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St. Peter and Paul Cathedral (Székesegyház, Szent Péter és Pál)), Pécs

King Saint Stephen established the Bishopric of Pécs in 1009. Its first bishop was Bishop Bonipetrus of French descent. We have not much information concerning its first church, which might have been one of the Early Christian temples still standing at the time. The so called Illuminated Chronicle tells us that in 1064, when King Solomon was crowned in Pécs, the „bells fell down from the towers” owing to a fire that raged during the night following the coronation. This means that there was already a temple there which had to be reconstructed after the fire. The five-nave cross vaulted undercroft, built at the turn of the 11th and 12th centuries, still preserves its monumental embellished interior space. The church above it, built slightly later, is a three-nave basilica with no transept. Of its four towers two were constructed at the beginning and two other at the end of the 12th century. In the Middle Ages the interior of the church was richly decorated with stone carvings and frescos which were partly destroyed during the Turkish occupation then the repeated reconstructions of the following centuries covered them completely. The medieval ornaments were found as a result of the reconstruction carried out between 1883-1891. The stone carvings were then taken out from the wall and water colours were made about the remains of the frescos. The reconstruction kept the basilica architecture of the 12th century cathedral. The design was the work of the Friedrich von Schmidt of Austrian, while the work was supervised by Ágoston Kirstein.

Similarly to the former Romanesque building, the cathedral, reconstructed in a Neo-Romanesque style, is a three-nave basilica with a flat ceiling, four towers and a ring of chapels. The rich paintings of its interior have their roots in the historicism of the 19th century. The walls and the ceiling are completely covered with paintings depicting various scenes from the Bible and Hungarian saints. The paintings of the naves are the work of Karl Andreä and Moritz von Beckerath of Austria, while those in the chapels were made by Bertalan Székely and Károly Lotz. The figural carvings and the copies of the original ornaments of the undercroft descents were made by György Zala, while the relief above the southern gate and the apostle sculptures standing on the columns of the arcade are the work of György Kiss. These latter ones were replaced with the sculptures of Károly Antal in 1962-63. In the open space in front of the cathedral’s gate the double bronze-gate composition of Sándor Rétfalvi was unveiled on December 30th in 2000. The outer bronze gate is decorated with leaves and clusters of grape on grapevine with birds and small lizards hiding among them. It also contains scenes recalling the foundation of the bishopric. The inner gate is embellished with 22 golden bronze high-reliefs depicting scenes from the Old Testament.

After its reconstruction the former basilica still reflects the magic of a medieval church. The cathedral with its four towers surrounded by the buildings of the Bishop’s Palace, the Prebendal Cartulary and Presbytery and the Mediterranean square in front of it is the best sight of the town and an everlasting memory that visitors may take home.

The remains of Janus Pannonius (1434-1472), the Renaissance poet and former bishop of Pécs were discovered when restoring the cathedral in 1991. The leaders of the bishopric assumed that the remains belonged to the late bishop and the results of an anthropological research received in the spring of 2008 confirmed that their suspicion had been correct. In the autumn of 2008 the former bishop was laid to rest in the undercroft of the cathedral in the form of a solemn ceremony. The remains of the great poet are deposited beside those of bishop Nándor Dulánszky. (Source: vendégváró)

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Additional Photos by George Rumpler (Budapestman) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 8900 W: 3 N: 20435] (82620)
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