Tour No. 2.: Fő tér (Main Square) and its surroundings

Length of the tour: can be done within 2‐3 hours leisurely
Area of the tour: includes smaller uphill parts, access to some of the places is limited by wheelchair or pram

The Fő tér (Main Square) is the most important part of Szentendre both from cityscape and monument points of view. From the Middle Ages this has been the centre of cultural and economic life of the city, it is no wonder therefore that the most outstanding Serbian and Greek trading houses were built here during the 18th century, most of them bearing the typical signs of Baroque style. The country roads from Buda, Visegrád and Pilis met here, this is how the triangle shaped square was formed. In the middle of the square you can see the symbol of the town the also triangle shaped Memorial Cross or Plague Cross.

According to the sign on it: „This cross was erected by the Serbian Commercial Association in the year of 1763.” in memory of the town escaping the plague. Legend has it that one man was buried below the cross with his head down so that the epidemic could not burst up from under the ground.

The biggest former trading house, standing on the Eastern side of the square hosts temporary exhibitions of Szentendre Képtár (Art Gallery of Szentendre). The windows are of different heights revealing that it originally consisted of six separate
buildings that were probably built together under a common ridge roof during a renovation following a fire. The ground floor housed shops with storage areas  and  a  stairway behind them ‐ a common feature of the outlay of trading houses of those times. The merchant used to live upstairs with his family. This typically Mediterranean type of house is a speciality of Szentendre: neither in Hungary nor in Central‐Europe will you find any other examples of this in the city layout.

Across the trading house, at the corner of Görög utca (Görög Street) stands Blagovasztenszka Church with its central tower built according to the plans of András Mayerhoffer. Based on the original charter placed in the foundation‐stone the church was erected in honour of the Annunciation in June 3, 1752. The two carved‐oak Rococo gates of the church and the fine‐lined Rococo balcony above the main entrance reveal the cultural wealth of 18th century Szentendre. In the building next to and built together with the church you can see one of the most beautiful monuments of the town that used to be a Serbian school.

If you look around the other houses of the square according to the numbering you will be able to detect beautiful examples of architectural and ornamental craftsmanship on almost all of the Baroque and Rococo buildings built in the 18th century. The only exemption to that is the Dalmatian trading house under No.21 which was built later and which offers an exhibition of János Kmetty for the visitors.

After managing to have a look at everything you should peep into the special little alleyway leading to Templomdomb (Church Hill) then head towards Alkotmány utca (Alkotmány Street). After checking the tablet at Ferenczy Károly Lane – showing that the president of the Nagybánya painters’ group and one of the leaders of the Hungarian impressionists and naturalists lived here between 1889 and 1892 – you will reach the Orthodox Belgrade Cathedral or Beogradszka as it is called in its Serbian name. The Baroque church with its central steeple ‐ built by refugees arriving from Belgrade and its surroundings ‐ has richly decorated gates in Louis Seize style and the outer walls include several red marble gravestones of Serbian lettering. According to a tablet revealed during the renovation of the building in 1960, the 48‐meter tower of the church – being the highest of its kind in Szentendre ‐ was built between 1732 and 1734. Later it was extended with a nave with Czech vaults between 1756 and 1764.

Entering the church through the main entrance under the tower, you can see the altar  behind  the  ceiling‐high,  painted,
carved and rich‐golden iconostasis on the East side, the „men’s church” in the middle and the „women’s church” under the tower. Another special feature of the cathedral is that is has been an episcopal burial place therefore the earthly remains of several Serbian bishops lie in the crypts.

The next phase of the tour leads along Várdomb utca (Várdomb Sreet) to Templom‐ domb (Church Hill) which was called “klissza” (fortress) by the immigrants from the Balkan, although it has never been any military base.

Tipp: From the top of this hill you will get a spectacular view of the centre of the city, Szentendre Island and the southern area of the town. The small houses built in the middle‐age with their tiny courtyards and alley‐like stairs offer a really unforgettable view from above.

The St. John Roman Catholic Parish Church standing in the middle of the hill is the oldest monument    of    Szentendre
giving the town its name since it was consecrated to Saint Andrew. The church was built between 1241 and 1280 replacing the first church that was destroyed during the Mongol invasion of Hungary. After the Turkish‐Ottoman invasion the church was used by the Roman Catholic Dalmatians having settled down here. Preserving the Gothic scales and static elements it gained its outer and inner structure and Baroque appearance in 1751. Several small details breathe history like e.g. the stone sundial on the edge of the South‐Western pier originating from the 1300s. Traces of frescos and stone frames of medieval windows can be seen on the Western side of the church.

Inside the church the altar is decorated by frescos painted by the artists of the Art Colony between 1933 and 1938. You are well advised to observe the interesting fact that the Biblical scenes are painted with Szentendre in the background and the furniture of the church originates from the times of the 18th century renovation.

The Czóbel Béla Museum is located right across the main entrance of the church, in the only single‐storied 19th century building of the square where used to be teachers’ lodgings. The same building hosts a collection of the heritage of the painter Ilosvai Varga István therefore you can visit also his permanent exhibition besides the works of art of Czóbel and his wife, Mária Modok.

The museum was opened in 1975 while the artist was still alive. Having become successful at the beginning of the 1900’s in Paris, Holland and also Berlin, the cosmopolitan Czóbel’s life is strongly connected with Szentendre from the middle of the 1930’s. His art belongs to the lyrical line of post‐impressionism.

You will get back to Fő tér – the starting point of the tour – on the Váralja/Hild stairs which is also one of the most characteristic ancient motives of the Szentendre cityscape. At the foot of the stairs to the right you will see two symbolic monuments of the town the first being the Townhall. The original building in its place is supposed to have been an important centre of clerical administration during the 12th century, one of the archdeaconships of the Veszprém Episcopate. The often recon‐ structed ground floor of the Baroque building was built in the 18th century then rebuilt in 1924 according to the designs of the architect, Manó Lessner keeping the original inner design and vaults.  The  unique  and  symbolic Neo‐Baroque frontispiece of the building – seen best from the Városház tér (Városház Square) – got its final form during these later renovations.

The other famous monument, the so called Harangozóház (Chiming House) under No.1 Rákóczi utca (Rákóczi Street) is one of the oldest buildings in the city now hosting the House of Folk Arts. According to local history research the stone‐based, half‐timbered house of special mud‐clay walls was even shown in a former map from the period of Marie Therese with a title „oskola” meaning school, but it is also possible that it existed during the Ottoman Empire.

Crossing Fő tér (Main Square) for the last time you can end your tour in Görög utca (Görög Street) by visiting the Kovács Margit Museum introducing the works of art of the Kossuth‐Prize winner ceramist. This museum which has been one of the most popular exhibitions of Hungary for nearly two decades can be found in a former “salt house” built in the 18th century, later a stage coach station then home of the Vastagh family.

In the eleven exhibition halls of the museum the visitor can see more than three hundred pieces of the artist – mixing different and diverse sculptural traditions of different nations – including statuettes made of terracotta or fireclay, reliefs and different types of ornaments.