By Invitation Only
Deep in the Pilis Hills lies the village of Pilisszentkereszt (The Holy Cross of Pilis). Its natural setting attracts hikers who seek out natural refuge in the oak and beech forests.
Pilisszentkereszt has also attracted many foreigners and not just tourists. Multiple times over the past 800 years this small village was a haven for outsiders who found their way here and liked it so much that they decided to stay.
Even today, this sheltered environment is home to one of the few villages in Hungary with a non-Magyar ethnic majority.The groups of foreigners that permanently settled Pilisszentkereszt came by way of invitation.
The first were monks brought to Hungary by the French wife of King Bela III (1172 – 1196). A Benedictine Abbey was established here in May of 1184 and a village soon grew up around it.
Close to the village occurred one of the two assassinations of queens in Hungarian history. The German wife (yet another foreigner) of King Andrew II (1205 – 1235), Gertrude of Merania was despised by the nobility because of her overt favoritism to her fellow ethnic kin.
She gave away one-third of Hungarian land to her fellow Germans. In the autumn of 1213 during a hunting trip in the Pilis, she was murdered by the nobles and her body torn to pieces.
The remains were interred at the nearby abbey. It was not until the latter half of the 20th century that an excavation of Gertrude’s Gothic tomb took place.In 1526 the Ottomán Turks destroyed both the abbey and village.
The ruins left behind are still visible today and definitely worth a visit. Following the expulsion of the Turks, the settlement was in ruin. It was not until 1747 when another foreign group arrived on the scene.
A group of Slovaks migrants arrived to repopulate the village. Their presence attracted more Slovaks from all over Hungary. Thus, Pilisszentkereszt became a new home to foreigners yet again.This pattern continues today.
Pilisszentkereszt is the only settlement in Hungary where Slovaks make up the majority, albeit a slim one at 54%. The Slovak name for the village is Mlynky. Signs on the streets and in the shops are bilingual.
This island of Slovak settlement surrounded by a sea of Hungarians continues to thrive. Yet slowly a younger generation of Slovaks in Pilisszentkereszt/Mlynky is losing the language skills and cultural ties that have bound the community together.
A legacy of over eight centuries of foreign settlement is now under attack, not by the dominant ethnic culture, but instead the transformative effects of technology and globalization.
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