Learn more about Székesfehérvár

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Coordinates: 47.18877° 18.41384°

Image:Coat of Arms of Székesfehérvár.jpg
Country: Hungary
County: Fejér
Area: 170.89 km²
Population (2005):
- Density:
Postal code: 8000
Area code: 22
Coordinates: 47.18877° N 18.41384° E

Székesfehérvár listen  (German: Stuhlweißenburg, Latin: Alba Regia, colloquial Hungarian: Fehérvár, Croatian: Stolni Biograd, Serbian: Stoni Beograd / Стони Београд, Polish: Białogród, Slovak: Stoličný Belehrad) is a city in central Hungary, located around 65 km southwest of Budapest. It is inhabited by 106,346 people (2001), with 138,995 in the direct vicinity, and is the centre of Fejér county and the regional centre of Central Transdanubia. In the Middle Ages the city was a royal residence and the most important city of Hungary. 37 kings and 39 queen consorts were crowned, 15 rulers have been buried here, the diets were held and the crown jewels were kept here.


[edit] Etymology of the name

The city's name means "white castle with the chair/seat", and its translation to other related languages (German: Stuhlweißenburg, Croatian: Stolni Biograd, Serbian: Стони Београд, Turkish: İstolni Belgrad) means "white castle of/with the chair/table".

The word szék (meaning "seat") is related to its important role in the first centuries of the Kingdom of Hungary: székhely means a (royal) residence. The first kings of Hungary were crowned and buried here, so Székesfehérvár was a capital city of the country. The other capital was Esztergom.

[edit] History

[edit] Pre-Magyar

Image:Megyeszékhely - Fejér megye - Székesfehérvár.jpg
Aerial photography: Székesfehérvár - Hungary

The place has been inhabited since the 5th century BCE. In the Roman times the settlements were called Gorsium and Herculia. In the Middle Ages its Latin name was Alba Regalis/Alba Regia. The town was an important traffic junction between Lake Balaton and Lake Velencei, several trade routes led from here to the Balkans and Italy, to Buda and Vienna. (Today, the city is a junction of no less than seven railroad lines.)

[edit] Early Magyar

The Hungarian town was founded in 972 by High Prince Géza on four islands in the moors of the streams Gaja and Sárvíz. He also had a small stone castle built. Székesfehérvár was first mentioned in a document by the Bishopric of Veszprém, 1009, as Alba Civitas.

Contrary to popular belief, Géza's son St. Stephen was not crowned here, because the basilica was completed only in 1039, one year after his death. Stephen granted town rights to the settlement, surrounded the town with a plank wall, had a provosty and a school built and under his rule the construction of the basilica began (it was built between 1003 and 1038). The settlement had about 3500 inhabitants at this time and was the royal seat for hundreds of years. 43 kings were crowned in Székesfehérvár (the last one in 1526) and 15 kings were buried here (the last one in 1540).

In the 12th century the town prospered, churches, monasteries and houses were built. It was an important station on the pilgrim road to the Holy Land. Andrew II issued the Golden Bull here in 1222. The Bull included the rights of nobles and the duties of the king, and the Constitution of Hungary was based on it until 1848. It is often compared to England's Magna Charta, which predates it by just seven years.

During the Mongol Invasion of Hungary (12411242) the invaders could not get close to the castle: they could not get through the surrounding marshes because of flooding caused by melting snow. In the 13th15th centuries the town prospered, several palaces were built. In the 14th century Székesfehérvár was surrounded by city walls.

[edit] Turkish

The Ottomans occupied the city after a long siege in 1543 and only after a sally ended in most of the defenders including the commander, György Varkoch, being locked out by wealthy citizens fearing they might incur the wrath of the Turks by a lengthy siege. They discovered after surrendering, however, that the Turks were not without a sense for chivalry and those responsible for shutting the defenders out were put to death. The city remained under Ottoman occupation for 145 years, until 1688, except for a short period in 1601 when it was re-occupied. The Ottomans destroyed most of the city, they demolished the cathedral and the royal palace, and they pillaged the graves of kings in the cathedral. They named the city Belgrade ("white castle") and built mosques. In the 16th17th centuries it looked like a Muslim city. Most of the original population fled.

