Serbian Church of Annunciation – the Blagovestenska in Szentendre
One of the most beautiful churches of Szentendre is the Blagovestenska Church on the Main Square. The name of the church means “Angelous Regards”. The church was erected in honour of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1752.
The history of the church dates back to 1690, when the community of Serbians, fleeding from the Ottoman invasion of the their homeland and settling down here, decided to build an Orthodox Church from wood. The that time partiarch, Arsenie Tsarnoievich ordered to paint an iconostase depicting the Annunciation in 1721. When the first wooden church was burnt down, this iconostase miracolously survived. The church we see today has been started to be built after the fire, on 3rd June 1752. It is supposedly the work of the outstanding Hungarian architect of Baroque, András Mayerhoffer. The church was consencrated by Dioniszilie Novakovich Orthodox bishop of Buda on 15th October 1754.
The architectural style of the beautiful church- with its risalit, rich ornamnetics, window frames and stuccos - is a mixture of Baroque and Rococo. Its tower is 28 m high. On both sides of the tower, at the edge of the arched facade there are one-one vases, and one-one tiny obelisks. The main gate is guarded by two doric columns, having carved spiral leaf capitals. The columns support a carved stone loggia. This motif –little arched stone terraces –as a real uniquity are repeated under the bellwindows of the tower too. Above the main entrance in their carved alcoves stand the statues of St. Constantine and St. Elena. Beside the door – as one of the most known and pictured part of the church – on the wall one can see the memorial, originally the cyrillic letter tomb descripton of Demeter Toloianne, a rich Greek merchant died in Szentende in age of 48 in 1759. The iconostase inside is the work of Mihailo Zivkovich Serbian painter, who prepared it between 1802 and 1804.
The two Trinity columns of Buda
Trinity Square forms the heart of Buda’s Castle District. At its center stands a large plague column, called Trinity column. Its history is the same, as any other similar statue’s in Europe: during the plague epidemic of 1691 the citizens of Buda swore an oath if the epidemic passed away they would set up a trinity statue in the Buda Castle. The epidemic ended in 1706 and the statue was made as well but three years later, in 1709 a new epidemic erupted. The habitants vowed this time to erase a higher, a more ornate statue at the place of the previous statue, if they survived this epidemic too. So happened, that in 1712 the old statue was transposed to Zsigmond Square and on its original place, in the Castle’s main square, called today Trinity square (at Matthias Church), a 14,4 m high baroque statue was set up in 1713.
The new Baroque style statue was created by Philipp Ungleich and Anton Hörger. The sculpture at the top represents the Holy Trinity, while at the bottom one can see king David praying to end the plague. The statue sits on a sturdy pillar decorated with statues of six little angels and - below - large statues of 9 saints: Virgin Mary, St. Sebastian, St. Roch (patron saint against plague in Europe), St. Francis Xavier, St. Joseph, St. Augustine of Hippo, St. John the Baptist, St. John of Nepomuk and St. Christoph. The column rests on a large pedestal adorned with bas-reliefs and the Hungarian crest.
The old statue on Zsigmond Square (last picture) is Budapest’s oldest public space statue. The Trinity column, as we see today at the Matthias Church is a recontsruction of Barna Búza. The original column was severely damaged during the siege of Budapest in 1945. Its surviving reliefs and statues can be seen in Kiscelli Museum today.
The oldest Orthodox church of Hungary – Our Lady of Ráckeve
Ráckeve, a town about 50 km south of Budapest has a mixed ethnic background. The town’s first Serbian settlers came here in the 13th century, at the time of King Béla IV. In 1440, there was a new inflow of privileged Serbs, followed later by those Serbs who were running away from the Ottoman invasion of their original homeland. The Serbian Orthodox Church was built by them in late Gothic style in 1487, making it the country’s oldest Orthodox church. Several additions were made to the church through the centuries and a clock tower was added in 1758.
The walls and ceiling of the church interior are covered with colourful frescoes painted by a Serbian master, Todor Gruntovich came from Albania in the mid-18th century. The walls depict scenes from the Old and New Testaments and a panopticum of saints; they were meant to teach the Bible to illiterate parishioners. The first section of the nave is reserved for women; the part beyond the separating wall is for men. The two side chapels date from the early 16th century, as does the lower section of the free-standing bell tower whose upper, Baroque-style section was finished by 1758. This is the time, the richly carved and gilded Baroque style icinostasis dates back too. The chuch is dedicated to Our Lady („Nagyboldogasszony”).
Saint George Serbian Church, Budapest
Sights associated with Orthodox christianity are a special features of Budapest. Orthodox christians with different national background – Serbs, Bulgarians, Greeks, Romanians and Macedonians –have been living here since the Middle Ages.
