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Matthias Church, Budapest, Hungary

April 22nd, 2007 / / Links: Google Earth, Google Maps, Yahoo! Maps, Virtual Earth / Nearest places
 
 

Matthias Church or Mátyás-templom located in Budapest, Hungary at the heart of Buda's Castle District.

Officially named as the Church of Our Lady, it has been popularly named after the greatest Hungarian king, Matthias Corvinus, "Matthias the Just", known in Hungarian as Mátyás király, who ordered the construction of its original southern tower. In many respects, the 700 year history of the church serves as a symbol (or perhaps a reminder for Hungarians) of the city's rich, yet often tragic history. Not only was the church the scene of several coronations, including that of Charles IV in 1916 (the last Habsburg king), it was also the site for King Mátyás' two weddings (the first to Catherine of Podiebrad and, after her death, to Beatrice of Aragon).

Any Hungarian historian of note will tell you that the darkest period in the church's history was the century and a half of Turkish occupation. The vast majority of its ecclesiastical treasures were shipped off to Pozsony (Bratislava) and following the capture of Buda in 1541 the church became the city's main mosque. To add insult to injury, ornate frescoes that previously adorned the walls of the building were whitewashed and interior furnishings stripped out.

The church was also a place of the so called Mary-wonder. In 1686 during the siege of Buda by the Holy League a wall of the church collapsed due to cannonfire. It turned out that an old votive Madonna statue was hidden behind the wall. As the scuplture of the Virgin Mary appeared before the praying Muslims, the morale of the garrison collapsed and the city fell on the same day.

Although following Turkish expulsion in 1686 an attempt was made to restore the church in the Baroque style, historical evidence shows that the work was largely unsatisfactory. It was not until the great architectural boom towards the end of the 19th century that the building regained much of its former splendour. The architect responsible for this work was Frigyes Schulek.

Not only was the church restored to its original 13th century plan but a number of early original Gothic elements were uncovered. By also adding new motifs of his own (such as the diamond pattern roof tiles and gargoyles laden spire) Schulek ensured that the work, when finished, would be highly controversial. Today however, Schulek's restoration provides visitors with one of the most prominent and characteristic features of Budapest's cityscape.

Inside, visitors tend to head straight for the Ecclesiastical Art museum which begins in the medieval crypt and leads up to the St. Stephen Chapel. The gallery contains a number of sacred relics and medieval stone carvings, along with replicas of the Hungarian royal crown and coronation jewels.

[Source: Wikipedia]

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