The History of Gyula - FROM THE PREHISTORIC AGE TO GYULAMONOSTORA
The essential of human life is the closeness of water and the higher ground forms standing out from it which protect the settled man from the floods.
The area where Gyula was established later had been made suitable for the settling down of the prehistoric man by the River Fehér-Körös running here and the higher territories safe from floods - the neighbourhood of the parish-church being the present town-centre, the Kálvária dulo, Sándorhegy hill, Aranyág, Törökzug and the neighbourhood of the sand-pits. The first man appeared in the area about 5000 years before Christ, at the time of the New Stone Age. From that time on the continuity of human life can be shown on the higher places of the town boundary up to the Hungarian conquest.
For lack of information about the origin of the Neolithic man, the earliest phase of this age is named Körös culture in archaeology after its most important places of finding, which continued as Tisza culture at the end of the New Stone Age. Continuity is proved by findings from the Copper Age, the Bronze Age and the Iron Age. The first known nation, the Scythian people appeared in the Iron Age. From the last centuries before our era findings related to the Indo-European Celts came up. During the migration period, around 500, the Sarmatians related to the Scythians arrived here. They stayed here for hundreds of years and followed by the various migrating Germanic peoples: the presence of the Vandals is proved by the findings of Farkashalom; the rich findings of the Gepids dislodged from the Vistula, who got under Hunnish authority in Attila's time, were found just in the inner area of the town.
They were followed by the Avars. There stay here meant a longer period of rest, which lasted up to the Hungarian conquest. The history of the Hungarian conquest is recorded by Anonymous 300 years later in his gesta written around 1200. The fullness of details in his description proves that he knew this area well, however, his assertions can be accepted only with reservations. The presence of the Hungarians is proved by the grave of a horseman dating from the time of the Hungarian conquest opened up on the court-yard of the present town-hall.
The first reliable mentioning of Gyula can be read in two diplomas of 1313 by Robert Charles, which were dated from Gyulamonostora (Julamonustra) by the king fighting with the petty monarchs. A monastery stood in the place of the town. Two decades later, in 1332, the settlement was already mentioned as Gyula. There are two explanations for the origin of its name. According to the first one, one group belonging to the tribe of the "gyula", the war-leader of the conquering Hungarians, settled down here.
It is much more probable - and it is the officially accepted explanation - that the monastery was founded by a nobleman called Gyula; the monastery and the settlement were named after him. It is most likely that the domain of Gyula was organised by King Robert Charles, which as an economic centre played an important role in the rise of the small settlement. (The county seat was Békés at that time.) The domain of Gyula fell into private hands in 1387. King Sigismund fighting with the noblemen gave it to László Losoncy Voivode of Transylvania to obtain his support. With the extinction of the family King Sigismund gave it to János Maróti Ban of Macsó in 1403. Maróti extends the domain: in 1418, it already comprised 78 parcels of land, from Gyula to Kunágota, and was governed from three country towns: Gyula, Békés and Simánd. The urbanisation of Gyula started in the time of the Anjou. The first privileges were granted to it by Robert Charles: the right of electing mayors and provosts as well as the important right of holding markets.
The extension of the privileges was continued by János Maróti: the town was allowed to collect its tax, to have jurisdiction over its burghers, while Sigismund granted exemption from duty to the burghers. Maróti did much for the rise of the town in other ways too: the Franciscan friars got to the town in his days, and the castle of Gyula was built in his time. In 1476 the Maróti family became extinct, and the domain reverted to the king. In 1476 King Matthias confirmed the privileges of the town and extended the inhabitants' exemption from duty over the whole country. Six years later, on 8th April 1482 King Matthias gave Hunyad county and its domain to his son János Corvin, while the following day he gave the domain of Gyula to his son. He wanted to increase the power of his son again with his order of 1484 in which he attached the offices of Lord Lieutenant, sub-prefect and district administrator to the castle of Gyula, thus making Gyula the seat of the county definitely, and excluding the possibility of the individual organising of the nobility.
Fights between the Turks and the Hungarians often devastated the region because Gyula remained a Turkish border castle for one hundred years. The Fifteen Years' War taking place at the end of the 16th century was the first to perform total devastation of the area between the Körös and the Maros.
