The city Sopianae was founded by Romans at the beginning of the 2nd century, in an area peopled by Celts and Pannoni tribes. By the 4th century, it became the capital of Valeria province and a significant early Christian center. The early Christian necropolis is from this era which became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in December 2000.
Its episcopate was founded in 1009 by Stephen I, and the first university in Hungary was founded in Pécs in 1367 by Louis I the Great.. Pécs was formed into one of the cultural and arts center of the country by bishop Janus Pannonius, great humanist poet. Pécs has a rich heritage from the age of a 150-year-long Ottoman occupation, like the mosque of Pasha Qasim the Victorious on Széchenyi square.
Pécs always was a multicultural city where many cultural layers are encrusted melting different values of the history of two thousand years. Hungarians, Croatians and Swabians still live in peace together in economic and cultural polarity. In 1998 Pécs was given the UNESCO prize Cities for peace for maintaining the cultures of the minorities, and also for its tolerant and helping attitude toward refugees of the Yugoslav Wars. In 2007 Pécs was third, in 2008 it was second Livable city in the category of cities between 75,000 and 200,000 inhabitants.
In 2010, Pécs was selected to be the European Capital of Culture sharing the title together with Essen and Istanbul. The city's motto is: "The Borderless City". After receiving the title major renewal started in the city. Renewed public places, streets, squares and neighbourhoods, new cultural centers, a concert hall, a new library and center and a cultural quarter were designed.
The earliest name for the territory was its Roman name of Sopianæ. The name possibly comes from the plural of the Celtic sop meaning "marsh". Contrary to the popular belief, the name did not signify a single city (Sopianae: plural), and there are no traces of an encircling wall from the early Roman era, only from the 4th century.
The medieval city was first mentioned in 871 under the name Quinque Basilicae ("five cathedrals".) The name refers to the fact that when constructing the churches of the city, the builders used material from five old Christian chapels. In later Latin documents the city was mentioned as Quinque Ecclesiae ("five churches", a name identical in meaning to the German name Fünfkirchen and the Slovak name Päťkostolie.)
The name Pécs appears in documents in 1235 in the word Pechyut (with modern spelling: pécsi út, means "road to/from Pécs"). In Turkish "beş" (pronounced [beʃ]) means 5. The name is first recorded after the Mongol invasion of Europe. In other languages: in Latin, Quinque Ecclesiae; in Croatian, Pečuh; in Serbian, Печуј / Pečuj; in Slovak, Päťkostolie; in Czech, "Pětikostelí"; and in German, Fünfkirchen.
Pécs is located in Central Europe, in the Carpathian Basin, in a southern Hungarian county, center of Baranya. It is bordered by Mecsek from the north, and a plain from the south. Pécs has a significant mining past. Mecsek dolomitic water is famous for its high density of minerals at constant poise.
The city of Pécs is located near to the border of Croatia. Its southern part is rather plain whereas its northern part belongs to slope of the Mecsek mountain. It has a very favorable climate by the border of a still flourishing woody area. During the hot summer nights a cooling air streams down from Mecsek to clean the air of the city.
Pécs is open from the south. Mecsek lifts up to 400–600 meters from the Pécsi plain of about 120–130 meters. Jakab-hill, located in western Mecsek, is 592m high, Tubes, straight above Pécs, is 612 m, and Misina is 535 m. Higher parts of the city climb up to 200–250 m, mainly Pécsbánya, Szabolcsfalu, Vasas and Somogy. Graveyards pulled back to a relatively small area. Woody areas generally start from about 300 m height. Mecsek is divided by several valleys which have key role in ameliorating the climate of the city without lakes and rivers. Waters coming down from Mecsek are collected by Pécsi water under the east-west rail road leading them eventually to the Danube.
The area has been inhabited since ancient times, with the oldest archaeological findings being 6,000 years old. Before the Roman era the place was inhabited by Celts. When Western Hungary was a province of the Roman Empire (named Pannonia), the Romans founded several wine-producing colonies under the collective name of Sopianae where Pécs now stands, in the early 2nd century.
