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Székesfehérvár ( , colloquially ; , , , ) is a city in central Hungarymarker, located around southwest of Budapestmarker. It is inhabited by 106,346 people (2001), with 138,995 in the direct vicinity, and is the centre of Fejérmarker 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 queens consort were crowned, 15 rulers have been buried here, the diets were held and the crown jewels were kept here.

Etymology of the name

The city's name means "white castle with the chair/seat", and its translations to other languages ( , , , , , , , ).

The word szék (meaning "seat" as "throne") is related to its important role in the first centuries of the Kingdom of Hungary: székhely means a (royal) residence, center. In accordance of the obligation from the Doctrine of the Holy Crown, the first kings of Hungary were crowned and buried here.

History

Pre-Magyar

The place has been inhabited since the 5th century BCE. In the Roman times the settlements were called Gorsium and Herculia. In about the 5th century CE, Slavic tribes began moving into the region and this place was called Belehrad or Belegrad, being a center during the Great Moravian period.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 Viennamarker. (Today, the city is a junction of no less than seven railroad lines.)

Early Magyar

St. Anna Chapel
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 (1241–1242) the invaders could not get close to the castle: Kadan ruled Mongol warriors could not get through the surrounding marshes because of flooding caused by melting snow. In the 13th–15th centuries the town prospered, several palaces were built. In the 14th century Székesfehérvár was surrounded by city walls.

Ottoman period

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 Ottomans by a lengthy siege. They discovered after surrendering, however, that the Ottomans 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 by an army led by Lawrence of Brindisi. 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 16th–17th centuries it looked like a Muslim city. Most of the original population fled.

Habsburg Empire

The city began to prosper again only in the 18th century. It had a mixed population, Hungarians, Serbs, Germans and Moravians. After driving out the Ottomans, the Habsburgs took power and discontinued to keep the city as the capital, placing the royal seat in Viennamarker, while the juridical meetings were held in Pozsony (Pressburg; Bratislavamarker).

In 1702 Albert of Austria was ordered to blow up the cathedral of Nagyboldogasszony, therefore destroying the largest cathedral in Hungary at that time, and the coronation temple. According to the Doctrine of the Holy Crown, all kings of Hungary are obliged to be crowned in this cathedral, and to take part in coronation ceremony on the surroundings of the cathedral. The coronations after this time were done in Pozsony/Bratislava.

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 Hapsburgs. 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.

After WWII

Palace in Székesfehérvár
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 (colloquially 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 city centre 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 of Hungary) 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. Few years later Denso, Alcoa and Sanmina-SCI also settled down in the city.

Main sights

Bory Castle
  • Historical centre (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 chartamarker by King Andrew II, it was released here; the memorial is from 1972.)
  • Bory Castle (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)


Population

Ethnic groups (2001 census):

Religions (2001 census):

Famous people

Born in Székesfehérvár



Gallery

File:Megyeszékhely - Fejér megye - Székesfehérvár.jpg|Aerialphotography of SzékesfehérvárFile:Theatre szekesfehervar.JPG|Vörösmarty Theather in SzékesfehérvárFile:Csalapuszta.JPG|Székesfehérvár - Csalapuszta Mansion


International relations

Twin towns - Sister cities

Székesfehérvár is twinned with:


References



  1. Ferenc Glatz: Magyar történeti kronológia


External links




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