Looking for the Roman vestiges, the researchers of the Town Museum found the oldest vestiges of Tapolca in the garden of the presbytery on Church-Hill in 1987. The remains of a house of New Stone Age and the bits and pieces of potsherds were attached to the Culture of Körös- Starcevo from 5500- 4500 BC. This folk are likely to draw to the hill rising from the environment because of defensive possibilities. The warm lake (now Mill Lake) was suitable for them, furthermore, the conditions of cultivation of corn and stock farming around the hill arrured the steady existence. The Transdanubian linear pottery appeared in 4500 BC, and the original inhabitants, who meant the end of the New Stone Age, established their settlements in the surroundings too. The inhabitants of the Copper- and Bronze Age occupied the higher platforms of the hollow (the plateaus and slopes of the basalt hills): their burial customs of urn grave and copper tools was found from different places. The cemetery from the Late Iron Age (between 350 and 12 BC) was excavated on the Castle-Hill next to the former brick-works factory.
The centre intersection of the road network, which developed in the Copper Age, is of great importance in the history of Tapolca and it has an effect on the settlement improvement. The Roman remains of the road network (I-IV century), which is 6 metres wide and is of stone foundation were found in many parts of the town centre. The remains from this era came up along the trace of these roads. The most important building complex was excavated on Church-Hill, where the traces of the fortish walls and the buildings’ heating-flue remained. The signs of the steady establishment are the bits and pieces of pots, roof tiles, ornamental vessels of terra sigilatta, glass- and metal tools and brick graves. The archaeologists suppose that not only Christian people but also a Christian church on Church Hill existed on the basis of some special findings.
At the beginning of the 5th century, the barbaric people of the East who escaped from the Huns harassed the Roman and Romanianized inhabitants of this area, then they lived in the empire of the Huns till 453. The rule of the Eastern Goths came after that (456-471), then the Longobards followed them (till 586). The Avars made the latter to move. The culture’s mingling of the Avars and the local people, the so-called Keszthely-Culture shows that the inhabitants, the Slavic tribes in Zalavár, who were attached to the principality of the Slavonian, experienced and survived the settlement of the Hungarian conquerors of the 9th century. The word Toplica, the name of the town comes from the Slavic people, which means "warm water".
The first mentioning of this word is from 1182-1184: King Béla III gives a grove in the area of Tapolca and Keszi to his court priest called Csump. This is the part of the land grant, which is confiscated from the Lad clan, and with which Vérbulcsú takes part in the Koppány revolt. Here live the royal servants (viniculturist, the Lord High Steward, craftsmen), and there is market every week. Around 1217, Andrew II gives it to Bailiff Turul. The town was named Turultapolca after him later. He developed the centre of his manorial private farm on the hill; he had a Romanesque church and mansion built. A piece of wall of this church remained after the rebuilding (Gothic art, Baroque, modern times); it was found when the exploration of the Roman Catholic parish church began. The church of the title, the Blessed Virgin Mary is important, because in 1280, the bishop of Veszprém labelled it as the most beautiful and the most ceremonial church of the diocese. The descendant of Turul family still possesses it in 1290.
According to a document, Tapolca is a royal estate again in 1346, the name of the magistrate is known. In 1347, King Louis the Great donates it to the Cartusian monastery (today Városlőd). The market town will be a centre of the Carthusian possession, and they build a fortified place on Church Hill on the model of the old walls. The town will be the centre of the area for two centuries: the town toll along the road of the domestic and foreign trade, a centre of tenths’ collecting in the diocese, the decanal residence of the county Zala, the centre of the Royal Chamber and the local centre of the royal salt chamber. It shows the importance of the town, that in 1430’s, it is a permanent residence of the general assembly in the noble comitat, where the palatine acted as a judge „by royal assent and with royal prestige” several times. Tapolca would be the centre of the law court in the eastern part of county Zala.
From the middle of the 15th century, the Cartusian reinforce their manor house on Church Hill, they skirt it with walls and fortification, which makes it a fortified castle. After the emergence of the Turkish, the Carthusian and the inhabitants of the market town have a stronghold built using the parish church and the castle. The Turkish is likely to occupy and take possession of the town in the course of their campaign in 1554.
Although the defensive structures of the castle are built in again in the 18th century, it has no significant role in the battles. By this time it is the possession of Padányi Bíró Márton, the bishop of Veszprém; and seven inheritors, 21 villains and 41 free Heyduck live here. The status of the town is fortified episcopal market town. The Heyduck settled here took part in several marauding campaign in the area, and tied to block the attacks of the Turkish. The castle had an important role in the Rákóczi’s insurrection, and that was the time of its destruction.
The stones of the remains were used for the building of the inhabitants’ houses and parish church and the school. The dwellers of the town are called settlers in 1696, freemen in 1715 (lease-holder), again freemen in 1720 in the documents. The contracts between the town and the bishop of Veszprém indicates the increase of the inhabitants’ burdens: payment of money, delivery of the tenth, long transport, letter carrying, assistance to pilfering, one month’s service in the episcopal banderium, the bishop owns the fine, but freedom from villeinage and novena (ninth). The settlers in 1802 (the dwellers of St Nicholas Street, New Street and Haláp Street) already pay taxes in cash. The manorial income collected from the town always increased, which refers to the growth of the inhabitants of the market town in number and property.
