Considered as the second largest church of medieval Buda and the seventh largest church of the medieval Hungarian Kingdom, the Matthias Church, officially known as the Church of the Assumption of the Buda Castle, is located in front of the Fisherman’s Bastion (Ref: Fishermans Bastion Budapest Hungary) at the heart of Buda Castle’s District of Budapest in Hungary. It is traditionally believed that the original building of the church was constructed in Romanesque style by Saint Stephen, the King of Hungary in 1015. Nevertheless, the present building of the Roman Catholic Church, constructed in the second half of the 14th century, represents an example of the florid late Gothic style, which was extensively restored in the late 19th century. The historic building has witnessed several Royal weddings and coronations, including that of Charles I in 1916, the last ruler of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
As the first church on the site was destroyed by the invading Mongols in 1242, King Bela IV of Hungary constructed the new building between 1255 and 1269, with a towering three-nave basilica. Originally named after the Virgin Mary, it was renamed several times as The Church of Mary, The Church of Our Lady, and finally, The Matthias Church, after the name of King Matthias in the 19th century. The church houses the burials of Béla III, the King of Hungary and Croatia between 1172 and 1196, and his wife Agnes of Antioch. Apart from the crowning of Franz Joseph I of Hungary and Elizabeth, the empress consort of Austria, and also the crowning of Charles IV, the last monarch of Austria-Hungary and Zita of Bourbon-Parma, the last empress, Matthias Church has also witnessed several Royal weddings and coronations, including that of Charles I in 1916, the last ruler of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
The historic building of Matthias Church is the location of the so-called Mary wonder. It is the statue of the Virgin Mary and Christ made in 1515 and housed in a niche, in the famous Loreto Chapel. When the Ottoman Turks invaded Budapest and the city was under siege, the locals plastered to cover the niche where the statue was installed to hide and protect it from the wrath of the Muslims. After the fall of the city, the Ottomans used the church as their primary mosque during the occupation. Nevertheless, although they whitewashed many beautiful frescos and destroyed several fine furnishings, the niche covered under plaster remained unknown and undiscovered by them until 1686 when a wall of the church collapsed due to a sudden gun explosion revealing the statue. It is said that the statue was saved as Mary appeared before the praying Muslim to make them horrified and break their morale while the city fell on the same day. A four- metre tall bronze statue depicting the Virgin Mary and the child Jesus was installed later, on the southern walls of Buda Castle, a scaled-down version of which is displayed in the Castle Gallery.
During World War II, the building of the lower church of the building was converted into the German kitchen, and in the sanctuary was a Soviet stable. Apart from that, during the Allies Siege of Budapest, a bomb fell right next to the organ. Although luckily it did not explode, the roof was completely destroyed. The five-manual organ with around 7000 pipes, which had been badly damaged, was updated and sanctified in 1984.
The Mary Gate, located at the south entrance at the foot of the bell tower, is the oldest part of the church building. The interior of Matthias Church is absolutely unique and mesmerizing due to the elaborately detailed gilt walls. While the interior wall to the left of the entrance represents the Renaissance style, the wall across from the entrance clearly shows the Ottoman influence. On the left is the tomb of St. Imre, son of King St. Stephen, and heir to the throne, who was killed in a hunting accident at the tender age of nineteen. The pulpit of the church, designed by Frigyes Schulek, was built of sandstone between 1890 and 1893 during the extensive reconstruction of the building. Its surface is entirely covered with Neo-Romanesque ornamental painting, including several statues, carved by Ferenc Mikula. Barricaded by a wrought-iron rail at the bottom of the steps, the platform of the pulpit is supported by an outer ring of arches and a massive central pillar. The Gothic Revival abat-voix, the device to reflect sound, resembling a medieval tower, was made by Károly Ruprich. Carved of oak, it is decorated with the statue of the Good Shepherd on the top. However, the fascinating sculptural decoration of the parapet, decorated with the statues of the four evangelists and the four Latin doctors of the church standing under the arches of a blind arcade, is one of the most magnificent creative parts of the structure of Matthias Church in Budapest.
The roof of the Matthias Church is aesthetically covered with beautiful hexagonal patterns of coloured tiles and two rows of dragons spit out the rainwater on the corners of the Matthias tower. The 78`16 metres Matthias Tower is equipped with a very narrow staircase with 107 steps that lead up to the panorama terrace. Among the six bells of the tower, the Christ Bell, weighing 4400 kg is the biggest.
The age-old church was repaired, renovated, reconstructed, and expanded in different ages, and the last reconstruction was done between 2004 and 2013, while the bells were reconstructed in 2010-2011.