Eger's Basilica is not what you'd call beautiful but it is certainly impressive, standing on Eszterházy Square and facing another colossal piece of architecture, the Lyceum, it just demands your attention.
Ironically, in a town known for its Baroque buildings, this, the largest structure, is in the neo-classical style. It is the third largest cathedral in the country after Esztergom's and St. István's Basilica in Budapest.
Look at me!
The main entrance faces west and is approached by three large flights of steps flanked by four statues. The first two are the Hungarian beatified kings, Saint Ladislaus and St. Stephen, beyond them are the two apostles Peter and Paul. All four were carved by the Venetian Marco Cassagrande who was brought over by Archbishop Pyrker to Eger to do the work.
Above the portico is a tympanum supported by six Corinthian columns with the Latin inscription `Venite Adoremus Deum` (`Come and Adore the Lord`).
Eger`s Basilica is the third largest church in Hungary
Looking over the tympanum are the allegorical figures of Faith, Hope and Charity also by Cassagrande, although they are not the originals.
We also have the Venetian to thank for the marble reliefs, depicting scenes from the Old and Nw Testaments at the entrance and throughout the interiors.
The floor plan of the Basilica is in the shape of a Latin cross. The entrance is to the East, the chancel to the West and the transept runs from North to South.
The nave can be split into three distinct areas, each with a dome (see below). The chancel also has a dome and is demarcated from the nave by vaulting.
The two aisles (north and south) are separated from the nave by 8 massive Corinthian columns. It was in 1970 that Eger's Cathedral was designated a basilica by the then Pope, Paul VI.
Floor plan of Eger's Basilica
The interior is enormous and so full of sights to see that I can't do justice to it here I will, however, list those parts of the Basilica I feel are worth the time and effort to hunt down.
There are three domes altogether:
Takács István's first dome
Altar to Archangel Michael
Although the main altar is pretty impressive, it is the smaller altar to the left of the chancel at the western end of the south aisle that is particularly beautiful. Created from white Italian Carrera marble, the finest carving marble there is, by Albert Schickenden the cupola is its most outstanding feature.
The altar painting portraying Archangel Michael killing Lucifer with a spear is the work of Michelangelo Grigoletti (1838)
The Altar to Archangel Michael
Chapel of the Blessed Virgin
At the western end of the northern aisle i.e. exactly opposite to the altar of Archangel Michael, stands the Chapel of the Blessed Virgin. Usually this is locked and you will have to look for the keyholder who may or may not be in the building.
The central focus of this chapel is the icon of the Weeping Madonna, a replica of the famous Black Madonna Icon that, allegedly, and miraculously, wept real tears in the small Hungarian town of Mariapocs and was taken to Vienna by the Hapsburgs. This copy was created by court painter to Leopold I.
Decorating the walls of the chapel are 11 frescoes painted by Ferenc Szoldatits, Hungary's only Nazerene painter (the Nazerenes rejected neo-classicism wishing to return to the style of Raphael and the other 14th century Italian painters).
Eger's Basilica boasts the second largest organ in Hungary
On the balcony above the entrance sits the organ. Built between 1833 and 1836 by the Angster factory, it was converted to electricity in the 1960s. It is the second largest in Hungary, and has around 8000 pipes.
Kodály Zoltán, the respected Hungarian composer and music ethnographer, stated that its tonality rivalled that of any organ in Europe.
Eger's Basilica is of course a working cathedral and it is possible to celebrate mass there although it will be in Hungarian. Please see below for times (as of 2014):
During the summer months there are also regular organ recitals the times of which can be found at the entrance to the cathedral, there is a charge for these.
Recently there seems to be charge for tourists entering the Basilica, peronally I think it is a travesty being charged to enter the House of God but the times demand it, I suppose.