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Why Csíkszereda and Szombathely?

Csikszereda Market

Why Csíkszereda and Szombathely? 

viola vonfi 

Studying the framed map of historic Hungary, I was often intrigued by names such as Muraszombat and Csíkszereda.  Why were they called so?  Finally I just had to find the answer.  Yet it is really very simple:  these towns were named for the day on which they held their weekly market! 

In the days before Stop’n Shop and Big Y, people brought their produce to town once a week, and that day was very important in the life of the townspeople.  So important, in fact, that the day for Sunday was originally “vásárnap”, or market day.  

St. Stephen had ordered a church to be built for every 10 villages. There the people of the area  would gather for Mass on Sunday.   Since they were conveniently together, the custom soon developed of holding the weekly market at the same time.  After all, they did not have the convenience of cars and bicycles, and it was difficult enough to get people together once a week.  So the people decided to set up the market in those church hubs at the same time as the services were held.  (Made good marketing sense, right?)    

Later on, holding a weekly market had become a privilege for which the king’s authorization was required.  So Sunday did not remain the only market day, as these names attest.  We thus have Muraszombat, Szombathely, Nagyszombat and Rimaszombat.  (I wonder why all of them are found in the western and northern part of the country?)  They all held their market days on Saturday.  Muraszombat takes its name from the Mura region where it is located, and Rimaszombat from the Rima River, along whose banks it lies.  Other towns – Csíkszereda, Dunaszerdahely, Szerdahelyszék and Boldogszerdahely – held their markets on Wednesdays, hence their names.  (Boldogszerdahely was mentioned in documents as early as 1358.) 

While we’re on the topic of days of the week: the Hungarian calendar week begins with Monday, hence “hétfő”, or head of the week. The Christian calendar considers Sunday to be the first day of the week, and in olden times the word “hétfő” was applied to Sunday as well.

As a matter of trivia: The second day – “kettedik”, as in tizenkettedik – was shortened to “kedd”.  (I didn’t know that either!)

“Szerda”, “csütörtök” and “péntek” were probably borrowed from the Slavonic, in which “szerda” meant “middle”, i.e., it referred to the middle of the week.  “Csütörtök” and “péntek” were the equivalent of “fourth” and “fifth”.

And “szombat” is a direct derivative of the Sabbath.   

Information derived from Wikipedia


viola vonfi is our correspondent from Stamford, CT.  She finds it amusing that one of her ancestors was knighted by Wallenstein during the Thirty Years’ War.


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