Pressburg/Bratislava, 1515

The medieval city of Preßburg (Presporok, Psonium, Posony) in Slovakia was founded in the 1200s as an autonomous community and a large, independent political entity. In the following century, typical urban social structures developed (i.e. merchants, craftsmen and workers) and the city created its own independent institutions (for example, free election of the parson, chancellery of the city, and a city hospital)

Although there were signs of a crisis in the late medieval period (the Hussites, the Bohemian Brethren, and the Ottomans), the reigns of Sigismund of Luxembourg (d. 1437) and Matthias Corvinus (d. 1490) were nevertheless periods of economic and cultural prosperity in Pressburg. Numerous artworks commissioned at this time reflect the growing self-assurance of those living in the city, among them keystones decorated with the coats of arms of newly ennobled citizens, splendid tombs, valuable liturgical objects, and precious illuminated manuscripts.

Great architectural transformations throughout the city were also completed under the Jagiellonian dynasty, such as the church presbyterium finished in the 1480s. Rising unemployment and prices may have contributed to growing social unrest, xenophobia, and pogroms in the late-medieval city. Nevertheless, as the Middle Ages waned, Pressburg was able to preserve its position as an important center at the periphery of the Hungarian kingdom.



Shortly after the death of Matthias Corvinus, delegations from two opposing parties met in this city on the Danube to claim the right to the throne: the Czech Wladislav II Jagiello and theHoly Roman Emperor Maximilian I of Habsburg. It was the Habsburgs who succeeded in securing a hereditary right to the Hungarian kingdom. The Vienna double wedding, which took place later that year in Linz and Buda, had its prelude in Pressburg, where in the first half of 1515 delegations from both families convened to discuss a dynastic union.

The resulting marriages (between Ludwig Jagiello and Maria Habsburg, and Ferdinand Habsburg and Anna Jagiello) ultimately led to Ferdinand’s coronation at Pressburg after Ludwig’s death. However, the situation after the Battle of Mohács (1526) was difficult and led to contestations of the Habsburg inheritance. Pressburg became a city for refugees and, after 1529, its position as capital of the Kingdom of Hungary was challenged. The real center of power, Vienna, reinforced Pressburg’s economic and cultural orientation to the Austrian city, the older of the two, and strengthened the position of the German language in Pressburg. This situation differed from that at Buda, Stuhlweißenburg, and several other cities in Trans-Danubia or Transylvania, which were Magyarized in the sixteenth century, and also from Zilina, Trencin or Trnava, which were Slovakized.


Juraj Šedivý

© KHM-Museumsverband, Wissenschaftliche Anstalt öffentlichen Rechts.
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