The History of Őrség

The earliest history of the area dates back to the conquest by the Hungarians, who settled guards to defend the western mark, thus naming the territory: Őrség (literary guard in Hungarian). The defense of the western borders was extremely essential in the time of Árpád (founder of the country at the end of the Great Migrations). Continual German assaults threatened the land the from North and West. The defense of the borders was organized by laying out a broad border-regions (gyepű in Hungarian) around larger settlements. The outer line expanded to the present-day settlements of Muraszombat (now in Slovenia) and Regede (now Radkersburg in Austria).
The gently sloping hills of this area favor the loose formation of settlements consisting of only a few houses on the hilltop (szer in Hungarian). The small plots and patches of agricultural lands have developed a mosaic layout during the centuries. The buildings have achieved a delicate balance between architecture and nature, by maintaining the practical usefulness and a variety of natural formations. The traditional building material was wood. In the 19th century the log houses replaced the traditional ones with porticos supported by columns. The most beautiful examples can be seen in Szalafő and Pankasz.
The territory of Őrség abounds in early medieval relics: in Kercaszomor the St Vendel church with a churchyard (Pusztatemető), in Őriszentpéter Romanic church murals, the building was fortified during the Turkish invasion. The nearby brick works are declared an industrial monument. In the Romanic church of Velemér frescos by John Aquila can be seen.
In 1392 the community of Őrség with privileges in the early medieval times became subject of the land owners. When the area came to the Batthyány family in 1524, the privileges were ignored. Later during the 16th and 17th century the inhabitants were subject of double taxation, Turkish burdens and Hungarian taxes were loaded on the population. As a relic of the previous independent state, the post of a superior was held in the structure of the estate Németújvár with rights to judge and collect the tax. 
The spread of the protestant religion set forth in the free communities of the area in the 16th century. Traditional monuments of these times are bell towers, the oldest of them can be found in Pankasz, erected in 1755. The helmet of the bell was made of wooden shingle roof and the skirting was thatched. During the Reformation and Counter-Reformation the churches changed owners several times. The church in the centre of Bajánsenye was built in 1819; Rev. Nemesnépi Zakál György, the founder of the independent vicarage was honored with a plate. He deserves credit for the scientific description of the region as well. Another benefactor of the area is Pálóczi Horváth Ádám, commemorated with an exhibition room.
The Peace Treaty of 1920 divided the Őrség into two halves. Only the Szomoróc dared revolt against the dictate. 
Now the natural and folklore heritage of the coherent region – with the border loosing significance – can be admired on both sides, in Hungary and Austria as well. The Őrség clay was worked by traditional potters, whose works are exhibited in the Fazekasház (Pottery) in Magyarszombatfa, where their famous successors are still living and working.

9942 Szalafő, Templomszer 21.

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