2016. April 12.
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Szentendre and Visegrád

Visegrád 

is a small castle town in Pest County, Hungary. It is north of Budapest on the right bank of the Danube in the Danube Bend. It had a population of 1,864 in 2010. Visegrád is famous for the remains of the Early Renaissance summer palace of King Matthias Corvinus of Hungary and the medieval citadel. The name Visegrád (Vyšehrad) is of Slavic origin, meaning acropolis, literary "the upper castle" or "the upper settlement”. Visegrád was first mentioned in 1009 as a county town and the chief town of an archdeaconry. After the destructive Mongol invasion of Europe in 1242, the town was rebuilt in a slightly different location to the south. King Charles I of Hungary made Visegrád, his hometown, the royal seat of Hungary in 1325.

In 1335, Charles hosted at Visegrád a two-month congress with the Bohemian king, John of Luxembourg, and the Polish king, Casimir III. It was crucial in creating a peace between the three kingdoms and securing an alliance between Poland and Hungary against Habsburg Austria. Another congress followed in 1338. Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Hungary and Croatia, moved the royal seat to Buda between 1405 and 1408. King Matthias Corvinus of Hungary used Visegrád as a country residence. Visegrád lost importance after the partition of the Kingdom of Hungary following the Battle of Mohács in 1526. In 1991, the leading politicians of Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Poland met here to form a periodical forum, the Visegrád group, with an intentional allusion to the meeting centuries earlier in 1335. Visegrád was granted town privileges again in 2000.

Upper Castle

After the Mongol invasion, King Béla IV of Hungary and his wife had a new fortification system constructed in the 1240-50s near the one destroyed earlier. The first part of the new system was the Upper Castle on top of a high hill. The castle was laid out on a triangular ground plan and had three towers at its corners. In the 14th century, at the time of the Angevin kings of Hungary, the castle became a royal residence and was enlarged with a new curtain wall and palace buildings.

Around 1400 King Sigismund had a third curtain wall constructed and enlarged the palace buildings. At the end of the 15th century, King Matthias Corvinus had the interior renovated. The Upper Castle also served for the safekeeping of the Hungarian royal insignia between the 14th century and 1526. In 1544 Visegrád was occupied by the Ottoman Empire, and, apart from a short period in 1595-1605, it remained in Turkish hands until 1685. The castle was seriously damaged by the Turks and was never used afterwards.

Lower Castle

The Lower Castle is the part of the fortification system that connects the Upper Castle with the Danube. In its centre rises the Solomon Tower, a large, hexagonal residential tower dating from the 13th century. In the 14th century, new curtain walls were built around the tower. During a Turkish raid in 1544, the southern part of the tower collapsed. Its renovation began only in the 1870s and was finished in the 1960s. At present, the Tower houses exhibitions installed by the King Matthias Museum (Mátyás Király Múzeum) of Visegrád. The exhibitions present the reconstructed Gothic fountains from the Royal Palace, Renaissance sculpture in Visegrád, and the history of Visegrád.

Royal Palace

The first royal house on this site was built by King Charles I of Hungary after 1325. In the second half of the 14th century, this was enlarged into a palace by his son, King Louis I of Hungary. In the last third of the 14th century, King Louis and his successor Sigismund of Luxembourg had the majority of the earlier buildings dismantled and created a new, sumptuous palace complex, the extensive ruins of which are still visible today. The palace complex was laid out on a square ground plan measuring 123 x 123 m. A garden adjoined to it from the north and a Franciscan friary, founded by King Sigismund in 1424, from the south. In the time of Louis I and Sigismund, the palace was the official residence of the kings of Hungary until about 1405-08.

Between 1477 and 1484 Matthias Corvinus had the palace complex reconstructed in late Gothic style. The Italian Renaissance architectural style was used for decoration, the first time the style appeared in Europe outside Italy. After the Ottoman Turks siege in 1544, the palace fell into ruins. By the 18th century it was completely covered by earth. Its excavation began in 1934 and continues today. The reconstructed royal residence building is open to the public and houses exhibitions on the history of the palace and reconstructed historical interiors.

