Saturday 19 November 2011

St Elizabeth of Hungary and the Blue Church

Today, 19th November, is the feast day of St Elizabeth of Hungary. She is best known for her charitable work, caring for and giving alms to the poor.

St Elizabeth grew up in the castle in Bratislava (formerly Hungary). The daughter of King Andrew II of Hungary, the neice of St Hedwig, the great aunt of another St Elizabeth (Isabel) of Portugal she married to Ludwig IV of Thuringia.  During her marriage she regularly distributed alms to the poor and built a hospital the patients of which she visited daily.  Widowed young she devoted herself to good works dying at just 24.  She had a great devotion to St Francis.

St Elizabeth is the patron saint of bakers, countesses, deaths of children, the falsely accused, the homeless, nursing services, tertiaries, widows and young brides.  She is often depicted with alms, flowers, bread, a pitcher and the poor.

I recently visited the Church of St Elizabeth in Bratislava and was captivated by its unusual Hungarian Art Nouveau architecture. Situated a little out of the city's bustling centre in the old town, it is more generally referred to as the Blue Church.

It was built between 1906 and 1908 and designed by Odon Lechner, the most important art nouveau architect in Hungary.  He was influenced by a wide range of styles in particular Magyar and Turkic folk art and these influences are responsible the eastern like appearance of much of his work.

Whilst originally decorated in pastel colours, its distinctive blue came later.  It is decorated with mosaics, majolicas and has a blue glazed roof.  Over the door is a  mosaic of St Elizabeth.  The Church has a single nave.

Whilst it certainly is an interesting and unusual design when seen from a distance as one approaches one really begins to appreciate the attention to detail that has gone into this unusual building, one quite unlike any church I had seen before. For me it brought to mind the phrase, God is in the detail.  The pictures really cannot do it justice.

St Elizabeth pray for us.


Jessie said...

I can't get over the blueness of this church. It's like a jewellry box. It's so pretty. St. Elizabeth is a powerful intercessor. We should pray more to her. I'm glad that she has such a lovely church in her honour.

Zara Folch said...

Simply stunning. I love your central European posts. Prague was precious and Bratislava brilliant!

Shandon Belle said...

I agree. Stunning pictures. What are the lampstands in the niches beside the altar for?

Jim'll Fix It! said...

The lesson here is that it isn't impossible to build beautiful churches in the modern era, it's just very hard to find any that are beautifully built.

Plunkett said...

Wondering if this is part of a series of churches built around this time or just a one off. Do we know who the artists are worked on it? Interesting that it was built just at the end of the beidermeer when the Imperial Monarchy was still strong.

Just a Girl said...

Thanks Zara its great to know people are enjoying the occasional posts from further afield and I do enjoy visiting the different churches when I travel.

Shandon, sadly I can't tell. The church was closed when I visited though they have the great idea of locking iron gates within the porch rather than the outside doors so one at least gets to take in some of the beauty of the inside of the church (and in my case get a few photos!) If I get to visit again I shall time it better, take some more detailed shots of the interior and answer your question.

Jim I totally agree with your point. Its an amazing contrast to some of the churches I've seen elsewhere from the same and later periods.

Plunkett, I am not sure but it would be interesting to research.

Cousin Vinnie said...

Reminds me of some of the Polish Churches here. You should send the links to the ICR. They do amazing stuff recreating European Churches here.

JTS said...

It looks like a very well maintained church but how sad that it should be locked instead of open for people to come and adore.

Veronica Lane said...

There is a remarkable freedom of expression in central european churches. They allow the feminine and the sense of transcendent freedom to burst forth. I am pleasantly amazed that there were still builders and commissioning clerics who were willing to reject the beidermere and the modern idioms.