After two years of writing exclusively about France, mostly about the area where I live and French culture, I’m diverging into wider pastures, so this, my friends, is my first offering not about France. I’ve been itching to write about other places I’ve been and having just returned from a trip to Vienna, Budapest and Bratislava I’ve decided it’s now or never! I present to you the Blue Church Bratislava.
Bratislava, the tiny capital of Slovakia, is only an hour’s drive from Vienna, making it perfect for a day trip. I had done a little research about the place and knew that I wanted to see the Blue Church, no matter what. And in this case the “no matter what” was a big black cloud and rumbles of thunder coming from the general direction of the church. Looking the other way, towards the Castle on the hill it was still clear and sunny, but I reckoned if we didn’t rush to the church straight away we wouldn’t get there; the cloud was ominous and threatening to spill its load soon.
I’d read the church was far from the centre and difficult to find. It’s not! It’s a simple quick walk from the National Theatre in the Old Town. Rushing as we were it took about five minutes. No one can say that’s far! We arrived as there was still a little sun peaking through the clouds, enough to take reasonable photos, though not great and certainly not the perfect blue sky of earlier in the day.
Even in less than perfect light it didn’t disappoint. The Blue Church, or officially The Church of St Elizabeth of Hungary, is the most lovely combination of blues – mosaics and paintwork – with white detailing. Built in 1907-08 and consecrated in 1913 it is an excellent example of Hungarian (yes, I do mean Hungarian and not Slovakian) Secession style, Art Nouveau to you and me. It rises like a wedding cake out of the suburban streets, contrasting sublimely with a hideous Soviet concrete monster-of-a-block directly opposite.
The church was designed by Hungarian architect Ödön Lechner, known for decorating his buildings with Zsolnay tile patterns inspired by old Magyar and Turkic folk art, playfully combining oriental, Romanesque and classical features. It does have a certain eastern feel about it, and more than a whiff of Gaudi too. He also designed the high school next door, which while it is much more restrained, it also has a whimsical playfulness about it.
The Blue Church is consecrated to St Elizabeth, a medieval princess and saint, native of Bratislava, who risked her rank by giving alms to the poor. There is a mosaic depicting a miracle she performed above the main door. Unfortunately our timing meant that we couldn’t go properly inside to see the internal decorations up close as it is only open for mass at certain hours. However the main door was open and we were able to look inside through a metal grill to get an overall view. The colour theme continues throughout the church, with the pews and alter painted sky blue.
I’ll leave you with a quick peak at the building opposite – a hospital I think – just to put the church into context! We enjoyed our visit and didn’t get wet, but the heavens opened only minutes later making me pleased we’d made the effort to get there in time.
Have you been to Bratislava? What do you think of this lovely Blue Church?
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