There might not be a second church in the world whose construction was also supported by a television series. Yes, that is exactly what happened to the Budapest-Gazdagrét Holy Angels parish church. In January 1990, its construction story also appeared on screen in some episodes of the then very popular Hungarian television soap opera, the “Neighbours”. The ‘Gazdagrét’ residential building project began in the 80’s, and the quick increase of the area’s population triggered the necessity to construct a new church to serve the faithful’s needs.
The Father at the Council President
Father László Lipp intervened personally at the last Budapest Council President of the communist era, so that the one-hectare hillside property, overlooking the Budapest entrance of the M1 and M7 motorways, and which had previously been used mostly as a junkyard, would be handed over free of charge by the then local communist authority to the Catholic Church.
Church on the site of a pyramid
The cornerstone laying took place at the end of March 1990. At that time there stood a triangular based, pyramid like wooden structure with a cross at its top. The structure’s one side was open, while in its centre, on a concrete slab stood a stone cubes fabricated altar, covered with stone slabs. Next to the wooden building, a wooden cross and a wooden headboard were placed in memory of the 1989 Romanian Revolution.
In the spotlights
In the 72nd episode of the “Neighbours” soap opera, uncle Bőhm, the common representative of the residential building at Lantos street showed a young couple around the land, the former junkyard, but by those days already serving a site to liturgical events. As for the financing, the church construction was to be realized possibly from public donations. Even a charity concert was organized upon Father László Lipp’s initiation and leadership. This true story played the leading tale line in the 84th episode of the “Neighbours”, in which even Father László featured in.
Slowly progressing construction
A new ministry in Gazdagrét was set up in 1991, receiving territories from the nearby parishes of Farkasrét and Kelenföld. At first architect Imre Makovecz was entrusted with the design, eventually architect Imre Koppányi completed the plans in 1993, although the construction itself started in 2000 only. The semi-finished church was consecrated by Cardinal László Paskai in 2002, while the certificate of occupancy was issued years later, in 2008. In 2010 the Catholic community was ranked a separate parish, and then in 2013 came the opportunity to further develop both the church and the parish building.
Design inspired by organic architecture
The interior has a capacity of 800 seats, and is shaped upon the organic architectural principles and the forms of the ancient Greek amphitheatres. The stations of the carved “Way of the Cross” have been made by sculptor Barna Búza. The rows of the beech-wood benches were fabricated in Sepsiszentgyörgy (Romania). The church’s brand new instrument was made upon the model of the 18th century Iberian organs. Final consecration took place 26 years after the cornerstone laying, in 2016 during the ministry of Father Károly Szederkényi parish priest. Consecration ceremony was performed by Cardinal Péter Erdő.
On the path of ascension
“By now the church has got its final shape, and the art of decoration has been perfected. The apse of the church is enriched by the work of the world-famous mosaic artist, Marko Ivan Rupnik, with Christ in the centre, symbolizing that Jesus is also in the centre of the Christian faith and life. The figures of the Holy Angels form a circle around Christ. On the left stands the Angel of the book of Daniel, rescuing the three youth from the fiery furnace. On the right, Abraham is serving the pilgrims, namely the Lord himself, who appeared to him in the form of the Three Angels. On the wall in the left nave we can see our nation’s Holy Guardian Angel, Archangel Gabriel. Each nation has its own Angels – says the Bible. As to the legend, it was Archangel Saint Gabriel who brought the Holy Crown to the first King of Hungary. Today we are praying that this building would uplift the soul and spirit of everyone entering this church, and not only up to the level of a general emotion or pleasant mood, but rather to the height of meeting the Lord, the human’s life is aimed for. It is so great to experience that this church is visible from afar, pointing out into the sky, and outstrenching from the grey of the residential buildings.” - Cardinal Erdő pinpointed in his homily at the consecration ceremony.
Church on the rock
The church gives a fascinating view for those arriving to Budapest from the direction of the M1 and M7 highways. The sky rocketing structure that is spreading towards God, is standing on a rock and can be seen already from quite a distance. The church, rising out from the tons of panels gives the impression of being the western gate to the capital. This is not a simple church, but a sort of bastion as well, giving a shelter to the Christians. It also has a message for those wanting to escape from the concrete jungle: relief, peace and love are ensured here.
Pilgrims of the International Eucharistic Congress will have the opportunity to see this church in-person, since on the day of Parishes, on the 8th September, at 17:00 a Holy Mass in Italian is going to be held, with Cardinal Robert Sarah as main celebrant.
Source: Magyar Kurír, esztergomi-ersekseg.hu, szentangyalok.hu, Heti Válasz, Wikipedia, YouTube
Photo: fortepan, Magyar Kurír, Thaler Tamás