THE SHORT HISTORY OF THE TOWN OF SZENTENDRESzentendre and its surrounding region have been inhabited since prehistoric times. Between the road leading from Budapest to Szentendre and the river Danube, archeologists explored the largest Copper Age cemetery of Europe, where one of the first – 4500 year old – cart representations of the world was found.
On the present area of the old town of Szentendre, there was a Roman military camp during the 2nd – 5th centuries, which, as part of the Roman limes, defended Acquincum, the main city of Pannonia province.
Hungarian tribes conquered the area in 896-897. According to historical sources, the region was owned by a chief named Apor, which is documented by a charter dating from 1009. The one thousandth anniversary of this charter is going to be celebrated in 2009. Our town got its name from Saint Andrew, who was the patron saint of the medieval origin Roman Catholic church standing on Church Hill. The name of the town in its Latin form, Sanctus Andreas, first occured in a testament of 1246.
In the 13-14th centuries, Szentendre was a flourishing town, an archdeaconry residence, situated near the road leading from Esztergom through Visegrád to Buda, the royal seats.
During the Turkish times between 1541-1684, Szentendre was destroyed and depopulated. Shortly after the Turks had left Hungary, the country became the colony of Austria. In 1690, Southern-Slavic people from the Balkans: Serbs, Dalmatians and Macedonians (Greeks) escaped Turkish retribution and found shelter in Hungary. The 18th century revival of the town was due to these people referred to simply as ’Serbs’.
In 1710, the medieval parish curch on Church Hill was rebuilt by Catholic Dalmatians and, till the end of the 18th century, seven more new, Serbian-Orthodox stone churches were erected. Szentendre became the ecclesiastic and cultural centre of Serbian people living in the Carpathian-basin in the 18-19th c. The rich Serbian merchants provided connections and trade between the Southern regions, Buda and Vienna. They also revived viticulture already existing in the Roman times and in the Middle Ages. The sweet red wine of Szentendre was famous, it was preferred even in the court of the Russian tsar.
The „Serbian golden age” lasted as long as the end of the 19th c. In 1861 the Balkans were liberated from the Turkish rule and most of the Southern Serbs moved back.
In 1882, the phylloxera epidemic destructing all the vineyards in Europe reached Szentendre as well. The town’s economic life was shaken and it lost its importance. Owing to the mayor, Jenő Dumtsa, the decline was slowed down then stopped. However, the liveliness of the Serbian age did not return until the end of the 20th century.
From the middle of the 1970s, Szentendre has become the cultural centre of Pest County surrounding the capital, as well as a main touristic destination attracting several hundred thousands of visitors every year.
THE PAST AND PRESENT OF SZENTENDRE’S ART
In 1889, Károly Ferenczy painter, one of the most important masters of Hungarian plein air painting, moved to Szentendre. Though he and his wife, Olga Fialka, lived here only for three years, their presence in the town marks the beginning of Szentendre painting. Their twins, Béni and Noémi, who played an important role in Hungarian fine arts, were born in Szentendre. Béni Ferenczy was a sculptor and Noémi Ferenczy became a renewer of the art of tapestry. The museum offering a comprehensive view of the art of each member of the family stands on the main square of Szentendre.
Following the pattern of the plein air painters’ school of Barbizon in France and Nagybánya in Transylvania, the first artists’ colony of Szentendre started to work in 1926. The eight founding members were soon followed by friends and colleagues and in a few decades the town became one of the most important centres of Hungarian fine art. Almost all the important masters of 20th century Hungarian fine arts stayed at the colony, some just rented a flat, others settled in the town for good. According to researchers, 150 artists can be connected with Szentendre, who spent a longer or shorter period creating here.
At the end of the 1960s, the beginning of the 70s, sculptors appeared in Szentendre as well. Most of them moved to the studio flats of the new colony of artists founded in 1968.
Nowadays, 100-120 artists and designers work in the summer studios of the old colony or at the new colony – or in their own flat in the town. Being an artist in Szentendre means a certain rank even today.
ARTISTS IN SZENTENDRE
We only give some information about the artists who have a museum in the town.
