Taking a Break at St Michael’s in Budapest

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Downtown St Michael’s Church, Belvárosi Szent Mihály-templom, Budapest, Hungary

On the bustling pedestrianised shopping street of Váci utca is the dainty baroque church of St Michael.  It’s not exactly the sort of place you’d expect to find among the stores selling Hungarian dolls and various fabric objects with ‘Budapest’ emblazoned across them.  And it’s a nice break from all that.

The Dominicans originally founded the church in c1230.  It was destroyed by the Mongol invasion eleven years later.  They then built the church on this site, but it was once again destroyed, this time by the Turks in 1541.  After the Turks were kicked out of Hungary, the Dominicans started building the present church and it took them an awfully long time – they started in 1700 and finished in 1765.

However, the poor Dominicans didn’t have much luck.  In 1784, the Dominican Order in Pest was dissolved by Joseph II.  Briefly, the church and its cloisters were given to the Order of St Paul, but it was then given to the order of Mary Ward, now renamed the Congregation of Jesus.  The nuns continued to operate a school here until 1950, when it was nationalised by the communist government.  However, the good news is that the nuns not only live here again, but they also run a non-denominational primary and secondary school.

After the 18th century building work, there was considerable renovation undertaken in 1892.  The frescoes were whitewashed in the 1960s, but since Independence work has been undertaken to fully restore the church.  It’s been undergoing pretty much continuous restoration work since 1999.  On the leaflet for the church, they state that it costs 350 euros to renovate each square metre of fresco – and they ask nicely for donations.  A worthy cause.

Actually, I should say that the leaflet is very nicely written – it’s informative for a tourist and it also tells of the work of the church.  If only all the churches I visit had such a simple, yet comprehensive way of communicating with visitors.

So In Summary

There isn’t much to the church.  It is small, but it has a lovely atmosphere – a sort of restrained, elegant baroque.  It’s a great place to nip into even if you’re not that interested, just to get away from the tourist hustle and bustle.

Further Information

There is a website for the church, but the information is only available in Hungarian: www.szentmihalytemplom.hu

They also hold regular concerts which are prominently advertised outside the church.

How To Get There

The transport of Budapest is pretty darn good – information in English is available here, although I advise downloading the app: www.futar.bkk.hu

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