The restoration of the status of the city of Esztergom is long overdue, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said on Sunday after a mass at the Esztergom Basilica marking the anniversary of Esztergom becoming a city of county rank. Esztergom is a city of nationwide importance, Orbán said, adding that the city was home to every Hungarian “even if they do not know it”. “Today we pay the debt which we, Hungarians owe to ourselves,” the prime minister said, adding that in recent years Esztergom had proven that it was not just its history that made it one of the most important cities in Hungary, but also the diligence, strength, culture and patriotism of its residents.
Orbán highlighted the strong link between the fate of Esztergom and the history of the Hungarian nation. “Esztergom is our intellectual centre and also our most important link to the Western Christian civilisation which we became a part of over a thousand years ago,” he said. Hungarian statehood would be inconceivable without Esztergom, Orbán said. He called the institution of primacy Hungary’s “first constitutional court”, arguing that in addition to being in charge of the coronation of kings, the Archbishop of Esztergom also had a duty to make sure that the king respected the constitution.
The prime minister also noted that over the course of its history Esztergom had endured its share of crises. The one-time nation’s capital was ravaged by the Tatars and later betrayed by foreign mercenaries to the Turks, he said. The past century also took its toll on Esztergom, Orbán said, noting that with two-thirds of Hungary’s territory ceded to neighbouring countries, it had gone from being a city in the middle of the country to a border city in the north. The elimination of the old county system by the communists in 1950 was the “nail in the coffin” for Esztergom, Orbán said. “We are here to restore this city of nationwide importance to its former status,” he said.