The Archbishops of Esztergom as Primates of Hungary have been on the top of the Hungarian church hierarchy since the end of the 10th century, when the archdiocese was founded. Their titles included from 1394 the title of Papal Legate (Legatus natus, “born legate”) and from 1714 the rank of Prince of the Empire. From Saint Stephen onwards the Primates crowned the kings of Hungary and they played a crucial role in the secular government and domestic politics of the country as Chief and Privy Chancellor, Lord Lieutenant (supremus comes) of Esztergom County; member of the Royal Council, the Council of Governor-General and the Septemvirate; and occasionally as Governor.
The territory of the archdiocese was huge. During the Middle Ages it included the entire north-western part of the country north of the Danube and east of the Morava until Szepes and Gömör Counties; the only exception was the relatively small Diocese of Nyitra. In addition, a lot of exempt (exempt from the jurisdiction of the episcopate having territorial competence) parishes and monasteries belonged to the archdiocese in the entire territory of Hungary, from Buda to Nagyszeben. Since the extent of the archdiocese caused difficulties in the pastoral work, the plan to establish further bishoprics appeared already at the time of Pázmány. Eventually in 1776 Queen Maria Theresa established the Episcopates of Besztercebánya, Rozsnyó and Szepes. Simultaneously, the majority of the exemptions were ceased. However, in 1918/1919 the archbishops lost the bigger part of their archdiocese, because as a consequence of the Trianon Peace Treaty the territory north of the Danube and Ipoly were outside the new national borders. In the beginning an Apostolic Administration was formed here with its seat in Nagyszombat, then in 1937 it became an independent episcopate. The borders of the diocese were altered again in 1993 with the Apostolic Constitution of Pope John Paul II, beginning Hungarorum gens. The archdiocese lost its parishes in Szigetköz and Nógrád but it was given the entire territory of Budapest as well as the area between Esztergom and Budapest. Simultaneously, its name changed from Esztergom to Esztergom-Budapest Archdiocese.
The Primatial Archives is the biggest ecclesiastical archives in Hungary. The beginnings of the archives date back to the early 11th century, when the Archdiocese and the Chapter of Esztergom were formed. The earliest original documents date from the middle of the 12th century (1138), the inventory of the archives from the beginning of the 15th century. Preceding the Turkish occupation of Esztergom in 1543, both the Primatial and the Cathedral Chapter Archives were removed from the town. Presumably these were taken to Nagyszombat together with the treasury, where Archbishop Ferenc Forgách (1607–1615) provided a new building to the archives and the library. In the 17th century the Primates usually stayed in Pozsony, so there were archives in their Pozsony palace, too. Based on late 18th century documents we can presume that the older records of the Primatial Archives were transferred to Pozsony and the records of the Cathedral Chapter remained in Nagyszombat.
Following the decree of Primate József Batthyány, between 1781 and 1785 the recent system of the archiepiscopal church government records was developed, modelled on the Archives of the Council of Governor-General. The system was elaborated by Ferenc Fuchs, the curate of the Primate (later he became Archbishop of Eger). He classified the records into thematic categories; this system was developed further and used until 1941. When in 1820 Cardinal Primate Sándor Rudnay returned the archiepiscopal seat to Esztergom, the archival records were packed in boxes and brought from Pozsony to Esztergom by boat, where presumably they were placed in the provisional palace of the Primate. Archbishop János Simor had a storeroom prepared, when the Primatial Palace was finished in1882. The storeroom was equipped with cast-iron stands of the highest quality of the time, which are usable even today.
At the same time the archives of the Cathedral Chapter were placed in the new Basilica, on the northern part of the corridor above the sacristy; then in 1978 the archives were moved on the floor above. The Chapter was a place of authentication (locus credibilis) between 1556 and 1723. The archives of the place of authentication were nationalized in 1951 and transferred to the Komárom(–Esztergom) County Archives; the records were returned to the diocese in 1998 only.
Address: 2500 Esztergom, Mindszenty tér 2.
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