The centre of Sopianae was where the Postal Palace now stands. Some parts of the Roman aqueduct are still visible. When Pannonia province was divided into four administrative divisions, Sopianae was the capital of the division named Valeria.
In the first half of the 4th century, Sopianae became an important Christian city. The first Christian cemeteries, dating back to this age, are inscribed on the World Heritage List. By the end of the century, Roman rule weakened in the area, mostly due to attacks by Barbarians and Huns.
When Charlemagne arrived in the area, it was ruled by Avars. Charlemagne, after conquering the area, annexed it to the Holy Roman Empire. It belonged to the Diocese of Salzburg.
A document written in Salzburg in 871 is the first document mentioning the early medieval city under the name Quinque Basilicae (see above). During the 9th century, the city was inhabited by Slavic and Avar peoples and was part of the Balaton Principality, a Frankish vassal state.
According to György Györffy's theory from place names, after the Hungarians conquered the Carpathian Basin, they retained a semi-nomadic lifestyle changing pastures between winter and summer and Árpád's winter quarters -clearly after his occupation of Pannonia in 900- were perhaps in Pécs. Later, Comitatus of Baranya was established, the capital of the comitatus was not Pécs but a nearby castle, Baranyavár ("Baranya Castle".) Pécs, however, became an important religious centre and episcopal seat. In Latin documents, the city was mentioned as Quinque Ecclesiae. Around 1000, the area was inhabited by the Black Magyars. The Deed of Foundation of the Diocese of Pécs was issued in 1009.
Peter Orseolo, the second king of Hungary was buried in the cathedral in 1046. The location of his grave is unknown. This is because in 1064, when King Solomon made peace with his cousin, the later King Géza I, they celebrated Easter in Pécs. Shortly after the cathedral burnt down. The cathedral that stands today was built after this, in the second half of the 11th century.
Several religious orders settled down in Pécs. The Benedictine order was the first in 1076. In 1181, there was already a hospital in the city. The first Dominican monastery of the country was built in Pécs in 1238.
King Louis the Great founded a university in Pécs in 1367 following the advice of William, the bishop of Pécs, who was also the king's chancellor. It was the first university in Hungary. The founding document is almost word for word identical with that of the University of Vienna, stating that the university has the right to teach all arts and sciences, with the exception of theology.
In 1459, Janus Pannonius, the most important medieval poet of Hungary became the bishop of Pécs. He strengthened the cultural importance of the city.
After the Battle of Mohács (1526) in which the invading Ottoman army defeated the armies of King Louis II, the armies of Suleiman occupied Pécs. Not only was a large part of the country occupied by Ottomans, the public opinion of who should be the king of Hungary was divided, too. One party supported Ferdinand of Habsburg, the other party crowned John Zápolya in Székesfehérvár. The citizens of Pécs supported Emperor Ferdinand, but the rest of Baranya county supported King John. In the summer of 1527 Ferdinand defeated the armies of Szapolyai and was crowned king on November 3. Ferdinand favoured the city because of their support, and exempted Pécs from paying taxes. Pécs was rebuilt and fortified.
In 1529, the Ottomans captured Pécs again, and went on a campaign against Vienna. The Ottomans made Pécs to accept King John (who was allied with them) as their ruler. John died in 1540. In 1541, the Ottomans occupied the castle of Buda, and ordered Isabella, the widow of John to give Pécs to them, since the city was of strategic importance. The citizens of Pécs defended the city against the Ottomans, and swore loyalty to Ferdinand. The emperor helped the city and defended it from further Ottoman attacks, but his advisers persuaded him into focusing more on the cities of Székesfehérvár and Esztergom instead of Pécs. Pécs was preparing for the siege, but a day before, Flemish and Walloon mercenaries fled from the city, and raided the nearby lands. The next day in June 1543 the Bishop himself went to the Ottomans with the keys of the city.
