Pécs , (IPA [peːʧ], approximate pronunciation Pitch, known by alternative names), is the fifth largest city of Hungary, located in the south-west of the country, close to its borders with Croatia and Serbia. It is the administrative and economical centre of Baranya county. Pécs is also the seat of Roman Catholic Diocese of Pécs.
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.)
The name Pécs appears in documents in 1235 in the word Pechyut (with modern spelling: pécsi út, means "road to/from Pécs"). The name Pécs is of Slavic origin and means phonetically "furnace" in the Slavic languages (There is a town in Serbia with similar name – Peć). In other languages: in Latin Quinque Ecclesiae, in Croatian Pečuh, in German Fünfkirchen, in Serbian Печуј, Pečuj, in Turkish Peçuy, in Slovak: Päťkostolie.
The area has been inhabited since ancient times, with the oldest archaeological findings being 6000 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.
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 and Slavs. 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 800s it was occupied primarily by Slavic people and was within the territory of the Slavic Blatnohrad (Zalavar) principality. In the late 800s, this territory was part of Great Moravia.
After the Hungarians conquered the area of modern-day Hungary in the (late 9th–early 10th century) and founded the comitatus Baranya, 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.
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 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 Pécs.
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, Quran schools were founded, there was a bazaar in place of the market. The city was ruled by Muslim officials according to the Sharia law. 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.
In 1664 Nicholas Zrínyi arrived to Pécs. Since the city was well into the Ottoman territories, they knew that even if the occupy it, they couldn't keep it for long, so they planned only to pillage it. They ravaged and burned the city but couldn't 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 freed from Ottoman rule in 1686, the armies went to free Pécs too. The advance guards could break into the city and pillaged it. The Ottomans saw that they cannot keep the city, and burnt it, moving themselves into the castle. The army led by Louis of Baden occupied the city on October 14, and destroyed the aqueduct leading to the castle. The Ottomans had no other choice but to surrender, which they did on October 22.
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 didn't 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.
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 1739 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 km 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, personel and other logistical tasks between the participating countries and their deployed forces in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
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 since the fall of the Iron Curtain those have mostly not managed the transition. It does have a quite famous porcelain factory. The Zsolnay Porcelain has a special greenish colour — called "eozin". One of the walls of a local McDonald's franchise (the one on the Main Square) is decorated with Zsolnay Porcelain tiles. The Pécsi Sörfőzde (Pécs Brewery) is one of the four main Hungarian breweries, and produces a special beer, which is not strained before bottling, and can only be bought in a single restaurant in the entire country, the Cellárium. This brew is highly sought after.
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. It was divided into two universities, one for Medicine and Orthodontics (POTE) () and one larger one for other studies — this being the JPTE (Janus Panonius Tudományegyetem). The POTE (Pécs University Medical School, now known as the Medical Faculty) has a large English program for general medicine and dentistry (with students from America, Asia, and European countries - including many Scandinavians) and a new German program. On January 1, 2000 these universities were combined under the common name and acronym, PTE (Pécsi Tudományegyetem - The University of Pécs).