Belgrade Cathedral

Some Greek, Serbian, Dalmatian and Bosnian fugitives, who were fleeing from the Turks, settled down in Szentendre. From the 1521 fall of Belgrade (“Nándorfehérvár”) there were several Serbians coming to Szentendre but a significant number of settlers only arrived around 1690. In 1696 Csarnojevics Arszenije patriarch presented a request for the Administration Chamber of Buda for an accommodation in Pest. He did not obtain it, therefore the Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Buda was founded with a centre of Szentendre (Izbég).

A medieval church used to stand at the location of the current bishopric cathedral. The Belgrade settlers built their church of stone, therefore the church is still called Belgrade Cathedral.

As its rank suggests, the bishopric cathedral consecrated to Virgin Mary is the most extensively ornamented and the most highly respected building of all the churches in Szentendre. However, its measures are not emphasized because of its position, located in the gardens of the bishopric palace and the building of the Serbian Orthodox Ecclesiastical Art Collection, embraced by century-old trees in an area enclosed by a stone fence.

According to a sign placed on the wall of the tower, it was built between 1732 and 1734. The foundation-stone of the present cathedral, whose architect is unknown, dates back to 1758. The walls were already standing by 1762, whilst the roof structure was made during the summer of 1763 according to the plans of the famous master carpenter called Webber. Between 1765 and 1770 the ornaments and the inner furnishing had been made as well. The beautifully ornamented gate shows some similarities with the gates of the Podmaniczky Castle of Aszód, designed by Jung József in 1767. The mason work was done by Pfister András and the construction of the walls of the church garden by Rombold Mihály. The ornamented vases decorating the gate were made by Ginesser Márton in 1772. By 1811 the glasswork of Fischer Ferenc was also finished. In 1881 the spire of the church tower fell down in a storm. In 1883 the internal wall paints were repaired. In 1885 the bells had to be recast after a fire. In 1891 the cathedral was robbed and several valuable furnishings were taken away.

In accordance with other local Serbian churches, the main front of the church is looking westwards with the sanctuary looking east. On the contrary with the changing practice of the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church still stuck to this rule even during the Baroque era.

The church has a height of 48 metres, its main front bell tower is the tallest amongst the towers of Szentendre. Above its Rococo styled, carved main gate the stone frame of a former window can be seen with the choir window also visible above it. The main front is divided by Doric half pillars. The cornice of the arched, spiral gable holds a Rococo jug and a stone obelisk. The bell tower is divided into three levels by horizontal mouldings. Most of the doors and windows of the church are round arched.

The side is divided by buttresses. In the first field from the direction of the tower the small gates of the passage corridor and the ante-chapel can be seen. The most decorated section is at around middle height, with the carved Rococo portals from Prague with sections of the passion of Jesus Christ. The door wings were carved from oak.

The interior and the furniture of the 32 metres long, 14 metres wide and 15 metres high cathedral are extremely valuable. The big icon was made between 1777 and 1781 by the famous painter of Syrmia, Ösztovics Vazul. The gilded linden pulpit and the Episcopal throne with baldachin are both worth attention. The church is divided into three sections, the “women’s church”, the “men’s church”, situated one step lower, and the sanctuary. The nave is capped by four sections of Czech vaults, which are divided by crosspieces. The elliptical arched area in front of the sanctuary is capped by a vaulted, flattered quarter-dome. The arched choir construction projecting in the centre settles on two Doric marble pillars. According to the Orthodox rules, the service had to be attended standing, so pews are missing in the bishopric cathedral of Szentendre, with only a few leaning chairs along the walls for the wealthy and for the aristocrats. Here lies the body of the composer Vujicsics Tihamér.

Walking in the church’s garden by the stone wall, several stone and marble gravestones can be seen. Next to the main entrance of the church there is a patriarchal building, which is said to have belonged to Patriarch Arsenije III.

The building of the Serbian Orthodox Ecclesiastical Art Collection can be found In the garden of the church. It was created out of the former vicarage in 1964. Icons, kerchiefs, covers, gospels and several other spiritual artworks and church historic curiosities were sent here from all over the country.

The number of Orthodox people peaked in 1790 at 2036, 366 of whom belonged to the parish of the bishopric cathedral. However, their numbers started to decrease straight after their arrival. Only seven priests were serving (one for each church) between 1796 and 1828. Following the significant decline in the 19th century, today the population of Orthodox people living in Szentendre is around 100-120. Amongst all the Serbian churches of the town, this is the only one with regular service.

Hungarian source: Wikipedia