Called ”Szekler-Athens” in the last century, Székelyudvarhely is now the second largest city in the county, the center of the historical Udvarhely region and home to one of the most important intellectual scenes for the Transylvanian Hungarians.
The town has 36.234 inhabitants, 96% of whom are of the Hungarian minority. The city lies in the southeastern part of the Transylvanian basin, at the upper reaches of the river Nagy-Küküllő. Udvarhely is surrounded by the volcanic Hargita mountain and its branches which form the Küküllő hilly country, with peaks such as: Szarkakő, Csicser, Nagyoldal, Budvár. Archeological excavations show that area has been continually populated for ages. On both Budvar hill and in the town center there are sites from the late Stone Age, Bronze-, Iron Age, Roman period and the Arpadian era.
The name of the city was first mentioned in the annual papal tithes register of 1333 as “Uduorhel“. In the next century it developed as a market town and starting in 1448 appears in all documents as Udvarhely. The introduction of the Székely title is connected to Gábor Bethlen, Prince of Transylvania (1613). The community was exempted from all kinds of taxes and expenses forever by Queen Izabella in 1557. The queen again confirmed these privileges in 1558 and endowed the town with a seal and coat of arms consisting of an armored right hand holding a sharp dagger, with a bear head, a heart and a crown surrounded by four starts and the date 1558. The inscription on the seal was: Sigillum Oppidi Siculicalis Udvarhely.
The City Hall (once County Hall) was built between 1895-1896 in eclectic style, following the plans of the architect Ottó Stehlo. The merit of the interior architecture is the assembly hall, situated in the end of the closed interior yard.
Millenium Memorial Column
The original memorial column was inaugurated in 1897 on the one thousandth anniversary of Hungarian conquest. It stood on the main square of the town until 1919, when it was pulled down following the transfer of power. The present monument was erected in 2008 and is 8,4 m high. The coat of arms of the town and of the comitatus are represented on two of the four sides, the other two being guarded by stone lions.
Reformed College and Reformed Church
The Reformed College (Old College, Márton Áron square 1.) was founded in 1670 by count János Bethlen (1613-1678). Later according to the proposal of professor Gergely Kis of Baczkamadaras the old wooden building was destroyed and rebuilt. In front of the new building, presently the Benedek Elek Teacher Training College, which was built near the old one, there is a bronze statue of Elek Benedek (1856-1929), the great narrator, also a former pupil of the school. This building hosts the Haáz Rezső Scientific Library, the legal successor to the old Library.
The Reformed Church was built between 1780-1781, on the ruins of the old Saint Ann Chapel. It was built by Gergely Kis of Baczkamadaras (1737-1787), rector and professor in the reformed Collage. The building has both Classic and late protestant Baroque architectural features.
Statue of Orbán Balázs
On the Main square, in the southern corner of the small park situated near the reformed church there is a bronze statue of the ”greatest szekler” Balázs Orbán (1829-1890) who from 1872 was a member of Parliament and correspondent member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. His statue was created by sculptor László Hunyadi from Marosvásárhely and Mihály Antal foundry master from Szabadka. The most important work of Balázs Orbán is the six volume ”Description of the Szeklerland”.
Life-group of statue
The group of statues unveiled on the 51st anniversary of the Revolution of 1956 is made up of several parts: the statue of Christ, of Virgin Mary, and the stone composition in which they are set. The motifs carved in stone symbolize the struggling souls, the acceptance, the revolt and a certain dynamic restlessness.
In the Márton Áron square one can see the Iron Szekler. This new bronze statue is a memorial to the fallen heroes of the 1st and 2nd World Wars and replaced an earlier statue of the Iron Szekler that was made of wood and was covered with tiny nails and iron scales.
Bust of bishop Márton Áron
In the southern corner of Márton Áron square, on the left side of the stairs leading up Saint Nicholas hill, stands the bronze bust of the great Roman-catholic bishop Áron Márton (1896-1980). This sculpture was created by László Hunyadi, sculptor from Marosvásárhely and Mihály Antal foundry master from Szabadka. On the right stands a stone statue of Jesus, made in 1901 by Harmath, professor of the State Stone- and Pottery Vocational School.
Roman Catholic Parish Church
The Roman-Catholic Parish Church, an imposing structure located on Saint Nicholas hill, Baróti Szabó Dávid street nr. 34-36, is built in ecclesiastic Transylvanian Baroque style. The church, dating from 1787-1793, reveals Classic, Baroque and some romantic elements including three knaves and one 40 meter high steeple. The parish church is linked to the name Ferenc Török of Kadicsfalva (1731-1804) parish priest and archdeacon of the Udvarhely region and was built on the site of the old, medieval, Saint Nicholas church. The only element of the older building incorporated into the new design is a carved Renaissance doorframe, at the entrance of the sacristy.