April 1 I decided to explore the Buda side of the city so my morning began with a walk over the Chain Bridge which spans the Danube linking Buda and Pest.
As I looked up to the left, the Buda castle drew my attention. This complex dates back to the 13th century and was home to the kings from 1247. On September 11, 1526 the Muslims invaded and occupied Hungary until 1686 when the Christians were able to liberate the city from Muslim occupation. The palace suffered much destruction during those years as the Hungarian people struggled to secure the freedom of their city.
Then I began my climb to Saint Matthias Church whose walls have witnessed the coronation of many kings.
The signage in this chapel was entitled: The noonday bell. The fresco commemorates an event in 1456. Three years after the fall of Constantinople, the Hungarians had to stand alone in face of Islamic aggression. Pope Callixtus III ordered the bells to be rung every day at noon to invite everyone to pray through the intercession of the Virgin Mary for victory against aggression. And the Sultan’s army was defeated near Belgrade.
In 1541 the city of Buda fell victim to Islamic aggression and the city was occupied by them until 1686. The Muslims turned the church into a mosque. They whitewashed the church and devoided it of furnishings. Once again the Hungarians secured the freedom of their city in 1686. Then the Soviets used it as a canteen during the time of Soviet occupation. With all this in mind the church has become for me a sign of that exceptional Hungarian spirit to risk it all for freedom.
The beautiful interior of this Franciscan church has a interesting history that witnesses to that exceptional spirit of the Hungarian people to continue to seek freedom even in the darkest of moments. From the signage I learned that the church was built in the Gothic style in 1250 then on September 23, 1526 the Muslims burnt the church, put the brothers to the sword and turned it into a mosque. On that day the first Hungarian poet, Father Andrad Vasurhelye was put to the sword. The brothers returned in 1686 but then were outlawed by the Communists for 40 years. Then on September 1, 1990 they returned again.
All of these churches and their history gives me pause to think how precious freedom is and how people will endure and perserve not only for decades but centuries to secure freedom. The words of Pope Saint John Paul to the Hungarians are taking on an even greater significance.
“Be mindful of the blessings that freedom, which you have definitively secured, means for your future. Cherish it and make good use of your liberty.”
The opera house from the 19th century is a thing of beauty.
That evening while I was listening to the Passion of John by Bach at the Opera House, surrounded by such beauty as I pondered the mystery of the suffering of Our Lord, my thoughts were on what I had seen during the day which witnessed how much these people have suffered for freedom in recent memory.