City Hall

Pécs, Hungary | C.1907

Photo Credit: Abdullah Çetinkaya

Since 1871, the melodies of the carillon in the bell tower of City Hall have rung out every hour on the hour, signaling the passing of time. These bells are the heartbeat of Pécs, suitably located within Széchenyi square, which has served as the town center for centuries.

City Hall was built in 1695, as the first of its kind following the Turkish occupation. Symbolically triumphant, its earliest incarnation was a mere two stories high. Around 1830, local architect József Piatsek redeveloped it as a classicist building and the clock tower was added just before the city green-lit a more significant reconstruction, due to Pécs’ growing prosperity. In 1907 it took on its present shape, as a neo-baroque building, crowned with Pécs’ singular coat of arms, flying from its distinguished tower.

Pécs, a free royal city, has long been regarded as a multicultural epicenter; the site of a peaceful union of Hungarians, Croatians, Serbians, and more. Welcoming such multitudes garnered this elegant town its nickname as “the Borderless City.” But the borderless city is also synonymous with the borders of porcelain created from its storied Zsolnay ceramics factory, founded in 1853 and still in operation. Lustrous tiles are produced here, adorn buildings throughout Pécs, and are a recognizable aesthetic across the entire country.

The borders of the long Széchenyi Square contain both of these legacies: multicultural influence and inimitable tiled glory. On the north side stands the round dome of the Pasha Qasim Mosque, a stunning reminder of Ottoman occupation, but also of the respect for beauty. (Rather than destroy such a marvel, it was converted into a church.) And on the south side is a one-of-a-kind fountain, donated by the Zsolnays. It is noted in particular for the decorative oxen heads spouting water freely, as they enjoy their hourly serenade from City Hall’s tower.

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