Zemplén Archives – Sátoraljaújhely, Hungary - Atlas Obscura

Zemplén Archives

Sátoraljaújhely, Hungary

These 13th century documents come housed in 18th century shelves organized by a 19th century historian. 


The town of Sátoraljaújhely near the Slovakian border houses the county of Zemplén’s archive – one of a few of its kind in Hungary – that contains not only old and valuable documents, but retains a uniquely historic character.

The archive is located in the town hall building and is open not only for researchers and historians, but now as a museum. The oldest documents go back as far as the town’s founding under King Stephen V in the 13th century, and the baroque cabinetry and shelves were built by local 18th century artisans. Preserving its documents in leather-bound volumes that span the entire history of both town and county, the organizing principal of the archive was devised by 19th century Hungarian historian Antal Szimay. It has a certain logic that may elude the casual user, but if you need to find something, the archivists have the system figured out for you.

The look of the archive is also quite unique, with every little section covered and identified by a piece of leather with the archive’s number on it. 

All of the county of Zemplén was originally part of the Kingdom of Hungary, one of the Kingdom’s oldest. But after World War I, it was split between what became Czechoslovakia (and the county of Zemplín) to the north, and the southern area around Sátoraljaújhely stayed with Hungary. The county is still split, with the now-Slovakian county of Zemplín (home to Zemplín Castle) to the north, and the still-Hungarian county of Zemplén (home of the archive) to the south.

Know Before You Go

Located in the town hall building. Visitors should inform the staff ahead about their visit since the institution serves as archive as well. NB, the workers do not speak English but you can manage in German.

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