Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Sopron
Sopron (German: Ödenburg), only about 65km (40mi.) south of Vienna and 8km (5mi.) from the Austrian border, between the eastern foothills of the Alps and Fertotó (German: Neusiedler See), is a popular destination for excursions and recreation, not only because of its attractive situation but also because of its unusual townscape.
Hardly any other Hungarian town has such well preserved medieval and Baroque buildings - there are 115 officially listed monuments and 240 protected buildings, in 1972 it was awarded the European prize for protection of historical monuments.HistoryOwing to its location on the Bernstein route, connecting the Baltic and Italy, Sopron was an important center of trade before the Romans conquered Pannonia. In the 2nd C BC the Roman settlement Scarbantia was an important town with a capitol, forum and town walls; it became the see of a bishop in the 4th C. The German name "Ödenburg" stems from the period of mass migration, when the Avars built fortifications on the ruins of the Roman town. A chronicle from the 12th C bears the place name Suprun. The first German settlers arrived at this time and their descendants are well represented in Sopron today. In 1277 the town received the royal charter; between 1297-1339 the walls were built which survived the Turkish period and can still be seen in part today. Following the destruction caused by the fire in 1676 the town was rebuilt in Baroque style. After the Trianon peace treaty in 1921 the citizens of Sopron voted to remain in Hungary (as opposed to the Burgenland region which was part of Hungary). The Budapest Horthy government rewarded Sopron with the title "urbs fidelissima" ("most loyal town"). Sopron's industry dates back to the end of the 18th/beginning of the 19th C with a coal mine and sugar refinery; nowadays the main industries are light (carpet and clothing factories, wood processing).All the buildings in the Old Town within the confines of the medieval town wall, built on the Roman ruins, are listed historical monuments. The majority are from the early Middle Ages but display features from other periods, such as Romanesque windows, Gothic niches, Renaissance loggias and Baroque or Classical decoration.
In front of the northern entrance to the Old Town the Mary Column commemorates the Church of Our Lady which was pulled down in 1632 (out of fear that the Turks could use it as a gun turret). Designed by Andreas Altomonte work on the column was carried out by the Viennese sculptor Jakob Christoph Schletterer in 1745.The fire tower, the former defense tower, is visible above the stepped rows of houses.
The Fire Tower on the northern side of the Old Town is the emblem of Sopron. The foundations are Roman; the lower square base 14th C; the cylindrical center with the Tuscan arcade is Renaissance; the upper part - a clock tower with a multi-storied onion dome - was added from 1681-82 following the fire. The entrance to the 61m (222ft) high tower, with magnificent views from its gallery over the town, is at Fo tér; it houses a local history collection. To the south of the tower is the Loyalty Gate, presented to the town in 1921 by the government in Budapest following the referendum. The citizens of Sopron are depicted on the relief showing reverence to the crowned Hungaria.
Behind the Baroque façade of the Fabricius House (near the General's House) is hidden a complex of houses from the 14/15th C, built on Roman foundations; part of the town wall is actually incorporated into the building. There is a striking oriel window two storys high on the façade (18th C); the courtyard has two-story arcades and Tuscan columns (17th C). The reverse side of the town wall dates from the first half of the 14th C, its stone façade (visible from the town wall) has two pointed and two straight Gothic windows with tracery.The Gothic cellar houses a Roman lapidarium, the upper floor has finds from Illyrian, Celtic and Roman culture together with exhibits from the period of the Magyar conquest. The interior of the entrance to the municipal Franz Liszt Museum dates from the 17th and 18th C. The exhibitions have separate entrances.Adjacent to the Fabricius House is the Classical town hall built in 1830.
The medieval General's House or Lackner House (near the Storno House), was rebuilt in 1620 by the mayor Christoph Lackner. In the 18th and 19th C the town commander lived here which explains the other name. The Classical balcony dates from 1830.
