Szentes with its 30.000 inhabitants is the third most populous settlement in Csongrád County. Situated in the South East of the Great Plain it is very lucky not only because of the high number of sunny hours, but because its richness in thermal water.
Szentes is located near the Tisza, the second biggest river of Hungary. The small but youthful town receives the representatives of economy, sports, culture and tourism with a warm welcome; it is open for the other people and takes pride in showing its own values. Szentes is bound up with several Hungarian and foreign settlements thus making it possible for their inhabitants to co-operate with each other in all parts of life. Based on the outstanding activity between the sister-towns, personal exchange programs, effective charity works and the town’s European intellectuality, Szentes received the European Diploma and the Flag of Honour. In addition to this, in 2009, it was awarded European Plaquette, the Council of Europe’s second highest ranking award. On 13 April 2010 the Minister of Education and Culture has given the „Town of Statues” title to the town. As the townspeople lead a very active life in 1996 ‘National Sports Town’ title was awarded to Szentes. The most significant sport in the town is water polo but the members of various dance clubs have also achieved outstanding results just like the sportsmen of Kyokushin Karate club who became multiple Hungarian Champions. The town raises Hungarian-, European and World Champions in other combat sports as well, and in many other sports it is the most important centre of the rising generation.
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The Local Government of Szentes has been making remarkable efforts to restore the most significant buildings of the town and to reconstruct its squares and parks. It is very important that the buildings and monuments that dominate the townscape should be functional and also commanding in their appearance. As a result of this effort the old County Hall has been renewed that is functioning now as a Conference Centre and became the home of the Archives and the Koszta József Museum. Szent Miklós Square and Kossuth Square, the latter is the biggest square of the town, were given a new design, Nagy Ferenc Street became a pedestrian area, and the Great Reformed Church was restored just like Kiss Bálint Street. All these helped to create an attractive townscape that welcomes visitors. The reconstruction of Hotel Petőfi is proceeding and its importance lies not only in its central location but because it will greatly expand the town’s accommodation capacity.
The orderly parks, swimming pools and sport fields offer excellent facilities for relaxing to young and elderly, and the magical effects of the town’s thermal spa, the silence of its museum and art gallery are all waiting to be discovered. The tourism of Szentes is enriched by the bustling cultural life, architectural work of arts and its natural environment. The attractions of the surrounding towns and villages, the programmes in Szentes, foreign connections of the big companies, the town’s developed agriculture and last but not least the partnership towns prove Szentes’ significant activity in Europe and its twisting development. The most popular programs of the town are: the Winter Farewell Carnival, held every year in the last weekend of February, the Cultural Festival and Walking with Chinese lanterns on 30th April, the Kurca Regatta, that is in the middle of July, Saint Stephen’s (Szent István) Days on 20th August, the Letcho Festival, held in the first weekend of every September and the Square Festival also held in September, usually in the third weekend.
The Széchenyi Grove and the Csallány Gábor Exhibition Place
We start our trip in Széchenyi Grove, the ‘island of experience’, where, apart from thermal, experience, swimming and children pools, slides, playgrounds and tennis courts, peaceful green area is waiting for the visitors. Széchenyi Grove is located in the heart of the town about 500 meters from the town centre. The grove that is girdled with the channel Kurca is one of the most beautiful creations of the town which was completed in 1869. Part of the grove was turned into a botanical garden and we can find sycamore, white and red linden, white birch, catalpa, white horse-chestnut tree, cornelian cherry etc. among the trees. In 1894, as a result of reorganization, the park was expanded with different pine trees. In 2010, during the reconstruction of the park, more than 3000m2 area was turned into a lawn and about 1000 pieces of arboreal was planted by the Local Government. The 50 most typical bushes and tree types in the park are marked with botanic signs. The park, with its 7 acres located in line with Csongrádi Street and with the Kurca flowing around it, is a nature reserve and it is also the most important area of the tourism of Szentes. A 100 years old sycamore alley is lining along the Kurca to the entrance of the swimming pool. At the entrance of the park there is a World War II monument (by Máté István in1989) and a Széchenyi- column (by Pataki Sándor wood-carver). As we go along the Kurca towards the swimming pool first we can see the building of the ex- Turkish bath that is now functioning as a Family Help Centre. It was built in 1869 in Classicist style. In the beginning it was used as a Turkish bath later as a salty bath. When we move on towards the centre of the park we can glimpse at Csallány Gábor Exhibition Hall of the Koszta József Museum. The building that originally functioned as a restaurant was built in Classicist style in 1869 and since 1949 it has been a museum. In front of the main entrance, the Paris Grand Prix winner Navvy Statue by Borbereki Kovács Zoltán is erected to commemorate the brave navvies working on the continual archaeological excavations. In the garden of the museum the Zsoldos-Well (1891) commemorates the most important industrial dynasty of the town. Behind the building of the former Turkish bath there is the open-air artesian swimming pool which was opened in 1896 and has been the most popular place among young people ever since.
