Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Battle Of The Kings - Matthias Church vs. St. Istvan Basilica - Budapest

Continuation of June 7th - Thursday

It was still morning and we were still on Castle Hill.  I have failed to mention that we were not just wondering around aimlessly and then being surprised by everything we saw.  We were using a guidebook by Rick Steves.  I highly recommend any guidebooks he writes.  He gives how to get to places, history of the places, funny anecdotes, and suggested walks to make the most of your time.  His books are easy to read and easy to follow.  (Dear, Rick Steves, I think you now owe me a commission.  Sincerely, Jennifer.)

The rest of our day was spent viewing Matthias Church, getting to St. Istvan Basilica, and then checking out the 1956 Uprising Memorial and the Shoes on the Danube Memorial.  I will save the memorials for another post because this one is all about the two churches named after two of Hungary's favorite kings.

First up, Matthias Church. This church is 100's of years older than St. Istvan Basilica but significantly smaller. 
It does cost to go in but it is not too much and it includes going into the Museum of Ecclesiastical Art which houses some centuries-old religious artifacts.

I love the outside of Matthias Church.  The roof alone is worth going to see and the other outer details are wonderful too!

Matthias Church Budapest

Matthais Church Roof Budapest

Raven and Ring at Matthias church Budapest

The inside is beautiful!  Check out these pictures!

Closer view of alter Matthais Church Budapest

Jesus on cross through arch Matthais Church Budapest

I absolutely loved the painted ceilings.  There were several different designs and color schemes.

ceiling 1 Matthais Church Budapest

ceiling 2 Matthais Church Budapest

ceiling 3 Matthais Church Budapest

The decor inside beyond the ceilings was just breathtaking!

Window with circles Matthais Church Budapest

Lion decor at Matthais church Budapest

The different designs of the painted walls were fabulous!

Patterned wall Matthais Church Budapest

Flower painting wall Matthais Church Budapest

Then there was the spiral staircase.  I love spirals!

Stone spiral staircase Matthais Church Budapest

The parting shot of Matthias church reflecting in the mirrored windows of the building next door.

Matthais church reflecting in new building Budapest

We had gone to Matthias church hoping to see the Loreto Chapel which houses the church's most prized possession, a statue of Mary and Jesus created in the year 1515.  In the mid 1500's knowing that that Ottoman's were coming to take over the city the church took this statue, put it in a niche, and plastered over it.  The Ottomans ruled Hungary for about 150 years and used this church as a mosque during this time.  When the Great Turkish War (between the Ottoman Empire and the more modern Europeans) broke out a blast shook the church and the plaster wall fell away revealing the statue of Mary and Jesus right in front of the praying Muslims.  It is said that this was the only part of town taken from the Ottomans without a fight.

You know what....they were doing renovations and the Chapel was closed.  I was so disappointed! Matthias Church had better be glad it almost made up for it by being so pretty on the inside and out! Plus, I was running out of adjectives for the word pretty.  I am math teacher people!  Not an English one!  If you would like to see a picture of the statue you can check out some other lucky person who did get to see it here. (I hope they don't mind sharing!)

In order to look at St Istvan Basilica we have a little traveling across the city to do.  So, let's explore along the way, shall we?

This is Fisherman's Bastion.  It is a fancy terrace that looks out over the Danube.

Fisherman Bastion with tourist Budapest

Frankie and Jennifer at Fisherman Bastion with Parliament in background

I would like to share with you the WORST Hungarian to English translation EVER.  We were hungry (and in Hungary! Ha!) and there was a small cafe inside the Fisherman's Bastion area (huge tourist trap!!).  It serves overpriced drinks (we paid about $5 for two small bottles of water) and overpriced pre-made on the smallish side sandwiches.  This was the description on the menu of one of the sandwiches.

Worst Hungarian- English translation 2

In a city where so many people know and speak English, this was ridiculous.  I don't know if it is kept this way on purpose so that the people who do speak English will think it is cute and not notice the prices or what.  I asked our young waiter (oh crud, I just sounded old but I need to get the point across he was younger than us...that next generation...) who spoke English what he thought about it and he just shrugged his shoulders.

Between Fisherman's Bastion and Matthias Church there is a statue of King Istvan.  I think he sits here to keep a constant eye on the competition of the other church.