Imre ÁMOS (1907-1944)
At the beginning of his career, he created post-impressionist works due to the impact of the French Nabis-group. In Paris, he got acquainted with Marc Chagal, under whose influence his symbolic, dreamlike painting got to surrealism. In his last period he painted astonishing visions reflecting his tragic experiences. He disappeared in 1944 while being in forced labour service.
Margit ANNA (1913-1991)
From 1937 on, she worked together with her husband, Imre Ámos, at artists’ colony of Szentendre. Between 1946 and 1948, she exhibited works combininb a naiv, childish way of seeing with surrealistic associations. From the 1970s on, she assimilated folk art motifs with vivid colours. Her grotesque figures recalling puppets and decorated with lace and flowers are the visions of a worrying soul hiding behind a mask.
Jenő BARCSAY (1900-1988)
He first came to Szentendre in the summer of 1929 then purchased a house and settled here. His art is an important part of not only Szentendre but also the 20th century history of art: he was one of the leading figures of Hungarian constructive painting. At the beginning he was inspired by the landscape around Szentendre. It was in the 1960s that his attention turned towards the townscape. His concise pictures constructed of gate arches, chaotic triangles of roofs and squares of windows – geometric forms discovered behind Baroque ornaments – were made from that time. His book titled Anatomy for Artists has been translated into 13 languages and is used for teaching at several art academies all over the world. The museum displays paintings, graphics, two mosaics and three woven tapistries.
Béla CZÓBEL (1883-1976)
His career started at the first Hungarian plein air artists’ colony, in Nagybánya. In 1903, he travelled to Paris, where he got in touch with Matisse and exhibited together with the Fauves. In 1914-1919, he lived in Berg, Holland, then in 1919-1925 in Berlin, where he got acquainted with German expressionism. From the 1930s on, he was attracted to Szentendre, where he spent the summers. In the winters he stayed in Paris. The rich colouring of the pictures of his last period show his zest for life as well as his belief in art.
Lajos VAJDA (1908-1941)
We have celebrated the 100th anniversary of his birth this year. He lived only 33 years. However, he left several hundred works: photo montages, collages, paintings and sketches. He elaborated the so-called Szentendre program in 1934-35: he collected the visual motifs of the town and the region, and, following the spirit of Bartók’s music, created a special branch of European – and at the same time particularly Hungarian – avantgarde.
Der Ort Szentendre gehört zum ungarischen Verwaltungsbezirk Komitat Pest und liegt in unmittelbarer Nähe zur Hauptstadt Budapest. Das Stadtbild prägen viele barocke Gebäude und die Donau, die sich malerisch durch den 25.000-Seelenort windet.
Die Einwohner Szentendres sind stolz auf ihre lange Geschichte. Bereits in der Steinzeit war das Areal an der Donau besiedelt. Später siedelten dort verschiedene Volksstämme. Unter Kaiser Augustus eroberten die Römer im 1. Jahrhundert n. Chr. die Region. Nach der Völkerwanderung und nahezu vollständigen Zerstörung der alten Siedlungsanlagen durchlebte die Region einen ständigen Wechsel von Herrschern. Die Türken hinterließen während ihrer Herrschaft im 16. und 17. Jahrhundert ebenso ihre Spuren wie die Einwanderer aus Serbien, Dalmatien, Bosnien und Griechenland im 17. und 18. Jahrhundert. Im 18. Jahrhundert entstanden die festen Kirchen und festen Häuser der verschiedenen Volks- und Religionsgemeinschaften, denen die Stadt ihre bis heute bestehende barocke Prägung verdankt. Im 19. Jahrhundert kehrte viele Serben in ihr Heimatland zurück, wodurch ihr Bevölkerungsanteil von 45 % auf unter 20 % sank. Ihren Platz nahmen Ungarn, Donauschwaben und Slowaken ein.
Die kulturelle Vielfalt zeigt sich in vielen kleinen Nischen und bunten Läden, sowie einer Vielzahl von Restaurants. Die Nähe zu Budapest und das atmosphärische Innenstadt locken jedes Jahr eine große Zahl an Touristen nach Szentendre. Seit den 1970er Jahren entwichelt sich der Ort an der Donau auch zu einem kulturellen Zentrum der Region Pest.