Szentes Holiday resort
If you want something different than the crowd of the posh holiday resorts Szentes is a perfect place to spend a few days with your family in quiet and peaceful surroundings near the waters. The open-air summer artesian swimming pool, behind the building of the Turkish bath, was completed in 1896. The swimming pool or strand, as Hungarians say, is a perfect place for passive and active holiday makers as well. Thermal pools, sauna and bubbling baths are waiting for those who like resting in calmness; for sportsmen swimming pools and slides are offered, and for the smallest ones there are two paddling pools with mini slide and babble. The holiday resort is the home of the various swimming competitions, water polo matches and festivals. It is also possible to rent water bikes and boats, to play mini golf, badminton, foot tennis and basketball or beach volleyball; angling and night swimming linked with movie watching. Intimate brick and wooden bungalows provide accommodation for the guests but it is also possible to camp in tents or caravans. There are snack bars lining along the partly covered dining area and Liget Restaurant is inviting the hungry guests opposite the tennis courts. The swimming pool’s services are also available in wintertime because the 25 and the 33 meter swimming pools are covered with a tent and the outdoor swimming pools are filled with hot thermal water. Only the people of Szentes know the word ‘brűg’ which means the unforgettable experience of enjoying the hot thermal water outside in winter, occasionally in the snowfall. Szentes gives perfect opportunities from the young to the old to remain healthy or to recover from an illness whether alone or with family. Apart from expanding the services of the Holiday resort and experience pools in Széchenyi Grove a new area will be joined in the tourism that is connected to the swimming pool along the channel Kurca. The realization of the planned hotel, adventure and Fairytale Park and the so called Kurca Plage that is framed in the area of the Holiday resort will give new dimensions in the tourism of the town.
The first tennis court was created in 1897, especially for the pleasure of the high society of the town. Today there are 15 tennis courts; two of them are covered in winter. As we go along the Grove towards the Kurca we can see the swimming fountains with their 9 meter high water-spout which help to improve the river’s oxygen-supply. The two floodlit fountains give a spectacular sight at night that is unique in the country. The only similar fountain can be found in the Lake of Geneva in Switzerland (with a 150 meter high water-spout). The Esperanto Bridge is also in this reach of the river. The 1.5 meter wide and 45 meter long, wooden pedestrian bridge that stands on 24 oaken piles was built in August 1981 and it connects Kisér (the Lower part of the town) with Széchenyi Grove. The name of the bridge commemorates the National Esperanto Peace Meeting held in Szentes in 1982. The Esperanto Bridge had a complete reconstruction in 2010.
Dózsa House and the sport fields
Dózsa House with the sport fields, the former handball court and the bike-and skate-park are located on the other side of Csongrádi Street.
Dózsa House was built between 1932 and 1937 in neo-romantic style, based on the plans of Antal Endre és Dobovszky József István. It was constructed by Vitéz Orgován János bricklayer from Szentes. The enormous oak standing in front of the building was planted at the time of the construction and a National Flag Pole was erected in 1942. In 2002 the building was restored with the help of the Local Government. At present it functions as a training hall for dancers and as a kayak-canoe renting place but the eastern side will be rebuilt where a Civil Community Hall will be formed by the Family Help Centre. In 1996 Szentes won the title ‘National Sports Town’. At that time it was possible to pursue a sport in a very high level as all the circumstances were ensured. Since then the different sport branches have gone through a very rapid technical development that needed to be followed and many new sports have come into existence like extreme sports. To be able to practise a Skate Park has been made which was opened in 2010. The high quality park is a popular place where more and more young people can skate or ride their BMX. The Sport Centre is planning to develop the area into an alternative leisure centre which would also include an open-air basketball court, a youth club and would provide cheap accommodation for the young. When we go about 2 kilometres along Csongrádi street, that leads out of the town, we can find the Tisza River with its sandy beach which offers a special summer experience for visitors and hundreds of locals too. Opposite the Tisza beach is the Water Administration Museum that displays the still working machines of the 19th century water environment with steam machines and other technical appliances. To reach this museum and the beach of the river we can enjoy the comfortable way of a cycling road that begins at the entrance of the Széchenyi Grove.
Szentes, with its squares opening into each other, opens the hearts and connects the people. Walking over the first stone bridge of the town, from the direction of Csongrád, we arrive at the square formed in 1914 and named after Queen Elisabeth. It was originally called Holy Trinity Square because of the Holy Trinity Statue (by Joblonszky Vince, 1886) situated in the western part of the square. The square shaped, plinth of the limestone statue is on a mount (with three steps) that was newly carved around 1980. On the four sides of the statue there is a pedestal holding a squared column with the Holy Trinity monument. On the sides of the column the statues of the four evangelists can be seen: in the front St. Mark, on the right St. Luke, on the left St John and behind them St Matthew. The square is surrounded by the Town Court, the St Elisabeth Catholic Primary School, the St Anne Roman Catholic Church and Presbytery and the side wings of the Town Hall and the former County Hall. In the middle of the square is the memorial of the heroes of the First World War (Pásztor János, 1926). On the south side is the St Elisabeth Catholic Primary School built in 1912 in Hungarian art nouveau style with a balcony and fleche on the façade. On the west side of the square is the building of the Town court (1911) which is linked to the catholic presbytery (1937) by arcades. The first Hungarian Royal Court began to operate in 1872 in a building rented from the town. The new building of the town court, built in art nouveau- eclectic style by Dobovszky József István local architect, was built on the place of the former building of the police. The two-storey, villa-like building was completed in 1911 but the offices could only move into it in 1912. On the composite entablature there was a mosaic coat of arms with the inscription “Hungarian Royal Court” but later when the building was whitewashed and the mosaic was removed.
