The history of our library dates back several centuries and is closely related to the history of the chapter and the archdiocese.
The Church of Esztergom comprised a set of institutes performing determined tasks already in the Middle Ages. Its main responsibility was to perform liturgical activities. The secular arm entrusted the Church with education and the task of managing the cathedral school. Education also belonged to the responsibilities of the chapter. At the end of the 14th century, as an individual institute though, but based on the cathedral school, the Collegium Christi, which had its own library and was founded by János Budai (?-1427), dean of Bars was merged with the chapter. The Collegium provided financial support during the university years of the students spent abroad.
In order to fulfil the institutional tasks, books were indispensable. A register of the medieval books was not available, but according to the church visiting register of 1397, liturgical works necessary for the activities of the church service were available at a sufficient number. The books of the cathedral were kept at the site of usage, so the liturgical books were in the sacristy. The textbooks of ecclesiastical law used at the diocesan court were also kept here.
The book stock of the Church of Esztergom was mainly enriched by donation or as a heritage of deceased chapter members. Another way of enrichment was copying. Among the manuscripts copied at the scriptorium of the cathedral, one volume remained (to be found today at ÖNB Cod.1215.), and has the following register in it: its copying was finished in 1394, in the castle of Esztergom by a scriptor named Temlinus.
As the castle of Esztergom was occupied by the Ottoman in 1543, the members of the chapter together with some indispensable codices and some printed books moved to Nagyszombat.
Between 1543 and 1820 the archbishop and the chapter of Esztergom stayed in Nagyszombat. The establishment of the centre of Church governance in Nagyszombat was launched by archbishop Miklós Oláh (1493-1568). According to the register at the time of his death, on 21 January 1568, the library of the cathedral contained 44 books. Enriching the stock of the library by donation became a practice after the Council of Nagyszombat in 1611. According to the decision of the Council, archbishop Ferenc Forgách (1560-1615) "ordered the books remained after the death of beneficed ecclesiastics to be kept for the part of the library of the cathedral; for this purpose he bought a house in Nagyszombat to serve as a library and also as a press, and here the books of deceased archbishops and ecclesiastics were to be kept until the newest of times". (Ferenc Ocsovszky: The Library of the Church in Esztergom. Religio, 1856. I. p. 3.).
During the archiepiscopacy of György Lippay (1600-1666) and György Szelepcsényi (1595-1685) the library experienced a significant development. György Lippay, by this enlarging his own collection, bought the library of Fuggers comprising 1681 volumes in 1642-43. The parchment volumes labelled with the super ex libris of Anton Fugger, mainly Latin, German and Italian works originated from the first half of the 16th and 17th century. The stock was further enlarged by the purchases of Szelepcsényi, and it comprised almost 3000 volumes in the 1670s. At this time was the today known, alphabetical and thematic catalogue of the library prepared.
In the 18th century the chapter of Esztergom was still operating in Nagyszombat, although the archbishops often stayed in Bratislava, where a separate archiepiscopal library was established by Ferenc Barkóczy (1710-1765). This collection was further developed by cardinal József Batthyány (1727-1799), who also had a new archiepiscopal palace built in Bratislava, and placed his library and collection of manuscripts there. At his time were the new registry books and indexes of the collection in Nagyszombat and Bratislava finished. Just like the Maecenases of the era, he also helped the scholarly researchers and made his collections accessible for them. He also had an intention of making the library of the chapter public as well.
After the expulsion of Ottomans the return of the canons and of the archbishopric to Esztergom did not take place until 1820. At this time were the significant building constructions, as that of the cathedral, the line of canonical buildings, the primatical palace, and of the Library of the Cathedral, otherwise known as the Bibliotheca launched. In 1821 archbishop Sándor Rudnay (1760-1831) ordered the library of Bratislava to be transported back, and a new canonical library was also established in Esztergom.
The present building of the library was finished in 1853, based on the plans of József Hild. In practice, the stock of three libraries was placed here: the stock of the chapter library established in 1820, that of the archiepiscopal library of Bratislava transported back in 1821, and of the chapter library of Nagyszombat transported to Esztergom in 1853. We have exact data on the stock of the united library. In 1856 54.816 printed works and 1391 manuscripts were recorded, while 30 years later statistics include 63.740 documents, together with manuscripts and small prints. The stock of the three libraries was handled as one from 1876. Further enrichment was also due to heritage. Until the separate archiepiscopal library of János Simor (1813-1891) was established (the present Archiepiscopal Simor Library treasuring the heritage of the primates) the volumes of the libraries of the archbishops of Esztergom and the book collections of the canons were placed in the Cathedral Library of Esztergom. The collection of József Kopácsy (1775-1847), archbishop of Esztergom comprising 800 volumes, the medieval manuscript collection of canon Nándor Knauz (1831-1898), the collection of canon István Majer (1813-1893), which is significant from a culture-historical point of view and which comprises 1200 mixed volumes (educational documents, name registers, catalogues), and the engraving collection of canon Antal Lepold (1880-1971) are to be characterised as outstanding among these.
