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Culture & People

Hungarian culture has a distinctive style of its own; diverse and varied, starting from the capital city of Budapest on the Danube, to the Great Plain bordering Ukraine. Hungary was formerly (until 1918) one half of Austria-Hungary. Hungary has a rich folk tradition, for example: embroideries, decorated pottery, buildings and carvings. Hungarian music ranges from the rhapsodies of Franz Liszt to folk music and Hungarian gipsy music and Roma music. Hungary has a rich and colourful literature, with many poets and writers, although not many are well known abroad due to the limited prevalence of the Hungarian language being a Finno-Ugric language. Some noted authors include Sándor Márai and Imre Kertész, who have been gaining acclaim in recent decades. János Kodolányi was more known in the middle of the 20th century in Italy and Finland. Imre Kertész won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2002. Péter Esterházy is known and popular in Austria and Germany, and Magda Szabó has become well-known in Europe recently as well.


Hungary is home to the largest synagogue in Europe (Great Synagogue), the largest medicinal bath in Europe (Széchenyi Medicinal Bath), the one of the largest basilicas in Europe (Esztergom Basilica), the second largest territorial abbey in the world (Pannonhalma Archabbey), and the largest Early Christian Necropolis outside Italy (Pécs).

In spite of widespread destruction during the Turkish occupation (circa 1526-1686), Romanesque churches and other ecclesiastical buildings can be found throughout the Carpathian basin. Fine examples survive at Székesfehérvár, Gyulafehérvár, Esztergom, Pannonhalma, while recently opened lapidariums at Pécs, Veszprém, and Eger display remains from this period. Ruins of former royal houses at Tarnaszentmária, Feldebrő, and Szekszárd, also show stylistic resemblances to contemporary architecture from the Caucasus.

Large-scale reconstructions were undertaken after the Mongolian wars of 1241-42. Many beautiful village churches survive from this periods, both round churches (Szalonna, Kallósd and Nagytótlak), and those with western tower and southern doorway at Nagybörzsöny, Csempeszkopács, Őriszentpéter, Magyarszecsőd, Litér, Velemér and Zalaháshágy.

The Gothic style reached Hungary in the late 14th century, and continued throughout the reigns of the Anjou, Luxembourg, and Jagello kings. Wealthy mining towns have built them on their main square like as at such as Kassa, Bártfa, Brassó and Nagyszeben built their main squares in this style,which can also be seen in several rebuilt monasteries, for example (Garamszentbenedek). The now destroyed monastery of the Pauline Order at Budaszentlőrinci was also built in this style.

The most renowned architect of this time was János Mester, a Franciscan brother. His the largest churches are in Szeged-Alsóváros, in Farkas Street, Kolozsvár (Cluj), and in Nyirbátor. Perhaps the most famous Hungarian Gothic church of all is the Cathedral of St. Elizabeth in Kassa.

After the expulsion of the Turks in 1686, the new ruling house of the Habsburgs brought with it the new Baroque style. Most of the early surviving buildings in Hungary today are in this style: not only churches, but also castles e.g. Fertőd, town halls (Szeged), monasteries (Zirc), cathedrals (Kalocsa), colleges (Eger) and the royal palace at Buda.

One of the greatest architects of his age was Ödön Lechner (1845-1914), who planned the Museum of Trade Art, The Hungarian Geological Institute, the town hall of Kecskemét, and the Saint Ladislaus Church at Kőbánya, Budapest. Sometimes he is called the Hungarian Gaudi.

Sculptures & Paintings

The rich heritage of paintings in Hungary originated with the royal houses of Luxemburg and Anjou, that both esteemed the earlier king Ladislaus I. Both Sigismund of Luxemburg, King of Hungary and Holy Roman Emperor, and Louis The Great, King of Hungary and Poland were buried in the cathedral of Nagyvárad at the side of King Ladislaus. Even today, after so many wars and so much destruction, there are about 50 churches where murals of the Saint Ladislaus legend can be found.


In the earliest of times, Hungarian language was written in a runic-like script. The country switched to the Latin alphabet after being Christianised under the reign of Stephen I of Hungary (1000-1038). There are no existing documents from the pre-11th century era.

The oldest written record in Hungarian is a fragment in the founding document of the Abbey of Tihany (1055) which contains several Hungarian terms, among them the words feheruuaru rea meneh hodu utu rea ("up the military road to Fehérvár"). The rest of the document was written in Latin.

The oldest complete text is the "Funeral Sermon and Prayer" (Halotti Beszéd és Könyörgés), 1192-1195, a translation of a Latin sermon.

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