The history of the archives
The Veszprém Archdiocesan Archives comprises two, formerly independent archives, the Veszprém Episcopal Archives and the Archives of Veszprém Cathedral Chapter. Although their histories intertwined multiple times, they were united only in the las decade of the 20th century.
Presumably, charters have been kept in Veszprém since the foundation of the diocese. The Church, as an institution playing an important role in propagating literacy, has been keen on recording its rights in writing and preserving these documents since the foundation of the Christian Hungarian kingdom. Furthermore, some ecclesiastical bodies acted as places of authentication or as the forerunners of present day notary's offices and issued authenticated charters and preserved the documents of other possessors. An example for this is the Testament of Yeoman Guden from 1079, which is the most treasured property of our archives.
The place of the archives was traditionally the sacristy of the cathedral and the related rooms. Many times the episcopal cathedral of Veszprém fell victim to barbarian destruction – it was pillaged by Peter Csák in 1276 – or fire – under the reign of King Louis in 1381 – thus the documents in the archives were decimated. At the beginning, the episcopal archives and the archives of the cathedral chapter, the board of priests called canons acting as representatives and advisors, were not separated. They were divided in the 13th–14th century when the chapter became a legal entity making a distinction necessary between the episcopal and chapter properties and the related documents. With the approaching Turkish threat – the neighbouring crowning city of Fehérvár fell to the Turkish invasion – the two archives were separated geographically as well. In 1544, the bishop moved its archives to his other fort in Sümeg, while the Chapter relocated the archives to Sopron.
Bishop István Sennyei (1628-1630) restored the operations of the chapter in Veszprém in 1628. As of 1630, the body resumed its authentication activities, which is attested in the earliest interrogation protocol of the archives of the place of authentication. The archives of the body was then located in the cathedral again, where they were preserved until the beginning of the 20th century. Under Károly Hornig (1888-1917) the baroque cathedral of Veszprém was restored in neo-romanesque style between 1907 and 1910, for this reason the archives had to be moved again. After a number of houses in the castle – the old priests’ home (the late minor seminary), Körmendy house, Dubniczay house – the documents were taken to the Franciscan monastery in the castle, and after the change of the system they were moved to the bishop’s palace, where they are still kept.
The early stock of the chapter’s archives was listed in 1781, their property rights documents were organized and described in the 1850’s. József Lukcsics revised the part of the archives containing the most valuable mediaeval charters. Along with the review of the episcopal archives, the first available printed finding aid was published in the Levéltári Közlemények (Archival publications) by Pál Lukcsics in 1930. Soon after 1948, the year of the communist takeover, pursuant to the Act 29 of 1950 the archives as (national) places of authentication were nationalized, which – along with the archives of other ecclesiastical institutes – were physically taken to the Veszprém County Archives. The private archives of the chapter got under the supervision of the episcopal archives at the end of the 1960's, then in 1933 when the diocese was promoted to archiepiscopal level, József Szendi (bishop 1983-1993, archbishop 1993-1997) united them with the episcopal archives.
The episcopal archives did not get back to Veszprém until the middle of the 18th century. The pontiffs maintained their seat in Sümeg until the episcopate of Márton Padányi Bíró, thus moving the archives back was not necessary. Furthermore, in 1717 hearing the news of another Turkish war bishop Ottó János Volkra (1710-1720) deposited some of the archived material at the cathedral chapter in Győr, where it was destroyed in fire. From the middle of the 18th century, due to the restless organization work of bishop Padányi the rejuvenation of the diocese speeded up and moving the pontiff back to his former seat – along with his office and archives – went without saying. During the time of his successor, bishop Ignác Koller (1762-1773), the re-edification of the episcopal palace in its present baroque style started, which has been the home of the archives since then. The last major change in the document collection took place in 1777 when the episcopates of Szombathely and Székesfehérvár were created and the new dioceses received the related documents from the episcopate of Veszprém. Quartering soldiers at the end of World War II and the necessary removals within the building caused more minor damages to the archives.
Referring to stock protection reasons, in 1951 the ecclesiastical archives were taken into joint maintenance with the county archives (so called “dual key system”); subsequently the repositories were accessible only if the representatives of both the state and the church were simultaneously present. Luckily, this system was effective only until 1957 but it had the benefit that a uniform description was made of the episcopal (and the chapter’s private archival) document stock. The Decree No. 27 of 1969 declared the ecclesiastical archives a specific branch of the archival system; the same year the National Catholic Archival Centre was established with the purpose of harmonizing the activities of the Catholic archives. Following a later legal modification, according to the Act 66 of 1995, the ecclesiastical archives which were acting as specialist archives became publicly accessible private archives.
The first major reorganization of the episcopal archives took place in the early 1830’s when the existing stock was divided into thematic series. From 1834 the document handling of the episcopal assembly changed, they started to file the documents according to running numbers. This system was used without changes until 1947 when the present group number – subnumber filing system was introduced. Since the changes in 1834, retrieval has been made easier by registries with indices and subject catalogues. The episcopate's proprieties extending to a number of dioceses were managed from Veszprém. The generated economic documents were initially deposited in the episcopal palace, then from 1895 in the building of the stewardship’s building, which is now home to the county library. This included the documents of the central stewardship and three episcopal lordships (Karád, Sümeg, Veszprém). The obsolete documents were discarded in 1925 nevertheless some of them were saved by János Pfeiffer (1897-1983) episcopal archivist. This fraction comprises now the core of the present episcopal economic archives.
Information about episcopal archivists are available from 1807. In the beginning, this office was held by the new colleagues of the episcopal assembly, newly ordained young priests, and this was the first stage of their career. From the early 20th century the period of the archivist function was extended and professional aspects were also considered when archivist were assigned. János Pfeiffer later grand provost was episcopal archivist for more than two decades between 1924 and 1944, other notable archivists were László Kredics (1966-1972), Pál Rajczi (1969-2004) and József Körmendy (1972-2005). Full-time lay archivist with professional university degree was first assigned in 2002, which gave a new spur to the operation of the institution.
The archives were first ordered in accordance with the contemporary academic requirements by János Pfeiffer between 1928 and 1932. Then, in 1931 Pál Lukcsics published the first printed finding aid to the holdings in the Archival Publications (Levéltári Közlemények). The best finding aids are this and the fond records compiled by county librarian Emil Vevér in 1951 during the nationalization and by József Körmendy in 1983. In the meantime, handwritten finding aids were made for the most often consulted series, which constitute the basis of the institution’s printed finding aid series launched in 2010. From the aspect of the protection of the archives’ stock an important step was when the majority of the mediaeval charters of the chapter were restored on the turn of the 60's and 70's under the supervision of the present library director, then episcopal librarian-archivist dr. László Kredics.