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Eger Castle Cathedral

What remains..........                                                      

As you stand in what remains of the Eger's Gothic Cathedral (St. John`s Cathedral), it is worth remembering that King István, first king of Hungary and Christian saint, also surveyed this view.

It is said he oversaw the construction of the very first Romanesque cathedral here; his stone figure (see image below) looks down on you from the plinth to the west, in commemoration of this event 1000 years ago.


All that remains of the Gothic cathedral are the foundations - unsympathetic restoration work has left its mark. You can just make out the statue of King Istvan in the background.


The castle and cathedral István had built were destroyed in 1241 when Hungary and large swathes of Europe were overrun and destroyed by the Mongols.

In response to this tragedy, King Béla of Hungary decreed that a period of rebuilding be undertaken throughout the country and that stone should be the material of choice in order to ensure that 1241-1242 would not be repeated.

The foundations of this Gothic church are what remain today.


Artist`s reconstruction of the Gothic Cathedral in Eger Castle. To the north ( your left as you look at the picture) it is possible to see St. István`s Chapel


As with most large cathedrals, St. John`s, continuously underwent expansion and renovation. However, in 1506 a large fire swept through the building causing widespread damage.

The cathedral never really recovered after this and after the disastrous defeat of the Hungarians at the Battle of Mohacs in 1526 and ongoing conflict between supporters of the Roman and Protestant churches, the cathedral fell into decay.

From 1542 stones began to be removed from the building to be used in strengthening the walls against any future Ottoman attack.

A measure of how insignificant the cathedral had become is that during the heroic defense of 1552, it was used as an ammunition store by the Hungarians.

This sealed the fate for the Cathedral as during the siege the gunpowder store caught fire and the whole place blew up. Depending on which source you consult, this explosion was either an accident or came about as a result of the Turks mining under the castle and setting off charges.

istvan king

Statue of King Istvan by Marco Cassagrande. The first Hungarian King is said to have been present during the construction of Eger's first church around 1006 AD


After the second siege in 1596, the Ottomans occupied Eger and used what remained of St. John`s as a stable.

With the expulsion of the Turks by the Hapsburgs in 1686, the Cathedral and the Castle were systematically torn down so as to prevent them being used by Hungarians opposed to Austrian rule, and in 1701 most of the castle was blown up in response to the Rákóczi rebellion.


lapidarium-eger

The Lapidarium in the Casemates houses masonry and sculpture discovered during excavations of the Cathedral.


It wasn`t until 200 years later, in 1925, that restoration work began on the cathedral.

Unfortunately, as is evident from the picture at the top, not a lot survived and a lot of the restoration work over the next half-century involved a lot of concrete.

This unsympathetic approach, however, has not entirely destroyed the experience of visiting what remains. It is possible to get an idea of the majesty of the building from standing in its footprint and looking towards the site of what was the altar.

Some pillars bases are evident, their size suggests the Cathedral was a grand building of some considerable size. 

If you really want to get an idea of the former glory of the building, then you really need to visit the Casemates where you can visit the Lapidarium; this contains stonework recovered during the excavations and traces the story of St. John`s from its very beginnings up until its destruction.

In this exhibition, there are also artists` interpretations of what the cathedral must have looked like as it was added to over the centuries.

Plaque marking the spot where King Imre of the House of Arpad was buried


Keep an eye out for the plaque marking the burial place of King Imre of the House of Árpad (the same dynastic family as King István who founded the Bishopric of Eger).

He died in 1204 while on a visit to the town and was buried here. The grave was looted long ago but you can go down and have a look around his tomb if, and this is a big if, you happen to be visiting the castle on August 19th, the day Imre died.



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