The message of millennia and the history of centuries is reflected in the invaluable treasures of Vas County’s past, i.e. the written and oral historic sources. Archaeological research clearly indicates that there were settlements of key political, economic and cultural function which also made an impact on their environment. These were for example the village of Sé in the Neolithic Age, the village of Gór and the whole of Ság Mountain in the Bronze Age, as well as Velem on Mount St Vid in the Bronze and Iron Ages. Emperor Augustus expanded the eastern borders of the Roman Empire in the first decade B.C. to the river Danube.
The Amber Road led through the new province that was named Pannonia. One of the settlements along this road that acted as the mediator of different religious and cultural trends was Savaria, the predecessor of today's Szombathely, as it was the centre of administration, trade and religion in Upper-Pannonia. The glorious remnants of the buildings and the Amber Road leading through the Forum are a must-see, just like Europe’s most northern Isis Temple a few yards away.
-Szombathely also enriched European Christianity as it gave birth to one of the most popular saints of the Middle Ages, Saint Martin, the bishop of Tours, who died almost 1600 years ago. Various tribes ruled the western part of Transdanubia: Huns, Goths and Langobards from the first third of 5th.century B.C., Avars in the second half of the 6th century and Franks in the IX. Century. After the Hungarian raids from the 9th to the 10th century B.C., the western part of the country became a border area, a so called gyepű, with various peoples guarding it. Thus the western border of Vas County was, and still is, the western border of Hungary. After the establishment of the Hungarian feudal system several important castles were built here – for example the ones in Kőszeg and Sárvár, and two key castle administrations – the ones in Karakó and Vasvár – in order to uphold royal interests. -
In the second half of the 13th century dissembling royal administrative centres were replaced by ones governed by the Noblesse. While Vas County was an area of constant fights and battles from the 12th century onwards, this new frame of public administration brought about greater safety for the county and its borders for almost seven centuries ahead.
The expansion of the Ottoman Empire that reached Hungary in the 16th century did have a huge impact on the life of people in Vas County – despite the fat that the county itself has never fallen under Turkish rule – as in the course of Turkish invasion a large number of Croatians settled here, thus enlarging the population of Hungarian, German and Slovene origin.
-It was in 1578 when the clerics in Vasvár moved to Szombathely because of the Ottoman threat and from that day on, the city could be regarded as the seat of the county. History considers two military events of key importance in the course of the Turkish wars: the first was the battle of Kőszeg in 1532 when the outnumbered defenders of Kőszeg Castle lead by Miklos Jurisics successfully withheld the siege of Turkish troops, and second was the fierce battle of Szentgotthárd in 1664 when Christian armies conquered the Turks. -
In the developed and late period of Feudalism several aristocratic family lived and had estates in Vas County – like the Batthyány, Erdődy, Eszterházy, Festetics, Nádasdy, or Szécsenyi families. Several of their members held important national public functions, and excelled in patronising culture and science. The 18th century brought about a peaceful and well-balanced development for the cities and villages of the County. An event of pivotal importance in the life of the county was the establishment of a new Episcopal diocese with Szombathely as the seat under the Empress Maria Therese. János Szily, the first bishop in Szombathely, was a man of outstanding qualities and thinking in perspectives. Among others the establishment of the seminary, the Bishops’ Palace, the Cathedral and the Library of the Diocese are all linked to his name.
The intellectual movements of the Enlightenment and the Reform era influenced the County as well. This was the period, when Szombathely took over the role of Kőszeg and became the most important commercial centre of not only the County, but perhaps of the entire Region. Lajos Batthyany, who was nominated Prime Minister of the first independent responsible Hungarian Government in March 1848, was a landowner here. The comparatively favourable economic and commercial opportunities derived from the border-location of Vas County improved further, when in the year1965 it could join in the national and international railway network with the opening of the Sopron – Szombathely – Nagykanizsa railway line.
The intensive economic development after the Compromise of 1867 was beneficial to the industry, agriculture and infrastructure. Already at the turn of the century there were more significant factories, primarily in the engineering, textile and milling industry operating in the County. The favourable location as well as the good traffic conditions of the county boosted the sale of the crops of the capitalising, modernising medium and large estates advanced. The urbanisation and the embourgeoisement reorganised the exterior image of the cities and the everyday life-style of its inhabitants fundamentally.
The pace of the development was particularly striking in Szombathely. According to the town development plans new quarters came into existence, monumental constructions and investments for public and personal use were launched. In the developments Gyula Éhen, the mayor of Szombathely between 1895 and 1901, had a crucial role. In the period of Dualism Szombathely became one of the most modern provincial cities in the country. County Vas – like the country – lost significant parts of its territory and citizenship in consequence of the peace-treaties closing the First World War. The present province Burgenland was established from the territories annexed to Austria from the counties Győr-Moson-Sopron and Vas in the year1921.
The new County and national borders had a negative impact on the domestic and foreign economic, trade and infrastructure relations, which were established as the result of a sound development. This had a significant influence on the history and economic opportunities of the County between the two World Wars and later on as well.