Cathedral, Esztergom Szent Adalbert Foszékesegyház
The Cathedral (Foszékesegyház), of monumental proportions (118m (390ft) long and 48m (156ft wide) and with an imposing dome, dominates the skyline of Esztergom. Until the 18th C the Primate Church stood in the center of the densely built medieval town on the 156m (512ft) high Castle Hill; this church had been founded in 1010 by King Stephen I and was dedicated to Stephens's tutor, Bishop Adalbert of Prague. In the course of rebuilding in the 12th C the church was given the legendary door known as the Porta Speciosa, which has now been reconstructed from the original parts and is housed in the Castle Museum.Badly damaged in the Turkish wars, the church was demolished in the 18th C. A modest Baroque church built on the site in 1767-74 soon proved to be insufficiently grand for the country's highest church dignitaries, and it was decided to build a more imposing new cathedral. The draft plans for this were drawn up by the architects Paul Kühnel and János Páckh, who envisaged a massive cathedral with a broad semi-circular space in front of it on which the archiepiscopal administrative buildings would stand. To fit in with this scheme the level of part of the castle hill had to be lowered by up to 11m (33ft). Work commenced in 1822, but János Páckh died in 1839. In his place came József Hild, a busily employed architect who two years before had made his name with his designs for the cathedral in Eger. The leading advocate of Classicism in Hungary, he worked mainly in Budapest, where he left his unmistakable stamp on the Pest district in particular. In 1856 Esztergom Cathedral was completed, although somewhat smaller than first envisaged and without the open space in front of it. During the celebrations at the dedication festival Franz Liszt conducted his "Esztergom Festival Mass" which had been specially composed for the occasion.Across the open Szent István tér lies the east front of the Cathedral, which is where the entrance is located. Two projecting towers flank the entrance hall, with 22 Corinthian columns giving it the appearance of a Greek temple. Over the crossing rises a central dome, 102m (335ft) high, borne on twenty-four pillars. The architect put the entrances on the east side, facing the town, just as he did in Eger. The gray marble interior exudes Classical coolness and sublimity. The sculptures and wall-reliefs are by Johann Meixner and Marco Casagrande, while the High Altar is the work of Pietro Bonnanis. The altarpiece portraying the "Assumption of the Virgin Mary" by the Venetian Michelangelo Grigoletti imitates an "Assunta" by Titian.The historically important burial chapel of Archbishop Tamás Bakócz, commissioned in the first half of the 16th C as a part of the old Cathedral, was demolished in 1823 and then reconstructed to form part of the new Cathedral, to the left of the main entrance. An artist from the circle led by Giuliano da Sangallo built this little chapel of red marble between 1506 and 1510. The white altar, decorated with an original relief showing the Annunciation, was created by the Florentine artist Andrea Ferrucci in 1519. The archbishop is portrayed for posterity in the shape of a kneeling figure near the right-hand pillar; the walls are emblazoned with the arms of King Vladislav II (reigned 1490-1516) as well as those of Archbishop György Szathmáry, Bakócz's successor. The altar-piece, the figures in the niches and the canopied niche are 19th C additions.The massive crypt is in Egyptian style; some superbly carved sarcophagi of the Archbishops of Esztergom are well worth seeing. In the summer of 1991 the remains of Cardinal József Mindszenty, who died in 1975 while in exile, were moved from Mariazell in Austria to their last resting place here in Esztergom. The two large angel figures were the work of the Viennese sculptor Andreas Schroth (1826).In the northeastern corner of the square room below the dome lies the entrance to the Cathedral Treasury, in which is kept one of the richest collections of sacral art (9th-19th C) in Hungary. Containing numerous liturgical vessels, valuable chasubles and relics, the collection has been repeatedly plundered throughout its history, and during the Turkish period it was removed from the Cathedral to various castles in Upper Hungary and Austria in order to keep it safe. The oldest piece in the collection is an oval piece of rock-crystal dating from the 9th C carved with the Crucifixion scene. Other outstanding items include a 12th C Byzantine tablet, a 13th C Hungarian coronation cross and three Gothic goblets. Outstanding examples of the goldsmith's art include the Transylvanian Suki Goblet of 1440 and the golden "Hill of Calvary" Cross owned by Matthias Corvinus, which on its own makes a visit to this museum worthwhile. The upper half of the "Hill of Calvary" Cross was made in Paris in 1402, while the lower section was made in Florence in the 1580s.
Opening hours: 9am-4:30pm; Closed: Mon
Map - Cathedral
Map of Esztergom Attractions