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Summary

 

Nagybörzsöny, called Deutschepilsen in German, is to be found in the heart of the Börzsöny mountain, to the North from the Danube Bend, in one of the most beautiful areas of Hungary. The landscape is catching, its romantic sight, and the archaic image of the small village lying embraced by mountains turn it into one of the most beautiful settlements of the country, the rich and special historic past of which can still be sensed in all its details.

The favourable natural resources of the Börzsöny mountain and the Ipoly valley made people settle here between 4000 B.C. and the IX century.

The first Magyar settlers of Hungary probably only started to conquer the area of the later Hont county from the middle of the X century. The village of Börzsöny, first mentioned in a written form in 1138, was a royal estate with some royal serfs living on it.

In the first half of the XIII century, it became the property of the Archbishop of Esztergom, and after the Mongol invasion, the clerical landowner could settle the first German miners, the “Kricckhauer” from the area

of the former Hauland, who bringing along their professional knowledge and developed unwritten law, soon made the settlement flourish. That is how one single village received two churches: the Saint Stephen church was built by Hungarian, and the Saint Nicholas church by German inhabitants. Both are still erect today witnessing about the dual root of the past of Nagybörzsöny.

The medieval village also endowed with the right of organising fairs, became rich from gold and silver mining, as well as its golden wine, both of which made it renowned far and wide. In addition to the local population, its wine was drunk by the citizens of Buda, the capital and Selmecbánya. The development of the settlement, and the power of its citizens, however, were not such as to make it increase to a higher rank of a free royal town, or a privileged mining town. It remained dependent of the archbishop of Esztergom with most of its inhabitants living as serfs.

After the fall of Buda in 1541, the Turks also concquered the South-Western part of Hont county, and Börzsöny also became the scene of frequent fights and plundering. The Turks did not establish themselves here for good, and thus, the settlement, mentioned as a borough after 1549, survived the Turkish rule in spite of its diminished population. The Lutheran branch of Protestantism spread almost concurrently with the Turkish invasion, and the Lutherans practised their religion freely in the conquered Catholic churches until the end of the Turkish Rule. The whole of the people in Börzsöny was converted to the new faith.

After the Turks were expelled in 1686, the war of religion influenced the everyday life of the people living in the borough. The often ruthless fights of the counter-reformation were successful, and – although total re-Romanization could not be achieved – a balance was struck in the population, which is still there today. The hard-working inhabitants of the Börzsöny once again boosted the settlement. Along with mining, which was on an uptrend for shorter or longer periods of time, agriculture and viniculture became more and more of a focus in the life of the people. In the XVIII-XIX centuries, Nagybörzsöny belonged to the most significant settlements of the vicinity. It, however, could not proceed to become a city, partly due to the mines, which got almost fully depleted in the meantime.

The abolition of serfdom in 1848 yielded its result only in 1875, when the former landowner and the earlier community of serfs signed an agreement. The peasantry, which from now on used its land freely, could not enjoy independent farming for long, their vineyards were devastated by phylloxera. And although they were replanted, the wine produced on the new vines was not comparable to the old one, and it was rather replaced by the distillation of brandy.

The people multiplying during the “happy periods of peace” could not be nourished by the land any longer, as the individual family estates could not be broken up any further, therefore many people left, leaving farming behind, and trying to find a living in forestry or the industry. The sharpening of social conflicts could not be remedied even by the revolutions in 1918/19. And the Trianon Peace Treaty after the First World War drove the whole country, and especially the settlements along the new border to a nadir. The period, which brought about a boom for a short time,

but which was full of controversies, led to another cataclysm. During the Second World War, part of the population of the country and the village of Nagybörzsöny started to protect German interests, and got under the influence of the machinery of propaganda. The settlement relatively quickly recovered from the financial damage caused by the war, the losses in terms of human lives, and holding the “guilty” village collectively accountable, however, lead to human tragedies. To replace part of the removed German population, people with Hungarian nationality were brought over from the Check and Slovakian Republic.

After all this, 1948, “the year of the turnaround” also brought along the changing of the system, and in the spirit of building socialism, Nagybörzsöny also took the way of collective farming. Forests were nationalised, and land was given to the co-operatives as owners. The slow development of Nagybörzsöny, and its seclusion from the world, made many young people, who could not find sufficient and adequate job opportunities at the local employers, move to larger settlements, which provided them with more favourable living conditions.

In the versatile, often special past of the settlement, different types of people appear, like the tenants of the fortress, the German knights, teamsters, the archbishop-landowner, the pharmacist, the authoritative lord, the citizens from Buda and Selmec, the judge, the Turkish invaders, the Protestant and Catholic priests, the Kuruts soldiers, the serfs toiling on and fighting for their land, the bailiff, the vine-growers, the mining entrepreneurs, and the mining engineers, the miller of the water-mill, the priest-revolutionist, pupils, the director of the school, the makers of the dosser, the war dead and the war victims, those removed and re-settled, the chairman of the council, the commander of the national guard, the teacher worrying for his village, those with a Hungarian or German nationality born, married and dead here – that is all those whose destiny was linked to Nagybörzsöny, that is Deutschpilsen for many centuries.

Nagybörzsöny, today, is the favourite destination of excursionists, and hikers. Here, they are welcome by the untouched beauty of nature offering leisure and pleasure, the Saint Stephen Church from the Arpadian age, the Miners' Church, the Roman Catholic and the Evangelical churches, the old parish building with the exhibition, the folk museum reviving long gone times with its exhibits, the ancient water mill, the youth camp, and the small winding streets. There are more and more people buying dwelling houses, and press-houses, or building new ones in the village to spend their week-ends far away from the noise of the city.

The old lustre of Nagybörzsöny became tarnished throughout the centuries. As the amount of gold and silver in the earth, and later the earning ability of the land was diminishing, and still later as the number of jobs was getting reduced, so the retaining capability of the settlement was coming down. The village, which grew rich from its gold and silver mining, as well as wine production, and which had the right of organising fairs, and was exempt from customs duties in the Middle Ages, became a “silvery” borough by the XVIII century, then became the seat of the district-notary, a large village by the XIX-XX century, and a small village by the end of the XX century with a population of 800 people. While earlier it was the gold, the silver, and the wine which were the basis for growth, today the opportunities for survival and rejuvenation are hidden in the natural surroundings of the settlement formed in the Middle Ages, and the image

of the village hardly changed up till now, and created by the end of the XVIII century and the beginning of the XIX century. And the people of Nagybörzsöny may soon use the old mining slogan that they took pride in during the previous centuries, saying that “The tail of the golden cow is in Selmec, but its head is in Börzsöny!”

 

 

  
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