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The Minorite Church

Baroque Beauty

In a town packed with Baroque buildings, the Minorite Church, named after the Franciscan Order who commissioned it, is perhaps the most beautiful.

Minorite Church Facade (© Neal1960)

The original church built by the order was destroyed by floodwater from the Eger stream and the present one was begun in 1758 and largely completed (is a church ever finished?) by 1771.

The Father Superior of the Eger order was severely reprimanded for having built such a splendid and expensive church for a monastic order that was supposed to be founded in poverty.

Its architect was Killian Dientzenhoffer the renowned Bohemian architect who worked predominantly in Prague and was responsible for much that went up in that city in the Baroque period (the best known being St. Nicholas` church in the Old Town); however, if you look closely at the plaque honouring those who worked on the church Dientzenhoffer`s name is conspicuously absent.

Who were the Minorites?

Simply put they are are a branch of the Franciscan Order (founded by St.Francis of Assisi in the thirteenth century). Franciscans lead lives of simplicity, penance, poverty, and love for the poor - it`s not difficult to see why some saw their fancy church in Eger as a betrayal of their roots.

Why is this? Nobody is quite sure, but it is thought it may have been as a result of his falling out with the builder/artistic planner who took over the church`s construction on the death of Matyas Gerl, Janos Falk. The cause of their disagreement: the height of the towers - Falk wanted to restrict them to 53 metres, Dientzenhoffer, on the other hand, felt that more height was needed to reach the heavens.

When facing the church, you can make out a coat of arms and a Latin inscription above the entrance: the former is the Franciscan coat of arms (see info. Box) and the latter translates as “There is none greater than God” (the beautiful façade certainly gives credence to this statement).

Higher up is a dedication to the church`s Saint, Anthony of Padua (you will come across him again inside) and the date of the church`s consecration (1771).

The façade of the church creates a beautiful and harmonious effect that lends an air of faded grandeur to Eger`s center, Dobó Square (Dobó tér).

Minorite Church Nave(© Neal1960)

The inside of the building lives up to the tone set by the facade.

The first thing you`ll notice on entering is either how lovely and cool it is (if visiting in the summer) or how exceptionally cold it is (if visiting in the winter).

The second, is the sheer beauty of the interior.

There are five sections of vaulting each decorated with a ceiling fresco by Márton Reindl of Pozsony (now Bratislava in Slovakia). These frescoes recount episodes from St. Anthony`s life (to whom the church is dedicated) e.g. The Miracle of The Ass and The Miracle of the Fish.

Miracle of the Fish (© Neal1960)

Even to the untrained eye, the work of Márton Reindl is of poor quality and there is written evidence that the Minorite Order were far from happy with his work.

The high altar, on the other hand, is of a very high artistic standard. The altarpiece, painted by Kracker János Lukács, is of the Education of Mary in the Temple, a subject chosen because Mary was the patron saint of the woman who paid for the altar, Zsófia Nyitrai. Either side of the altar are statues of St. Ludwig and St. Bonaventure.

The High Altar (© Neal1960)

The two side altars either side of the entrance are of particular interest. A close look will reveal that they are actually painted on. In 1827 a fire destroyed this part of the church and, money being in short supply, this was the best they could do. The one to the left of the door is dedicated to St. Florian, the patron saint of firefighters, and the altarpiece shows him extinguishing the 1827 fire.

Further up the nave and to the right there is another side altar that contains a holy relic, the ring finger of St.Hedwig. A gift from the Polish people donated to the church in 2002

Hedwig was a member of the Hungarian Royal Family (the Arpad Dynasty). She married Henry I of Poland and moved to be with him.

Hedwig founded numerous religious houses and when her husband died she retired to a convent, where she lived an austere, simple life and worked with those in poverty. Her work with the poor led to her beatification in 1997.

Possibly the most beautiful aspect of the church is the wooden pews.

These are the work of one man, Jozsef Stockerle, who between 1769-70 individually carved each pew. They are all different and each has a story to tell.

The Pews and Pulpit (© Neal1960)

The pew decoration below is just an example of one, it depicts the Garden of Eden in which crosses are growing from the stumps of shorn trees. There is also skull, which is Adam`s, and a chalice.

This carving is a pictorial representation of the one consolation of Man being expelled from Paradise and made mortal, namely redemption through Christ`s blood shed on the Cross.

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The Garden of Eden