The Turks tried to increase the number of their taxpayers reduced in numbers with settlement, and brought settlers to the abandoned villages from the South. The castle and the town became liberated only in January 1695. By then 27 settlements had become uninhabited in Békés county. After the Turkish rule of 129 years life could start again. Gyula started to live again only slowly. The Serbian soldiers staying in the castle made havoc of the town in 1703, in 1705 the Kuruts stormed the castle under the leadership of Sándor Károlyi. The final return or settlement became possible after the suppression of the war of independence of the Kuruts, and the history of Gyula after the Turkish rule is counted from 1714. The reoccupied territories were put under the administration of the treasury by the 'Hofkammer' in Vienna.
Charles III restored county administration in 1715. The dual administration - of the Hofkammer and the county - established this way came to end in 1720 when four fifths of the county was given to the court army contractor János György Harruckern for services rendered.
The development of the town accelerated in the second half of the century. Out of the early buildings there survived the cantor's dwelling and school built in 1735. The plague of 1738 killed 1308 persons; keeping their vow the survivors built the still existing Trinity chapel.
There are more remains from the second half of the century. The Roman Catholic parsonage, the Roman Catholic and Lutheran churches, the county hall, teacher's flat in Németgyula and some town-houses prove that the burghers of the town became more well-off. In the 1790's the first surfaced road was made between the Kapus bridge and the castle. This was the first stony road in the county. The first stone bridges replacing the old wood bridges were built at the beginning of the 19th century: the Bárdos bridge and the Kapus bridge. The thatched and shingled houses of the lowland town were often destroyed by fire.
During the one hundred years between 1782 and 1882 fire ravaged the town on seven occasions. And that of 1801 was the worst ever. The fire broke out in Németgyula and devastated the whole town, not sparing the churches and the castle either. After the fire the county renewed its order: if somebody is found with a pipe in his mouth either in the street or on the court-yards, he is to be sentenced to fifty strokes. Their task was to restore the town.
Several neo-classic buildings remained from this period, and the early buildings of the streets flanked with one-storied town-houses reflected this period. This is the world of Gyula taking on bourgeois habits. Besides fire, water was the other danger. The River Fehér-Körös run through the town, and the settlement was often flooded. In Magyargyula 179 houses collapsed in 1816, 203 in 1843.
At the beginning of the 18th century animal husbandry was the prevailing economic branch. In 1715 only 91 "hold" of land (1 hold = 0,57 hectares) was cultivated by the 29 families living here, five years later already 900, while in 1773 cultivation of plants was carried out on 3996 hold of land.
Industry developed primarily in Gyula. In 1724 57 craftsmen were listed. By the end of the century guilds were formed one by one, and in the middle of the 19th century 17 guilds operated in the town. Industrialisation went with the development of trade.
In 1737 there were only six merchants in the county, out of which there were two in Gyula. In 1773 the number of the merchants increased to 32, again one third of them (11) could be found in Gyula. A vaulted business house from the 18th century - with the oldest shop in the county - still stands next to the stocking factory. In 1723 Harruckern obtained right of holding markets for the town.
The importance of the markets held in Gyula was increased by the fact that firewood and timber were swum down on the Fekete-Körös from the Transylvanian hills for the markets, while Transylvanian dealers in wood acquired their wheat from here. The golden age of markets falls on the second half of the 19th century.
The news about the revolution of 15th March 1848 reached Gyula on 20th March. At the time of the public meeting announced for 22nd March the residents of Gyula swarmed in the streets, and the events taking place in Pest were told during the public meeting held on the court-yard of the county-hall. The county elected a "public courage committee" to manage the affairs, and decided to set up the national guard as an urgent task.
In May the progressive politician of the reform period baron Béla Wenckheim was a appointed Lord Lieutenant.
In June the national guard of Gyula was commanded to Makó to guard the crossing-places located there due to the disturbances taking place in the South. The national guards were relieved every three weeks, and recruiting took place from street to street. The recruiting song of Békés was written by poet Lajos Szakáll, who was Petofi's friend and the county recorder.
