Matthias Church, Budapest
The Matthias Church is one of the most widely known monument building not only in Budapest but in the whole country. Though it is often referred to as a medieval building this is only partly true: its defining interior and exterior features are the result of a renovation that took place at the end of the 19th century so the building tells more about the ideas of that era than about medieval architecture. Nonetheless, we can still see the traces of different architectural styles from the previous centuries on the building and it has become on of the representative sights of the Buda panorama. Since 2015 a new chapter began in the history of the church: for the first time since its construction, the tower and its balcony can be visited anyone, which was a privilege of a few for more than a century.
Though it seems like a 19th century Neo-Gothic church, parts of it were built much earlier. According to historical sources, the original building was built in the 13th century. Many kings used the church for ceremonial purposes, both wedding of Matthias I were held here. During the centuries it has been redesigned many times and in the Ottoman Occupation it was used as a mosque. Later it was used by Jesuit priests who renovated it in Baroque style and built two additional buildings next to the church.
The current look of the Matthias church, completed in the 19th century, was designed by Frigyes Schulek. The buildings of the Jesuits were demolished and the church was rebuilt in Neo Gothic style and the interior was richly decorated by Bertalan Székely and Károly Lotz. It was named after King Matthias during this time as during the renovation they found his coat of arms in the tower. The colorful Zsolnay tiles were also put on the roof during these renovations.
Perhaps the most characteristic part of the church is the beautifully ornamented tower which has the only parts that were left untouched since the era of King Matthias. The first two floors of the tower were built in the 13th century and the three octagonal floors on top of these were built during the construction by King Matthias in the 1470's. The Neo-Gothic spire was built during Schulek's reconstruction. Visiting the new tower balcony and seeing the amazing panorama was the privilege of only a few people for more than a century. The tower houses two historical and four recently moulded and cast bells with an overall weight of more than 10 tons. The four larger bells also have counterbalances of equal to their respective weights to absorb the shock waves generated by the ringing.
Since the finishing of its renovations in 2013, the church once again regained its former glory. For non-prayers, it can be visited by paying an entrance fee. Since summer 2015, the first time in the building's history, the bell tower can visited by anyone (after purchasing ticket). 197 steps lead up to the 47 meters high balcony but for the breathtaking panorama these are steps definitely worth taking.