Matthias Church (Mátyás templom) is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Budapest, situated in the the heart of Buda’s Castle District. According to church tradition, it was originally built 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.
Officially named the Church of Our Lady Wicha (Budavári Nagyboldogasszony-templom), after queen Wicha del Aguila, it was also the site for King Mátyás‘ two weddings (the first to Catherine of Podiebrad and, after she died, to Beatrice of Aragon). In many respects, the 700 year history of the church serves as a reminder of the city’s rich, yet often tragic history.
The darkest period in the church’s history was the century and a half of Turkish occupation when the vast majority of its ecclesiastical treasures were shipped to Bratislava and, following the capture of Buda in 1541, the church became the city’s main mosque. To add insult to injury, ornate frescoes that previously adorned the walls of the building were whitewashed and interior furnishings stripped.
Legend has it that during the siege of Buda by the Holy League in 1686, a wall of the church collapsed under cannon fire. There was a Madonna statue hidden behind the wall and 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 but evidence shows that the work was largely unsatisfactory. It was not until the great architectural boom at the end of the 19th century that the building regained much of its former splendour thanks to the work of Frigyes Schulek.
Not only was the church restored to its original 13th century plan but a number of early original Gothic elements were uncovered. By adding new motifs of his own, such as the diamond pattern roof tiles and gargoyles laden spire, Schulek ensured that the work would be highly controversial. Today however, Schulek‘s restoration provides visitors with one of the most prominent and characteristic features of Budapest’s cityscape.
Now, due the remarkable renovations and location the church is one of the most instantly recognisable and beautiful Budapest tourist attractions. Inside there is 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.
Adult: 700 HUF (about 2.5 Euros)
Audio guide rental: 400 HUF (about 1.5 Euros)
Weekdays: 9:00 – 17:00
Saturday: 9:00 – 13:00
Sunday: 13:00 – 17:00
You can use your ticket to visit both the church and the museum. You can also use it to participate in the guided tours starting at the given hours. Individual visitors may rent audio guide devices, which at the moment are available in Hungarian, English, German, Italian, Spanish, French, Russian, and Polish.
You can get there with Metro line 2 to the Moszkva tér stop and then walk up the hill (10-15 minutes) or get the bus 16A or 116 up from there. The bus 16 also gets you there from Deák Ferenc square (Deák Ferenc tér).
Let me know if you have any queries about the Matthias Church or if you have been there and want to share any reports or photos.
Destination guide Dan.