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A Trip To The Historic Town of Gyor

Updated: May 22, 2022

Sitting right in the middle of Budapest and Vienna, Gyor is a lovely modern city but steeped in history. So, its position has been strategically significant in the former Austria-Hungarian​ empire. Not only that, Gyor sits at the meeting point of the Danube and Raba Rivers, in the heart of Hungary's Little Plain, and therefore has always been a strategic site in the region. King Stephen I, who was the first king of the Magyars, the founders of modern Hungary, gave the town its present name Gyor in the 11th century. He also fortified the Roman castle and fostered trade river trade along the Danube. It fell to the Turks in the mid-15th century. In the 17th century, the Jesuit order settled in Győr and established the church (dedicated to the founder, St. Ignatius of Loyola), monastery and school. This led to restoration of infrastructure, science as well as culture.

Győr is also known for its art, food and music festivals.


The map of The Archabbey of Pannonhalma


Pannonhalma Archabbey

This was our first stop. The Benedictine abbey sits on a hill-top and dates to the 10th century when the first Benedictine monks settled here. It had a major role in the spread of Christianity in medieval Central Europe. They found the country's first school and in 1055 wrote the first document in Hungarian. From the time of its founding, this monastic community has promoted culture throughout central Europe. Its 1,000-year history can be seen in the succession of architectural styles of the monastic buildings (the oldest dating from 1224), which still today house a school and the monastic community.


Corridors of The Archabbey of Pannonhalma

The Archabbey of Pannonhalma and its environment (the monastic complex, the Basilica, educational buildings, the Chapel of Our Lady, the Millennium Chapel, the botanical and herbal gardens) is a UNESCO World Heritage site.


The South door of Archabbey of Pannonhalma - Porta Speciosa


The present-day church building started in the 13th century, has an elevated three-aisled choir, which is the oldest part of the building, over a similar three-aisled crypt, which probably is an element of the earlier church on the site. The main south door, known as the Porta Speciosa, is covered with red marble and flanked by five pairs of columns.


The library of Archabbey of Pannonhalma


The large Refectory is an oblong two-storeyed hall. The building contains a series of mural paintings by Antonio Fossati and the Neoclassical library is said to be stacked with 350,000 volumes medieval manuscripts and several incunabula

The Chapel of our Lady is long single aisled building situated at the top of the southern hill. The nave is barrel-vaulted and joined to the sanctuary by a large arch.

The Millenary Monument is one of seven erected to commemorate the 1000th anniversary of the conquest of Hungary in 896. The main areas around the monastic complex are the forest and the botanical garden. The forest, on the eastern slopes of the Pannonhalma landscape, is largely the traditional oak forest of this region. It contains a number of rare and protected floral and bird species.


Matthias Chalice - The abbey's oldest and most illustrative chalice from 15th century Architectural finding from the grounds and hills of the abbey

With a thousand-year history of a Benedictine monastery, the community of monks still functions on the Rule of St. Benedict. Today there are about 50 monks living in the monastery. The Benedictine Secondary School, a boys' boarding school operates within the abbey. Since the end of the communist regime in Hungary, the archabbey and the monks have had the chance to rediscover new areas of work as well, in accordance with the Benedictine tradition. The monks now produce wine, herb tea, chocolate, lavender, soap and music and these can be purchased in the shops of the monastery.


The colourful house and lanes of Gyor old town


Old Town

Győr is the third richest city in Hungary for historic monuments after Budapest and Sopron. The historic centre, the Old Town, was once surrounded by a wall. It lies at the meeting point of the Rivers Danube and Rába. The districts lying south, and east were developed in the 19th century, after the demolition of the ramparts surrounding the Old Town. Today they are called the southern and eastern parts of the city. The Old Town, was declared a historic area in the 1950s and has retained its historic elements and picturesque Baroque architecture.


Inside of Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption of Our Lady


Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption of Our Lady (Gyor Cathedral)

The Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption of Our Lady is a Catholic temple that serves as cathedral Basilica in Gyor, Hungary. It is important for being the seat of the diocese of Gyor. If you are not familiar with what a diocese is, it is a unit of area that is under a bishop. A diocese can be made up of smaller areas called the ‘parish’ under the parish priest. Each parish has its own church. In the Roman Catholism, only the pope can divide or merge dioceses or create new ones.

