History of Esztergom

Esztergom is one of the oldest towns in Hungary, the Castle Hill and its vicinity have been inhabited since the end of the Ice Age, 20,000 years ago. The first people known by name were the Celts from Western Europe, who settled in the region in about 350 BC.
Thereafter it became an important frontier town of Pannonia of the Roman Empire, known as Solva.
The Hun, German, Avar and Frank archaeological finds found in the area reveal that these people settled there following the period of the migrations.
The Magyars entered the Pannonian Basin in 896 AD and conquered it systematically, succeeding fully in 901.
960, the ruling prince of the Hungarians, Géza, chose Esztergom as his residence. His son, Vajk, who was later called Saint Stephen of Hungary, was born in his palace built on the Roman castrum on the Castle Hill around 975.
The center of the hill was occupied by a basilica dedicated to St. Adalbert, who, according to legend, baptised St. Stephen.
Stephen's coronation took place in Esztergom in 1000.
It served not only as the royal residence until the Mongol siege of Esztergom in 1241 (the Mongol invasion), but also as the center of the Hungarian state, religion, and Esztergom county. The archbishop of Esztergom was the leader of the ten bishoprics founded by Stephen. The archbishop was often in charge of important state functions and had the exclusive right to crown kings.
After the invasion, Bela IV gave the palace to the archbishop and moved his residence to Buda. In 1304, the forces of Wenceslaus II, the Czech king occupied and raided the castle. In the years to come, the castle was owned by several individuals. In 1327 Kovácsi, the most influential suburb of the town, lying in the southeast, was united with Esztergom.
In the following centuries Esztergom saw events of great importance and became one of the most influential acropolis of Hungarian culture along with Buda. Their courts, which were similar to the royal courts of Buda, were visited by such kings, scientists, and artists as Louis the Great, Sigismund of Luxembourg, King Matthias Corvinus. Antonio Bonfini, King Matthias’ historian, who, in his work praises the constructive work of János Vitéz, King Matthias’ educator.
The time of the next resident, Archbishop Tamás Bakócz (†l521) gave the town significant monuments. He was a counter-candidate against pope-elect Leo X. An apostolic notary wrote about him: "If a Hungarian priest gets onto St Peter's throne, the Hungarian problem will be the main axis of Vatican's politics." He was the one who took the Turkish seriously, planning a war against them, as well as causing the peasant revolution of Dózsa. In 1507 he had Italian architects build the Bakócz chapel, which is the earliest and most significant Renaissance building which has survived in Hungary.
After the Turkish occupation, Esztergom became the centre of an Ottoman sanjak controlling several counties, and also a significant castle on the northwest border of the Ottoman Empire.
At the end of the 17th century Esztergom was liberated and more and more people settled in the town from Hungary and foreign countries as well.
By the beginning of the 20th century, Esztergom gained significance owing to its cultural and educational institutions as well as to being an administrative capital. The town’s situation turned worse after the Treaty of Trianon of 1920, after which it became a border town and lost most of its previous territory. On the other hand, the significance of tourism have been increasing.
Whoever arrives to Esztergom, meets with a town which has long history, cultural tradition, famous monuments, treasures and became a rich national place of pilgrimage.