Saint Anne Church
On the corner of St Imre Street that runs into Elisabeth Square is one of the most significant buildings of the town, the Roman Catholic St Anne Church. Apart from one tower the baroque church, built between 1764 and 1768, was demolished in 1844. The church acquired its present neo-classic form in 1847. During the build up the tower had another storey and it was completed in late neo-baroque style. The façade was fronted with circular head of windows. In the niches of the main façade the statues of St John and St Peter can be seen (1768). The most significant work of art inside the church is the altar and chapel of Suffering Mary (1852) left of the entrance, under the chancel. The main altar was erected for the glory of St Anne, the patron saint of the church. The painting of the main altar shows St Anne teaching little Mary for the Ten Commandments. The front painting shows St Stephen offering the Hungarian crown to Mary. The candleholder next to the main altar was made around 1800. There are two bye-altars on the two sides of the arch the triumph presenting the Holy Trinity on the left and the engagement of Virgin Mary and St Joseph on the right. The statue of Suffering Mary was made in 1886; the statue of St Anthony and the Crosswalk in 1892 and the statue of St Theresa were made in 1932. The art-nouveau style seccoes of the ceiling were painted by Endre Béla and Rudnay Gyula in 1910. The presbytery’s mosaic-like painting depicts the Annunciation, in the other pictures there are episodes from the lives of Jesus Christ and the Wise men. The secco of the arc the triumph: ‘Hungarian Saints’ reverence in front of the Eucharist’ is the work of Terney Béla, 1949. The organ (Rieger) has 18 main and 7 side pipes and it was made in Pécs by Angster József in 1889. Among the furniture of the church we have to mention the priest’s seat from 1760, which was made in baroque style with velvet cover and the wooden parts are gilded. The oak benches ornamented with shell carvings were made by Antal János (1846-1850). The open, neo-classical confessional is the work of Tar János (1892). The vestry was made around 1820. From the liturgical equipments of the church a vestment is significant from 1763, which is embroidered with pearls and roses, and the double coat of arms of Baron Harruckern Ferenc and his wife Diriing Mária Antonia is also embroidered in it. The church is home of various concerts. In the garden of the church the statue of St Joseph can be seen that was erected by Mrs Kiss in 1891.
Horváth Mihály Grammar School
The eclectic styled two-storey main building of Horváth Mihály Grammar School, which has a great history, was built of brick after Benkó Károly’s design in 1888 then, between 1915 and 1918 it was enlarged with flanks after Ybl Lajos’s design. The grammar school, which has been operating since 1859, is the most tarnished secondary school in Szentes. Its high standard language training and the special drama class which was founded first in the country made the school famous. In the assembly hall there is the life-sized portrait of Zolnay Károly who was a former headmaster and the organiser of the local secondary school system. In 1922 the eight-year grammar school was named after Horváth Mihály historian, the bishop of Csanád and the Minister of Religion and Public Education who was born in Szentes. Inside the school building we can see some former teachers and students’ memorial places such as Greskovits Péter alpinist’s embossment, Dr Négyesi László and Dr Barta János famous literary historians’ memorial plaques, and the triplet embossment of Zolnay Károly headmaster – the founder of the school – Derzsi Kovács Ferenc and Derzsi Kovács Jenő teachers. Outside, on the façade of the main entrance Dr Brusznyai Árpád the school’s former student’s plaque was placed in 1991 that died martyrdom in 1956. On the other side of the street is the Rendezvous Well of Máté istván (1991).
The Olympic Oak
As we walk along Szent Imre Herceg Street we arrive at the corner building of Petőfi Sándor primary School which used to be a Civil Girl School. The school was built after the plans of Bohn Alajos in 1912-13 in eclectic style. The main entrance is shaped as a tympanum with four round stone columns. In the entrance hall the school founder headmaster Papp Lajosné Gonda Júlia’s (1869- 1964) plaque can be seen that was placed by Csallány Gábor Circle of Friends of Museum in 1994. Downstairs and upstairs the corridors are decorated with pictures depicting the history of the school. On the façade of the main entrance is the plaque of the school’s first pioneer group formed in 1957. In front of the school, where Szent Imre herceg and Petőfi Sándor Street cross each other, stands the Olimpic Oak. Lőrinc Márton wrestler won the Summer Olympic Games of Berlin on 9 August 1936 in light weight. As he could not plant the English Oak (Quercus Robur) in his home village in Transylvania (Romania), Lőrinc offered it to Szentes, and planted here in 1937. The National Sports Town is very proud of the tree and takes good care of it.
Péter Pál Civic House Museum
At the corner of Petőfi Sándor and Iskola Street is Péter Pál Civic House, built around 1830 in classicist style with columns, and is the early example of brick buildings in the Great Plain. The house that has a beautiful garden and a cellar functions as a guest house as well. Among the collection of Péter Family’s everyday objects and documents civic documents of Szentes from between 1836—1945 are displayed here. Apart from the civic collection there is a medical history collection in the main building and musical instruments, textiles are also on display. Szendrey Ignác, Petőfi Sándor’s (the great poet of the 1848-49 revolution) strict father in law, had also spent a winter here in 1851 as the steward of the manor of Nagymágocs. Legendary scarcity of the exhibition is the great poet’s (Petőfi Sándor’s) cradle which was rocking here for a few days. In the yard of the building the local historic stone relics are exhibited which need to be restored. The front of the house that faces Petőfi Street has a cellar where the wine of the stewards was kept. The cellar is very unique in the Great Plain with its through vault made of brick that was burnt in Szentes. The restoration gave an exemplary emphasis on the clear elements of bricklaying techniques.
