The short history of Szentendre

Szentendre is a small Hungarian town near the Danube bend, framed in a picturesque, wonderful natural setting with the winding river, nearby hills and mountains. The natural outline of the historical town is majestically and uniquely complemented by human‐made creations: winding and narrow cobblestone streets, tight alleys, tiny downtown houses leaning against one another and fine‐lined baroque steeples.

The uniquely Mediterranean cityscape of Szentendre originates from the Serbian, Dalmatian and Greek settlers coming under the lead of patriarch Arzenije Černojević III in 1690, after the liberation of Hungary from the Turks. However, the town’s history goes well beyond this, it was settled during the ancient times as well.

The first known settlers were Illyrians during the iron age, followed by the Celtic Eravisci tribe. Roman conquerors reached the region during the reign of Augustus. The fortress of Szentendre, Ulcisia Castra (Wolf Castle) was an important stronghold of limes, the Roman defense system running along the Danube. The Romans were followed by the Hun, the Lombards and the Avaric people before the Hungarians arrived. St. Stephen I, the founder of the Hungarian State donated the town to the Episcopate of Veszprém, therefore  the first written  appearance of the  name Szentendre can be seen in the founding charter of the Episcopate issued in 1009.

The town’s first prosperous period came during the 14th century. It obtained privileges as a property of the king, but its development was also catalysed by the vicinity of Esztergom, Visegrád and Buda. However, under the Turkish rule and during the conflicts preceding the battles for Buda, the town was almost completely destroyed.

From the middle of the 18th century, following the liberation from the Turks, Szentendre became a flourishing town again, thanks to the incoming southern settlers. The bases of their wealth were grape and wine production, handicraft and commerce. Later the gradually withdrawing Serbs were substituted by Hungarians, Krauts and Slovaks. The floods and fires of the 19th century, combined with the philoxeria epidemic destroying wine‐stock in 1880 led to the decline of the town. Szentendre did not implement manufacturing industrial developments popular in other regions, but remained a tranquil small town, maintaining its baroque downtown.

By the time, this view ‐ with the beauty of mosaic‐like small buildings and cheerful, sparkling colors ‐ grabbed more and more painters. Eventually, the Art Colony (Művésztelep) was founded in 1926, having been characteristic feature of Szentendre ever since, and providing a new “home” for the artists of Nagy‐ bánya, who lost their previous home because of the Trianon peace treaty. Nevertheless, the town’s cultural values only became nation‐wide know during the 1960’s, when it was appointed as a cultural centre of Pest county. The Open‐Air Ethnographic Museum was the first to be founded in 1967, followed by the Pest County Museums Directorate and an additional Art Colony at Kálvária Street. At the same period, about a dozen small museums opened to the public exhibiting the works of artists connected to the town (Czóbel, Barcsay, etc.). In accordance with the wish of the ceramist, the Margit Kovács Museum was also founded here.