The Basilica of Esztergom
Even in the early history of Hungary, Esztergom – due to its advantageous geographic location – often played an important administrative, religious and military role. From a strategic point of view, the geographic features of the Castle Hill provided excellent defensive capabilities, which was recognized early on.
Due to its geography, Hungarian Chieftain Géza chose Esztergom to be his seat. King Stephen I made it the center of the newly founded Catholic church of Hungary by creating the archbishopric of Esztergom.
Stephen had his first cathedral built within the Castle of Esztergem. It was consecrated to the martyr Saint Adalbert.
The present day Basilica of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St Adalbert was built in the classical style. In terms of its exterior dimensions, it is the largest house of worship as well as the tallest structure in Hungary. Additionally, it is one of the largest basilicas in Europe. Its altarpiece, painted by Michelangelo Grigoletti, is the world’s largest single-canvas altarpiece depicting the assumption of the Virgin Mary. In 1543, the basilica – along with the rest of the castle – fell under Ottoman rule, but miraculously survived the era of Turkish occupation.
The church’s undercroft houses hundreds of graves which are the final resting place of the basilica’s builders and key clergy. Among many others, Hungary’s renowned prince primate, József Mindszenty, also lies in one of these graves.