Esztergom, Hungary: Cathedral of Esztergom
Towering over the countryside and the Danube River north of Budapest, and on the border with Slovakia, is the the largest building in Hungary and 18th biggest Church in the world: the Cathedral of Esztergom. A church was originally built here in the 11th Century under the orders of Saint Stephen, and dedicated to Saint Mary of the Assumption and Saint Adalbert.
The Basilica is the largest in Hungary and one of the largest in the world. It was rebuilt in 1856 after being destroyed by the Turks. The foundation for the present-day Cathedral was laid in 1822. The immense interior contains amazing architectural features and artwork. The painting of the Assumption is the largest painting in the world on a single piece of canvas.
The immense space is highlighted by the cupola at the top. You can make the climb but it is a bit steep so be prepared. From the top you can look across the Danube in to the country of Slovakia.
It is a destination for thousands of pilgrims each year. The Church is open daily…check their website for hours. Masses are held daily. Tours for groups are available for a fee.
The organ here is one of the finest in Europe and is the one that Franz Liszt played his own composition at the dedication of the Cathedral in the mid-19th. Century, when it replaced the original which the conquering Ottoman Turks had destroyed centuries before.
The Cathedral Treasury and Crypt are each open for a small fee and well worth it.
The Treasury has many items that help explain the history of Hungary as well as some excellent samples of vestments and chalices.
One of the main sites in the crypt area is the tomb of Cardinal József Mindszenty. It was here, in Esztergom, that he was arrested by the Communists in 1948 and later sentenced to life in prison for treason. Having fought against the takeover of the country’s 4800+ Catholic schools, he was considered a grave threat to the authorities. Tortured into giving a false confession, he became a symbol of resistance. Imprisoned, then later released during the 1958 Hungarian uprising, he then took refuge at the U.S. embassy in Budapest, then for a while in the Vatican, and he finally lived out his life at the Vienna. Upon his death in 1975, his body was returned here. His stand for the Catholic faith was an inspiration to thousands of citizens in this country and, of course, he was vindicated once the Communist empire crumbled.
Click here for the official Cathedral website
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