The 12th district of Budapest is enriched by the beautiful architectural complex of the Városmajori Jézus Szíve (The Városmajor Heart of Jesus) Roman Catholic parish church. The complex is divided into three separate elements (the Bell Tower, the Main Church, and the community centre) that are connected to each other with a vaulted arcade, making it an exceptional value of the Hungarian art, particularly of the ecclesiastical architecture.
Chapel in the basement
The history began when the growth of the district and the residents’ need of the Kis-Svábhegy and Városmajor areas met to come up with building a church in their neighbourhood.
At first, in 1918 an auxiliary chapel was set up in the basement of the building at the corner of the Csaba and Maros streets. Later on architect Aladár Árkay was commissioned to design and undertake the chapel construction. Very soon this chapel proved to be too small, thus plans for a larger building were drawn up, and finally a decision was made on an extensive construction.
Church consecration at Pentecost
The design of the main church is significantly marked by Aladár Árkay’s son, architect Bertalan Árkay, who had made his studies first at the Budapest Technical University, then was Peter Behrens’ student at the Architecture school of the Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna. The young Árkay even had a chance to work in Paris, in the Thiers Architect’s Studio.
Finally, Aladár Árkay made a new design in 1931. Unfortunately he passed away a year later, thus his son Bertalan completed the design. The construction began in March the same year. On Pentecost Sunday, the 4th June 1933 the main church was consecrated by Cardinal Prince Primate Jusztinián Serédi.
Devastating bomb attack
By 1942 the inside decoration had been finished, but on the night of the 5th of September, a bomb attack hit Budapest that severely damaged the building, on top, a bomb fell just between the bell tower and the main church. The just finished glass windows were destroyed, most of the stone blocks covering the façade fell, and the sacristy also collapsed.
The resistant bell tower
However, some parts of the complex resisted the devastation. The reinforced concrete structure as a whole, as well as the bell tower outlasted the attack. On the other hand, the siege of the capital caused further serious damages, for the reconstruction of which came a several years of waiting period. Some of the glass paintings have not been replaced ever since.
Virgin Mary statue at the site of the bomb attack
The building complex is enriched with many pieces of art, amongst them three are outside the building: at the point of the 1942 bombing stands today the Virgin Mary statue, then, in memory of architect Aladár Árkay a column was designed by his son that was erected between the small and the main church, while in the middle of the square, in front of the main church stands the József Mindszenty memorial column, right on the spot from where the Cardinal started the first atoning pilgrimage after the World War II.
Robert Sarah’s Holy Mass at the IEC
The parish church is a noted piece of the 20th century architecture that is enriched also by the paintings of Vilmos Aba Novák. From the 1930’s on, it became a centre of the local community life. In the frame of the International Eucharistic Congress this outstanding architectural treasure will host the Holy Mass in Latin and Spanish on the 8th September starting at 17.00.
Photo: esztergomi-ersekseg, ars-sacra.hu