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A church made of ceramic – Saint Ladislaus Parishchurch, Budapest

by Libou

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When after the Big Flood of 1838 Pest had to be rebuilt during the second half of the 19th century, and that time architects  went back in time to the old styles, reviving them in such masterpieces like, the neogothic Hungarian Parliament and Matthias Church, the neorenessaince Operahouse, the neorenessaince and neobaroque palaces and tenement houses alongside Andrássy Avenue and Grand Boulvard and the neobaroque Széchenyi Bath. But the fever of secession reached Hungarian artchitects alike, moreover, most of them studied or spent some years in Vienna, in the hometown to this, that time flabbergasting new stlye, and was in connection with Gustav Klimt’s famous group.

The name of Ödön Lechner – the „Hungarian Gaudí” – whose’s works are on the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage is maybe not widespreadly known, but whenever somebody visited Budapest, surely met his most famous works as the Institute of Geology, the Royal Postal Savings Bank and the Museum of Applied Arts.  The new style and Lechner’s worshop gave birth to new masters too. Thanking to them Budapest today is maybe the only city in Europe, where one can see an art noveau style building almost every corner,  particulary on Pest side of the city.

Secession – called modernismo in Spain, Art Noveau is France – is not a standard style. One can say, as many architects, as many secession. All they are common is the intention to leave behind greek columns, renessaince alcoves, tymphanons, and the tradition in general. As function and static rules can hardly altered in case of a building, so the meaning to show their  uniquity and otherness secessionist architects used colourful, that time sometimes shocking decorations on the facades, using new material as glass and ceramic, and waked the traditional forms with assymetry and plenty of curves.

Mosaic

The Saint Ladislaus Parishchurch in Budapest’s X. district is not a widely known work of Lechner, even among locals.  This church stand sin a suburb, far from the routine tourist paths and only the most  enthusiast fans of secession and the Hungarian master used to visit. Though it is an early work  of the master, experts say, it summerize the essence of his secession.

The construction of the church – dedicated to the Hungarian knight-king Saint Ladislaus – was started soon after Lechner returned from Paris, and his style moved away from historicism to start a more exicting adventure, an experiment with Hungarian secession. Lechner’s aim was to form not only Art Noveau, but a Hungarian one, a national style, using motifs from Hungarian folk arts, but incorporating architectural elements from East, like Persia and Turkey alike. So, one striking feature  –  which actually appears on all Lechner building, just think of the Museum of Applied Arts – is the glossy ornamental ceramics, that deck the roof, and was inspired by ancient eastern Islamic architectrure, but featuring traditional folkmotifs of his homeland. Inpside the church – in an unbelievable way – everything, altars, the pulpit, the bapticizing font, the statues, even the confessionals are made from ceramic, more precisely the world famous Zsolnay Ceramic.  The cavalcade of colours –shadows of blues, yellows, greens, lills, purples, and browns mainly – is amazing and flabbergasting at the same time, just like the mixture of styles – romanesque, gothic, baroque, renessaince and islamic, all in one – , but in a hardly explicable way incorporate in a perfect harmony.

Saint Ladislaus Church – as Lechner’s style in general – has many adherents as well as critics since its completion, no doubt.  What is for sure: it is considered by experts and later generations alike an important milestone in history of Hungarian secession.

photos by Adnan Soysal

 

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Libou

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Freelancer tourguide in Budapest/Hungary

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