The task of managing the library in the 19th century was performed by significant ecclesiastical people, mainly scholars. Among others it was Nándor Knauz, who was a vice bibliothecarius first and then became a prefect in the library. We also have to mention the name of János Feichtinger (1811-1889), who worked on the incorporation of the three library stocks and their re-categorisation, and who has also elaborated the unified classification system. In the newest age the martyr bishop, Zoltán Lajos Meszlényi (1892-1951), who has been beatified since then, was working as a prefect at the library for some years. The investigation of the library due to professional reasons was launched in the 20th century by Zoltán Kovách (1930-1981). The studies of Kinga Körmendy have provided us with new information on the history of the stock.
The stock of the library can be considered of universal scope both from a linguistic point of view and regarding its content, as besides the theological and religion-related works almost all branches of laical sciences are represented according to the interests of the favourers and of those whose heritage it formed part of. A variety of documents can be noted regarding the stock: the library treasures a block book (Biblia Pauperum), several codices, almost 300 early-printed books, antiques, cut-outs, maps, manuscripts, small prints and periodicals. Our collection containing ecclesiastical name lists (dioceses in Esztergom, elsewhere in Hungary or abroad and classification lists) can be regarded as significant. The separate collection, Collectanea mainly includes small prints of the 18th and 19th century.
The unique richness of the collection is characterised by the RMK- and Hungarica volumes, the codices treasuring linguistic monuments (Jordánszky Codex, Nagyszombat Codex), the Balassa Bible (the surroundings of the death of Bálint Balassi have been recorded in it by handwriting), the Corvina of Lövöld, the Bakócz gradule of the size of a giant folio, and several other culture-historical curios.
The processing of the stock is performed by the ALEPH integrated library system; so our readers can receive information on the already elaborated parts of the stock by this. On the interactive website of our library we not only intend to provide our readers and researchers with useful information, but also by the tools of modern technology we make accessible our digitalised volumes for a wider range of interested people, by them representing the collection, the Hungarian and universal Catholic cultural heritage as well.
After the relocation of the archdiocese, archbishop Rudnay placed the medieval book stock and also newer ones temporarily in the Saint Cross church of the Franciscans in 1821. The original plan was that the collection should form part of the building complex planned on the Várhegy (Castle Hill) collection. As this plan could not be fulfilled due to financial and static reasons, it received its final place at the north end of Víziváros (Water Town). According to the map of János Mathes at that time, the libraries were settled on one side of the land block formed next to the medieval walls of the town, on the area of a filled-in ditch. Previously a walking square was formed here by archbishop József Batthyány (1776-1777), later in 1829 it was divided into parcels by Rudnay. József Beimel, a pressman received the corner parcel, but did not start a construction there, therefore József Kopácsy took it back and started to build a storied house for the library; his death in 1847, however, interrupted the works. In 1852 primate Scitovszky gave the parcel to the main chapter so that they should finish it and maintain the building. The building was finished in 1853, according to the plans of József Hild, in an early eclectic style.
The inner layout of the building was considered as unique at its time. The architect, instead of the idea of a single-roomed library, planned a building for the library, which consisted of functionally separate rooms. Practically, the stock of the three libraries was placed here: the chapter library established in 1820, the archiepiscopal library of Bratislava relocated in 1821, and the chapter library of Nagyszombat transported to Esztergom in 1853. On the front of the building the sculpture of Saint Jerome is to be found. The library was damaged during the second World War, in 1944, and was only restored in 1961. It is under the preservation of monuments.
it informs about the books obtained up to the 1960s. It enables retrieval according to author, title, in some cases according to key words as well. Digitalised version.
Label catalogue of István Majer's collection
Catalogue of manuscripts (digitalised version)
A label catalogue in alphabetical order, and the following printed catalogues:
Bél Mátyás kéziratos hagyatékának katalógusa / Szelestei N. László ; a Magyar Tudományos Akadémia Könyvtárának kiadása. - Budapest : MTA Könyvtára, 1984 [!1985]. - 299 p., XXXII t. ; 24 cm. ISBN 963 7301 65 8 (The catalogue of the handwritten heritage of Mátyás Bél)
Esztergomi Főszékesegyházi Könyvtár Batthyány-gyűjteményének katalógusa / Beke Margit. - Budapest : Országos Széchényi Könyvtár, 1991. - 164 p. ; 24 cm. - (Magyarországi egyházi könyvtárak kéziratkatalógusai, 0138-99559 ; 9.) ISBN 963 200 320 9 (Catalogue of the Batthyány collection of the Cathedral Library of Esztergom)