Bazilika (The Cathedral of Eger)
The Bazilika or – as affectionately called by the locals – “the big church” was built between 1832 and 1837 in Classicist style, at the order of János László Pyrker, Archbishop of Eger. This architectural style became widespread in Hungary around the turn of the 18th and 19th century, reviving the architectural traditions of ancient Greece and Rome.
The plans of the church were prepared by József Hild, one of the most renowned Hungarian architects of the era. The Cathedral is the second largest church in Hungary, with a length spanning 93 metres including the pillared portico. The towers reach a height of 54 metres. The church features a three-aisle design, meaning that its interior space is divided into one wider and taller section in the middle, flanked by a lower and narrower section from both sides. These spaces are separated from each other by colonnades of Corinthian pillars. The church is cut across under the dome by a wide transept.
Digging the foundations of the building started in February 1831, and the church was consecrated on the 6th and 7th of May 1837; therefore, we may say that the construction was completed in a very short time.
The double flight of stairs leading up to the church are flanked by the statues of the Hungarian kings Saint Stephen and Saint László and – going further up – the statues of the apostles Saint Peter and Saint Paul. The statues were created by the Italian sculptor, Marco Casagrande.
Before the Cathedral was built, a church called the Saint Michael parish church had been standing in the same place. However, this church proved to be too small when the buildings of the bishopric were relocated from the Castle and a new cathedral had to be arranged for. For this reason, the new Cathedral has an altar dedicated to Saint Michael, the patron saint of the parish and the city of Eger, and another to Saint John the apostle and evangelist, the patron saint of the diocese.
The undercroft functions as a burial crypt with three large halls. These three halls are located under the transept. Archbishop’s Pyrker’s heart is buried in the deepest part of the undercroft, in the centre of an octagonal room, under a red marble tombstone. His body is buried in the mausoleum of the Cistercian Abbey in Lilienfeld. Archbishops and bishops are buried in the other tombs. The circular middle room is located under the dome, with an altar table placed in the centre, surrounded by eight Doric pillars. This room functions as a burial place for several renowned people, while the outer rectangular room functions as a burial place for ecclesiastical and secular persons.