Standing on Buda’s Trinity Square, the building has been shaped by transformations, natural disasters, wars and sieges over the past 800 years. During the Turkish occupation, it was used as a mosque, its tower was used as a minaret, but it has been revived every century to become one of the most beautiful and most visited churches in Hungary today.
The church was founded in the middle of the 13th century, during the reign of King Béla IV, as a three-nave basilica in Gothic style at that time. In the following century, the interior was transformed into a hall: the vaults of the side aisles were raised to the height of the nave, and the walls were fitted with huge windows. In the time of Matthias Corvinus the south-west tower was rebuilt, which collapsed during mass on the day of St. Valentine in 1384, and miraculously no one was injured. The interesting thing about the bell tower is that you can see the coat of arms of King Matthias on the outer wall, that is why the whole building began to be called the Matthias Church.
This renovation was led by Frigyes Schulek, who carefully designed the neo-Gothic building to the form we know today. The architect worked with such masters as Károly Lotz and Bertalan Székely on the interior painting and decoration. Frigyes Schulek equipped the church with the most modern technology of his time: he used air ducts for heating, and the gas pipes were brought up to the Castle Hill only to provide modern lighting. Today they use hundreds of LED bulbs instead of gas, the lighting is controlled from a tablet, and at the Sunday sign language services they can now project the sign language interpreter's camera image and subtitles for the hearing impaired members of the congregation using a projector.
The church was once known as the Coronation Church, where Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria and his wife Elisabeth were crowned Hungarian king and queen in 1867, and where the last Hungarian king, Blessed Charles IV and his wife Zita were crowned. And in the second half of the 20th century, the church was visited by such notables as Margaret Thatcher, Princess Diana, Emperor Akihito of Japan and St. Pope John Paul II.
Did you know?
From the Matthias Church website, you can download a digital tour guide app on your smartphone to discover the hidden curiosities of the church on your own. But if you would like to admire the church from above, you should climb the 197 steps to the observatory platform of the lower coronation arch of the Matthias Tower.