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Where the roses bloom: St Elizabeth of Hungary Parish Church

St Elizabeth of Hungary Parish ChurchBudapestGreater Budapest

This Roman Catholic church, towering over District VII of Budapest, is not only an architectural and ecclesiastical masterpiece, but also preserves the sacred legacy of its patron saint. To this day, the parish considers St Elizabeth's profound moral legacy — selflessness, a willingness to act, and helpful intent — to be her most important virtue. Wander along with us to Rózsák tere, and step inside this imposing building. 

The legend of the patron saint

According to contemporary sources, Saint Elizabeth of Hungary considered helping the poor and unfortunate her most important duty. She also established a hospital, a shelter and an orphanage. Elizabeth is often depicted with a rose in her apron, which is a reference to the legend, and a perfect symbol of her life and work.

It is said that she was once taking sacred bread to the hungry, as she usually did. She was stopped on the way, and asked what she was hiding in her apron. Elizabeth did not want to admit that she was taking bread, afraid that perhaps they would forbid her from completing her mission of mercy. So, she answered that what she had were roses. And when they demanded that she show what was in her bundle, the pieces of bread actually turned into roses. According to the legend, this was God’s way of saving her from having to utter a lie.

The square where the parish church is located today preserves this legend in its very name: in 1931, on the 700th anniversary of Saint Elizabeth’s death, it was renamed ‘Rózsák tere’ (Square of Roses). This was also when the statue was erected on the square, in memory of the saint. 

Placement of the foundation stone

In 1881, a small eclectic church was built within the district. However, the population of the area grew so rapidly that it soon became clear that the newly erected small building would not suffice, and a larger church would be needed. (The original church building was later donated to the Greek Catholic Church.)

The foundation stone of the new parish church was laid in 1895 by King Franz Joseph I himself, and construction was completed in 1901. The plans were designed by the renowned architect Imre Steindl – whose work can also be admired while strolling along the banks of the Danube, as the House of Parliament was also built according to his plans. A careful inspection of the building will reveal the similarities between the façades of the two buildings.

The church in numbers: 

  • its floor area is 1,800 m2
  • its internal height is between 15.3 and 16.2 metres
  • the diameter of the 76-metre-high towers is 7 metres each
  • it has a capacity of 2,560 people 

Created from works of art

One thing you will find is that a building of this size has plenty of space inside. The rows of pews, the altars, the baptismal font, the countless sculptures, the throne, the pipe organ, and the confessional are just a few of the meticulously crafted furnishings inside the church. All were commissioned from some of the most renowned and talented Hungarian craftsmen. If you take a closer look at the interior of the church, you can see the quality of their work for yourself. The most important pieces are: 

  • Altar of Archangel Gabriel
  • Requiem Altar
  • Pulpit
  • Mayor’s Stall
  • Main Altar
  • Wedding Altar
  • Baptismal Font
  • Altar of St Anthony of Padua 

Unfortunately, the past 100 years have not left these masterpieces intact. The greatest devastation was caused by a number of bombs impacting the church during World War II. The explosions shattered the unique stained-glass windows, destroyed one of the arches and also damaged the pedestal of the statue in the square. Restoration was slow to start, as the precious details of the works of art were extremely difficult to replace, and the building itself was also damaged. Work could finally start in earnest when the building was declared a historical monument in 1997, as it received special attention from that point on.

If you agree that this building is special and worthy of your attention, visit Rózsák tere and immerse yourself in the detailed history of the Saint Elizabeth of Hungary Parish Church.