The outstanding Hungarian statesman Lajos Kossuth called it the “bastion of freedom,” the renowned poet Endre Ady named it “the town of permanence,” and the epithet “Calvinist Rome” dates back to the origins and spreading of the Reformation in Hungary. The poet Gábor Gulyás enriched Debrecen, the largest town of the Eastern region, with the expression “Ó-kikötő” (“harbor of yesteryear”).

The origins of the town date back to the times before the Hungarian conquest of the Carpathian basin: to the Sarmatians and Romans. Debrecen and the area surrounding it were populated even in the ancient times. This land was populated and ruled over by  a variety of peoples (Vandals, Goths, Sarmatians, Gepids, Avars, Bulgarians) before the arrival of Hungarians, a nomadic people up until the 8th century AD, in Central Europe (cf. the Hungarian Conquest of Central Europe). The outskirts of today’s Debrecen often constituted a borderland between huge empires and peoples. The Devil’s Dykes (Ördögárok), found in the Great Forest in the northern part of Debrecen and on the eastern forest steppe, was part of a grand fortification line.

Debrecen was established with the integration of several villages at the intersection of roads connecting the four corners of the world, but its history from the centuries following the conquest is scarcely known. We do know, however, that it began to distinguish itself from the neighboring villages after the Mongol invasion of Hungary.

The name of the town was first mentioned in 1235 in the Regestrum of Várad, a church document in the form of “Debrezun“. The name used today also has its origins in this form.  The privilege of being a free market town granted by Louis I of Hungary in 1361 was a significant milestone in the development of the town.

In 1693, Leopold I, elevated Debrecen to free royal town status as an acknowledgment of its ample service and donations. Following a provision of Act 108 of 1715 that enacted this right, the Roman Catholic Church returned to the Calvinist Rome after two and a half centuries of forced absence. The Reformed College, the predecessor of today’s universities which has been in continuous operation for more than four and a half centuries, stood out from among the schools of Debrecen and was renowned even abroad. Within its walls, erudite professors imparted their knowledge to students, many of whom became famous later on, including several of our great poets and scientists who have been proud to call the institution their alma mater.

Debrecen is a town enshrouded in sunshine; its history was intertwined with the Reformation for more than four and a half centuries and several places and memorials testify to its historical significance. A multitude of buildings provide a bridge between past and present.

Read more about the town, its history, and its cultural life here.


Last update: 2023. 07. 20. 16:38