Thursday, March 27, 2014

Matthias Church - Budapest

Matthias Church in Budapest, Hungary is a great church, not so much because of what is inside, but because of its setting. First of all, it has an amazing location on a hill in Buda near the Castle.
Matthias Church, above the Danube in Buda. 
An overhead view of Matthias Church from here.
Head-on view.
View from the front.
Shift your view by a few feet and it looks like a completely different building. 
Just down the street from it is the Fisherman's Bastion which provides a panoramic view of Pest, the Danube, and particularly the huge and beautiful Parliament building. 
The Fisherman's Bastion with St. Stephen on his horse in the center.
The beautiful Hungarian Parliament building. The face that is on virtually every Viking Cruise commercial. 
View further down the Danube.
Viewed from the Pest side, it has a photographic setting on the hill, particularly at night, all lit up. 
Lighting at twilight.
Lighting at night. Just beautiful.
Second, it has a distinctive roof of primarily brown tile with some fun and varied designs. I don't recall seeing any other tiled roofs quite like it. 
The two spires look like they are on two different churches when you first approach.
The brown tile roof is fantastical, like looking at a real life gingerbread house.
View from the opposite direction.
Lots of bends and turns.
View from the backside with St. Stephen on his horse in the foreground. Note, the raven of Matthias on the spire just to the right of St. Stephen's shoulder. 
Variety in the design on the brown tiles.
A red and white striped diamond.
Third, there is a great equestrian statue of Stephen I of Hungary, the first King of Hungary, also canonized as St. Stephen, right near the church which is part of the church's orbit. 
St. Stephen, from the vantage point, is quite majestic.
One of the more beautiful equestrian statues I've seen.
I love St. Stephen's flowing robes and the draping hanging down from the side of the horse.
Fourth, there is a spire with a raven sitting on top with a gold ring in its bill. It is very incongruous. Apparently King Matthias removed a ring from his finger and a raven grabbed it and flew off. Matthias chased down the raven, slew it to get his ring back, then took the raven as his heraldic emblem. 
King Matthias is a man's man. No raven is going to best him. However, the raven with the ring took its place on a spire on top of the Church. Matthias had to settle for a statue in Heroe's Square, several miles away from the Church.
I love the raven with the ring in its bill. 
King Matthias's coat of arms on the south tower. Note the raven in the center of the shield. 
Despite the blurry picture, I had to show the raven on the decoration inside the church. Matthias lives on in name in the church. The raven's image is found on top, on the side and inside. I think the raven won.
The church is Roman Catholic and officially named Church of Our Lady, and is only popularly named after King Matthias. 
Our Lady does show up on the outside. Look above the front door in the bottom middle.
A closer look at Our Lady above the main entrance. 
Our Lady shows up again inside, this time in a similar setting, but standing instead of sitting. I quite like this representation. However, she is not displayed as prominently in this Church as she is in many others that take her name.
King Matthias was king of Hungary from 1458  to 1490. He styled himself as a philosopher-king, patronizing arts and science, establishing educational institutions and a new legal system, as well as expanding the boundaries of his territory to include Bohemia, what is now the Czech Republic, and Austria. King Matthias was married twice in the church and his coat of arms is on the south tower. Matthias renewed and expanded the church, including the building of the two towers, during his reign. It was a coronation church for kings with the first king crowned being Charles Robert in 1308 and the last Charles IV of the Habsburgs, the last Habsburg king, in 1916. 
An inside view - one of the few - largely devoid of construction.
When Buda was captured by the Turks in 1541, Matthias Church became the main mosque of the city. Frescoes were whitewashed and furnishings were destroyed and discarded. After the Turks were pushed out in 1686 an attempt was made to restore the church in a poor fashion. Attempts were made to restore the church in Baroque style, subsequently, but it was not until the late 1800s that much of its former beauty was restored. When we visited the church was undergoing extensive restoration and the inside felt like a construction zone. Much of the inside was covered with tarps and plywood and the walls looked washed out.
An example of some of the beautiful, but damaged and fading walls inside Our Lady.
Beautiful designs made even more beautiful by the intricate ribbing.
Design above a doorway.
The four Evangelists, one occupying each corner of this ceiling decoration.
I'm not sure if this is a ceiling sprinkler, but if it is, it is a colorful way to hide it. 
A fun molding.
Beautiful Queen Elizabeth of Hungary.
Time has not dimmed the beauty of the stained glass. 

My favorite of the stained glass windows.
A close-up of one pane. Is this from the life of Our Lady?
I always love stained glass that depicts knights and their swords and armor.
Another knight. 
A few other decorations that stood out.

So, from that standpoint, much of the magic on the outside was missing inside, but it was a very worthwhile visit. 
Budapest is magical at night and Matthias Church is part of that magic.


  1. Definitely my most favorite equestrian statue ever. The stone lace is amazing. The church is magnificent, from its roof to its spires to its stained glass.

  2. Hi, Your post came up in a Google search of Matthais Church in Budapest. Great post with a lot of details. I hope its ok to add a link in my blog of my recent visit to Budapest?