Pozsony, City of Coronations and Parliamentary Sessions

Top: Building where parliament met; Grassalkovich palace. Center: Archbishop's palace; fortress. Bottom: City view. St. Martin's Church has a copy of the Holy Crown on top of the steeple.

Pozsony, City of Coronations and Parliamentary Sessions

Erika Papp Faber

Pozsony first entered Hungarian history with the victory won here by the Hungarians against the Margrave of Bavaria and the King of East Francia in 907 (see the July-August 2015 issue of Magyar News Online), a victory so skillfully carried out that it is taught to this day at  West Point.  In the 1050s, another Hungarian victory was achieved here when the diver Búvár Kund drilled holes in the ships of the besieging Germans so that they sank, and the Germans were forced to withdraw.

The fortress of Pozsony overlooking the city offered serious defense.  In the 13th century, the Mongolians did not take Pozsony, and when the Turks were on their way to Vienna in the 17th century, they too left it alone.  

After the Battle of Mohács, the Turks burned Buda, although they did not yet capture it.  Nevertheless, Pozsony was made the capital in 1536.  Between 1552 and 1784, the Holy Crown of Hungary was kept here.  Referring to this, the spire of the Church of St. Martin is topped with a replica of the Holy Crown, weighing 150 kilograms.  (It was from this church that the coronation procession wound its way to the Franciscan church.)

Between 1563 and 1830, 11 Habsburg kings and 8 queens were crowned in this city.  Coronations always provided a grandiose spectacle, a celebration for which many members of the nobility assembled and stayed for a protracted period of time.

They built magnificent palaces which still adorn the streets and squares.  Among them was the Grassalkovich family, whose palace is now the residence of the Slovak president.  Some other families of the nobility whose residences can still be seen are the Zichys, the Csákys, the Esterházys and the Apponyis.

The archbishop’s palace was where the Peace of Vienna was signed in 1805, after Napoleon’s victory at Austerlitz.  It was also the locale where Austrian General Haynau signed the death sentences for the 13 generals of the Freedom Fight of 1848-49.

It was here in Pozsony that the diet or parliament (országgyülés) held its sessions.   Two in particular had major historic implications.  During the diet of 1687, the nobility renounced their right to elect the king, and accepted the Habsburg’s rule of male succession.  Perhaps even more important was their surrender of their right to organize resistance against the king (known as ius resistendi, guaranteed them by the Golden Bull – the Aranybulla – of 1222) if the king ever became disloyal to the people. Thus it may be said that the nobility thereby sealed Habsburg domination over Hungary.

Another  historic Pozsony diet was the last one, that of 1847-1848, at which Kossuth demanded  a constitution for all the provinces of the Habsburg empire, freeing the serfs, establishing a representative parliament, and an independent responsible ministry.  (These became part of the 12 demands of the Revolution of 1848 – see March 2017 issue of MNO.)

Three colleges were also founded in  Pozsony:

1) the Academia Istropolitana, founded by King Mátyás in 1465-67, but closed after his death.  (It was the third Hungarian university, after Pécs, 1367, and Buda, 1395)

2) Jesuit university founded here by Pázmány Péter c.1630, but it was established in Nagyszombat

3) the Emericanum, founded in 1642, as the seminary of the Esztergom diocese.  It functioned as such until 1919. 

Pozsony was also a center for music.  Mozart and Haydn premiered some of their compositions here, and this is where Liszt at age 9 perfomed his third public concert.  Bartók Béla was sent here to study music.

While much of the city’s Hungarian history can be traced through its buildings, it was one of the casualties of the Treaty of Trianon.  Today, it is known as Bratislava and is the capital of Slovakia where Hungarian is rarely heard.