Pécs Cathedral has been a prominent feature of this Hungarian cityscape for centuries. In 1064, after a fire destroyed a Romanesque basilica, King Peter Orseolo of Hungary initiated construction of the cathedral on the same site. Completed in the twelfth century, Pécs Cathedral features Romanesque stone carvings of exceptional artistic value. In the sixteenth century, Turkish conquerors converted it into a mosque, and when Hungarians regained control of the city in 1686, the structure was reinstated as a church. From 1806 to 1813, Mihaly Pollack, a master Hungarian architect, remodeled the building in the Gothic Revival style but did not address structural problems due to the many changes to the building in the preceding centuries. By the late nineteenth century, much of the building was in critical need of structural repairs. From 1882 through 1891 architect Friedrich von Schmidt oversaw a restoration project that essentially leveled the building to its foundations and rebuilt it in a neo-Romanesque style. In 1990, Pope John Paul II’s visit to the cathedral was an occasion to draw new attention to the historic importance of the structure.
The richest collection of Romanesque sculpture in Central Europe
In the early 1990s, World Monuments Fund, in partnership with the Pécs Cathedral Museum Foundation, undertook emergency interventions with particular attention to the conservation needs of the Romanesque carvings and sculptures. Documentation and conservation planning extended to training opportunities to encourage greater local participation. After the conclusion of the WMF project, in 2004, a museum opened adjacent to the cathedral that displays the richest collection of Romanesque sculpture in Central Europe, and a broad range of artifacts, including medieval architectural and sculptural fragments, wall painting fragments, materials from the altar of the Holy Cross, and the western entryway of the cathedral.
Pécs Cathedral is an important cultural, architectural, and artistic landmark, and illustrates the reach of Italian, German, and French cultural influences in the region, and has nineteenth-century art by renowned German artist Karoly Lotz and Hungarian Romantic painter Bertalan Szekely.