Sibrik Hill

The ruins of this military camp can be seen outside Visegrád, to the north, on a hill that overlooks the Danube. The camp has a triangular ground plan. It was built in the first half of the 4th century as one of the important fortifications along the limes, the frontier of the Roman Empire. Its praetorium (the commanders building) was constructed at the end of the 4th century. In the early 5th century, the Roman army abandoned the military camp. In the 10th and 11th centuries, the fortification, rebuilt as a castle, became a regional centre of the recently formed Hungarian state. "Visegrád" appears for the first time as the name of this regional centre (1009). The fortification was finally destroyed in 1242 by the Mongol invasion of Europe. 

 

Szentendre is a riverside town in Pest county, Hungary, near the capital city Budapest. It is known for its museums, galleries, and artists. Due to its historic architecture and easy rail and river access, it has become a popular destination for tourists staying in Budapest. There are many facilities, including souvenir shops and restaurants, catering to these visitors.

The name of the town is ultimately based on the Medieval Latin form Sankt Andrae (St.Andrew). Because of the diverse mix of nations to have once settled in Szentendre, the settlement has a variety of names according to language. Its name (Sanctus Andreas) first appeared in a students will in 1146, which was confirmed by King Géza II. The twelfth-century city centre was situated around the still existing St. Andrews Church on the other side of the Bükkös Brook.

The area where Szentendre is today was uninhabited when the Magyars arrived. In the 9th century, Árpáds companion, the sacral prince Kurszán, settled here. He renovated the Roman fortress that had fallen into ruin and reestablished a settlement on the remains of the Roman buildings. Little is known about the history of Szentendre between the 9th and 10th centuries. The city was largely depopulated in the Ottoman era. According to a 17th-century census, only one family and their service staff remained here at that time. After the Ottomans were expelled from the area, foreign settlers moved to the settlement. 

Today evidence of the towns prosperity in this time can be seen in the baroque style of the houses, the Mediterranean atmosphere of the towns architecture, its beautiful churches, the cobblestoned streets, and its narrow alleys. During the Great Turkish War, Serbs were invited to emigrate to Hungary to evade the Ottoman Empire. Because of this invitation, there was a mass emigration of Serbs in 1690 to the Szentendre region. These Serbs left enduring traces on the townscape and its culture. The buildings in the city center have tried to preserve this Serbian influence in their architecture, but these buildings do not in fact date to the 17th century. Based on maps from the end of the century, the city center actually boasted other buildings at that time.

 

Although the Ottomans had decimated the population of the region, starting in the 1690s, the population slowly began to increase and in 1872 it reached a level when the town-like character began to dominate again instead of the village-like character. The public administration as well as the business establishments made it possible to practice all the privileges entailing a city. Szentendre was granted city-status in 1872. The calm provincial life of the city has attracted artists since the beginning of the 20th century. The Szentendre colony of artists came into existence in 1929. The so-called Szentendre School is connected with it. Today, more than two hundred fine and applied artists, authors, poets, musicians and actors live in the city. The city was a small town until the 1970s; its population hardly attained four thousand. The city at that time included only two parts: the downtown and Donkey Mountain, the latter of which became a living space at the beginning of the twentieth century. 

By the end of the 1970s, due to a large-scale inner-city merger, the populated zone of the town enlarged considerably. By the beginning of the 21st century these areas were completely populated and the earlier small town attained the population of 25 000 in 2010. This expansion of the city practically ended traditional fruit-growing and gardening in Szentendre. The Outdoor Museum of Ethnography, founded in 1967, shows the village and urban societies different layers, including the various groups interior furnishings and lifestyles from the end of the 18th to the middle of the 20th centuries. This museum includes Europes longest museum railway line, which was built in 2009.

Szentendre has been the home of many generations of Hungarian artists since the early 20th century. There are many museums and contemporary galleries representing the rich traditions of the visual art.

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