After occupying the city, the Ottomans fortified it and turned it into a real Ottoman city. The Christian churches were turned into mosques; Turkish baths and minarets were built, Qur'an schools were founded, there was a bazaar in place of the market. For a hundred years the city was an island of peace in a land of war. She was a sanjak centre in Budin Eyalet at first and Kanije Eyalet later as "Peçuy".
In 1664, Croat-Hungarian nobleman Nicholas Zrínyi arrived in Pécs, with his army. Since the city was well into the Ottoman territories, they knew that even if the occupy it, they could not keep it for long, so they planned only to pillage it. They ravaged and burned the city but could not occupy the castle. Mediaeval Pécs was destroyed forever, except the wall encircling the historical city, a single bastion(Barbakán), the network of tunnels and catacombs beneath the city, parts of which are closed down, other parts are in possession of the famous Litke champagne factory, and can be visited today. Several Turkish artifacts also survived, namely three mosques, two minarets, remnants of a bath over the ancient Christian tombs near the cathedral, and several houses, one even with a stone cannonball embedded in the wall.
After the castle of Buda was wrested from Ottoman rule in 1686, the armies went to capture the rest of Pécs. The advance guards could break into the city and pillaged it. The Ottomans saw that they could not hold the city, and burnt it, and withdrew into the castle. The army led by Louis of Baden occupied the city on 14 October and destroyed the aqueduct leading to the castle. The Ottomans had no other choice but to surrender, which they did on 22 October (see Siege of Pécs).
The city was under martial law under the command of Karl von Thüngen. The Viennese court wanted to destroy the city first, but later they decided to keep it to counterbalance the importance of Szigetvár, which was still under Ottoman rule. Slowly the city started to prosper again, but in the 1690s two plague epidemics claimed many lives. In 1688 German settlers arrived. Only about one quarter of the city's population was Hungarian, the others were Germans or Southern Slavs. According to 1698 data, South Slavs comprised more than a half of the population of the town. Because Hungarians were only a minority of the population, Pécs did not support the revolution against Habsburg rule led by Francis II Rákóczi, and his armies pillaged the city in 1704.
A more peaceful era started after 1710. Industry, trade and viticulture prospered, manufactures were founded, a new city hall was built. The feudal lord of the city was the Bishop of Pécs, but the city wanted to free itself from episcopal control. Bishop George Klimó, an enlightened man (who founded the first public library of the country) would have agreed to cede his rights to the city, but the Holy See forbade him to do so. When Klimó died in 1777, Queen Maria Theresa quickly elevated Pécs to free royal town status before the new bishop was elected. This cost the city 83,315 forints.
According to the first census (held in 1787 by the order of Joseph II), there were 1,474 houses and 1,834 families in Pécs, a total of 8,853 residents, of which 133 were priests and 117 were noblemen.
In 1785, the Academy of Győr was moved to Pécs. This academy eventually evolved into a law school. The first stonework theatre of the city was built in 1839.
The industry developed a lot in the second half of the 19th century. By 1848, there were 1,739 industrial workers. Some of the manufactures were nationally famous. The iron and paper factories were among the most modern ones of the age. Coal mining was relevant. A sugar factory and beer manufactures were built, too. The city had 14,616 residents.
During the revolution in 1848–49, Pécs was occupied by Croatian armies for a short time, but it was freed from them by Habsburg armies in January 1849.
After the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867 Pécs developed, like all the other cities and towns of the country. From 1867, Pécs is connected to the nearby town Barcs by railway, and since 1882 it is also connected to Budapest. In 1913, a tram system has been founded, but it was extinguished in 1960.
At the end of World War I, Baranya county was occupied by Serbian troops, and it was not until August 1921 that Pécs could be sure that it remains part of Hungary. The University of Pressburg (modern-day Bratislava, Slovakia) was moved to Pécs after Hungary lost Pressburg according to the Treaty of Trianon.
