Conventions

Matthias Church - Venue of royal weddings and coronation ceremonies

Matthias Church
Budapest

The popular name commemorates the royal wedding of King Matthias I held here – a relief depicting his coat of arms was found during the excavation works. The official name of the building, however, is the Church of the Assumption of Buda Castle.

When Matthias Church was built in the 13th century, it was the first church in the town of Buda. It was a masterpiece of Hungarian Gothic art, where medieval kings came for mass.

The ring-holder crow from the Hunyadians coat of arms

Parts of the medieval Maria Gate from the 14th century still stand relatively intact today, a minor miracle given the building’s rather eventful past. When the Ottoman empire seized Buda in 1541, they converted the church into a mosque, a holy building of their faith, most commonly referred to as Büyük Cami (“Grand Mosque”) in period documents.

Style renewals and facelifts

When, as part of pan-European efforts to oust the Ottoman from Europe, Buda was eventually recaptured in 1686, the mosque was reconverted to a Catholic church, but this time in the era’s highly popular Baroque style. The church saw the coronation of Franz Joseph I and his wife, Empress Elisabeth (or Sissi as the Hungarians liked to call her) in 1867 as well as that of Charles IV, the last King of Hungary and his wife, Princess Zita in 1916.

 

 

The Matthias Church

The two coronations were barely 50 years apart, but the church looked radically different the second time around. The story is somewhat similar to that of the transformation of the Notre-Dame in Paris: tasked with the reconstruction of the church, renowned Hungarian architect Frigyes Schulek considered early Gothic as the building’s “ideal” style, and the beautiful Gothic Revival style Matthias Church we see today was born. The lavish inner decorative paintwork of the building is inspired by the original, medieval patterns found during the renovations, and the special glazed roof tiling was made by the famous Zsolnay factory. The second world war left the church in a dismal condition, with the roof burned down and many of the arches collapsed. The reconstruction and renovation works would only be concluded in the 1970s.

Roughly 30 years later, between 2004 and 2013, the building saw another comprehensive renovation. Today, beyond its sacral functions, the church also hosts classical concerts and is a popular tourist attraction of the Castle District World Heritage site. Matthias Church is flanked by another popular tourist attraction: the Fisherman’s Bastion, another masterpiece of Frigyes Schulek, offering spectacular views of the Pest-side bank of the Danube with the House of Parliament. For an elevated vantage point, you have the lookout point in the church spire.

 

 

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