As the sun reached its peak in the sky, we found ourselves walking down from the Chain Bridge, following the Danube into Gellért, a part of Budapest that is famed for its famous Hotel and Spa Baths. We were here to see something else though, something that had been forgotten about for years and only reopened in 1989. This was St Ivan’s Cave housing the Cave Church.
Gellért has a long history of being associated with religion. It is said that this hilly area was where the Bishop Gellért was murdered back in the 11th century. Legend has it that he was stuffed into a barrel and thrown down the hill by angry citizens of Buda who he was trying to convert to Christianity.
The Cave Church itself (built into the side of Gellért hill) was founded in 1926 by the Pauline order of Monks after they were inspired by similar cave chapels in Lourdes, following a pilgrimage. The order continued to care for the church even when the Soviet army took control of Budapest in 1945. Unfortunately, in 1951, the Soviets tightened their grip on the city by ensuring they were seen to be more powerful than religion. To exercise their power over the people, the Soviets closed down many of the churches in the city (using the Hungarian secret police, an arm of the Soviet Union secret police). When it came to the Cave Church, the secret police murdered the head monk of the order and sentenced the rest of the monks to long stints prison. The church entrance was then sealed with thick concrete and was left abandoned until 1989.
Outside of the cave church is the statue of St Stephen (first king of Hungary). Stephen the First united Hungary into one kingdom rather than just groups of nomadic tribes. He was canonised as a saint in 1083, and his feast day (20th August) is a bank holiday every year in Hungary. This important figure used Christianity to unite the country and so it is quite fitting to have a statue of him outside the Cave Church.
Nowadays the Pauline order has been revived at the church. For a small fee you can go inside the church and see how pretty it is. Inside the church there are beautiful stained-glass windows as wells as ornate decorative wooden carvings. Make sure you are respectful when inside as services are ongoing. Unfortunately, because of this, I only have a few photographs to show but it is worth seeing it for yourself.