Discovering Vas County
Vas County lies in western Hungary, at the foot of the Alps and the big Hungarian plain. It shares borders with Austria and Slovenia and the Hungarian counties Győr-Moson-Sopron, Veszprém and Zala.
Its area is 3 336 km² and its population is 256 427.
The capital of Vas County is Szombathely, built upon the ruins of Savaria, the ancient seat of the Roman Pannonia Superior province.
The major towns in Vas County are Kőszeg, Sárvár, Celldömölk, Körmend, Szentgotthárd, Vasvár, Csepreg, and Répcelak.
For thousands of years the inhabitants of Vas County have carefully been cultivating this land of endless beauties. The county history has been defined by labor, religion and culture. Where East meets West, where North meets South, where the Alps dissolve into valleys and rivers, where roughness turns into something smooth… there you can find Vas County, the heart of the Pannonia region.
Archaeologists have uncovered buildings from a settlement around the Neolithic period in the village of Sé. Houses and adjacent farm buildings with ridge-poles from the Bronze and Iron Ages were found during excavations at the Saint Vid church in the village of Velem.
The administrative, commercial and religious center, founded as the city of Savaria, now the county seat, Szombathely, shows the lasting work of master architects of the Amber road, leading through the Roman province of Pannonia. The glorious remnants of this road and Europe’s most northern Isis Temple are definitely worthwhile a visit.
The churches in the villages of Csempeszkopács, Velemér, and Ôriszentpéter bear traces of the Árpád-age (1000-1301 A.D.). In the village of Ják you can see a true architectural beauty, as the Saint George church is one of the most important buildings of the early Middle Ages and the Hungarian sacred architecture.
In the vicinity of the settlements of Vasvár and Karakó you can find early fortifications made from soil. Castles like the ones in the towns of Köszeg and Sárvár, possess elements of Gothic military architecture, enriched with a touch of the Renaissance.
In 316 A.D. one of the most popular Christian saints of the Middle Ages, Saint Martin, the bishop of Tours, was born in Szombathely.
Various tribes ruled over the area of Vas county: the Huns, Goths and Langobards from the first third of 5th century B.C., the Avars in the second half of the 6th century and the Franks in the 9th century. After the raids from the 9th to the 10th century B.C., the western part of Hungary became a guarded border area, gyepű. After the establishment of the Hungarian feudal system several important castles were built here in order to uphold royal interests.
In the second half of the 13th century the royal administrative centers were replaced by centers governed by the Noblesse, this new frame of public administration brought greater safety for the county and its borders for almost seven centuries ahead.
The expansion of the Ottoman Empire that reached Hungary in the 16th century did have a huge impact on the life of people in Vas County – despite the fact that the county itself has never fallen under Turkish rule – as in the course of Turkish invasion a large number of Croatians settled here, thus enlarging the population of Hungarian, German and Slovene origin.
Because of the Ottoman threat, in 1578 the clerics from Vasvár moved to Szombathely and from that day on, the city could be regarded as the seat of the county. There were two military events of key importance in the course of the Turkish wars: the first was the battle of Kőszeg in 1532 when the outnumbered defenders of Kőszeg Castle lead by Miklos Jurisics successfully withheld the siege of Turkish troops, and the second was the fierce battle of Szentgotthárd in 1664 when Christian armies conquered the Turks.
In the late period of Feudalism several aristocratic families lived in Vas County: the Batthyány, Erdődy, Eszterházy, Festetics, Nádasdy and Szécsenyi families. They held important national public functions and excelled in patronizing culture and science. The 18th century brought a peaceful and well-balanced development for the cities and villages of the county. Under the Empress Maria Therese a new Episcopal diocese was established with Szombathely as the seat. János Szily, the first bishop in Szombathely, was a man of outstanding qualities. He established the seminary, the Bishops’ Palace and the Cathedral and the Library of the Diocese.
The intellectual movements of the Enlightenment and the Reform era influenced the county as well. Szombathely took over the role of Kőszeg and became the most important commercial center of the entire region. Lajos Batthyany, Prime Minister of the first independent responsible Hungarian Government in March 1848, was a landowner here. In 1965 Vas County joined the national and international railway network with the opening of the Sopron – Szombathely – Nagykanizsa railway line. This lead to intensive economic development, beneficial to the industry, agriculture and infrastructure. Significant factories, primarily in the engineering, textile and milling industry started operating in the county. New quarters came into existence and monumental constructions and investments for public and personal use were launched.