Szeged (Hungarian pronunciation: [ˈsɛɡɛd]) is the third largest city of Hungary, the largest city and regional centre of the Southern Great Plain and the county seat of Csongrád county. The University of Szeged is one of the most distinguished universities in Hungary.
Szeged is situated near the southern border of Hungary, just to the south of the mouth of the Maros River, on both banks of the Tisza River, nearly in the centre of the Carpathian Basin. Due to the high hours of sunlight reported annually, Szeged is often called ‘the city of sunshine’. Szeged is one of the centres of the food industry in Hungary, especially known for its paprika, Székelygulyás, Szegedi Halászlé and Pick Salami.
The famous Szeged Open Air (Theatre) Festival (first held in 1931) is one of the main attractions, held every summer. The Day of the City celebrated on May 21 connected with Hungary’s largest wine festival.
The National Theatre of Szeged opened in 1883. It is one of the most beautiful eclectic neo-baroque buildings of the town rebuilt from its ruins. Its splendid elegance was given to it by Ferdinand Felner and Hermann Helmer, two theatre architects from Vienna. The semicircular facade is ornamented by the allegoric figures of theatrical art and we can see the statues of József Katona and Ferenc Erkel in the niches on the two sides. The theatre has three sections – opera, dance and drama – the larger building giving place to operas and major plays, while the nearby smaller theatre in Horváth Mihály Street is a home for drama and The Contemporary Ballet of Szeged.
The home of the Móra Ferenc Museum is the most impressive product of the building fever of the millennium in Szeged: the Palace for Public Education built in neo-classicist style in 1896. The entrance hall with Corinthian columns covered by a tympanum, the symmetrical structure and the white walls radiate calm dignity. It was intended to give place to the museum of the city and Somogyi Library. During the directorship of Ferenc Móra (1917-34) the series of exhibitions expanded, storerooms and restoration workrooms were created. Being a writer and a journalist as well, the director took part in ethnographic fieldwork and he made his mark as an archaeologist by doing excavations in the larger surroundings of Szeged. There is also a room in the museum bearing his name with his personal belongings. The museum offers an ethnographic exhibition of crafts in Szeged, a presentation of the history of pharmacy and a permanent collection of fine arts, all these being animated by temporary exhibitions of great value.
The city’s architectural heritage is not so old – beause of the Great Flood in 1879. The most iconic building of Szeged is Votive Church. After the Great Flood destroying the city, the people of Szeged made an oath to build a majestic catholic church. The Votive Church was consecrated on 24th October, 1930. The cathedral of Our Lady of Hungary is the fourth largest church in the country. Its architecture is characterised by the mixture of Roman, gothic and eastern Byzantine style elements. Its interior features curiosities like the organ with 9,040 pipes, the image of Madonna dressed in shepherds felt cloak and Szeged slippers, as well as the statue ‘Christ on the Cross’ by János Fadrusz, who won the main prize at Paris World’s Fair in 1900.
The oldest architectural relic of Szeged is St. Demetrius Tower stands outside the Votive church. The remain of the church erected in honour of Saint Demetrius of Thessaloniki living in the 4th century is called the Dömötör Tower by the people of Szeged. Its foundation under the present ground level is from the 11th century, its lower, roman style part is from the 12th century while its early gothic levels were probably built in the 13th century. During the course of the construction of the Votive Church, the tower, almost pulled down, could survive as the baptizing chapel of the church. It was that time when Vilmos Aba-Novák painted the frescos ‘Baptism of Christ’ on the walls of the tower.
Famous People of the City
Albert Szent-Györgyi was a Hungarian biochemist who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1937. He is credited with discovering vitamin C and the components and reactions of the citric acid cycle. His sculpture stands at the stairs of the Rector’s Office (University of Szeged). In 1920 he became an assistant at the University Institute of Pharmacology in Leiden and from 1922 to 1926 he worked with H. J. Hamburger at the Physiology Institute, Groningen, The Netherlands. In 1927 he went to Cambridge as a Rockefeller Fellow, working under F. G. Hopkins, and spent one year at the Mayo Foundation, Rochester, Minnesota, before returning to Cambridge. In 1930 he obtained the Chair of Medical Chemistry at the University of Szeged and in 1935 he also took the Chair in Organic Chemistry.