Košice: several historical facts
The first written reference to the Hungarian town of Košice (as the royal village: Villa Cassa) comes from 1230. After the Mongol invasion in 1241, Hungarian King Béla IV invited German colonists to settle depopulated areas, and part of them settled Košice and its surroundings. The town consisted of two independent settlements – Lower Košice and Upper Košice – amalgamated in the 13th century around the long lens-formed ring, of today's Main Street. The first known town privileges come from 1290. The privileges given by the king were helpful in developing crafts, business, increasing importance of the town, and for building its strong fortifications.
In 1347, it became the second most important town in the hierarchy of the Hungarian free royal towns with the same rights as the capital Buda. Furthermore, it received its own coat of arms from Louis I of Hungary in 1369, and Košice became the first European town with its own coat of arms given by the king. Although it was repeatedly changed during the next centuries (for instance Vladislaus II Jagiello who became the Hungarian king in 1490 added a half of the Polish eagle), the present coat of arms of Košice has its roots in the coat of arms from 1369.
Since the beginning of the 15th century, the city had been playing a leading role in the Pentapolitana - the league of five most important towns in Upper Hungary (all members of Pentapolitana – namely Bardejov, Levoča, Košice, Prešov, and Sabinov – are located on the territory of present Eastern Slovakia). During the reign of King Matthias Corvinus the town reached its medieval population peak. With an estimated 10 thousand inhabitants, it belonged to the largest medieval towns in Europe.
In the first half of the 15th century a completely new church was built on the grounds of the previously destroyed smaller St. Elisabeth's Church. The construction was supported by the King Sigismund of Luxemburg (later also a Holy Roman Emperor). From the 16th century, the city was a main military centre in Upper Hungary, and it became a centre of Catholic education too.
Gabriel Bethlen's uprising against the Habsburgs was accompanied with many combats and battles between the Catholics supported by the Habsburgs and the Protestants supported by the rebels. Košice were supported by the rebels as well, since it was a town where mainly the Protestants lived at that time. The Jesuits, who took up residence in the town, were trying to take part in re-Catholization wave, and therefore they were a thorn in the rebels' side. The tensions escalated in September 1619 when the troops of Georg Rakoczi I tortured to death three Jesuits (namely Marek Križin, Melicher Grodecký and Štefan Pongrác) in so called Royal House, that was a seat of the Royal Chamber. Although a beatification of them started soon after their deaths, it was completed as late as 1995 by the Pope John Paul II.
The first Košice University (Universitas Cassoviensis) was established by Bishop Benedict Kisdy, who assigned a church that was built for Jesuits in the place of the former Royal House as a new university residence. The Jesuits administered the university till their official abolition. King Leopold I, through his Golden Bull, raised the university to the rank of other well-known European universities. In 1776 the university was renamed as Košice Royal Academy (Academia Regia Cassoviensis), and it became a branch of the Buda University. Later, in 1850, it was transferred into Law Academy (this academy was officially closed in 1921).
The situation in Košice after the World War I was quite complicated. In 1918, when the Czechoslovak Legions entered the town, it was included as a part of the newly established Czechoslovakia. However, in June 1919, Košice was occupied again, as a part of the Slovak Soviet Republic that collaborated with Hungary. The Czechoslovak troops secured the city for Czechoslovakia in July 1919, and this state was later upheld under the terms of the Treaty of Trianon.
As a cause of the First Vienna Award that resulted from the Vienna Arbitration in 1938, Czechoslovakia was obliged to surrender the south parts of Slovakia, including Košice, and the town became again a part of Hungary. During the Hungarian occupation, the Jewish population from Košice was deported to the concentration camps. Red Army of the Soviet Union entered Košice on 19 January 1945 without meeting any serious resistance because German troops had left the town before their arrival. A new Czechoslovak government met in Košice in April 1945, and it approved document entitled Košice Government Programme (Košický vládny program), which involved basic principles of prospective national policies.
The construction and further expansion of company called the East Slovakian Ironworks (Východoslovenské železiarne) caused the town population growth from almost 61 thousand in 1950 to 235 thousand in 1991.
Before the splitting-up of Czechoslovakia in 1993, Košice was the fifth largest city in the Czechoslovak federation.