As a result of the restrictions present due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there will be no regular August 20 celebration this year. However, there are plenty of possibilities for those who are eager to “taste” Hungarian medieval history.
This date is particularly important in Hungarian history and culture, as we are celebrating the founding of the Hungarian state and Hungary’s first king, St. Stephen. Normally, there would be fireworks and all-day-long activities, but this year most programs have been cancelled. However, there are many other ways in which we can commemorate this day outside of pre-organised official events. There are many historically relevant sites all around Hungary that you can visit for the National Holiday.
Esztergom. Featured image by Balázs Mohai/MTI
Esztergom and Visegrád are the two most popular ones. St. Stephen’s father, Géza (in English: Gerard) had his base in Esztergom, which was the centre of Hungary’s religious life then and still is today. The Cathedral is open on the National Holiday for visitors and during the morning hours there will be an open mass celebration.
Visegrád. Photo via pixabay.com
Visegrád was not that important during the funding of the state, but during the 15th century when it was a political and military base for King Matthias. The famous castle on the top of the hill is open too, but they have not prepared any special program for August 20.
The ruins of Székesfehérvár’s medieval basilica. Photo by Csaba Jászai/MTVA
Székesfehérvár and its surrounding region are notably rich in historical heritage. Székesfehérvár was the centre of the Hungarian Kingdom during and after St. Stephen reign, until 1361 when today’s Budapest became the capital of the country. Székesfehérvár has a lot of stories to tell about medieval Hungary, such as coronation ceremonies, interregnum tensions, or simply the everyday life of Hungarian kings. For this national holiday, Székesfehérvár is holding its annual celebration – Days of the Kings in Székesfehérvár, between 14th and 23rd of August.
Beyond that, if you are already in Budapest and you don’t wish to travel to other cities, there are options available for you as well. The Hungarian National Museum has a free concert planned for the day. In the Museum and Library of Hungarian Agriculture, there are many exhibitions comparing present-day fishing, horse breeding or farming with 10th-century methods, which can be particularly interesting during this National Holiday of remembering our foundations.
In addition, we must not forget Hungary’s 2020 Cake of the Year – named Curiositas, it can be bought in most patisseries in Hungary from the 19th of August.
Saint Stephen the founder finished the work of his father – which was making the people join Christianity and gain recognition as an independent nation. He issued two strict law books, controlling every pagan aspect of the Hungarians’ lives, to force them to leave their ways. He established various bishoprics in Hungary (Győr, Pécs, Vác, Csanád, Bihar, Erdély, Veszprém) which were independent of the contemporary German religious system. These cities are worth a visit too! We are remembering his work and importance, as without him there might not be an independent Hungary today.
Featured photo illustration by Zsolt Czeglédi/MTI