In that autumn, with the attack by Jelasics the fight for freedom began. In October a small group from Gyula tried to help the country in a strange way. The news of J. Radeczky's commission to suppress the Hungarian revolution got about. Radeczky's daughter, who was the wife of count Wenckheim of Gerla, just stayed in Hungary. So some burghers gathering in the inn to the "Deer" planned to catch Radeczky's daughter, thus forcing the general to retreat. However the countess left Gerla unexpectedly so the plan was given up.
The guilds of Gyula also took part in the defence of the country: they produced a great quantity of war stores for the Hungarian territorial army.
In the spring of 1849 an ammunition workshop worked in Gyula. At the end of the war of independence the town became the scene of a sad event. At the time of the surrender of Világos the officers of the Hungarian army were allowed to keep their side-arms, and they were escorted to Sarkad, then to Gyula by the Russians. The Russians occupied the present-day Megyeház, Városház, Kossuth Lajos and Nagyváradi streets, while the prisoners were lodged in the place of the present-day Groza park in camps.
In 1855 the town suffered a flood more destructive than ever. Along with the detached farmsteads about 1500 houses got under water. This was a terrible destruction. If "... the course of the Fehér-Körös silting up its bed continuously is kept through the town in the future... Gyula will fail to be an inhabited town" - this was the warning of the flood.
So the diversion of the Fehér-Körös in a new bed outside the town was decided, and the Körös channel - the greatest earthwork of the age of absolutism - was dug within two years, and the present-day bed of the Fehér-Körös was formed.
Absolutism had become weaker by 1859, and the compromise of 1867 took place, which established the political conditions of the acceleration of capitalist development. The agricultural nature of the area was kept but instead of animal husbandry the cultivation of plants became the main branch of economy. (In 1853 41 per cent of the town boundary was a plough-land, by 1893 this rate increased to 67 per cent.) The sign of the accumulation and influx of capital was the appearance of banks and savings banks.
Békéscsaba became the junction of the county, and it affected the future development of Gyula too: in 1887 with its 554 craftsmen it was only in the fourth place in the county. In 1872 the out-of-date guilds closed; some signs of manufacturing industry presented themselves: in 1866 the first steam mill was built which was followed by several others, the match factories using few material and much child labour were set up, finally at the end of the century the inhabitants of Gyula were also overcome by the craze for foundation: co-operatives, public limited companies and private enterprises were formed one by one.
In 1950 the county seat was transferred to Békéscsaba, the loss of the county function of nearly half a millennium shocked the town.
How to go on? How can retrogression be stopped?
It took the new "image" of the town almost a decade to take shape. After the medicinal waters had been found and as a result of favourable conditions and the deliberate town-planning the Castle Public Baths of Gyula became one of the most frequented places as far as convalescence holidays are concerned.
One can find a forest on an unusually large area - 7406 hectares - on the confines of the town, primarily along the River Fekete-Körös. Industry was previously represented by the plants processing agricultural commodities and fulfilling the needs of the population: meat-processing plant, milling industry, stocking factory, boot factory and milk industry. Several of the new industrial companies coming into existence from the 50's on proved viable after the change of regime too: the Tailors' co-operative produces for foreign markets, the Wooden and Metal Furniture-Making Industrial Co-operative manufacturing office furnishings and sitting furniture has participated in the restoration works of several East-European theatres, and the greatest investment of Gyula in the last four decades is the Meat Combine of Gyula.
From the 50's on immigration to the area started, then with the union of Gyulavári with a population of 5000 the population of the town now exceeds 35,000. The fast development of tourism significantly affects the attractiveness and development of the town. The restored castle originally attracted the visitors. In 1957 the building up of the spa started and it meant a new attraction: a number of companies and institutions have built holiday homes here.
The Castle Theatre started in 1964 which obtained a dignified place in Hungarian theatrical life with its specific image: fostering costume pieces, reviving forgotten plays, undertaking the world premiere of new plays. To develop fine arts they organise a camp of fine arts every summer.
The first sports club of the town was established in 1869 being one of the very first in the country. You can also find a tennis court and a motor-racing track here; the covered stadium of the town was opened in 1994.
Since the change of regime of 1990 Gyula has also been occupied with the problems going with the change. Individuals and communities, institutions and companies try to find their place in the new situation. Knowing the town population's receptivity to novelty, the potential of the town and the inhabitants' love of their town we trust that the town and its inhabitants will overcome the initial difficulties soon and find their place in our changing world.