The age of changes
In the first half of the 19th century – similarly to the precious decades – great floods and conflagrations damaged the town, destroying all the properties of many citizens. The biggest flood – which was a nation – wide blow – inundated the lower parts of the town in 13 March, 1838. 172 houses were ruined. The highest waterlevel is marked even today by two contemporary plaques on the walls of the houses in Péter Pál and Kör utca, proclaiming: “Die Wasser hohe den 14 Marz, 1938”
The town preserves its 18th century atmosphere. House on Szamárhegy with a window in stone frame. The beauty of the man – shaped little town is rooted in details like this.
While floods did harm “only” people lived on the flatlands; in 1882 the destruction of phylloxera disease (a wine – pest) had its effects on the whole society of the town. The annihilation of the flourishing vine – culture led to a disaster, because in the previous decades everyone had invested into the profitable vineyards. Citizens who owned vineyards went bankrupt one by one. Wage – labourers working on plantations became poorer and poorer (according to registrations the forest regrew on Kõ hill replacing plantations)
As opposed to other regions of Hungary where manufacturing industry and transportation had developed, Szentendre’s traditional handicraft wasn’t competitive and profitable enough. Because of the lack of capital Szentendre did not develop manufacturing industry. However, judging by capacity and employment figures, only workshops were established: brickfactory, brewery, paper, carriage, tool, production, quarry and woodfelling works.
The bust of Jakov Ignjatović next to Péter Pál Church. Made by Frigyes Janzer sculptor.
By the end of the century – slowly though – the decline of the town had stopped. Jenõ Dumtsa the judge and later the mayor of the town had the marshy area of the borders drained. Due to this order extensive ploughlands were gained. Ten thousands of fruit trees were planted replacing the destroyed vineyards. There was a boom in animal husbandry. The introduction of the local steam engine railway in 1888 brought important changes to the life of the society. More and more people found an opportunity to work in the capital, which quickly became industrialised. The first steamship started its way on the Danube too.
The structure of the town’s society had changed. On the one hand, the loyalty of the Serbs to the Habsburg dynasty was unbroken because of the perception of their ancestors and of privileges they had been given. On the other hand, the general repeal of feudal privileges was unfamiliar to them. The independence of their old country – regained in the 19th century – attracted them as well. So, they returned home in large groups. Slovak and German settlers of nearby settlements replaced them. By the end of the century they were outnumbered by Slovak, German, and Hungarian speakers.
At the time the 1848 Hungarian War of Independence the town mustered the compulsory 300 members for the National Guard, but officially never sent an army to fight. Despite this fact several citizens of Szentendre participated in the battles, for instance, Jenõ Neskó who had been defending Komárom as an artillery officer. When the War of Independence had been suppressed, he returned home. His father, Papaneskovics Enthimus was a rich and educated tradesman, member of the town council. He paid the expenses of the first archaeological excavations in Szentendre; he also received Hungarian nobility. The other well – known figure of the century was Jakov Ignjatović, who is cited in the preface. He had studied at the Piarists of Vác and at the Benedictines of Esztergom. He knew Sándor Petõfi and fought in the War of Independence as a hussar officer. After the capitulation he had returned to Szentendre, where his uncle, who was the police superintendent of the town warned him not to show himself otherwise he would be arrested. The Avakumics köz in the downtown.
Later in his novels he gave an exact and sensible description of the lives of the town’s citizens in Serbian language. A commemorative on his birthplace and a bust mark the honour of posterity. József Petzelt lieutenant – colonel moved to Szentendre to his father in law after the revolution had been put down. He was the founder and headmaster of the Military School. He died in Szentendre; his sepulchre is a constant place of 1848. Commemorations, a school was named after him.
A famous native of the century was Ferenc Stéger Xavér an opera singer. As an excellent tenor he visited every contemporary opera stage of Europe. In 1847 he withdrew to his hometown. He willingly sang the operas of Ferenc Erkel and the composer himself visited him in Szentendre. In the town – where he was known rather as the son of the local druggist – he was respected among poor for his charity.
The most popular figure of the second half of the century was, however, Jenõ Dumtsa mayor. A street was named after him during his lifetime. Because of his wide – ranging popularity and to the 18th century – like atmosphere of the town, tourists began to discover the Pilis and Szentendre. Alajos Hauszmann the notable architect of the age bought an estate of five acres in the outskirts of the town, and built a resort there in 1885. The immoderate deforestation near Dömör – gate was stopped by Jenõ Dumtsa at his request.
The formation of different associations – like today’s civil organisations – was typical of the age. First the Voluntary Fireman Association was formed (1874) followed by the Society of the Danube embankment, the Farmers Club and the Catholic Associations of Young Men. The Casino was founded in 1892. At the end of the century the Javor Serbian Churchsinger and Reader Group was established. Associations chose a favourite restaurant as a regular haunt, and the regularly returning tourists also recovered their strength always in the same garden. Folk traditions were alive, such as the midsummer fire – jumping of the Dalmats and the rain producing dodola dance. By the end of the century local press had also appeared Szentendre and its Outskirts was published in 1899, preceded by two papers existing for a short time (Torchflame and Szentendre Messanger) Intermittently, it served the town’s interests up to 1916. Jenõ Dumtsa said the following about this paper, published on Sundays: “I’m convinced of its ambitious work, it makes a careful and profound study of town affairs. “He said this in spite of the fact that the paper was a forum of critical remarks as well.”
The millennium of the Hungarian Conquest was celebrated in Szentendre too. On 9 May, 1896 the mayor made a ceremonial speech in the general assembly. He entitled Hungarian Conquest a common festival for all the minorities living in the same country. In the assembly a millennial scholarship worth of 60 forints was voted, and financial aid was received by firemen, ten poor widows, and by the poor of the town, to the value of 50 – 50 forints. On the next morning a hundred mortarshots marked the beginning of the anniversary.
At 9, 10, and 11 o’clock members of the representative body visited a Lutheran, a Catholic and an Orthodox mass, respectively. In the evening the streets of the town were floodlit, and the firemen band gave a promenade concert. Memorial trees were planted in the courtyard of the Town Hall and by Orbán Cross. A marble plaque was put on the wall of the Town Hall proclaiming the following: In memory of the millenial anniversary of our beloved country’s existence. On 9 May 1896. Szentendre.
In the millennial banderium of the capital Szentendre was represented by Husvik Lyubounir a landowner with his beautiful steed. Almost every resident of the town was living in the atmosphere of the calm days of peace.