It was built in the 11th century in Romanesque style. It was later rebuilt in Baroque style in the 17th century.


Entrance of the Bishop's Castle Tower


Püspökvár-Toronykilátó (Bishop's Castle Tower)

The Puspokvar (fortified bishop’s palace) was built in the 13th century and remodeled in the 16th century and stands atop the Kaptalan Hill.

The top of this tower great place to get a panoramic view of the city. Located at the very centre of the city, this residential tower was continuously fortified in anticipation of Ottoman attack, however it didn’t save it from being taken over in the 16th century. Today the castle tower shows the history of the construction of the Bishop's Castle, the portraits of the bishops, as well as an exhibition commemorating Bishop William Apor who was shot dead by Russian soldiers in 1945 in the cellar below the castle.


The Herm of Saint Ladislaus


The Herm of Saint Ladislaus

The head-reliquary of Saint Ladislaus is one of the most significant piece of artefact of Hungarian history. Saint Ladislaus or Ladislaus I of Hungary was king of Hungary and later Croatia during the end of 11th century. After his death in 1095 in Nitra (present day Slovakia) Saint Ladislaus was buried in the cathedral of Nagyvarad in prsent day Romania. After he was canonised by Pope Celestin III in 1192 his tomb was opened, his remains were removed and his bones were placed in a reliquary. Saint Ladislaus's skill relic was then placed over a silver head-shared reliquary and placed over his tomb. During the fire of 1406 the reliquary was damaged, following which the herm of Saint Ladislaus was created which is now house in the town of Gyor next to the town's visitor centre. The herm of Saint Ladislaus is considered to be the third most sacral remains beside the Holy Crown and St Stephen's right hand.


Town Square of Gyor with St Ignatius of Loyola Benedictine Church in the backdrop


Széchenyi tér (Town Square)

The Baroque style square is as much the centre of the city today, as it was in the past, when everything from markets, hearings as well as executions happened here! However, it is much more fun today with festivals every summer as well as the traditional Gyor Christmas Fair.

A statue of Mary stands tall in the middle, surrounded by imposing Baroque palaces as well as Benedictine complexes. The Széchenyi Pharmacy Museum, the Vastuskós House, the János Xantus Museum can be found here. Recent renovations saw the addition of modern fountains which is a favourite with kids.


St Ignatius of Loyola Benedictine Church


St Ignatius of Loyola Benedictine Church

The Church of Saint Ignatius is situated between the Benedictine monastery and grammar school. Dating back to the 17th century, this is the oldest baroque church in Hungary, and is said to be influenced by Jesuit Church in Vienna.


Vienna Gate Square and the statue of Kisfaludy Karoly


Bécsi Kapu Tér (Vienna Gate Square)

Vienna Gate Square is one of the most significant squares in the historical centre of Győr, one of the most beautiful baroque squares in Hungary. Back in the day, passengers arrived in the city centre through the Vienna Gate which stood here. Quite a few, baroque style buildings can be seen from the square. At the centre of the square stood the statue of well know Hungarian artist Kisfaludy Karoly. From the square, a flight of stairs leads to the bank of the Rába, where a bronze equestrian statue of King St. Stephen can be seen. Next to the castle wall are cannon tubes from Vienna.


The Carmelite church at Vienna Gate Square


Kármelita Templom (Carmelite church)

On the south side of the Vienna Gate Square, is the Carmelite church. This magnificent Baroque building is now a symbol of Gyor. It was designed by the great architect and monk Martin Wittwer, or Athanasius and was completed in 18th century.


Castle wall and the river of Raba


Castle Casemates and Lapidarium

In the 16th century, Gyor was one the main lines of defence against the approaching Ottomans. The walls protecting the palace on Káptalan Hill were therefore laced with casemates, and ramparts were added. However, only a small corridor of the ramparts survives, and hosts a small lapidarium displaying fragments of the dismantled Vienna Gate, Roman tombs etc.