[edit] Austrian Empire

The city began to prosper again only in the 18th century. It had a mixed population, Hungarians, Serbs, Germans and Moravians. In 1703 Székesfehérvár regained the status of a free royal town, but it did not become capital again, for the country was now ruled by the Habsburgs whose royal seat was Vienna, while the juridical meetings were held in Pozsony (Pressburg / Bratislava.) In the middle of the century several new buildings were erected (Franciscan church and monastery, Jesuit churches, public buildings, Baroque palaces). Maria Theresa made the city an episcopal seat in 1777.

By the early 19th century the German population was assimilated. On March 15, 1848 the citizens joined the revolution. After the revolution and war for independence Székesfehérvár lost its importance and became a mainly agricultural city. New prosperity arrived between the two world wars, when several new factories were opened.

[edit] After WWI

After World War II the city was subject to the industrialization like many other cities and towns in the country. The most important factories were the Ikarus bus factory, the Videoton radio and TV factory and the Könnyűfémmű (colloqially Köfém) aluminium processing plant, since acquired by Alcoa. By the 1970s Székesfehérvár had swelled to more than 100,000 inhabitants (in 1945 it had only about 35,000.) Several housing estates were built, but the downtown was able to preserve its Baroque atmosphere. The most important Baroque buildings are the cathedral, the episcopal palace and the city hall.

In the past few decades archaeologists excavated medieval ruins (that of the Romanesque basilica and the mausoleum of St. Stephen) that can be visited now.

At the end of the Socialist regime, all important factories were on the verge on collapsing (some eventually folded) and thousands of people lost their jobs. However, the city profited from losing the old and inefficient companies as abundance of skilled labour coupled with excellent traffic connections and existing infrastructure attracted numerous foreign firms seeking to invest in Hungary and Székesfehérvár became one of the prime destinations for multinational companies setting up shop in Hungary (Ford and IBM are some of them), turning the city into a success story of Hungary's transition into market economy.

[edit] Tourist sights

Image:Szfvar Puspoki palota.jpg
Episcopal Palace in Székesfehérvár
  • Downtown with historical (Baroque, Classical) buildings
  • St. Stephen Cathedral (burial place of several medieval kings incl. St. Stephen and Béla III)
  • St. Anna Chapel (Gothic, built around 1470)
  • Ruins of medieval church founded by St. Stephen
  • Episcopal Palace (Zopf style)
  • City Hall
  • Zichy Palace (Zopf style manor house, 1781)
  • King Stephen Museum
  • Doll Museum
  • Apothecary Museum
  • City Museum
  • City Gallery
  • Csitáry source (mineral water source)
  • Serbian skanzen (12 thatched peasant houses and a Byzantine-style church, won a Europa Nostra award in 1990)
  • Golden Bull memorial (the Golden Bull was an important charta by King Andrew II, it was released here; the memorial is from 1972.)
  • Bory manor (20th century)
  • Globus cruciger (a stone image of the royal symbol of power of the same name)
  • Statue of György Varkoch at the supposed site of his death at the gates (see above)

[edit] Famous people

[edit] Born in Székesfehérvár

[edit] Twin towns

[edit] Source

[edit] External links

Counties of Hungary Image:Flag of Hungary.svg
Counties: Bács-Kiskun | Baranya | Békés | Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén | Csongrád | Fejér | Győr-Moson-Sopron | Hajdú-Bihar | Heves | Jász-Nagykun-Szolnok | Komárom-Esztergom | Nógrád | Pest | Somogy | Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg | Tolna | Vas | Veszprém | Zala
Urban counties: Békéscsaba | Debrecen | Dunaújváros | Eger | Érd | Győr | Hódmezővásárhely | Kaposvár | Kecskemét | Miskolc | Nagykanizsa | Nyíregyháza | Pécs | Salgótarján | Sopron | Szeged | Szekszárd | Székesfehérvár | Szolnok | Szombathely | Tatabánya | Veszprém | Zalaegerszeg
Capital: Budapest
See also: Administrative divisions of the Kingdom of Hungary; Geography of Hungary

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