An important quarter of the Serbian community located in the in the historic old part of the Pest side of the city. Its history started with the time of the Turkish occupation, when Serbian traders and craftsmen settled down here. The Serbian Church in Szerb street dates back to the year 1695. The church - dedicated to Saint George - was built by András Mayerhofer, the outstanding Hungarian architecture of Baroque. The tiny church is a picturesque, quiet, small island of Budapest’s, surrounded by a small garden, fenced by walls. Entering the yard one can see original cyrillic inscriptions ont he graves of the old cemetery. Inside the beautiful ikonostase is the work of Károly Sterios. The Saint George Serbian Church was elevated to the rank of a bishoptry just a few years before.
Great Flood of 1838 in Pest
An arrow on the Rókus chapel close to Blaha square signs the level that the water reached in 1838 at the time of the Great Flood of Pest. Walking in the streets of Budapest you easily can come across numerous similar signs scattered around the city – all show the water level on 15th March 1838.
This was the greatest flood in the city’s history that damaged thousands of buildings and made loads of people homeless. It all begun on 13rd March, when melting ice jammed on the banks of the shallow river and formed a natural dam. There were no any enbankments alongside the Danube at that time. Water level started to rise and soon the protecting levee north of the town collapsed, giving way to the flood. The next day the southern levee failed too, so the water approached the city from two directions. The worst came on the 15th March, when the raging flood reached 3 meters in some areas. Contemporary records show that some 2281 buildings were destroyed and 827 seriously damaged on the Pest side, while on Buda – being mostly on hills – casulties were lower with 204 buildings lost and 262 badly damaged. In Pest only 1146 houses remained largely intact. 153 people dead (151 in Pest), 50-60 thousand lost their homes and some 22 thousand lost everything they had.
Rescue works started on the 14th with people trying to help on boats and take those in danger to higher places or safer building. Churches were crowded with asylum seekers, and in Ludovica, then a newly built Military Academy, today the Museum of Natural History, housed ten thousand people. The most famous of the rescuers was Wesselényi Miklós, a baron, representative in the upper house of the Parliament, member of the Board of the Academy of Sciences, the “Flood Boatman” as he is commonly known today. With his boat he rowed the city tirelessly day and night, picked up those in danger and took them to safety. In return, he was tried and found guilty of publishing some Parliament diaries without the censor’s admission, and also of criticizing the government, and he was sentenced to three years in jail… He was and is of course highly praised as a hero, his deeds recorded in countless paintings, articles, books and memorials, like the one on the side of the Franciscan Church.
Rebuilding the city begun with making new laws and regulations: city council prescribed the thickness of the walls, height of the buildings, depth of the foundations, building materials and methods, and ordered to officially supervise and approve all plans before starting building works. Also, ground level in the lowest laying areas were topped up – you can see the signs of it where a building has its entrance under today’s ground level. Protecting levees were soon restored but regulating the river was delayed until the 1870s.
The Márai-Gundel pancake
One of my favorite desserts of my childhood - growing up in Hungary - was a layered cake of crepes, called “rakott palacsinta” (literally we would call it „stacked pancake”. Part of the pleasure came from the place I always ate it, the famed Gundel restaurant of Budapest. Whenever my father mischievously asked my sister and I if we wanted to go to Gundel, he would get a joyous yell in response. Our excitement came not only from the anticipated dessert delights, but the elegant high-end service that made us feel like we were princesses at a royal dinner.
Classically in stacked pancake there are 16 layers of crepes with fillings of chocolate, walnut, and apricot jam. At Gundel, the crepes were paper-thin but stacked so high with their fillings that it looked just like a layered cake. Chocolate oozed from within the layers and, on the theory that there is never too much chocolate, chocolate sauce enveloped the cake.
The restaurant was founded in 1910 by Károly Gundel, a pioneering chef who was himself the son of a famous chef who had cooked for Emperor Franz Josef’s (Apostolic King of Hungary) coronation. Its history well-known in Hungary, and maybe also on abroad. Gundel was the birthplace of many famous recipes wich are parts of the Hungarian kitchen for ever by today. Beside „palóc” soup and many others, Gundel had invented its namesake, Gundel palacsinta, (crepes filled with walnuts and coated in chocolate sauce) and at the time claimed to have invented this stacked crepes cake, as well. But the famous dessert did not wear always the name of the legendary chef. As the original idea of the crepe filled with walnut, rum and chocolate came from Sándor Márai’s wife Lola, the yummy dessert first was called Márai-pancake. The also legendary writer, Márai had to emigrate after WWII, and all his novels were forbidden to publish in the communist Hungary. But the recipe was kept and prepared every day, so soon they rename it to Gundel-pancake.
