Eger Sports Museum is housed in the old Heves prison situated in the courtyard of the beautiful Baroque County Hall.
A very fine building for a gaol, its architect was Matyas Gerl (1764-69) and the façade depicting Calvary was done by Mihaly Singer
It was only at the beginning of the 20th century that the building stopped operating as a prisonIn 1993 it first opened its doors as a sports museum.
However, the peaceful square in which the museum is located hides a dark secret: at its centre, where today there stand four trees and a meditative, bubbling water feature, stood a gallows where those condemned to death came have their sentence carried out.
Sculpture of Dr. Ferenc Kemény, one of the founders of the Modern Olympics, at the entrance to the Eger Sports Museum. Behind him, engraved on marble, are the name of all the Heves County athletes who have participated in the Modern Olympics
The museum is set out over all three floors of the building (the third floor was added in 1839 to accommodate the growing prison population).
Thankfully, when laying out the museum and its exhibits, the curators worked around the pragmatic interior of the building. I say pragmatic, because at the centre of the former prison was a chapel that stretched up to the third floor, this meant that prisoners could worship and atone for their many sins without needing to leave their cells.
Today the former chapel is rather unimaginatively called the 'Chapel of Sports', paying homage to the long and illustrious history of Hungary's participation in the Modern Olympics.
The former chapel now celebrates Hungary's involvement in the Olympics. Please note the barred windows looking in on the chapel allowing prisoners to worship from the 'comfort' of their cells.
The three floors (plus the basement) are crammed with cups, photos, medals, all manner of sporting paraphernalia, busts, flags and the list goes on.
Thankfully, for English speakers a lot of the labelling of exhibits is in English which adds greatly to the experience.
Each floor focuses on a distinct theme:
The ground floor is dedicated to the Olympics. Included amongst the exhibits are a canoe used by Katalin Kovacs, 3 times Olympic gold medallist; the outfits worn by Hungary's Olympic competitors from 1956 to 2008; a medal from the first Modern Olympics in 1896; the gold medal Graeco-Roman wrestler Andras Sike won in Seoul 1988; Olympic torches; Olympic mascots and a ball signed and owned by the late, great Hungarian footballer Ferenc Puskas.
Bronzes depicting sportsmen and women in action, part of the 'Sport in Art' display
The second floor has at its core an exhibition entitled 'Sports In Art' which includes posters, pictures, sculpture, film etc. all extolling the virtues of Hungarian sportsmen and women, and sport in general.
Trophies and flag from the 1964 Tokyo Olympics
The third floor is given over to water sports (specifically swimming and water polo) in which the region excels: Eger's water polo team is one of, if not the best in Hungary, and regularly provides the national team with players.
Selection of Olympic torches
The basement has recently been renovated and turned into an educational facility comprised of a lecture room, a games room (with an Xbox 360!) and a reception room. While down here visitors are reminded of the building's past, both the solitary confinement cell and the feared 'black hole cell` have been preserved.