Blagoveštenska Church

The Greek merchants fleeing from the Turks settled down in the area between Fő tér and the Danube. In the 17th century they built a wooden temple and in 1752 the current church was constructed. It was designed most likely by Mayerhoffer András, as the Serbian Church of Pest and the Cathedral of Kalocsa (both of which were designed by Mayerhoffer) both have several similarities with it. The patron saint of the church is Saint Mary.

This church is one of the symbols of the town, being the most characteristic and the most well-known among the nine churches of Szentendre. The church stands on the eastern part of Fő tér oriented east-to-west. It combines Baroque and Rococo characteristics. Its main front with the central tower is divided into three sections by four wall pillars. Its extensively ornamented main stone gate has an arched layout and oak door wings. Above the door there is a fragmented gate lintel and a hood mould. Along its sides the spiral pillars, foliated capital and pedestal support a twined parapet balcony. Above the choir window there is a blind window separated by a laid, oval lintel and on its two sides there are further blind windows with stepped arches. Its front tower is 28 metres tall and on the edges of the moulding of the arched pediment there is a stone jug and a small obelisk on each sides. At the edges of the tower lesenes are extending with Ionian capital. The specialities of the stone-framed bell windows are the small, arched stone balconies. Its spire with single echinus is supplied with the cornice of the clock.

Its stone-framed oak side entrance is decorated with rocailles and shells. Above it there is the slightly worn fresco of Saint Constantine and Saint Helena in an arched, fluted frame. Next to the entrance there is a red marble gravestone having Greek inscription. It carries the memory of Tolojanne Demeter, who was born in Macedonia and died in Szentendre in 1759 at the age of 48. The sides are divided into four sections by double pillars. In each part there is a round-arched window and a laid, oval window above it. The sanctuary is enclosed by the three sides of the trapezium. The fenestration of the back windows is similar to those on the sides. The exterior of the church needs to be reconstructed soon. It measures 20 x 9.5 metres outside and 17.5 x 7 metres internally.

The most valued characteristic of the church is its proportional and harmonic interior. The nave is topped by three sections of barrel vaults and the choir is topped by Czech vaults. An elliptical arched arcade runs along under the stone choir. The walls are accompanied by double, square semi-pillars having Rococo capitals. The fields and barrel vaults are decorated by frescos in stucco frames presenting different scenes of the life of Jesus. The Episcopal throne is ornamented by a painting of Saint Nicholas. One of the characteristics of an orthodox church is the iconostasis, the wall of icons. It separates the nave from the sanctuary, where only the people taking part in the ceremony are allowed to enter.

The valuable Rococo wall of icons of the Blagovestenska Church was made by Zsivkovics Mihály using a painted oak framework in the 1790s. The iconostasis, which exploits the whole interior height of the church, is divided into two levels by the central moulding. The lower level is divided into five fields by the pillars. In the middle field, on the Gate of the Tsars some pictures of the Annunciation and above the gate the pictures of The Last Supper can be seen. On the left field of the Gate of the Tsars there are two pictures: Mary with the Baby Jesus above, with a quite small picture below, representing a scene of the life of Jesus. Right from the gate there is a similar composition, with the benedictory Jesus above and another scene of his life below. The two outermost fields each have two pictures. On the left, Saint Stephen, the Deacon, with the scene of the Angelic Salutation below it. On the right Saint John Chrysostom with another scene, the Angelic Salutation below it. On the upper part of the iconostasis, above the crown moulding the Blessed Trinity can be seen with Virgin Mary in the middle and with the twelve Apostles in a volute structure on its sides. At the top of the wall of icons there is the crucified Jesus with the Pietà on the left and with Saint John on the right. Most pictures of the iconostasis have extensively gilded frames.

Among the valuable furnishings of the sanctuary are the red marble altar and the preparatory table (“zsrtvenik”) for the Holy Communion, made by coloured stones in 1754. On its evangelistary, made by a goldsmith master from Moscow, the reliefs of Christ, the four Evangelists and Virgin Mary can be seen. Late Baroque style gilded, wooden candelabras and a painted cross with triangular arms can be found on the altar table.

The Early Classicist-styled building of the old Serbian Orthodox school (which hosts the well-known Ferenczy Museum today) is built together with the northern side of the church. All schools of Szentendre were controlled by the Orthodox Church until 1787, when Joseph II issued edicts regarding the education and made German a compulsory language at schools. The town council had to organize Greek and Catholic schools. However, the construction of school buildings took so much time that the governor’s board ordered the Blagoveštenska Church to be transformed into a school and a teachers’ residence. Fortunately this did not happen as the death of Joseph II brought the withdrawal of the edict. The school was built at the left side of the church in 1797, serving as the institution of the Serbian teachers’ training college between 1812 and 1816.

The birth register of the parish was kept common with that of the Preobraženska Church from 1751. At the end of the 1920s this parish was also closed, ceasing its regular service. The church is managed by the parish of the bishopric cathedral since then. Nowadays this church of the Fő tér mostly operates as a museum and it is open to the public for an admission fee every day (except Monday) from 10 AM until 5 PM.

Hungarian version written by Bajkó Ferenc, www.templom.hu