The serbian town
As the Turk advanced forward on the Balkans, more and more Balkanian noblemen and priests began to withdraw with their people northwards. They hoped that Hungary would not be conquered by the Turks. According to some sources Bulgarians and Dalmats appeared in Szentendre already in the 15th century. The last and biggest group of the refugees (about 6000 people) arrived in 1690, after the Turkish rule. When they arrived the town was ruined, almost deserted. Their leader was Arsenije Čarnojević III patriarch. The Copf – styled portal of Preobazsenska Church.
The wrought iron leafs were made in 1803 – 1806 by József Olhauser smith master. The widely – known Serbian church – ales are held in the church and the courtyard of it.
Refugees arriving from different settlements and regions of the Balkans preserved their unity. With the leadership of their priests they built their wooden churches separately, and settled around them. A few decades later they replaced the wooden churches with stone and brick ones. According to our knowledge seven churches still exist from eight. Four of them have a name, which indicates the country from which the refugees arrived.
The Serbian congregation have built the Pozharevachka standing on the corner of the Kossuth Lajos utca and Vuk Karadzsics tér, the Chiprovatzs built Chiprovachka (today’s Péter Pál Church). The Opovatzs set up Oprovachka (today a Calvinist church) and the congregation of Beograd erected Beograda or Száborna, the present Episcopal Church. The Roman Catholic Church of Izbég was also a Serbian church originally. Tanners put the Preobrazsenska Church up in the Bogdányi utca. Greek merchants built the Blagovestenska in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The triangular pedestal of the Memorial Cross is similar to the shape of the square on which it stands. On one of its side the old Slav inscription says: This cross was built in 1763 by the Serbian Privileged Merchants’ Association of Szentendre. On the other side we can read the following: The same Association had it renovated with special attention in 1763. The third side says: Renovated in 1901. Three inscriptions three centuries.
Each of the Serbian temples was built in the 18th century and they are important works of the Hungarian Baroque architecture. The interiors of the churches are the masterpieces of the Eastern church craft.
Nevertheless, Serbian citizens did not build churches exclusively. They erected an imposing school building as well.
Pál Szofrics one of its later students sensibly described the internal life of the school.
The Catholic Dalmats formed a separate quarter, they settled near to the Roman Catholic Church of the Church Hill in Klisszan and on the Szamár hill.
Due to their tireless leaders Serbians gained several privileges from the imperial court, in return for their military achievements. Their privileges were: free practice of religion, election of judges, school foundations, language use and tax allowances.
The wealthy tanners (called tobakosok) of the town had the Preobrazsenszka church built in 1746. Its iconostas is one of the most beautiful work of orthodox religious art in Hungary. On its renovated side the fresco shows scenes from the Bible.
Privileges and diligent work bore its fruit: in the place of the medieval Hungarian Szentendre we find a flourishing Serbian town.
Getting rich had three sources: wine production, industry and trade with transportation. In two – three generations grape production was increased ten times. The excellent wine reached Austria, Bohemia as well as Poland by water and overland.
In the wall of the Orthodox Episcopal Cathedral’s fence there are tombstones of Old – Slavic language, preserving the memories of former Szentendre families.
The wrought iron portal of the Cathedral – work of Márton Ginesser locksmith master- is a masterpiece of the Hungarian Latebaroque iron smithery.
In order to make the extent of industry and trade perceptible we enlist the guilds known from contemporary sources. Textile industry employed hatmakers, duvets, carpetmakers, furriers and gownmaker masters. In the wood industry woodsmen, carpenters, joiners, upholsterers and coopers worked. Tanners, shoemakers, furriers and saddlemakers worked in the leather industry, while metal industry gave work to goldsmiths, smiths and wheelwrights. Other craftsmen were seamen, ferrymen, painters, bakers and pipemakers.
The wealthiest citizens of the town were the merchants who owned vineyards. Under the name of Serbian Trade Association they founded a joint interest in 1698. Their guild existed almost for 150 years. They erected the Memorial Cross on the main square of the town as a token of their gratitude, because Szentendre escaped the great plague epidemic. The Kalmárkereszt has been announcing their love of the town since that.
The houses of Serbian tradesmen are located mainly around the Main square and its environment: today’s Dumtsa Jenõ, Bogdányi and Görög utca, and along the banks of the Danube. They stored their wine in huge cellars, they had with a little shop on the ground floor, flat above, and storage place in the attic. They used the material from the Roman and medieval ruins for construction. Their houses were often built on the foundations of earlier buildings. That is how the city has gained its present face, combining the medieval streetstructure with Baroque and Rococo buildings.
The significance of the town was further increased by the fact that it was the Church and cultural centre of the Serbs living in Hung. It became an Orthodox Episcopal seat. The leaders of the Orthodox Church always played an active role in preserving and increasing the political and economic privileges of the Serbs several churchleaders were members of rich families of Szentendre. During the Napoleonic wars many of their sons fought in the Habsburg army as army officers of high rank.
The century’s characteristic figure was Ráby Mátyás who – according to his autobiography – was sent to Szentendre by Kaiser II.Joseph to examine the abuses of magistracy (treasury). In his novel entitled Rab Ráby, Mór Jókai the great Hungarian tale teller introduces him as the leading figure of the cause of the poor. Due to the film based on this novel, he is honoured as a freedom hero. A square and a restaurant has been named after him.