The House of Arts
The House of Arts is situated in the heart of the town next to Petőfi Hotel that was built in Hungarian art-nouveau style and it is run by Rainbow Basic Art School (Szivárvány Alapfokú Művészetoktatási Intézmény).The house was built around 1840 and until 1952 the richest citizens of the town owned it. In 1968 it was declared as a protected building. In the past decade the farthest chimney was occupied by storks that came back year after year to their nest so the people of the town call the house ‘Stork House’. In 2006 Szentes and its sister town Újszentes won a tender and from this money the house was restored to its original state thus becoming one of the most significant buildings of the town. The House of Arts offers wide range of cultural choices on a very high level. Its main task is to collect living handicraft traditions. Different exhibitions show the local handicraft’s present and past for the visitors, the works of those trades people who keep hundreds of year’s traditions alive. We can look into the workshops of the certain crafts and with the help of experts we can try their tools and learn different techniques. Apart from exhibitions the house is also centre of the documents of those crafts that are dying out. Together with Koszta József Museum they have set up a program series linked to the special days of the calendar for example: Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost. The House of Arts is also home of exhibitions, dance houses, theatre performances, basic art training and adult education of high standard. The closed yard and the main hall of the building is an ideal place for family, friends or business programs. Outside the building the work of Börönte László, local sculpture, can be seen presenting arts and craft works
At the end of Petőfi Sándor Street we arrive at the main square of the town, which has borne the name of Kossuth Lajos since 1892. The most beautiful public buildings of Szentes are situated around the former market place. Kossuth Lajos – accompanied by Jókai Mór and Vasvári Pál – drove through the present Ady Endre Street to the old County Hall on 1st October 1848. His statue by Tóth István was placed in 1934 to the south-east part of the square where Kossuth held his speech that had a great impression on the people of the town. The statue was later (1974) put in front of the old County Hall and finally, during the reconstruction of the square, it was placed in front of the Great Reformed Church. At present the statue of Horváth Mihály – the historian Bishop – (Kisfaludy Strobl Zsigmond, 1934) is standing in front of the old County Hall, just like in the 1960’s. The main building of the western part of Kossuth square is the commanding neo-renaissance building of the former County Hall (Makay Endre, 1883.). On its composite entablature the county’s oval coat of arms is to be seen with the statues of Justice and Minerva. On the arches of the large windows there are allegoric female figures symbolising different trades; from the left to the right agriculture, home-industry, shipping, hunting, trade and fishing. Today the building houses the Archives, the Koszta József Museum and it also functions as a conference centre. Formerly the town’s first artesian well (the third in the Great Plain) bored in 1885-1886 (Zsigmondi Béla) used to be in front of the County Hall. The well (312 meter), which was ornamented by a five-statue group that came from France, was demolished in 1934 but in 1996 the Local Government rebuilt it in Luther Square.
The Town Hall
The southern side of the Kossuth square is dominated by the Town Hall with its mansard roofed façade and a corner turret. The Town hall was built in 1911 according to the plans of Bohn Alajos architect who was born in Arad. (Dr. Mátéffy Ferenc mayor was the head of the building committee). The most important construction works were made by trades people of Szentes. The building that was built in neo-baroque style is lining Kossuth and Elisabeth Square with its two mansard roofed facades and it is joined by a 37 meter high round corner turret that includes the main entrance with oval windows and columns. The main staircase that is moderate in decoration diverges towards the two wings of the building. On the second floor is the old Kossuth bust (1898). The Assembly Hall with its gilded, baroque style stuccos and gallery is very different from the simple offices of the building. The Hall is decorated by the painted portraits of the former mayors of the town, the life-sized portrait of Kossuth Lajos and the cast model of Petőfi Sándor and the town founder Baron Harruckern János György’s bust. The meeting rooms and offices are decorated by the works of local artists: Halász Szabó Sándor, Katona Kiss Ferenc, Tokácsli Lajos, Berkecz István and many others. The façade overlooking the Kossuth Square is decorated by the town’s coat of arms made of colour majolica (replaced in 1989) and a plaque commemorating the year 1836 when the town was freed from the feudalist system.
Koszta József Museum
The main building of the western part of Kossuth Square is the commanding neo-renaissance building of the former County Hall (Makay Endre, 1883). Today it functions as a conference centre and home of the Archives and Koszta József Museum. The documents which contain information on Csongrád County, Szentes town and the old districts from the 18th century hitherto are preserved in the Archives and there is also a great collection of maps, posters and photographs. The earliest documents were placed in the store of the building in 1884. Apart from official work, the institution also helps in public education and cultural life. Elementary and secondary school teachers regularly hold consulting and irregular history lessons. Every year dozens of university students and expert historians visit the museum to collect records for their thesis. Their research is helped by the library (containing 13,000 historic books) and the press collection where all the old, local newspapers and the most important historic magazines can be found either in its original form or on microfilm. The permanent and temporary exhibitions of the museum display a large scale from the past until today. The most significant permanent exhibition of the museum is dedicated to Koszta József, the great painter of the town. There are also permanent ethnographical exhibitions about the life of Szentes throughout the centuries, its agricultural life, the different parts of the town and its religious denomination, the different trades and the flourishing fine arts of the town in the past and present. The exhibitions of the museum, and the programs linked to them, are important elements of the tourism of Szentes and its surrounding settlements. They give great opportunity not only to guided groups but for families as well.
