Church on Sunday: A rocky afternoon at Sziklatemplom Church, Budapest
On a previous trip to Budapest with friends, someone asked me about the cross on top of a rock near Gellért Baths. A quick peek at the guidebook revealed that it was Sziklatemplom, a church built in a natural cave. While my companions decided to relax in Gellert’s thermal baths, I explored the cave church. Dedicated blogger or poor decision-maker? You decide.
Church admission comes with a free audio guide. The church chapels were created from a natural cave system. The caves were first inhabited by a hermit monk who used the hill’s thermal waters to help cure the sick. (If he was a hermit, how was he meeting and treating people? Just a thought.) The cave turned into an official Paulite church in 1926 and it was later expanded. The Paulite order is the only native Hungarian order. According to random internet sources (only the best for you guys!) it was founded in 1256, ended in 1773, and was re-instated in 1923; the monks of the order were once confessors to Hugarian Kings.
Oddly, the audio guide didn’t detail some of the church’s more interesting–and tragic–history. In 1951, during Hungary’s Communist era, the police sentenced Sziklatemplom’s chief Bishop to treason and death. Other monks were given prison sentences, and the church was sealed. After the fall of Communism in 1989, the Paulite order reopened the church for service.
The audio guide also featured a surprising amount of proselytizing. I skipped over some of this to focus on the discussion of the church, but to be honest, the architecture isn’t that interesting. It’s a simple church but not quite humble and not quite quaint. If you don’t have a lot of time in Budapest, I’d advise you to follow the lead of my friends and check out Gellért instead. Or go to a jewelry store on Vaci Utca and check out the best kind of rocks: sparkly.
To reach the church, go to Gellért hotel, face outside of the doors. Look for the big white cross; the church is below the cross and next to a statue of St. Istvan.