In the former Benedictine convent (near the Goat Church), now a student residence, the chapterhouse of the Franciscan abbey, built around 1330, is one of the most significant examples of High Gothic in Hungary (restored about 1950). It stands in the northeast corner of the building and access is from the cloisters. The ribbed vaulting of the triple-naved building rests on two octagonal columns. Somewhat unusual is the decoration which reflects the function of the room as a place where the monks took confession communally; the figures on the consoles and capitals symbolize the Seven Deadly Sins, those on the keystones the Redemption. Another feature is a stone coat of arms with the goat of the Geisler family which used to be on the church tower.
The Late Baroque church in the middle of Templom utca was built in 1782/83, the 52m (171ft) high tower in 1862/63; originally it only had one roof turret as prescribed by the tolerance edict of 1781. Of particular interest in this triple-naved church with two-storied galleries is the high gilded altar dated 1730 decorated with statues, which was brought to Sopron from Kahlenberg near Vienna. The pulpit and pews are from 1780; the elaborately carved and decorated offertory box is from the 17th C. The melodic sound of the organ features regularly in concerts.
Adjoining the church is the evangelical vicarage. The upper floor to this medieval palace and the façade were added around 1770. Ionic columns adorn the front of the house and an enclosed oriel window from the 17th C projects over the entrance. The evangelical collection of the town of Sopron is housed in the palace.
On the north side of the Orsolya tér is the Arcaded House (Lábasház), built around 1750; the arcades are thought to have been walled in the mid-19th C and only came to light when the damage from the Second World War was cleared. Shops can be found on the ground floor and on the upper floor an exhibition on industrial history.
The original Late Gothic house was converted to a Baroque palace by Paul Eszterházy in 1752; Empress Maria Theresia stayed here in 1772 during her visit to Sopron. On either side of the splendid doorway (above which are the Eszterházy coat of arms and a copy of the Gracious Madonna from Mariazell) on the upper floor are wide enclosed oriel windows. The inner courtyard contains 17th C arcades. The palace houses a museum on the history of coal-mining in Sopron and Hungary from 1245.
The lower part of the Új utca was the Jewish Street in the Middle Ages and separated from the northern part by a wall. In 1526 when the Jews were driven out of Sopron the wall was removed and the Új utca - the "new road" was formed. There are two synagogues here which are now museums.
The Old Synagogue from 1300-20, one of the oldest in Europe, was the first house of prayer of the Jewish community in Sopron. The actual synagogue stands in the courtyard behind the two Baroque houses (façade from 1734) as non-Catholic churches were not allowed to be built on the streets; the front was used for shops and administration. Under a high pyramid roof the Old Synagogue consists of a large two-storied prayer hall, a prayer hall for women (joined to one other only by observation slits) and the ritual bath. Access to the main hall with its reconstructed wooden beams is via an Early Gothic doorway on the north side.The synagogue in the courtyard of the house at Új utca 11 was built in 1370 as the private prayer house of a Viennese Jew. It was converted into a residential house after 1526, as was the Old Synagogue; its original purpose was only discovered during restoration work following the Second World War.
The façade of the Gothic house, which is the Monument Office, is reminiscent of a Venetian palazzo. It represented the rear wing of a medieval palace on the Kolostor utca (No. 13; parts of the oldest secular building in Sopron are preserved). Restoration work at the beginning of the Fifties erased evidence of the 18th C Baroque additions with the exposure of the Gothic windows and Renaissance arcades.
St George's Church
The single-naved cathedral church of St George's, which is integrated into the row of houses, was built between 1380 and 1430 in Gothic style, restored following the fire of 1676 in Baroque style and side chapels were added in 1685. Restoration of the west façade revealed two tympanum reliefs above the portals; the northern one depicts St Margaret of Antioch, the southern one St George's fight with the dragon. The eclectic tower is from 1882. After the church had belonged to the Protestants from the end of the 16th C (in 1631 the mayor and humanist Christoph Lackert was interred here) the Jesuits took it over in 1674, rebuilding the adjoining buildings (convent, college) to suit their own purposes.
Outside the ringed wall to the south, stands the Baroque church dedicated to St Judas Thaddaeus, built in 1719-25 to a design by Lorenz Eysenkölbl. The façade is flanked by two towers completed in 1775 and decorated with figures of saints. The altar painting of St Dominicus is by the Sopron artist Stephan Schaller (1708-79).