The iron rooster - Vaskakas


Vaskakas

The best-known symbol of Győr has been the iron rooster on a pedestal with a crescent and a double cross. It stands proud in the decorative well of Dunakapu Square, and the image can also be seen in the logos of many companies and institutions in Győr. Legend has it that the Iron Rooster was erected by the Turks on Dunakapu Square in 1594 when the city was occupied. The iron rooster was possibly just meant to show the direction of the wind, but Pasha Sina, the leader of the Turks, announced that the castle of Győr would remain with them until the iron day that the rooster crowed! 4 years later a brave cobbler called Ferkó Bajusz, climbed up to the bastion in the dark and blowed his trumpet which sounded like the rooster crowing! The Turks believed that this meant end of their rule and fled Gyor.


Statue of Ark of the Covenant


Legendary statue of Ark of the Covenant

This Baroque monument stands in Gutenberg Square. Legend has it that in the 18th century, a soldier called György Weingasser was accused of adultery, bigamy and having a fake identity. He found shelter with the Jesuit church in Széchenyi square of Gyor. The military commander asked for his extradition, but the bishop helped him by taking him during the procession of the Lord’s day dressed like an acolyte. However, the soldiers recognized him and attacked him at the place where the Ark of the Covenant now stands.

During the fight they hit out the eucharist from the bishop’s hand and it not only broke into pieces but was also stepped on. To ask for God’s forgiveness, the king ordered a monument to be erected. According to tradition, the people placed within the Ark of the Covenant the pieces of wafer which fell on the ground, along with the dirt, as they believed the dirt had been blessed by the fallen pieces.

Jedlik Anyos Fountain - Fountain that commemorate the invention of soda water

Jedlik Anyos Fountain

This delightful turquoise soda bottle drinking fountain at the Gutenberg Square and weighs approximately 365 kg is the most modern element of the Gutenberg Square. It was created in 2012 by the well-known city glass artist, László Hefter. This fountain is to commemorate one of Hungary’s and Gyor’s well-known inventors, a Benedictine monk and natural scientist Ányos Jedlik. Jedlik invented a machine called the 'apparatus acidularis' which enabled bulk production of soda water.


House of the Iron Stump (closed when we visited)

This iconic building is located at the west side of the square. Marked No. 4, this is a unique two storied building with cylindrical corner balcony. On one corner there’s a tree trunk studded with nails. Legend has it that every tradesman passing by the stump had to hammer a nail in for good luck. The house is a museum and houses the Imre Patkó Collection, Chinese art and an ethnographic collection from Africa, Oceania and the Far East. It was closed when we visited Gyor.


Xántus János Múzeum (closed when we visited)

Located in the beautiful Apatur house (also known as Abott house) with stunning Baroque architecture, the Janos Xantus museum is the largest public collection and includes history from ancient times to the present day of Győr and its surroundings archaeological finds, medical history and fine and applied arts. The museum is named after John Xantus, During the revolution of 1848, he fought with the rebels against the Austro-Hungarian government and had to go into exile as a result. He fled through Amsterdam to England, and thereafter, in 1852, to the United States where he developed a passion for natural history. Years later when he returned to Hungary, he was appointed as the director of the Budapest Zoo and Botanical Garden, and also acted as a consultant and curator for the Hungarian National Museum. Xantus also undertook several collecting trips through Asia, where he found and named organisms unknown to western science.


Our Hungarian friends from Gyor who opened the house and heart while hosting us


A Hungarian feast cooked by our friend and host in Gyor


All in all Gyor turned out to be much more than a travel destination. We were fortunate to be hosted by our lovely friends in Gyor, who not only opened their home and hearts to us but treated us with mouth-watering home cooked feast for dinner and breakfast! We had a lovely time talking with them and our boy thoroughly enjoyed the company of their 3 gorgeous border collies and 2 cats! We also had the privilege of being shown around the Pannonhalma Archabbey by their mother’s friend. Visiting a place is one thing but being in the company of friends brings on a whole new meaning to the trip.


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