St Istvan statue in Castle Hill Budapest

We looked around in the Castle Hills area for some food.  We didn't eat at the tourist trap but that seems to be the only type of places available in the area.  We sucked it up and went to our next stop which was a 25,000-square-foot labyrinth network of a hospital and fall-out shelter hallways built in the mid 1900's under Castle Hills called Hospital in the Rock.

Hospital in the Rock Budapest

I wasn't able to take pictures in there.  Boo!  The ticket price included a guided tour in English.  It was extremely interesting!  It was used during World War II and the only hospital in Budapest that would treat Jews (which was illegal).  It also treated German soldiers, but the Germans never said anything about the Jews being treated because they didn't want the hospital shut down. For its time it was one of the most modern hospital and it had supplies.  The Germans turned a blind eye so they could be treated there as well.

After leaving we HAD to find food.  We were getting crabby.  I wish I could remember the name of the place we found.  It was wonderful.  Frankie order a cheese plate as an appetizer.  It was under $6 and we were not really expecting too much.  This is what came to our table.

Hungarian cheese plate Budapest

Oh. My. Goodness.  It was the most beautiful-est thing I had ever seen.  I almost wept.  There were either 3 or 4 different types of cheeses along with crushed peanuts, apple slices, and raisins. We also ordered personal sized pizzas.  I was so enamored by the cheese that I forgot to take pictures of the other.

After eating we were no longer crabby but blissfully stuffed with cheese and we continued on our way to St. Istvan Basilica.  You really never know what you are going to see along any trail.

Case in point.

Sunflower seed and popcorn mascots Budapest

To the best of my knowledge, I believe that is a sunflower seed and maybe a piece of popcorn.  They were in a lovely city park.  I have no idea why there would ever be a costume made in those shapes.  Later as we continued to walk we saw these two things heading towards us and then suddenly the popcorn sneezed.  That cracked me up.  I have no idea why it was so funny, but it was hysterical. I hope he had a tissue in there!

Continuing on we found this statue of a policeman from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He was created by András Illyés and is on the corner of Október 6th and Zrínyi streets.  Isn't he just fun?  Budapest is filled with fun statues.  You just have to keep a look out for them.

Austro-Hungarian Empire police officer statue Budapest

And finally, we made it to St. Istvan Basilica!  It is the largest church in Budapest, seating a whopping 8,500 people!

St Istvan Basilica Budapest

And do you see what I see?  Buddhist monks in Budapest (no relation)!  I find what they chose to wear for shoes the most interesting.  I mean, what DO you wear with a bright orange sheet?

Buddhist monks in Budapest

Above the outer door of the church is a sculpture of St. Istvan staring down at all that enter.

St Istvan top of basilica Budapest

Once inside, the basilica is amazing!  It sparkles and is much more traditional than Matthias Church. Note the statue at the front of the church.

Inside St Istvan Basilica Budapest

Here is a close up.  No, that is not Jesus at the front of the church.  It is none other than St. Istvan himself!  Which really, that bothers me.  This is a Catholic church which usually has Jesus at the front, but this one has a man.  Yes, he was Hungary's first king and he help expand Christianity to the region, but still.

St Istvan statue inside basilica Budapest

His image can also be seen in the stained glass.

Stained glass at St Istvan Basilica Budapest

Here are a few more pictures from the inside.  It is a beautiful church for sure!

Dome St Istvan Basilica Budapest

Arches inside St Istvan Basilica Budapest

One of the main reasons I wanted to visit this church was the fact that St. Istvan's almost one thousand year old mummified right hand is there in one of the back chapels in a glass box. On August 20, his feast day, they bring it out and parade it around the city. To get the box to light up to actually see it, you have to pay less than a $1 for the light to come on for two minutes.

I am not sure why his hand is there, but according to Wikipedia (the source of all my life's information), 
"Without a living heir, on his deathbed, King St. Istvan raised with his right hand the Holy Crown of Hungary, and prayed to the Blessed Virgin Mary, asking her to take the Hungarian people as her subjects and become their queen."  So this might be the reason.  I am not sure, I never found a why anywhere.

Guess what, that part of the basilica closed at 5 PM and we made it there around 5:30 PM.  I didn't know it closed or we would have walked faster or not stopped for that chai latte after lunch.  Ugh!

In the battle of the kings, I think I really preferred Matthias Church.  The inside painted walls and ceilings were different than any other church I have seen and I was really drawn to that fact.

So this jam packed day still isn't done.  I will have to finish it up in a third post!  Stay tuned!