St. Adalbert's Cathedral in Esztergom in northern Hungary is the largest church and Catholic center of the country. Its massive organ and the world's largest painting above the altar are particularly impressive.
The imposing St. Adalbert Cathedral in the Hungarian city of Esztergom on the northern border with Slovakia is the largest church in Hungary. It is ranked 18th among the 20 largest churches in the world and is one of our top 10 sights of Hungary.
The impressive sacral building is dedicated to the Mother of God and St. Adalbert of Prague and therefore its full name is "Cathedral of Our Lady and St. Adalbert". Esztergom was the capital of Hungary before Budapest, today St. Adalbert Cathedral is the cathedral church of the Roman Catholic Archbishopric of Esztergom-Budapest.
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History of St. Adalbert Cathedral
The original cathedral was built from the year 1001 by King Stephen I, the first Christian king of Hungary, after whom the Basilica of St. Stephen in Budapest is named. After being destroyed by a great fire in the 12th century, it was rebuilt and became an episcopal church under King Wenceslas III at the beginning of the 14th century.
It was then renovated and regularly expanded and embellished in the following centuries. The second most important library in Hungary, after the one in the Benedictine Abbey of Pannonhalma, was also housed in St. Adalbert's Cathedral.
In 1543 the Basilica of Esztergom fell victim to the Turks and was not rebuilt in the classicist style until 1820 under Bishop Sándor Rudnay. After the murder of the first architect János Packh, the construction management was taken over by József Hild, who also started the construction of St. Stephen's Basilica in Budapest.
At that time it received the status of the mother church of the country and thus became the Catholic center of Hungary. For the consecration on August 31, 1856, Franz Liszt composed the "Gran Mass".
Powerful appearance of St. Adalbert Cathedral
The massive St. Adalbert's Cathedral on the banks of the Danube appears as a mighty structure even from afar. The portico, reminiscent of Greek antiquity with its columns and triangular gable roof, is flanked by two monumental bell towers. Behind it rises the imposing 100m high dome, which measures 33.5m in diameter and is also supported by a circle of columns.
Inside the cathedral, the enormous dimensions of the sacred building become really clear. The nave is almost 120m long and almost 50m wide and covers an area of 5,600 square meters.
If you put your head in the neck, your gaze climbs over 70m upwards until it hits the richly decorated ceiling.
Largest painting in the world and other highlights
Also massive is the altarpiece by Italian artist Michelangelo Grigoletti depicting the Assumption of the Mother Mary into Heaven. Measuring 13.5 by 6.5 meters, it is the largest painting ever created on a single piece of canvas.
The picturesque Italian chapel of Tamás Bakózc from the early 16th century is also among the masterpieces in Esztergom Cathedral. Amidst unprecedented red marble Renaissance art, the Hungarian cardinal and politician is buried.
The massive organ was completed by the Salzburg master organ builder Ludwig Mooser in 1856. After the Second World War, the organ had to be generously renovated. Today it is the third largest organ in Europe after St. Stephen's Cathedral in Passau, Germany, and Milan Cathedral in Italy. The size of the 3,350 organ pipes ranges from 7mm to 11m. The magnificent instrument owes its spectacular sound to its 147 stops and 38 voices and, of course, not least to the unique acoustics inside the cathedral. Attending a mass is worth it for the fantastic reverb alone.
The archbishops of the Esztergom-Budapest archdiocese rest in the crypt, which has an ancient Egyptian design, as well as the staunch opponent of communism, József Mindszenty, whose tomb became a pilgrimage site. The treasury of the basilica contains the most valuable church treasures in Hungary, including the cross of King Matthias, the Suky chalice decorated with precious gems, chasubles, goldsmith's art and horn goblets.