The oldest church in Budapest is a real jewel. Even its origin is extraordinary. In 300 AD the Romans built a fortification to fend off barbaric attacks and to guard the crossing place of the Danube. It got its name, Contra Aquaticum, after the military settlement, Aquaticum, ont he opposite bank. Centuries later a two-steepled Romanesque church was built on this rampart ont he wishes of our first king, St. István. It was a three-aisled church with ambulatory, symbolizing the power of Christianity over paganism.
In 1398 Gergely Babocsai, King Zsigmond’s chaplain, became the parson of the church and procedured the reconstruction. The enlargement was accomplished after French design sin Ghotic style. The edifice was enriched during the reign of King Mátyás: an oratory was built ont he right side, and two renaissance chancels – one of red marble, the other of white limestone – were chiselled ont he donations of bishop András Nagyrévi (1500) and the city of Pest. Among the significant treasures of the church there are some remains of frescos found int he sediles, now exhibited int he baptistery chapel. The church suffered great damages during the Turkish occupation (1541-1686), when it was used as a mosque. A „mihrab” , a prayer niche still can be seen on the south-west wall of the sanctuary.
During the siege and the recapture of Buda (1684,1686) the church was heavily damaged.
The edifice got its present exterior during the Baroque reconstruction which was supported by György Széchenyi, the archbishop of Esztergom at the time. The work started with the building up to the southern tower in 1726, and ended with the erection of the northern tower in 1740. Thechurch was restored in neoclassic style by Joseph Hild between 1805 and 1808. A few decades later Gothic elements were added by Imre Steindl. During WWII the building was heavily damaged. The reconstruction started in 1948 so as the church could glorify God and serve the people again.
Many historical events took place in the church. Bishop St. Gellért, the first martyr of the country, was laid out and buried here in 1046, after being thrown down the hill ont he opposite bank of the Danube by the rebellious pagans. Eight years later his body was taken to Marosvár, his episcopal see. (Centuries later it ws fled to safeguard to Velence from the Turks.)
According to tradition the engagement of St.Erzsébet the Arpad dinasty,daughter of the Hungarian king, Endre II, to the son of the count of Thuring was celebrated here.
Many of our kings and rulers visited the place, and according to records the day before King Matthias was elected king a holy mass was celebrated for the next sovereign.
In 1872 (February 4) Ferenc Liszt conducted his mass, the Missa Choralis here. He also gave many organ concerts within these walls.
It is a great honour for us to have a part of the relic of St.Gellért in our church since March 2002, when it was brought here fromo Murano and placed in an illuminated reliquary int he new facing marble altar of the renovated sanctuary. It reminds the visitors to the veneration of Our Lady of Hungary, the Virgin Mary taken to heaven, which St. Gellért insisted so much on.