Veszprém’s religious heritage is so rich that it is worth planning your tour here in advance and spending a full day to explore and digest it. Let’s start our exploration in the castle!
St. Michael’s Cathedral
Walking in the old town of Veszprém, you cannot miss the two towers proudly rising and propagating one of Hungary’s oldest cathedrals from a distance. So, it is worth walking up to the castle to take a closer look at this pearl of church architecture. The church founded by Queen Gizella was built in honour of Archangel St. Michael. After the great fire in 1380, the Cathedral was rebuilt in Gothic style, then, at the beginning of the 18th century, the church was given a Baroque appearance. This, however, was not the last change of styles, for it was rebuilt in Neo-Romanesque style at the beginning of the 20th century, with the aim to restore the assumed original look of the building. If you have the chance, sit inside the building for a few minutes and enjoy its inner beauty and peace.
St. George’s Chapel
Along the northern side of the Cathedral, you can find one of Veszprém’s oldest medieval buildings – from the 10th and 11th centuries – where, according to the legend of St. Imre, the son of our first king took his vow of chastity. The chapel mentioned in several medieval charters was partly demolished when the Cathedral was extended northwards in the 18th century. The head relic of St. George, which had been given to King St. Stephen by the Byzantine emperor in memory of his victory over the Bulgarians, was kept here. Later, Bishop Albert Vetési had the chapel renovated and a red marble Gothic altar erected, the ruins of which can still be found here. Vetési was buried in the St. George’s Chapel, however, his tomb was ravaged in a barbaric manner in the 18th century.
Salesianum – Archbishopric Tourist Centre
Opposite the Cathedral stands the Bíró-Giczey House which was built in the 18th century at the order of Bishop Márton Bíró Padányi. As a unique initiative, the House, in its present form, offers a number of sights as well as interesting and exciting programmes for the entire family. Downstairs and in the basement, display workshops dazzle the visitors, helping them familiarize themselves with violin-making, candle-making and wafer-baking. In addition, you can take part in a virtual journey in the viewing room and explore the amazingly colourful world of herbs. If you go upstairs or to the attic storey, you can enjoy an artistic and spiritual experience: you can take delight in Baroque wall paintings, explore liturgical time and artefacts and, last but not least, you can have a taste of the Veszprém Archdiocese’s treasures never seen.
Holy Trinity Statue
At the heart of the castle district, in the middle of the square surrounded by the Dubniczay Palace, the Salesianum, the Cathedral, the Gizella Chapel and the Archbishop’s Palace, your eyes are caught by the golden glittering Holy Trinity Statue which was erected at the order of Márton Bíró Padányi in 1750. The family coat of arms and the patron saint of the bishop of that time, St. Martin, can also be seen among the statues and reliefs.
This composition was made by sculptor and stone mason Ferenc Schmidt. The main square of the Castle was named after this group statue.
On the opposite side of the square, next to the Archbishop’s Palace, there is a beautiful Gothic building which was built at the beginning of the 13th century and was once a two-storey palace chapel – in all likelihood, a private bishop’s or royal chapel. This chapel is one of Veszprém’s oldest buildings, which was traditionally named after its founder, i.e. Queen Gizella.
It is worth spending some time here and taking a look at the beauty of the interior: the arch-stones of the vault are really special! On the northern wall of the lower chapel, you can gaze at Byzantine-style frescos depicting apostles. They belong to Hungary’s oldest frescos. There are eleven dragons looking down to us from the triumphal arch of the northern wall in the upper chapel. Later, in the 18th century, at the time when the Bishop’s (today Archbishop’s) Palace was built, the lower level of the Chapel was reconstructed and enriched with Baroque-style elements
As you walk on, you can come across the other pearl of the Veszprém Castle – the late Baroque-style Archbishop’s Palace. Its halls and rooms are full of valuable paintings, works of art and other treasures, including frescos made by Johann I. Cymbal and the gypsum stuccos made by Giuseppe Orsatti of Italy. You can also search for written memories of old times, for the Palace accommodates the Archbishop’s and the Chapter’s archives and a library with 65,000 volumes. It seems to be a good idea to check in in advance if you want to see these treasures of the archbishopric, otherwise you will find closed doors when you arrive.
Blessed Gizella Archdiocesan Collection
If you continue your journey in the castle, you can find a valuable collection of religious art treasures, bishopric heritage and royal donations. The most precious piece of the Blessed Gizella Archdiocesan Collection is a chasuble which was made in 1480, interwoven with golden thread and belonged to Bishop Albert Vetési. If you go further, you can find a valuable stone collection in the cellar of the building.
Leaving the castle on the stairs running between the Cathedral and the Gizella Chapel, you get to a promenade following the winding path of the Séd Brook in the Veszprém Valley. The first station is Mt. Benedict which provides a nice view of the ruins of the St. Catherine Cloister or as it is more commonly known: the Margaret Ruins.
The former temple and cloister were built around 1240 for Dominican nuns at the order of Bishop Bertalan. St. Margaret, the daughter of King Béla IV lived here for six years when she was a child. Next to the small, one-nave temple, you can see the foundation walls of some support buildings among the houses. The temple and the cloister fell victim to the Turkish conquer. The ruins were excavated in 1938: today only some parts of the foundation walls and the temple walls are standing. The ruins now have the dignified surroundings that they deserve: they were reconstructed within the scope of the project ‘Cloisters and Gardens at the Foot of the Veszprém Castle’, while the Margaret Square was enhanced and decorated with a fountain, symbolising the path of the Séd Brook.
It is open to the public.
Ruins of the Veszprém Valley Greek Nunnery and Jesuit Church
Continuing your tour on the promenade, along the symbolic path of the brook, then passing in front of the zoo, you can get to the ruins of the other cloister in the valley after a 20-30-minute pilgrimage.
The foundation of the nunnery is associated with King St. Stephen. According to legends, the main battle between Stephen and Koppány took place in the valley near the cloister.
The transcription of the Greek foundation charter is the earliest authentic document in the National Archives of Hungary.
Today the Greek origin is severely questioned and it seems much more likely that this cloister in the Veszprém Valley was used by the Benedictine nuns who arrived here from Bavaria escorting Gizella.
Besides educating girls, the Veszprém Valley nuns were responsible for supplying church costumes, ornamental table-cloths and chasubles to the churches to be built in Hungary.
In all likelihood, the coronation cloak of King Stephen I, the beautiful embroidery of which was partly due to the queen consort herself and which was later used also by all the other Hungarian kings, was made here. You can take a look at an authentic replica of the cloak at an earlier station of your journey, in the Blessed Gizella Archdiocesan Collection in the castle.
At the end of the tour, you can take a comfortable walk back to the castle district and the old town on the other bank of the Séd Brook and if you feel like doings so, you can stop at other major and famous sights of Veszprém. If you are tired, just find some cosy accommodation nearby – you can find a lot in the Veszprém Valley – and continue your exploration the next day relaxed, with your body and soul fully replenished.