Initiatives had already begun prior to the turn of the century to create independent buildings for the Székely National Museum that had been established in 1879. Several architects prepared designs over the years. The elaboration of the draft plans prepared by the end of 1909 by Dezső Hültl, who had been recommended by the National Board for Museums and Libraries, had not made progress. In the end, he recommended Károly Kós, who he knew personally from the Technical University, to continue the work. Kós received the official commission to prepare the detailed plans and supervise the construction work in April of 1911.

“I can say that perhaps I would not have taken up any other commission as this with as much genuinely great joy. Since all of my labors and all of my work to this point had been nothing other than the study of the folk art, architecture, language, and the wonderfully preserved national character of our Transylvanian Hungarian people, the Székelys and the people of the Kalotaszeg, to be able to work on this, to do something that would perhaps be Hungarian.” (Kós Károly levele Gödri Ferenc sepsiszentgyörgyi polgármesternek, 1911. április 10.) 

After he became familiar with the museum’s materials in Sepsiszentgyörgy (Sfântu Gheorghe), Kós studied the local conditions and presented his sketches. He proceeded to consult the relevant parties intensively on the dimensions, arrangement, location, and other aspects of the building, and presesnted the construction plans together with the budget on the 26th of April. The negotiations on bids from the contractors were held in August, and then construction began. Kós returned home to Sztána (Stana) in the fall, so that it would be easier for him to supervise construction every other week. The ceremonial laying of the cornerstone took place on the 22nd of October 1911 and the roof of the building was completed in February of 1912. The work on the museum stretched until the end of the year, with only the two homes for museum caretakers being finished by the deadline in the middle of the summer. The installation of the museum displays began in April of 1913, but this was only completed in part due to the war, and so the building’s actual opening was delayed. The fencing along the street, the landscaping, and the drainage and water conduits designed by Ödön Fekete in Budapest were only completed in 1914. The majority of the rooms of the main building were conscripted for use as a hospital between 1917 and 1920. The furnishing of the building was only completed in 1922, which is when they installed the ceiling from the Barátos (Brateş) church.

Kós also participated in the development of the open-air museum that was conceived for the neighboring lot purchased in 1930. The Lófőszékely House (1767) from Csíkmenaság (Armăşeni) was surveyed and relocated in 1934 with his participation.

Károly Kós made a plan for expanding the northern wing of the main building in 1943. They tried to complete the extension several times between 1949 and 1959, but the construction plans were not finished until 1972-1979 (Barna Deák) and it was only constructed in 1979-1981, after Kós’s death. The plans were adapted into their present form by Ferenc Gagyi.

The construction led by Andor Malmos in 1911-1912 took place in accordance with the preliminary assurances. It was performed primarily with materials from Székely Land and employing Székely master craftspeople, including local contractors such as the master builders István Molnár and Mihály Szabó, the ironmonger András Deák, and the metalworker István Jakócs. Őrkő sandstone from Sepsiszentgyörgy (Sfântu Gheorghe) was used for the foundation walls and the base, Prázsmár (Prejmer) bricks for the walls of the building, wood from the forests in the area for the framework and woodwork, and Bodok (Bodoc) tiles for the roof. The raw materials for the white marble for the divisions and cladding was from Gyergyószárhegy (Lazărea). It was only the colorful, enameled tiles that arrived from further away, the factory of Lajos Mátray in Kunszentmárton, as can be read in the publication issued for the centenary anniversary of the building (Boér Hunor–Várallyay Réka: Kós Károly Székely Nemzeti Múzeuma. Székely Nemzeti Múzeum, Sepsiszentgyörgy, 2012. 18.). However, Kós wrote in 1929 that these enameled tiles were delivered by the Zsolnay factory (Kós Károly: A Székely Nemzeti Múzeum építése. In: Emlékkönyv a Székely Nemzeti Múzeum ötvenéves jubileumára, Sepsiszentgyörgy, 1929. 29.). The carefully planned interior details, such as partitions, handles, and furnishings, were also made by local craftspeople. Only the lighting fixtures and library equipment were provided by companies from Budapest (Ganz, Márkus).

