [http://www.bazilika-esztergom.hu Basilica of Esztergom]
* [http://www.christianmuseum.hu Keresztény Múzeum (Christian Museum)]
* [http://mars.elte.hu/varak/esztergom/esztergomrajzok.htm Medieval Esztergom]
* [http://www.szeretgom.hu Online community portal, news, politics and cultural events in Esztergom] hu icon
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Esztergom — Esztergom, ungar. Name von Gran (s.d.) … Kleines Konversations-Lexikon
Esztergom — [ ɛstɛr ], Stadt in Ungarn, Gran. … Universal-Lexikon
Esztergom — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Gran. Esztergom Héraldique … Wikipédia en Français
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