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Fire tower - Veszprém
Address: 8200, Veszprém Vár utca 9.
Phone number: (88) 610-516, (88) 610-517
Opening hours: 15.03-30.10.: Mon-Sun 9-17; 31.10-14.03.: on prior notice
On the south-western end of the castle we catch sight of the Fire Tower, the only and 48 metres high tower of the castle. The cylindrical part is made of crushed stone and is probably built in the medieval ages, but the exact date of construction is unknown. The foundation is laid upon the square in front of the Castle hill, whereas the entrance is at several metres above the foundation from the inner parts of the castle. The earliest representation of the floorplan is seen on survey drawings of the Emperor’s war engineer Giulio Turco made around 1570. Engravings made of the castle in the 17th century portrait a squat tower in the place of the Fire tower. The castle’s vast south-western bastion was built next to the Fire tower around 1660. The earliest picture clearly depicting the Fire tower’s cylindrical shape as known today is a copper engraving of Friedrich Bernhardt Werner made around 1730.

The earthquake of Mór in 1810 seriously damaged the tower. The town council turned to the bishop for permission to demolish the tower and use the building materials to build the planned Fire Hose House (City Hall between 1818 and 1885, and Office Building for Chambers of Industry). The nobility of Veszprém approved its one-third share of donation to the Fire Hose House if the council had not had the tower demolished. So the tower was saved and renovated, and the Fire Hose House received an extension of late-Baroque style and circular balkony for a “day and night watchman” between 1811 and 1814 under the plans of architect Henrik Tumler.

From that time on the tower served as a Fire Tower or Watchtower for a full-time watchman. The name Fire Hose House, built underneath the tower by builder Sebestyén Strapkovics, had two arches (already bricked up) opening to the street with a horse-drawn fire engines in each on permanent duty. Placed high on the tower wall there is a memorial plaque commemorating the completion of construction directed by architect Tumler: “DEUS EST FORTITUDO. RENOVATA 1817” (God is the Strength of our Heart. Renovated in 1817.) A lazure drawing of 1817 or 1818 by János Berken, born in Nemesvámos, illustrates the state of the tower of that time: “The Watchtower by the New Town Hall”.

The next renovation took place in 1891 and was described in details by municipal chief notary Lajos Vikár’s memorial document dated October 22, 1891 and place in the tower ball. Some among the builders were carpenter Antal Kéz, carpenter’s helper Ferenc Kéz, bricklayers Mihály Tóth, Ignác Paksi, János Takács, copper-smith Mihály Szilágyi, gold-smith Lajos Mező, horologist István Mendelényi, technician Antal Kohl (tower ball cleaner), ironmaker Antal Eotli of Budapest (maker of iron spiral staircase). For “faster transmission of fire alarm”, attorney-at-law and chief-fire commander dr. Ferenc Óvári had a direct telephone installed between the Fire tower and his own apartment at his own expense. Fire watchmen on duty at the town’s expense were Károly Szép, Antal Kungli, Antal Beiczer, and Sándor Kis. Air-raid spotters were on duty during the World War II.

The tower, easy to recognize even from a long distance, has always presented a great opportunity for the current political power to place their symbols on. According to the diary of barber’s helper Károly Francsics as the Habsburg imperial troops marched into the town on January 18, 1849, the black and yellow flag was hoisted on the top of the tower. Later on August 27, 1849, the black and yellow flag flew again next to the Hungarian. It continued in the 20th century too. During the 1956’s revolution against the communists, carpenter László Nagy, Ferenc Szakács and Lajos Hungler removed the red star he put on the top of the tower in place of the Hungarian coat of arms in 1945. “We put it on for money, but take it off for free” he said. After the revolution the red star was taken back onto the tower and remained until the renovation took place in 1984 when some raised to put the old coat of arms back to its place, but the communist leaders gave no permission. It was not until 1990 when the red star was removed finally and replaced with the old Hungarian coat of arms.

The tower underwent the last major overhaul in 1984. Renovation was accompanied with archaeological researches to find out how deep tower foundations were laid on the cliff. However, due to the proximity of other buildings there was absolutely no place for excavation around the tower, so they began to dig inside instead. They removed 7 metres of backfill containing findings from the 17th to the 20th centuries, when they hit a course of stones embedded in mortar, which the structural engineer recommended not to remove. So the tower foundation bottom remained undiscovered.

Every hour the clock of the fire tower plays 'conscription music' composed by the Veszprém composer Antal Csermák. On the circular balkony you can enjoy a view on the picturesque districts of the town.