The Great Calvinist Church
The northern side of the Kossuth Square is dominated by the beautiful early neo-classic Calvinist Church (1808-1826). The lower part of the tower – built in 1774 – has a round balcony that was used for fire observation. The church is one of the biggest in Hungary, it has the longest nave in the Great Plain and it is the town’s biggest building with its 3500 people holding capacity. The country’s only original and still working Angster-organ is here made by Angster József and his son, two masters from Pécs. In the place of the medieval church that burnt down in 1760 the reformed church built a new church according to the plans of Fischer Ágoston between 1808 and 1826. Kiss Bálint pastor also helped the master who came from Kecskemét and today the church belongs to the biggest churches of Hungary. The more than 40 meter tower is in classic style while the other parts of the building are built in late baroque style. The main entrance is stone framed with arch lintel construction. Near the tower’s blunt corners there are stanchions running. Above the basket arch there is a round protected by iron balustrade. The tower is covered by a stilted, ribbed, copper bell-dome. On the northern facade between the stanchions segment arch windows can be seen. The southern façade was strengthened with a line of 7 stanchions in 1891. The west end of the church follows a straight line with blunt corners and double-wing door crowned by segment arch lintel in the main axis and with a tympan above the crown cornice. In the 48 x 24 meter inner area there is an asymmetrical balcony on the north side of the nave and on its two short ends. The balcony’s parapet is decorated with festoon in “copf” style. The asymmetrical space is covered by two huge and two small domical vaults. The walnut pulpit was made in late “copf” style with gilded ledges and polished surface and with greyish blue marbled supports.
Among the church equipments there are 18th century arts and craft works: tin lamps and pots, cup and cover for the communion table. The clock on the spire – bought by the town – was made by Rauschmann horologist and set up by Kari Vitus in 1828. According to the tradition, this was the second horizontal clock in Hungary; the first was in the castle of Archduke Joseph, Palatine of Hungary in Alcsút. As a result of the exemplary co-operation of the clergy and the Local Government the church has been completely restored by 2008 and today it can be visited in its original splendour. Apart from religious ceremonies there are organ concerts and exhibitions here. Its exceptional acoustics allows classical- and pop concerts to be held as well.
Kiss Bálint Street
Kiss Bálint Street – former Templom köz (Church Alley) – -starts behind the Calvinist Church. Many of its buildings are preserved (Nr.1-12.). The name comes from Kiss Bálint (1772-1853) pastor of the Reformed Church, Renaissance man of his age, excellent naturalist. Number 2 is the classical, one-storied, villa-like Calvinist Vicarage with a veranda and high roof. (1836, Navaro Ferenc) This was the shelter of Vörösmarty Mihály (the great Hungarian poet) during the absolutism. After the reconstruction of the former Calvinist Apartment House (1887-88, Makay Endre) it functions today as the Old People’s Home of the Reformed Church. Its classical look perfectly matches with the style of Kossuth Square. The secession style building of number 8 with its brick decoration is the former Reformed Congregation (1906, Borsos József) where the old records and religious documents of the Reformed Church of Szentes are kept. Today it is the Reformed House of Prayer. In front of it the gypsum head sculpture of Kálvin János can be seen, made by Koncz sculptor of Szentes. The former service homes of teachers and choristers are also in this street. The buildings – apart from two – are all remained in their original forms. With the reconstruction of the street an original 19th century picture of Szentes bursts upon the view of the visitors. Kiss Bálint Street is closed by the commanding building of Lajtha László Music School, built in 1892-93 in early eclectic style that functioned as a casino until 1944.
Tóth József and Sima Ferenc Street
When we turn back to Elisabeth Square and walk north towards Tóth József Street, we can find the house, next to Kiss Bálint Calvinist Primary School, where Boros Sámuel the first Mayor of the town lived. The house is more than 200 years old and it used to be the home of the all-time judge of the town until it was given to the Mayor. On his recruiting tour Kossuth Lajos spent a night here in October 1 1848. According to contemporary letters it is presumable that Vörösmarty Mihály, our illustrious poet, and Bajza József, his brother in law, were also here as guests. Today the historic building is called Szin-es Vendégház and it functions as a guest house with five rooms. Tóth József the most significant dramatic actor of the past century was born in the one-storey building of 26 Tóth József Street. He was the member of the National Theatre from 1850 until 1867.
On the corner of Ady Endre and Sima Ferenc Street is the Thermal Spa, based on the model of Turkish baths. It was designed by Dávid Károly (1962) who was the designer of the Sports Stadium of Budapest. The temperature of the water under the dome is 35 °centigrade. The big swimming pool is surrounded by 4 smaller ones with different water temperature. The baths are supplied by the thermal well of the nearby hospital bored in 1957. The water comes from 1735 meter and its temperature is 71° centigrade. The medicinal water is suitable for the treatment of joint disorders, rheumatism and chronic gynaecological diseases. Apart from the different water -, and electro therapies there is a sanatorium functioning in the Baths with 15 beds. On the side of the outdoor swimming pool the sculpture of a female act by Segesdy György (1963) can be seen.
