Saint Peter-Paul Catholic Church/Peter-Paul Church (The Ćiprovačka)

The Peter-Paul Church is the biggest church of Szentendre, which was originally built as an Orthodox Church, like all the other churches in the town. There was a wooden church at the same location built in 1708 and consecrated to Saint Nicolas but it was rebuilt from stone in 1750 and was consecrated to Saint Peter-Paul in 1796. In 1991, on the 200th anniversary of the construction of the church, the whole structure was reconstructed for the visit of Pope John Paul II in Hungary.

The fugitives from Ciprovac settled to the southern part of the downtown. Their first wooden church was built relatively late, in 1708. Thanks to the huge number of people from Ciprovac, the construction of a new church started in 1750. The new walls were built around the old ones and before the roof came, the old walls were demolished. The bell tower was the first part that was ready in 1753. The church was ready for service only from 1791. A fire in 25 July 1800 damaged the building so heavily that even the bells had to be recast.

Because of the Serbians’ resettling back home, the number of followers of the Orthodox Church dropped drastically. The Ćiprovačka was the first church in Szentendre that went out of use. The regular service stopped at the first years of the 20th century. The resettled former residents returned at the beginning of the 1920s but only to take away the valuable furnishing of the church. For example the iconostasis can be found today in the Church of Prizren, Kosovo.

The Ćiprovačka was not used then for a long time and became a home of pigeons. At the beginning of the 1940s the mayor of the town formally asked the Serbian Orthodox Church to restore the building, which became dangerous to the neighbouring houses as well, “if failing to do so, it will happen officially for the common good”. So the Church made the town an offer, it wanted to sell the church for 12000 pengő (pengő was the Hungarian currency before 1946). The mayor accepted the offer because he wanted to provide a garrison church for the Ministry of Defence. When the Ministry of Defence refused the church because of the war, the local parson (directed by the diocese) made an offer for it. The church therefore became available not only for the garrison but also for the Christian followers who could hardly find room in the parish church. This is how the Roman Catholic Church became the owner of the building still called Ćiprovačka.

The reconstruction of the building began in 1942 with initial financing from the Mayor’s Office, then increasing financial support from the Catholic Church. The first mass was held on 23 April 1944 and the church was blessed by the parson at the same day.

The impressive building is Late Baroque. However, it also shows characteristics of Orthodox churches, with simple interiors including white walls without frescos. A small, elliptical arched transept intersects the nave next to the sanctuary. Its two apses are the rooms preserved for the choir. Double pillars and arched windows follow the side elevations of the church. The walls are topped by a simple Roman Doric crown moulding. It has a three-storey tower on the main front. The choir window is situated above the entrance on the main front. On the two sides of it there are two blind windows with stepped arches. There is a cornice in the tower with triangular pediment above the hood-moulded window in the staircase. The latticed windows of the bell tower are surrounded by cantons. The downward-arched hood moulds of the bell windows are also the frames of the clock cornice. The simple pyramid spire that softens the weight of the church was made in 1862 and the church clock was made in 1985. At the centre of the nave two red marble gates can be seen, the northern of which is the main entrance of the church. The extensively ornamented gates were made in 1790.

The floor area of the church is 528 m2, the length is 35.2 metres and the width is 15 metres. The nave is 22.05 metres high. From the height of the tower, which is 32.54 metres, 4.7 metres come from the height of the spire. Its inner height is 16 metres. Its inner measures are more emphasized after the removal of the iconostasis, it has 300 seats and has a capacity of 800 people. The nave is capped by four Czech vaults. Six windows are letting in the light on each side. The sidewalls are followed by Ionian pilasters. The walls are pure and white without any frescos. The area under the choir was once the Orthodox pronaos, the women’s area during the liturgy. Its furnishing is really simple and modest. The first wooden altar of the church was made by soldiers in 1944.

The altar and the pews of the chapel of the suppressed Brothers Hospitallers of St. John of God were transported to the church in 1948. Later, in 1952 the pews of the closed chapel of their hospital were also bought. The sculptures of Peter and Paul were brought from the chapel of Esztergom in 1953 to the altar. A ceramic work of Borsody László and Urbán Teréz, called “Húsvéti Bárány” was created in 1978 and placed to the nave-side of the altar. It was followed in 1985 by the Mary statue carved from elm, the work of Markolt Györgyné Gémes Katalin.

New artwork is continuously coming ever since, enriching the church interior. For example the inner furnishing was renewed and a new liturgy area (containing the altar, the pulpit, the ecclesiastical chair and the tabernacle) was designed by Szuromi Imre in 1998. The painting of Kisléghi Nagy Ádám, the crucifixion of Jesus Christ was placed almost floating above the altar in 1999. This represents the Orthodox character of the place with artistic excellence. Two reliefs of Csíkszentmihályi Róbert, the Calvary and the life of Peter and Paul apostles were placed to the wall beyond the altar in the same year. In 2009 the choir received a new organ, built in 1997 by Koloss István. It has 2 manuals and 21 registers and it is perfect for concerts as well. The organ-chest was designed by Szuromi Imre and was made by Váradi János. The most recent artwork is the baptistery, which was created in 2010.