Situated opposite the Arcaded House is the magnificent palace where the Bratislava parliament met in 1861; in reference to the building which is there it is also known as the "Green House". It was built in the second half of the 18th C from medieval houses and part of the inner town wall. A giant Renaissance corner oriel window, flanked by Gothic windows, adorns the street side; on the courtyard side the wide Renaissance arcaded loggias are eye-catching. The name is attributed to the Caesar family who owned the palace from the end of the 19th C to the middle of the 20th C.
The house, built in the 15th C, after some rebuilding in 1674, came into the possession of Princess Eggenberg, who allowed Protestant services to be held here after St George's Church had fallen into the hands of the Jesuits. Sermons were held in the arcaded courtyard from the stone pulpit which bears the coat of arms of the Eggenbergs, a royal family from Radkersburg in Styria; above the main doorway is the Brandenburg coat of arms, to whom the Eggenbergs were related.
Franz Liszt Museum
On the site of a large bastion southwest of the Old Town (Május I tér) a historic villa was built in 1872, which has housed the municipal museum since 1913. Alongside local and ethnographical collections are paintings by important Baroque artists such as Maulbertsch, Troger and Altomonte. Concerts and town events take place in the great hall. In the park of the so-called Baker's Cross from 1484 are 17th/ 18th C tombstones from the evangelical cemetery and Baroque statues.
North of the Old Town, on the road to Vienna, is the atmospheric Viennese suburb and the craftsmen's quarter since the Middle Ages. Their houses line the narrow Ikvahíd utca, the bridge over the Ikva brook. The second (east) bridge is of medieval origin.
The Várkerület, the ring road around the Old Town, follows the course of the oval, triple medieval town wall, which for the main part was constructed on the Roman foundations. Between St George's Church and Caesar House are impressive parts of the Great Round Tower including the ruins of a Roman wall several meters thick. Further south both layers of the wall are exposed which together tower 8.5m (28ft) high.
St Michael's Church
The Romanesque-Gothic St Michael's Church (Szent Mihály templom), was the town's first parish church. The Romanesque building from the 13th C was extended to a triple-naved hall church by the 15th C and altered again at a later date. In the course of time it was frequented by both Catholics and Protestants, the latter until 1674. Restoration work from 1859-66 by Franz Storno renewed the building to such an extent that it looks Neo-Gothic. The 48m (157ft) high tower, more precisely its foundations and the octagonal second and third level, have retained their original appearance. Inside the church is a valuable Madonna figure from 1460, the high altarpiece is the work of Bartolomeo Altomonte (1739) and the other decor dates from the period of restoration.
To the southwest of the town is the residential and recreational area of the town reaching up the slopes of the Sopron mountains, known as the Lovérek. There are numerous marked footpaths for walkers. From the Károly-magaslat, 398m (1306ft), a 23m (75ft) high viewing tower provides a marvelous panorama of the surrounding area with Ferto tó (Neusiedler See) and the foothills of the Alps.
Két mór ház
The house is a good example of early 18th C rural Baroque; it gets its name from the two Moors which flank the doorway. They are the work, together with the figures and turned columns, of the builder Ignaz Leitner, a stonemason who based his work on old pattern books.
St Jacob's Chapel
The Szent Jakab kápolna near St Michael's Church, an Early Gothic 13th C building, was a sepulchral chapel. It has an octagonal outline and three sides are enclosed by apses; above the doorway arch is a Romanesque relief (dragon with the tree of life). The interior wall paintings are by Franz Storno.
The colorful private collection of Gusztáv Zettl (eastern continuation of the Szentélek) was assembled at the turn of the century and includes among its treasures weapons, finds from tombs, Roman containers, jewelry, porcelain, valuable paintings by Paolo Veronese and Dorffmeister as well as etchings by Dürer and Rembrandt.
Church of the Holy Ghost
On the other side of the Ikva towers the 14th/15th C Church of the Holy Ghost which in about 1780 received a Baroque façade and decor. The paintings in the main and side altar and the frescos were done by Stephan Dorffmeister the Elder in 1782.
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