Thursday, June 19, 2014

Budapest - Matthias Church

Date of visit: 10th April 2014

The sky was cloudy when the metro bus that we ride crosses the Castle Bridge up to the Castle Hill. By the time we get down at the corner of the Matthias Church, rain started to pour though not that heavy. After saying my farewell to the 94 year old gentleman who has given us a valuable advice about the Buda Castle and other attractions of the city, we rushed to Matthias church to hide our selves from the rain. After a while, we decided to pay some nominal entrance fee from the ticketing counter seated accross the church and went inside for a small adventure. It was a right choice as what we saw inside were all indeed so, so beautiful.

The Hungarian pronounced it as “Matyas templom”. Matthias Church is a Roman Catholic church located in Castle Hill, the old city called “Buda” in Budapest. It is located in front of the Fisherman's Bastion at the heart of Buda's Castle District. According to church tradition, it was originally built in Romanesque style in 1015. The current building was constructed in the florid late Gothic style in the second half of the 14th century and was extensively restored in the late 19th century. It was the second largest church of medieval Buda and the seventh largest church of medieval Hungarian Kingdom.

I have at least snapped the kind gentleman's hand where he showed me the Mathias Church that has been used by the kingdom for coronation of the kings. He was a former academician as well as practicing lawyer, hence, we talked about our favorite subject "LAW" :)

Matthias Church was officially named as the “Church of Our Lady”. However, it has been more popularly named after King Matthias, who ordered the transformation of its original southern tower in the 14th century. The church was the scene of several coronations, including that of Charles IV in 1916 (the last Habsburg king). It was also the site for King Matthias's 2 weddings (the first to Catherine of Podebrady and, after her death, to Beatrice of Naples).

During the century and a half of Turkish occupation, the vast majority of its ecclesiastical treasures were shipped to Pressburg (present day Bratislava) and following the capture of Buda in 1541 the church became the city's main mosque. Sultan Sulaiman the magnificent has brought back quite a number of the treasures apart from the content of the Castle’s library to Istanbul during the siege.  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 cannon fire. It turned out that an old votive Madonna statue was hidden behind the wall. As the sculpture of the Virgin Mary appeared before the praying Muslims, the morale of the garrison collapsed and the city fell on the same day.

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.

The church was 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.

It is now a home to 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.

Remarks: Additional notes regarding the King Matthias @ Matthias Corvinus (23 February 1443 – 6 April 1490) for my personal reference. He was called “the Just in folk tales”, was a King of Hungary (as Matthias I) and Croatia from 1458, when he was 14 years old, until his death when he was just 47. He ruled the country for 33 years and conducted several military campaigns, making himself also King of Bohemia (1469–90) and Duke of Austria (1486–90). With his patronage, Hungary became the first European country which adopted the Renaissance from Italy. As a Renaissance ruler, he established educational institutions, patronized art and science, and introduced a new legal system in Hungary. Matthias strongly endeavoured to follow the model and ideas of the philosopher-king as described in Plato’s Republic.
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