Gundel became internationally famous representing Hungary at the World’s Fair in New York in 1939. When the communist era came to Hungary, Gundel was run by the State. By the early 50’s all private businesses had been nationalized in the country, but because Gundel remained a symbol of Hungarian cuisine and culture, and received dignitaries from around the world, the government was anxious to use it to create the appearance that life was great and even better than it had been before the war. So Gundel remained glorious, even as much around it decayed under communist misrule.
In 1992, the restaurant was reopened by two American businessmen, Ronald S Lauder (the son of Estee Lauder, the cosmetic industry Queen) and George Lang (the owner of a famous restaurant in Lincoln Center in New York City, named “Café Des Artistes”). (The same man who created the famed “I love New York” logo designed the logo for Gundel.)
Budapest’s Finest Art Nouveau Thermal Spa – Gellért Bath
No other bath gives quite the same feeling of history, culture, unusual fun and sybaritic soaking all in one, like Gellért bath of Budapest. We find records about the “miraculous” springs spurting up on the territory of the bath from as early as the 13th century. At that time the site was named „Sárosfürdő” (Mud bath) because of the fine spring silt that was pushed up together with the spring water and settled at the bottom of the pools. These springs were later favoured by the Turks as well, who enlarged the bath to a real „ilidja”, with hotroom and two pools, mentioned even by the Turkish writer Evlia Cselebi.
Today’s Gellért Baths dates from 1918, although the wave pool and whirlpool bath are later additions. The present building, with its glass dome, terraces, open-air pool and bathhouses, took six years to complete. In the 1920’s, the Gellért became the center of upmarket social life. In 1927, the open-air pool with artificial waves was constructed and, seven years later, the indoor thermal pools were added. The indoor and outdoor baths are supplied with water from a source deep within Gellért Hill. Its chalky, slightly acidic, hydrogen-carbonate, radioactive water contains many minerals. The water surges from its source at a temperature of 43°C.
The bath still displays the original art nouveau fittings, colourful mosaics, marble columns and stained glass windows and statues. The extravagant building is built over 18 hot springs, with pools said to be modeled after the baths of Caracalla in ancient Rome. Beneath the Gellért’s spectacular arched glass dome and alongside gushing Zsolnay ceramic fountains, locals socialize in hushed tones or paddle about in the elaborately tiled pools. Taking a soak in this Art Nouveau palace can be compared to taking a bath in a cathedral. The huge Secessionist vestibule is lined with pink marble pillars, floral motifs on the walls and bronze curlicue decorations. Inside, the 33 meter pool is the height of luxury. Lined with marble columns and trailing plants, it really resembles something from the heady days of the Roman Empire. Its retractable glass roof is often opened in summer to let shafts of sunlight in on the mirror of the pool. At one end is a thermal pool with hot jets of healing water spouting from statues. The outdoor wave pool - framed by playful shaped and decorated mosaic walls - was the first of its kind.
Paris in Budapest
„Párisi Udvar” (Parisian Court) is a magnificent shopping arcade in Budapest. It was built in the early 20th century in an eclectic style, and boasts a grandiose glass roof and plenty of ornamental and sculptural decorations inside and outside alike.
Parisian Court’s main entrance lies at one of Budapest’s oldest squares. In 1817, at a time when the area was one of the busiest in the city, József Brudern decided to build a large store here. The building, known as Brudern House was designed by the Hungarian architect Mihály Pollack. It housed inside a shopping arcade, that was modeled after the Passage des Panoramas, a glass-covered passage in Paris.(This was probably the reason why the house was also known as „Párisi-ház” (Paris House).
In 1907 the Belváros Savings Bank acquired the property and organized a competition for the construction of its new, prestigious headquarters. They received 43 submissions and a design by Flóris Korb and Kálmán Griegl was chosen as the winner. The bank’s board of directors however decided to select a different architect, the German-born Henrik Schmahl. Construction started in 1909 and the building was completed in 1913, one year after Schmahl’s death. The new building, also called Brudern House, was mixed-use, with a sumptuous shopping arcade on the two lower levels and room for offices on the upper levels. The arcade was named „Párisi Udvar” (Parisian Court) as a reference to the original arcade.
