Szombathely Tourist Attractions
Szombathely, about 50km (31mi.) as the crow flies south of Sopron on the eastern edge of the Alps, is the second largest economic and cultural center in West Transdanubia.
This busy industrial town (agricultural machinery, precision engineering, shoes, textiles) is the administrative seat of the Vas region with a teacher training college and a renowned art gallery; the Savaria festivals take place in summer. Only a few buildings remain of the Late Baroque town, as much of Szombathely was destroyed in the Second World War.HistorySince the Stone Age the town was situated on important trade routes; the Bernstein road linking Italy with the Baltic ran past here. The Romans founded the "Colonia Claudia Savaria" in 43 BC, in 107 it was the capital of the province of Pannonia Superior; in 193 L. Septimius Severus was elected emperor. No less a person than St Martin was born in Savaria in 316. By the 5th C the population of the town had grown to 30,000, but in 455 an earthquake had such devastating consequences that the name of Savaria did not appear again for centuries. Under Charles the Great the town came under Frankish rule; its German name Steinamanger stems from this time, which probably referred to its abandoned state. From the 13th C Szombathely belonged to the bishops of Gyor. In 1777 Maria Theresia was responsible for the town becoming the seat of a bishop and undergoing an economic and cultural revival. The first bishop of Szombathely, János Szily, had Szombathely rebuilt and expanded into a residential town. Following the Second World War the town recovered quickly.In the 1970s, many factories were built in Szombathely. While the 1980s saw the building of a County Library, public indoor swimming pools, and a gallery. The main square in Szombathely was refurbished in 2006 through EU funding.
The Savaria Museum, housed in a historic building from 1905-08, has an outstanding collection of Roman antiquities. The lapidarium in the basement contains statues and mosaics, etc. from Savaria as well as ornaments from the church in Ják; on the upper floor are extensive exhibitions of archaeology and natural history of the Szombathely region.
Address: Kisfaludy Sándor utca 9, Szombathely, Vas 9700, Hungary
Opposite the cathedral is Eölbey House, built in 1796, which accommodates the Revolution Museum of the Vas region.
The Late Baroque group of buildings (1778-83) which occupies the south of the square is entirely in the Hungarian 18th C plait style. The attic, which adjoins the central ressaut, has allegorical figures of the virtues and the coat of arms of Bishop Szily. The palace is open to visitors by prior arrangement. On the right of the ground floor is the Sala terrena with a wall painting by Stephan Dorffmeister (1784); the banqueting hall on the upper floor, one of the finest Hungarian Baroque halls and Hefele's most successful creation, boasts frescos by Maulbertsch.
The present form of the town hall, built in 1775-79 next to the Bishop's Palace, seat of the regional council, dates from 1880 and is the work of Alajos Hausmann (1847-1926), who also planned the conversion of the Buda castle mansion. It is adjoined on the east side by the neo-classical so-called Little Town hall from 1848.
In the 1st-2nd centuries ad the worship of oriental deities spread through the Roman empire; the Egyptian Isis cult was especially popular. The Isis temple in Savaria was founded in 188, extended in the 3rd C and destroyed by an earthquake in 455; it was excavated in 1958-59 and prepared in 1961-63. The site consisted of several interconnected colonnades with the altar in the center (indicated by a pedestal in the lower lying area). Behind it lay the inner sanctum, its portico has been restored; the timbers contain remains of reliefs from the 2nd C (Isis riding on her dog Sothis, with a sistrum in her hand; Victoria with the inscription "The exalted holy Isis"; Fortuna, Mars, Hercules among others).
Going east from Berszenyi square, the "Republic Square", Szombathely's shopping center (pedestrianized) is reached. Alongside the modern façades in the medieval market place are Baroque, historicist and art nouveau styles. The Centrum department store in the north on Széchenyi utca is an art nouveau building with an interesting glass roof.
East of Köztársaság tér stands the Franciscan church and adjoining monastery. The Baroque church was built in the 17th C from a 14th C Gothic building; a Renaissance doorway (statue of St Elizabeth above it) upgrades the simple front face. Within the Baroque interior of this triple-naved church the picture of St Florian in the left side altar (Dorffmeister 1749), with the town of Szombathely in the background, stands out. Melchior Hefele is interred in the church.
22km (14mi.) south of Szombathely (Road 87) is Csempeszkópács with a particularly attractive Romanesque village church (mid. 13th C). The southern doorway with Norman serrated decor is stylistically similar to Ják. The church interior contains remains of medieval and Baroque frescoes. The high altar is by Stefan Dorffmeister.
Municipal Art Gallery
The Szombathelyi Képtár was built in 1885 by Lajos Mátis and Miklós Sólyom using donations from citizens of the town. The gallery specializes in 20th C Hungarian works and includes paintings by Gyula Derkovits (1894-1934) and István Dési Huber (1895-1944).
Address: Rákóczi Ferenc utca 12, Hungary
Surrounded by 19th C town houses, stands the splendid synagogue, built in 1881 in Moorish style. There used to be a sizeable Jewish community in Szombathely which made a considerable economic and cultural contribution to the town. Since 1975 the synagogue has been used as a concert hall.
Vas County Museum Village
The Vasi Múzeumfalu on the western edge of the town presents over 6ha (15 acres) of varied rural architecture of the Vas region, which has been home to Slovenians since the 9th C. Visitors can see the furnished thatched farmhouses, a mill and even a fishing pond.
Address: Árpád utca 30, Szombathely, Vas 9700, Hungary
The botanical gardens on the northern edge of the town were laid out at the end of the 19th C; today 3000 species of trees, 260 alone of which are conifers, grow on 25ha (68 acres). There are also beautiful rose and cactus gardens.
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