Dr. Bugyi István Hospital
The Dr. Bugyi István,. Hospital, responsible for the medical attendance of 3 counties, is at the end of Sima Ferenc Street. Its ornamented main building was built in 1902. The park of the hospital, cut into two by the Kurca channel, is a nature reserve. Here stands the statue of the little disobedient by Kisfaludi Strobl Zsigmond, which is one of the most beautiful statues of the town. Incomparable on the South Great Plain Region there is a Medical History Museum in the hospital. Its permanent exhibition displays the different objects and documents of the hospital. The group of statues in front of the clinic is symbolizing healing (Paulikovics Iván 1987). As we turn back towards the centre we can walk on the bank of the Kurca in picturesque surroundings. At 14-16. Tóth József Street is the Cultural House where concerts, exhibitions, theatre performances and professional forums are held. Next to the building is the so called „Gödör” (hole), the Youth Park with an open air stage, the home of different pop-, and rock concerts.
St Nicholas Church
Now we return to Kossuth Street and have a look at the sights of the main street. Right behind the six-storey building is the oldest historic relic of the town the St Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church. Because of the warlike circumstances in the first part of the 18th century several Greek trader families immigrated to Hungary and many of them settled down in Szentes. First they practised their original, orthodox religion secretly at private houses. In 1773 there were only 16 Greek inhabitants of the town but 10 years later their number grew to 114.
In 1781 Joseph II’s Edict of Tolerance allowed free exercise of religion for the Greek Orthodox, to build a church and to hold ceremonies with a priest as well. The wealthier Greek families of Szentes – Haris, Hadzsy, Gibba, Kálló, Gyuricza, and Papp – used this opportunity and founded their own religious communion in 1784 then in 1786 they consecrated their small church without a tower built in late Baroque style. At the beginning of the 1900’s a wooden-framed bell tower was added to the church named after St Nicholas. The present 22 meter high tower of the church was erected in 1927 based on the plans of Piti János bricklayer of Szentes. The church is rectangular in design with one nave and an apse. According to the symbolic layout of the Orthodox Church inside the building is divided into 3 main parts: the narthex (vestibule), the nave and the sanctuary. In the vestibule there is marble baptistery.
In front of the nave is the solea and on the left and right side are the pulpits for the choirs. At the back, or southern end of the church, is a dais with an icon-covered screen or wall separating the nave from the apse. It is a wooden framed wall made in “copf”style that has three levels. In the centre of this wall is the entrance to the altar known as the “Royal Doors” through which only the clergy may pass. On each side of this gate there are candle stands. In front of the iconostasis is the Bishop’s Chair. The nave is where most of the congregation stays. The 39 pictures of the stylized iconostasis decorated with gilded leaves and rose heads are placed in three zones: the throne iconostasis on the bottom, advocates and praying figures surrounding Jesus above, and the Golgotha cross-composition with the prophets on the top. On the royal door the Greeting of the Message of Joy while on the diaconal doors Michael archangel and the deacon picture of St. Stephen can be seen.
The wooden boards are painted with oil and the scripts are Greek. The throne iconostasis, depicting the Holy Mother with the Child and the Teaching Jesus, are not only excellent pieces of the master’s art, but of the whole group of Hungarian orthodox relics as well. In the niche of the southern façade of the church is a fresco (Kéri László) depicting St. Nicholas. Underneath, there is a built-in marble slab containing the names of the church founders. Next to the marble slab is a beautiful baroque marble cross. In the neighbourhood of the church is the Town Gallery. This is one of those galleries that were originally built to hold fine art exhibitions so its location and lights are perfect for this purpose. The exhibitions held in the Town Gallery are high quality events.
Fridrich Studio Atelier
This photographic studio is part of the Koszta József Museum with its special collection of photos at St Nicolas Square. The studio that was built in 1905 and restored in 1997 is the only one Studio Atelier of the countryside. On the wall of the building is the plaque of Rózsa Gábor local patriot engineer-museologist. Inside the building the photos of Fridrich János are exhibited together with his photographic equipments. Fridrich János photographer took excellent genre-and group photos in his sunny photographic studio before the time of electric lights. His laboratory worked with the light he received through the huge mirrors of the yard. He regularly took pictures with a unique, 90cm diameter, wooden standing camera and a wall projector also made of wood. With the changeable lens he could reconstruct the way of light without any distortion. Before the turn of the century he put his huge camera on a horse carriage and took outdoor photos with different direction techniques.
For the request of his procurers he made huge landscapes coloured with aniline paint. These were the so called photo posters. He also took part in the local programs with his modern camera. He often took pictures on the market, at schools, on weddings and in churches too. He took pictures of the significant buildings of the town and also the life of the farms. Friedrich used to like going to the Gypsy line where he brought “live” photos for his friends; he made the gipsies pose for a scene he imagined or saw. All of Koszta József painter’s paintings were recorded to glass negatives by Friedrich. His ethnographical pictures provide a good basis for local history and arts. On the walls of his studio there are some of these pictures exhibited the way they were put into the museum’s collection.
