The part of modern Hungary west of the Danube, which was first settled in the Neolithic period, came into the Roman Empire in the 1st century CE. It formed part of the Roman province of Pannonia. The town of Sopianae was founded on the southern slope of the Mecsek massif in the 2nd century by colonists coming from western Pannonia and Italy, who intermarried with the indigenous Illyrian-Celtic peoples. It became the headquarters of the civil governor (praeses) of the new province of Valeria at the end of the 3rd century. Sopianae was especially prosperous in the 4th century because of its situation at the junction of several important trading and military routes. Archaeological excavations have revealed a number of new public buildings in the forum area from this time.
Christian Necropolis Christian burialsThe town was also probably made the seat of an archbishopric around this time. There was a cemetery to the north of the town, with many Christian burials from the 4th century; in the post-Roman period, up to the 8th century, the imposing tombs probably served as shelters for different incoming groups of Huns, Germans, and Avars. It was not until the 9th century that Christianity was re-established in the town.
St Istvan (King Stephen I), founder of the Hungarian state, established one of his ten bishoprics there in 1009, no doubt influenced by the monumental Christian sepulchral buildings; the Cella Trichora was restored to its original use as a chapel. The fortified episcopal complex was to be expanded and reconstructed in the succeeding centuries, and it was within this enceinte that the Angevin King Laszlo I the Great established the first university in Hungary (1367). The medieval town grew outside the walls of the episcopal castle complex, and it was in turn fortified in the 15th century as protection against the growing Turkish threat.
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Despite the heroic struggles of successive Hungarian monarchs over more than a century, the whole of the central part of the country was taken by the Ottomans in the mid-16th century. The episcopal castle of Pécs became the administrative centre of a sandjak. Most of the Hungarian inhabitants of the town fled, to be replaced by Moslems from Turkey or the Balkans, who demolished the churches and monasteries (with the exception of the cathedral) and used their stones for the construction of mosques and other Islamic buildings. The town walls were strengthened with bastions.
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Pecs was freed from Ottoman rule in 1686, becoming part of the Habsburg lands. The bishopric was re-established and the town was repopulated with Hungarians and German colonists. The mosques and other Moslem buildings were converted for Christian purposes, although the baths (hammams) continued in use for a considerable time. The fortifications around the castle were demolished and the town began to take on a Baroque appearance. It was designated the administrative centre of a county and fine public buildings were added.
Pecs secured its independence from episcopal rule in 1780. During the 19th century it witnessed a spectacular development as a commercial centre, and was graced with many buildings in the architectural styles of the period - classical, romantic, historicizing, and eventually Art Nouveau. Fortunately, it was spared from inappropriate insertions during the second half of the 20th century.