Henrik Schmal created an unusual building in a mixture of different architectural styles, including Venetian Gothic and Renaissance, decorated with Art Nouveau and Oriental elements. The palatial exterior, clad with colorful Majolica tiles, is decorated with numerous ornaments and motifs. Sparkling white reliefs of figures set in neo-Gothic niches adorn the rooftop, while fifty statues protrude from the third floor. The two main towers, which reach a height of forty meters, are richly decorated with neo-Gothic sculptures and even grotesques.
The Parisian Court inside is even more impressive. The arcade, two levels high, has a vaulted roof made of colored glass and a striking hexagonal glass dome, designed by Miksa Róth, and is decorated with cast-iron and sculpted wooden ornaments. The floors have beautiful mosaic tiles. There are balconies, windows with bar tracery, pediments and sculptures. You can also see reliefs of bees, symbolizing thrift, a reference to the bank that commissioned the construction. Henrik Schmahl sure wasn’t in a thrifty mood, when he created this masterpiece.
“Wonderful piece of history” – Hotel Gellért
Visited by princes, presidents, maharajas and worldstars, like Tony Curtis, Liz Taylor and Richard Burton during the last 100 years, Hotel Gellért, built on the bank of the Danube between 1916 – 1918 is one of the most famous historical hotels in Europe, which soon after its opening gained prominence as the first luxury hotel in Budapest. The hotel was built in a modernist Secession style, a local variant of Art Nouveau, mixed up with some biomorphic elements. It was designed by three Hungarian architects: Ármin Hegedűs, Artúr Sebestyén and Izidor Sterk.
The building has monumental facades, with imposing domed entrances. The main facade, facing the river, is dominated by a pyramidal dome. The facade facing Gellért Hill features a Byzantine-style dome, and a massive arched portico decorated with sculpted reliefs created by Aladár Gárdos. The characteristic, oriental cone-shaped towers of the hotel and eventful frontage attract the look from long distances.
The interior of the hotel – with its high glass cupola and wrought iron decorations - is a magnificent example of Art Noveau style. The main hall has a large vaulted skylight and is decorated with tall Corinthian columns and niches containing statues. The domed hall opened to a formal courtyard which was used as a conservatory with its sliding glass roof. The semi-circular lawned courtyard was surrounded by an alcove for the orchestra and a colonnade. Right below the skylight is a series of colorful stained glass windows. The ornament of the stairs starting from the reception of the hotel is stained glass window, created in 1993 after the design by Bozó Sztanisits. The backlit window depicts the Chase of the Miraculous Deer from the famous old Hungarian origin-legend.
The „old lady” of Budapest wittnessed famous events, balls and parties, no place to set out all of them here. It was the scenery of numerous movies in the 1930’s, and the first TV broadcast in 1936, and from 1927 for some decades its restaurant was led by the legendary Károly Gundel. This was a time of high society banquets for which Gundel created ever more delicious culinary inventions to delight visiting dignitaries from all over Europe, and beside famous Hungarians members of Europe’s royal families, artists, foreign politicians and millionaires all stayed within the Gellért’s elegant walls. But Gellért saw and survived the storms of the history as well. This was the headquarter of the Romanian army at the occupation of Budapest in 1919, the place, where Governor Miklós Horthy moved in after
routing them out, the place, where the nazi Germans staff, and later the Red Army of Sovietunion settled in. In January 1945 the hotel was bombed so badly that only its walls were left standing.
However, Hotel Gellért is still there, at the bottom of the hill, down which the Venetian bishop-monk Szent Gellért was pushed in a barrel lined with nails by pagans in 1046. The „old lady” to this day retains the atmosphere of a more glamorous era.
Rebirth of Coffee New York – Hotel Boscolo Budapest
The eclectic building of the Boscolo Budapest was constructed between 1892 and 1894 by the architects Alajos Hauszmann, Flòris Korb and Kàlmàn Giergl, for the Hungarian offices of the New York Life Insurance Company, by transposing the old styles of Greek, Latin, Renaissance and Baroque together in prodigiously-creative Art Nouveau.
During the two world wars, the building underwent a period of decadence. In the middle of 19th century, it opened its doors to guests once more, with not too much echoe. History of the legendary New York Coffee once-upon-a time located in the building is well.known, and we wrote serveral blogs about its tales. Here we intend to show the result of a careful and amazing contemporary restoration work carried out by the architects Maurizio Papiri, Adam D. Tihany, Massimo Iosa Ghini and Simone Micheli. Works lasted 5 years between 2001 and 2006 in collaboration with Italy’s National Center for the Restoration and Reconstruction of Monuments.
The poetic, high artistic architecture calls back the times, when the historic New York Café, opened in 1894 by the Hungarian coffee baron Sandor Steuer still worked, and is a place to meet the artistic and cultural life of the city of Budapest again.