Memorial room of the Southern Region’s Post Office History
In the building of the post office of the main street is the Memorial Room of the Southern Region’s Post Office History. The exhibition was founded in 2003 by some postmen as a result of many decades’ collection work. Active and retired workers of the Southern Region continuously enrich the collection. In January 2009 2799 types of object (3928 pieces), documents and printed papers were displayed in 5 rooms. The first room contains the furniture and equipments of a 19th century post office with a contemporary post woman and a cyclist delivery postman.
The telephone intercom system exhibited here was made in the last century. It is still functioning and it can be tried out with the telephones connecting the rooms of the exhibition. The repertory includes the complete collection of the official editions of the “Orders of the Hungarian Royal Post” from 1867. There are also postcard- and numismatics collections, an old phone box with telephone, former everyday objects of railway postmen, old flags, caps, postman uniforms, school books, certificates, annals exhibited. Among the means of communication engineering there is a radio, the first Hungarian TV and a telex machine with punched tape.
Evangelical Church of Luther Square
Walking along Kossuth Square we arrive at Luther Square where the neo-gothic, brick Evangelical Church stands, based on the plans of Francsek Imre, 1905. The town gave the illuminating clock face of the spire to the church as a present.
The presentation ceremony was made by Bachát Dániel bishop. The windows are made of colourful glass mosaic, forming the scenes of Christ‘s life in the altar area. The slim steeple, the long, narrow lancet windows, emphasised buttresses, steep roofing, small spires and the rose window above the entrance are all referring to the most typical architectural elements of the gothic style making this church the clearest example of its style in the area. The architecture of the brick façade, the colourful glazed tiled roof, the tin gargoyles and the oaken door’s ornamented wrought iron are all remarkable. The gothic, white, wooden carved altar with the painting of “Jesus and the woman of Samaria” is the work of Hegedűs László artist of Szentes. The organ of the church is the donation of Widow Sulcz Endréné Francisti Mária to commemorate her husband. The bells were also bought from the donations of the believers made by Hőnig Frigyes in his workshop of Arad (Romania) The clock on the spire was given by the town (the work of Herman Pál horologist, Szentes).
Inside the church on the southern wall of the nave is a marble plaque containing the names of all the evangelical heroes of WW I. The stone frame of the plaque was made by Koncz Antal local sculptor (1925). With its delicate proportions the church suits the townscape in a harmonious way. Today in the middle of the square stands the Well that used to be in front of the county hall. The composition of the fountain was made in 1998 with the use of the original statues. It is the work of Máté István sculptor for the request of the Mayor. The pieces of the group of statues (Woman holding a Mercury-stick, four naked, plump babes pouring water) arrived at Szentes in 1887 from the Duronne Company’s workshop in Paris. Contemporaries presume the statues to be the works of the famous French sculptor Rodin, however, it cannot be proved. Since the initiation of the fountain the traditional night walk with lanterns on 30th April starts here. The square is also a popular place of cultural events.
Nagy Ferenc Street
With a little by-pass, we visit the town’s pedestrians only Nagy Ferenc Street, which received its present restored form in 2006. From here we can immediately see the only cinema of the town. The building of Őze Lajos Movie Theatre can house 300 viewers. The movie theatre was named after Őze Lajos the famous actor who was born in Szentes. Őze Lajos finished his secondary education in Bartha János Horticultural Vocational School of Szentes and in 1956 he received his diploma in the Academy of Drama and Film in Budapest. From 1959, after 2 years working as an actor in Misckolc, he became the member of the National Theatre for 25 years. He had more than 500 roles in theatres and films. He received the Jászai Mari award and since 1994 the movie theatre of Szentes has been wearing his name. Almost opposite the cinema there is a statue called Dancing Man of Transylvania (Dr Csíky László). The inauguration of the statue was in 2009, during the presentation ceremony of the European Plaquette.
Walking along Nagy Ferenc Street we arrive at Dr Papp László Sports Hall (1996), which is the most important place of the town’s sports life. Because of its great facilities this is the house of town’s great events for example the popular Winter Farewell Carnival, Hungarian and European Championships, sport festivals and other local events throughout the year. The townspeople lead a very active life and in 1996 the ‘National Sports Town’ title was awarded to Szentes. The most significant sport in the town is water polo but the members of various dance clubs have also achieved outstanding results just like the sportsmen of Kyokushin Karate club who became multiple Hungarian Champions. The town raises Hungarian-, European and World Champions in other combat sports as well, and in many other sports it is the most important centre of the rising generation.
On the square in front of the Sports Hall we can see the memorial of Sosai Masutatsu Oyama 10 dan Japanese karate master, creator of Kyokushin karate, with the Shinto-gate, which the only memorial is permitted by the world organization outside Japan. Sensei Brezovai Sándor founder of the local Kyokushin karate club, studied at master Oyama and in order to show his appreciation and honour towards his teacher he had this memorial park made. The park was completed for the opening ceremony of the Kyokushin karate European Championship.
The Shinto-gate is a traditional Japanese gate form that usually leads the way to the Shinto sanctuary but it can be found in other places as well for example at the foot of Mount Fuji. It symbolises the borderline between everyday life the world beyond it, and between the life of humans and gods. The gate has several forms but its main distinctiveness is a longer beam resting on two cylindrical columns underneath with a strutting beam. It is most of the time red and traditionally made of wood and stone.