During World War II, Pécs suffered only minor damages, even though a large tank-battle took place 20–25 kilometres (12–16 miles) south of the city, close to the Villány area late in the war, when the advancing Red Army fought its way towards Austria.
After the war, development became fast again, and the city grew, absorbing several nearby towns. In the 1980s, Pécs already had 180,000 inhabitants.
After the end of Socialist era (1989–1990), Pécs and its county, like many other areas, were hit hard by the changes, the unemployment rate was high, the mines and several factories were closed, and the war in neighboring Yugoslavia in the 1990s affected the tourism.
Pécs was also the centre of the Nordic Support Group (NSG) consisting of units from Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Poland, as part of the IFOR and later SFOR NATO deployments, after the Dayton Agreement and following peace in former Yugoslavia; the first units were deployed to Pécs in late 1995 and early 1996. The NSG handled the relaying of supply, personnel and other logistical tasks between the participating countries and their deployed forces in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Necropolis of Sopianae (UNESCO World Heritage Site)
Population by nationalities (2001 census):
Population by denominations (2001 census):
Located in the midst of an agricultural area, Pécs is the natural hub of local products. Until some years ago, it had a coal mine and even a Uranium mine. Several factories exist, but after the fall of the Iron Curtain many have not managed the transition well. There is a gradual development of modern high-tech industry, with Finnish electronics manufacturing company Elcoteq the largest industrial employer in the city. Pécs has a nationally (and to a limited extent internationally) famous porcelain factory. The Zsolnay Porcelain has a special iridescent finish — called "eozin". One of the walls of a local McDonald's franchise (on the Main Square) is decorated with Zsolnay Porcelain tiles (as well as the walls and roofs of several public buildings). The Pécsi Sörfőzde (Pécs Brewery) is one of the four main Hungarian breweries, and produces a special beer, which is not strained before bottling. Pécs is also known for its leatherworking industry.
The University of Pécs was founded by Louis I of Hungary in 1367. It is the oldest university in Hungary, and is among the first European universities. The POTE (Pécs University Medical School, now known as the Medical School) has a large English program for general medicine and dentistry (with students from America, Asia, Africa, and European countries - including many Scandinavians) and a new German program. On 1 January 2000 these universities were combined under the name University of Pécs (acronym: PTE - Pécsi Tudományegyetem - University of Pécs).
Although during the last decade connecting main routes inside the city has been an ongoing project, because of their insufficient lengths, this could not free the city from cross traffic. The recently inaugurated M6 motorway may prove to be a solution for this problem.
Pécs is connected to Budapest through Pusztaszabolcs, and has direct connections to Mohács, Nagykanizsa.
Designed by Ferenc Pfaff, the main railway station was built in 1900 and became a listed building in 2008. The building itself was built in the style of Renaissance Eclecticsm, and it features reliefs depicting James Watt and George Stephenson designed by Klein Ármin and made by Zsolnay factory The building is rather dilapidated, however, renovation was commenced in late 2011 A mass transit hub -including a bus terminal, a bus stop and a cab rank zone- is situated on the square in front of the railway station.
Mercedes and Ikarus buses provide the only form of public transport in Pécs, though a tram line did operate from 1913 to 1960, when it was shut down due to changing transportation policy. Most of the remnants of this older system have been removed, though a few rails may still be seen around the city. Recently, the possibility of a new tramway was again discussed, Pécs having joined the Civitas program with Debrecen. Due to expense this plan was not realized, although analysts claim that the structure of the city and the intensity of its traffic could make a tramway an efficient mode of public transport. In 2010, the city council proposed opening a study for a new tramway. In the most idealistic situation, however, said tramway would only open in 2014.
A new airport opened in Pécs Pécs-Pogány International Airport in March 2006. Its main traffic is supplied by smaller charter planes. As of June 2010, there will be aerial transportation from Pécs to Korfu and Burgas (Bulgaria). It will be the same plane (Embraer 120) with about thirty passengers aboard as before, during the previous summers.