The first contracting between the local nobles and Bishop Padányi Bíró Márton occured in 1752, in which the nobles get independent status. Later, the contract is confirmed several times. In Tapolca, 1850 persons live in 374 families of the market-town (335 villein of these), there are 1033 taxpayers in the parsonage, and 130 persons live at the noble’s place in the course of the regional census in 1770. The growth of the inhabitants is rapid: in 1802, 2472 persons live in the town (3 civil servants, 167 citizens and craftsmen, 17 servants of the nobles, 415 villeins, and other dwellers, 645 boys and 1225 women). Most of the inhabitants are Catholic. Mother-church, which has provincial branches in the surrounding country.
The consolidation of holdings in 1864 was significant, which contributed to the growth of the local layer and the layer of the merchants. Tapolca and other surrounding settlements became commercial centre owing to the Jewish people.(The commerce of several agricultural produces and industrial products apart from wine was significant.)
Although Tapolca lost its rank of market-town in 1871, the rapid growth of the town was due to this procedure at the end of the 19th century, and the establishment of several educational institution participated in it as well. Its achievement of middle-class status would be intensive, and it had an effect on the development of the townscape and on the intellectual life: many schools and cultural institutions were built. The railway lines would be the engines of development: the Sümeg-Tapolca line was built in 1891, the Tapolca-Keszthely line was built in 1903 and the Tapolca- Budapest line in 1908. Although two relevant conflagrations (1863 and 1908) and the Great War retarded its development, local factories were built and the reorganisation of the inhabitants in terms of occupation also indicated the improvement: more and more labourers work in factories. In 1925, 25 wholesalers (15 of them deal with wine) and several labourers work at the Steam-saw and Woodundertaking, in the brick-works factory, at the distillery and at the railway company. In World War II, the losses of the town were significant, the most severe loss was the deportation and decay of 800 Jews.
The town developed a lot in the last half century. On 31 March, 1966, Tapolca became a town again, and it received the status of the seat of the district court. In 1966, it would be the centre of the bauxite mining by moving of the Management of Bakony Bauxite Mining, and it became a significant town of Balaton Highlands by establishing other industrial units, by increasing the local trade, by developing schools and general educational institutions. The townscape changed remarkably, and the cultural traditions are of great importance in the life of the area. The improvement of the town ran up by establishing the self-government, Tapolca became a determinant town of the area in the field of administration, economy, school network, culture, public health, tourism and supply.
The history of the seals and arms of Tapolca (1609-1998)
The seal of Jósa Gáspár, Judge of Tapolca was found in 1908, when the Lessler-House was built. This is the oldest armoried depiction of Tapolca. There is a one-towered church and a key next to it in the middle of the round seal, and the legend is 'Judge of Tapolcza, Jósa Gáspár 1609'. It was the personal emblem of the judge, there was no sign of a coat of arms.
One of the wax impression of the seal collection of Altenburger - Réső in National Archives has a towered bastion in the middle, there is a rampart lion turning right in it, which has a cross-shaped sword in the mouth. The same lion rises from the crowned helmet on the tower of the bastion. The legend is ’Tapolcz. Noble. Peste. 1794'.
This seal could be the sample of the town seal, which was used from 1852 according to Mayer Dénes.Tapolca lost its municipal status in 1898, it became a 'large village'. Its seal and coat of arms changed appropriate to this status.
The drawing of the coat of arms appeared in the issue of „Tapolczai Lapok” in March 26, 1911. In the drawing, the shield in the corner is shaded by vertical lines used for indicating the red tincture. The tower and the lion are line drawing without colour and marking.
The inscription of the seal is 'County Zala Tapolcza large village 1908' on the basis of the coat of arms. This coat of arms and seal remained valid during the century, but the coat of arms was not used after 1949.The Committee raised Tapolca again to a town rank in its decree of 1966/6. The turning into industrial and bauxite mining town from nobiliary and trading settlement was revealed in Tapolca's new symbols. The new coat of arms was designed by Konstantin László, graphic artist, which was accepted by the Executive Committe of the Council in the session of 6th December, 1974.The new coat of arms shows the following motifs (on a red shield with white motifs): there is a towered castle below, stylised cluster of grapes above, cog-wheel on the left and two sorts of stooked hammers on the right. The gate of the castle is light blue, there is a white arch in it relating to the cave.The members of Tapolca made rules for the symbols and the use of the symbols of Tapolca in 1991 after the monolithic power had come to an end.The town has a new coat of arms used at present from that moment.The town returned to the oldest version of its coat of arms in 1991, to the seal of 1794, which was the base of later versions as well.
The description of the arms of Tapolca
There is a white (silver) towered bastion on a red shield with a bottom of standing spout. There is red lion turning right in it, and a black sword with a yellow (gold) hilt in the lion’s mouth. There is an open helmet facing one another with a triple crown on the tower, and the previous red lion is a crest of helmet on it.