The building along with its associated museum caretakers’ houses and open-air museum stands on an enormous corner lot. It is possible to enter the outer courtyard through the pedestrian gate located along the main axis of the tower, while a Székely-style gateway on either side serves automobile traffic. Kós surveyed the Dálnok (Dalnic) gate (1773) together with the museum caretaker Ferenc László, and he discovered the painted Zetelaka (Zetea) gate (1875) with Dezső Zrumeczky during their 1913 study tour of Transylvania.

The entrance courtyard is accessed from the outer courtyard through a small gateway with a steeple-top roof, which recalls Transylvanian cemeteries and their pavilions (church yard, covered benches). Here one sees the squat tower that contains the museum’s Romanesque-style entry portal. The side wings framing the central section have switched sides for unknown reasons when compared to the early draft designs. The inner courtyard became much sunnier because the wing that extended towards the street was placed on the right side of the tower, while the original design placed more emphasis on the view for those coming from the city center.  

The other furnishings and fixtures of the museum, such as the mosaic above the entrance (András Makkai) as well as the wrought iron lamps and stairway railing (György Nagy), were made between 2008 and 2012 according to the original drawings. This is also when the stained glass windows depicting Prince Csaba designed by Count Miklós Bánffy in 1933 were made (Makkai).

The museum retains the typical pattern of the village, being placed further away from the street just like the old Székely peasant houses, and it emphasizes its connection with the landscape. Its steeply sloped roofs recall the traditional Székely or Transylvanian hipped roofs. Transylvania has another architectural scale that is considered urban, which appeared through the activities of the Saxons that settled there in the Middle Ages. This is characterized by picturesque winding streets, amongst which often appears a prominent tower that indicates the center of the community. This urban scale also appears at the Székely National Museum through the central tower framed by the side wings.


Kós Károly: A Székely Nemzeti Múzeum építése. In: Emlékkönyv a Székely Nemzeti Múzeum ötvenéves jubileumára, Sepsiszentgyörgy, 1929 (26–29.) 

Csutak Vilmos: Kós Károly és a Székely Múzeum. In: Erdélyi Helikon VI./10., 1933 (689–696.)

Kónya Ádám: Kós Károly-épületek Sepsiszentgyörgyön. In: Aluta V. évf., 1973 (219–236.)

Kós Károly: Életrajz. Szerk.: Benkő Samu. Szépirodalmi Könyvkiadó–Kriterion, Budapest–Bukarest, 1991 (114–116.)

Gall, Anthony: Kós Károly műhelye – tanulmány és adattár. Mundus Magyar Egyetemi Kiadó, Budapest, 2002 (227–237.) [1911-2]

Boér Hunor–Várallyay Réka: Kós Károly Székely Nemzeti Múzeuma. Székely Nemzeti Múzeum, Sepsiszentgyörgy, 2012

Fabó Beáta–Anthony Gall: „Napkeletről jöttem nagy palotás rakott városba kerültem”. Kós Károly világa 1907–1914. Budapest Főváros Levéltára, 2014 (152–169.)

Gall, Anthony: Kós Károly és Sepsiszentgyörgy – a székely nemzetnek székely kultúrházat akartam. Székely Nemzeti Múzeum, Sepsiszentgyörgy, 2015

Gall, Anthony: Kós Károly (Az építészet mesterei. Sorozatszerk.: Sisa József). Holnap Kiadó, Budapest, 2019 (108–119.)


Date of planning
1910 - 1913
Date of construction
1911.10 - 1912.12 1911
Sepsiszentgyörgy, Sfântu Gheorghe
Original address
Alsósétatér utca
Kós Károly u. 10.
Székely Nemzeti Múzeum, Múzeumok és Könyvtárak Országos Főfelügyelősége, Vallás- és Közoktatásügyi Minisztérium
Kós Károly
István Molnár and Mihály Szabó master builders, András Deák ironmonger, István Jakócs locksmith. Construction foremen: Sándor Körmendi and Antal Tóth. Technical inspector: Andor Malmos, Chief Engineer of the State Architectural Office Sepsiszentgyörgy
Building type
cultural building
Building status
executed work