The Synagogue (1868-1870) that was restored in 1998 is in the main street of Szentes and it is the home of the Town Library. It was built in Romantique style based on the plans of Knabe Ignác, and after 40 years of neglect it became one of the most beautiful buildings of the town. The garden of the library, maintained by trickle irrigation, is the home of more and more works of art. The library consists of 115.000 books, 187 different types of magazines with news and up-to-date information. Other services available here: internet connection, photocopy, fax, computer text editing and CD law collection. It is also the place of exhibitions and other cultural events. In the library’s conference hall seminars and forums are held. History of the Synagogue: The first Jewish people appeared in the middle of the 18th century but the sources mentioning permanent settlers are from about 1790. In 1868 the families decided to build a church, which was completed in November 1870 and by the next year the inner works and the furniture was ready too.
The Ark of the Covenant, the benches and other wood-works were made by local masters. The great autumn service in 1871 was held in the new church though the benches were not painted yet. The ceremonial initiation of the eternal lamp was only in October 1872. The new, Romantique style building was one of the biggest synagogue of the area. The rich features of the façade and the interior decoration created a fair unit of the Romantique style. The first bigger restoration was in 1901 the second in 1910 when electricity was set up.
The new, gilded Torah was initiated on 5 May 1912. During WW II the Jewish settlement of Szentes decreased. Their great synagogue stood most of the time empty from the 1960’s, its condition deteriorated. As the years went by the roofing collapsed in many places, the building became life-threatening so even the idea of pulling it down occurred. At the end of the 1970’s the town called for a tender for the use of the synagogue and the ordering of its surroundings.
Most of the plans intended cultural function for the almost 110 years old building (gallery, concert hall, audiovisual centre), of which the Israelite Church supported. However, as the building still belonged to the church the restoration and development works could not be started. As a result of the persistent negotiations of the Local Government the ruinous synagogue was bought by the town in 1987. The dangerous roofing and the inner accessories were soon dismantled. For the proposal of Szirbik Imre Mayor, the Government agreed on the restoration of the building in 1996.
It was settled that the former synagogue will be the home of Szentes Town Library and the tender was called according to this agreement. The financial background was ensured by the Local government. After negotiations with the Association of Hungarian Jewish Religious Communities (MAZSHISZ) it has been decided that the building will keep its original outside architecture while the inner form should meet the requirements of a modern library. Experts, famous architects and the librarian profession studied the six tenders arrived for the call and finally Terney László former chief architect of Szentes and his team’s plans were accepted.
One of the synagogue’s former entrance rooms was formed as a memorial room, which serves as a place of commemoration. The slabs between the levels are richly ornamented with stuccos just like the columns where the patterns of the original cast-iron pillars were followed (work of Vígh László). There is an elevator between the floors. The entrance of the main façade is a decoration; the pretty garden on its left edge contains the plaques of the Israelite people of Szentes. The garden is surrounded by the elements of the original wrought iron fence of the former synagogue. The new main entrance was formed on the north side of the building with a lift for the disabled. The two windows are made of insulated plate-glass (altogether 2 quintals) with copper decoration. The marble plaque of Knábe Ignác, the original designer, and Terney László architect are also placed on the building.
Railway History Exhibition
First Kossuth Street then its continuation Baross street leads us to the Railwaystation. The first railway of the town was built in 1887 between Szentes and Kunszentmárton and the railway station, which soon became small due to the growing number of passengers. The new building was completed between 1928 and 29 in Hungarian Art Nouveau style based on the plans of Magyary Zoltán. It was restored in the middle of the 1980’s; its style and ornaments were kept. The new station was opened in 1929 together with the 27 meter high ferro concrete water tower standing nearby.
The wooden tablet in the hall is the work of Szabics Ferenc wood-carver of Szentes and it commemorates the first railway between Szentes and Kunszentmárton. For the hundred year’s anniversary of the Szentes – Hódmezővásárhely railway line an embossment was made by Vígh László master of Szentes and for the honour of the Csongrád–Szentes-Orosháza line 100 year’s anniversary a marble plaque was placed as well. Next to the railway station an AB motor train is exhibited and the memorial gate of the motor garage made of the ornamented cast-iron pillars of the platform of the first railway station built in 1887. Today the motor garage of Szentes is still the centre of diesel towing in the southern region. The most significant types of the station were the Md motor trains and later the Bpmot trains (or “Letsgos“) these were given in return for the Russian national debt. Szentes is also the home station of several Bzmot trains and M41 engines. Unfortunately only the plans are ready for the reconstruction of the original platform roof.
In Nádai Géza square in front of the railway station there is a fountain by Máté István sculptor of Csongrád. The square was made in 2001 with a well in the middle. The square was named after Nádai Géza Railman Officer (1890-1977) of the Hungarian Railways (MÁV), who worked in Szentes from 1913 and was the stationmaster between 1930 and 1947. In addition to this he was a member of the National Football Team in first division, sport program organizer, one of the founders of the Szentes MÁV Sport Club, supporting member of the local tennis and water sports.
At the end of our walk we offer the following places in the town centre to have a little rest:
- Chicago Bowling Pub, near the pedestrian only area
- Pano Café, at St Nicholas Square
- Szín-es cukrászda (Confectionery), near Dr. Papp László Sports Hall
- Füsti cukrászda (Confectionery), in Kossuth Street