After long decades of research, I can state, that we can always find new historical treasures in Kőszeg.
dr. Bariska IstvánHonorary Citizen of Kőszeg, for a long time Director of the Historical Archive, Kőszeg

History of Kőszeg

Most of us know Kőszeg about the 1532 great Ottoman Siege. Here we tell you the full history of Kőszeg.

Kőszeg was always a border settlement. The region gained military importance in the 12th-13th century as standing up against the german attacks. Some stone castles and other fortifications were built int he Kőszeg-mountains, one of them was the so-called Upper Kőszeg Castle, today called the Old Castle, or Old House.

What we know surely that in times of the Tatarian Campaigns (1241-42) it already stood, because the Hungarian King, Béla IV had to conquere it back from the Austrian prince. The document about this event mentions Kőszeg first as: castrum Kuszug (1248).

Second half of 13th century the Németújvári family had moved their headquarters here. Henrik and his son, István started major building works. They started to build their stronghold below the hills, on the meadows beside the river Gyöngyös. This Lower Castle was also more representative than the old.

They founded the city of Kőszeg, and strengthened it with walls. Some of the first settlers were of german origin who received special rights and advantages. The Kőszegi family, as Henrik and his followers called themselves hitherto so, gradually increased their lands. They came into personal conflict against Albert ! Austrian prince, who took their castles, also their Kőszeg castle. At this siege the Franciscan Cloister was also ruined. The last Árpád-House Hungarian King, András III took the castles back to the owners. Kőszegi Ivan was called "lupus repax" bloodthirsty wolf, and in 1327 the Anjou King, Károly Róbert chased the family away from this strategic location and gave lands instead at inner regions of Hungary.

In 1328 Kőszeg received a royal free town title, and the rights received from the Kőszegi family was complemented with self-government and market-holding rights later with the foreign trade rights of good Kőszeg wines. In 1392-ben Luxemburg Zsigmond (Sigismund) gave the town to palatine Garai Miklós together with the castle and the lands belonging to the castle. The town rights stayed untouched, and he started to build the St. James Church. In 1445-ben Friedrich III german emperor occupied Kőszeg for himself, but in name of the Hungarian king, László V. Kőszeg received his Coat of Arms from him in 1446!

In 1483 the Hungarian king, Mathias Rex took Kőszeg back, but after his death Kőszeg stayed in Austrian pledge for almost 200 years, until 1647, when Ferdinand III placed it again under rule of the Hungarian Crown.

The Great Ottoman Siege

In 1532 under Captain Nikolaus Jurisics the Ottoman troops aiming to Wien attacked Kőszeg fiercly between 5th and 30th August. Sultan Suleiman monitored personally the 19 strong attacks, against that only small number of soldiers, citizents and peasants fought. After the last siege, the turkish solders, the janizary rebelled for food, so the Sultan had the leave Kőszeg, and that year could not attack Wien at all! The last troops left Kőszeg at 11 o’clock, so from 1777 all bells ring in Kőszeg also at 11 o’clock!

In the complete rebuilding of the town were the present form of fortifications finalized. The following two centuries were the most florishing age in Kőszeg, as the Wien-Adriatic trade roads went through the town. This boosted the winetrade, and the production of all kinds of refined handicraft goods. The renessiance styled wealthy houses of the historical inner city mirror this dynamism.

In times of reformation became almost fully protestant, namely lutheran, keeping their languages – so one German and one Hungarian community was established. The Hungarian community built and used the St. Emmerich Church beside the St. James Church since 1615-1618.

Free Royal City

In 1648 Kőszeg under the Hungarian Crown received free royal city rank, and until 1848 Kőszeg had the right to send legate to the Parliament. Kőszeg could resist the Habsburg emperor’s contra-reformational ambitions only until 1670, as because Kőszeg gave support to anti-empire conspirator Hungarian aristocrats led by Wesselényi, they had to agree with the settling of the jesuits in Kőszeg. In 1677 Széchényi György Archbishop established a catholic Secondary School, which was also amanged by them.

After 1712, Kőszeg gradually lost its former importance, although the next 100 years were still the time of silent development. In 1712 german settlers were called in, who founded Schwabendorfot (only since 1896 Kőszegfalva). Between 1724 and 1869 the Regional Court of Justice operated in Kőszeg. This was responsible for the juridical matters of the Aristocrats, so many noble families built beautiful town-palaces in Kőszeg (Sigray, Festetics, Nádasdy, etc.).

In 19th century Kőszeg refused the railways, so the main trade-roads avoided the town. This resulted in stagnation of size, wealth and int he increasing debt of the town. Culturally, Kőszeg stayed vivid after 1867, but the important handicrafts of Kőszeg gradually lost against the cheap factory mass productions of other towns. The town tried to compensate this worsening position with building and settling schools and military baracks. They themselves built the Kőszeg-Szombathely railways line from own finance. They paid for factories to be settled. This was the time when touristic life of Kőszeg started to boom, among the very first locations in Hungary.
After WWI most part of Kőszeg region was attached to Austria. So the regional market was also lost for the local businesses.

After WWII even this development was stuck for decades. The Iron Curtain had insulated Kőszeg not only from Austria, but also from Inner Hungary! Tourism only in the 1970’s started to gain strength. Kőszeg could again freely breath only after 1989.

Our current years brought freedom of movement, with all (dis)advantages of being a border town to Austria, as they bring the development of touristic, academic and cultural life in Kőszeg.

More pages