Cave Church at Gellért Hill

St. Stephen’s Cave Church - Gellért-hegyi sziklatemplom - Magyarok Nagyasszonya-sziklatemplom


Useful Information

Location: Gellért Hill, Budapest. Opposite the Gellert Bath. (Lat 47° 29' 03" N, Long 19° 03' 03" E)
Open: All year daily 8-21.
Tourist visits not allowed during services.
Services Mon-Sat 8:30, 17, 20, Sun 8:30, 11, 17, 20 (Magyar - Hungarian).
[2020]
Fee: free, donations welcome.
[2020]
Classification: SubterraneaCave Church, SpeleologyKarst cave.
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: L=68 m, VR=14 m, T=21 °C. Cadastral number: 4732-1.
Guided tours:
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: yes
Bibliography:
Address: Magyarok Nagyasszonya Sziklatemplom, Szent Gellért rakpart 1, 1114 Budapest, Telefon: +361-1-385-1529, Fax: +361-1-372-0151
Postal: Magyarok Nagyasszonya Sziklatemplom, Pf. 12, 1518 Budapest.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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History

1924 Pauline order founded.
Whit Sunday 1926 consecrated.
1931 construction of cave church by Károly Weichinger completed.
1934 Neo-Romanesque monastery completed.
1951 Hungarian secret police broke into the chapel and arrested the entire order of Pauline monks.
27-AUG-1989 reopened.
1992 demolition of the concrete wall and reconstruction of the chapel finished.

Description

Gellért Hill Cave, also known as Saint Ivan's Cave, is located 25 m above the Danube river, on the hillside of Gellért Hill. The cave is rather big with a huge entrance portal. It was visible from far, and as the Slavic word for cave is pest, this place was called Pest Hill. This gave name to the city Pest on this side of the river, which - in combination with the village Buda on the other side of the river, explains the name of the Hungarian Capital: Budapest.

The cave was probably used over millennia, but because of the various human changes, there is no original content left for an archaeological excavation. During the Middle Ages, according to legend, an hermit named Istvan or Ivan lived in the cave. He cured sick people with thermal water which sprung in front of his cave. Today the water is used for the famous Gellert Bath on the other side of the road. Istvan was later canonised, and the cave named Szent Istvan Barlang (Saint Ivan's Cave).

In 1924 a Pauline order was founded and used the cave as a church. After they came back from a pilgrimage to Lourdes, they started to refurbish it. In 1925 and 1926 they transformed the cave by creating a new entrance with the use of explosives and the interior was transformed into a copy of Lourdes. Later a Pauline monastery was built alongside and connected to the chapel with its own private entrance. It was now called Sziklakápolna (Chapel in the Rock) or Gellért-hegyi sziklatemplom (Gellért Hill Rock Church). Like lourdes the cave church was dedicated to Virgin Mary and named Magyarok Nagyasszonya-sziklatemplom (Our Lady of Hungary Rock Church).

In 1950 the communist regime abolished monastic orders in Hungary. The Pauline order was destroyed by the Hungarian secret police in 1951, the superior Ferenc Vezér was condemned to death, the others to five to 10-year prison sentences. The chapel was confiscated, the illuminated wooden cross on top of the rock, which was erected in 1936, was destroyed. In the early 1960s the entrance was sealed with a 2 m thick concrete wall for security reasons. The cave served as a karst water inspection station and government store. The monastery was used as a dormitory of the State Ballet Institute.

In 1989, after the collapse of the communist regime, the cave was immediately reopened by the Hungarian Pauline Order. In 1992 the concrete wall was demolished and the reconstructed chapel was consecrated, and since this time it serves again as church. Today the revived Pauline Order counts some 10 friars.