Modernity and Religion Session 5: Church Architecture in Interwar Hungary

Session 5 of our workshop Modernity and Religion in Central European Art and Architecture will take place at

18.00 CET on 15 April 2021

on Zoom, featuring papers by

Erzsébet Urbán (Budapest University of Technology and Economics, Budapest)


Eszter Baku (Budapest University of Technology and Economics, Budapest).

The event is free to attend, but you need to register. Click here for the registration form. See the full workshop schedule here.

Watch the session on our Youtube channel:


Erzsébet Urbán (Budapest University of Technology and Economics, Budapest)

Roman Catholic church-constructing programme of the Saint Stephen Jubilee (1938): Catholic Renaissance and Its Sacral Architecture in the 1930s in Hungary

After World War I, the churches played a crucial part in social and cultural activities, which soon led to a revival period for the Roman Catholic Church. The state-theory of Saint Stephen, the first king of Hungary (r. 997/1001–1038), was a central pillar in the Christian-national propaganda of the interwar period. Church architecture had an identity-forming role again thanks to the religious renaissance. The Saint Emery Jubilee (1930) and the Saint Stephen Jubilee (1938) were accentuated national events, and besides the wealthy celebration programmes lots of new public and sacral buildings were erected in honour of the Hungarian Saints. The Holy Years motivated an extensive church-constructing programme in the 1930s. The students of the School of Rome – organized and led by Tibor Gerevich – got the most considerable art assignments and architectural projects. The institution aimed to create contemporary ecclesiastical art and they strongly connected to the new, international artistic trends.

Beside the church constructing programme, there was another significant architectural aspect to the Saint Stephen Jubilee. Not only were countless historic churches restored, but the two most important church historical archaeological sites of the country were excavated and partly reconstructed for this event. Although these unprecedented monument preservation projects were not new sacral buildings, but their architectural complements were fascinating modernist designs and the sites themselves referred directly to the origins of the Hungarian Christianity: they were crucial locations of the age of Saint Stephen and Christianization, when the close cooperation of the state and the church was of decisive importance.

Erzsébet Urbán is an architect, an engineer specialising in the preservation of built heritage, and a post-Ph.D. student at the Budapest University of Technology and Economics, Faculty of Architecture, Department of History of Architecture and Monument Preservation). She was a teaching assistant from 2012 to 2014 and Secretary of the faculty branch of the Council of National Scientific Students’ Associations from 2014 to 2018. From 2016 she has served as assistant editor of the Architectura Hungariae online academic journal. She is currently conducting research on trends in sacral architectural and monument preservation  in Hungary from the interwar period to the present. Her publications examine the restoration, reconstruction, contemporary usage, transformation, or, in certain cases, new utilization of  ecclesiastical architectural works.


Eszter Baku (Budapest University of Technology and Economics, Budapest)

Tradition and Innovation: The Historical Tradition and Modernity in Hungarian Church Architecture in the Interwar Period

Over the last few decades, intense efforts have been made to research twentieth century central and eastern European, particularly Hungarian, sacred architecture. In this era, sacred constructions appeared to have significant identity shaping potential for the churches. The interwar period is characterized by the spread of modern architectural principles, symbolism, and liturgical and structural issues. Joint examination of these aspects clearly reveals that the international expansion of modern architecture, the liturgical movement, and the strengthening of communal aspirations allowed continuous architectural experimentation, leading to the creation of new church-building principles. This research aims to address these changes not only by examining the architecture, but also by considering the new churches built in the era in combination with the architecture-related aspects of papal and episcopal provisions, synods’ decisions, and discussions in the Catholic and architectural press. Specifically, the research investigates how the official ecclesiastical position shifted from rejection of the principles and practice of modern architecture to promotion of modern art. We examine the delicate balance characterizing the policy of the Hungarian Roman Catholic Church in the interwar period, focusing on modern and neo-styles and the liturgical renewal.

Eszter Baku is an art historian and an expert in the preservation of built heritage. Having graduated from Peter Pázmány Catholic University as an art historian in 2009, she was a PhD-student at the Budapest University of Technology and Economics, Faculty of Architecture, Department for History of Architecture and of Monuments from 2010 to 2013. She received her PhD degree in 2018. Her main research area is sacred architecture in the interwar period, especially in Hungary, with a special interest in foreign parallels and the connection between architecture-liturgy and structure. She has conducted research projects focusing mostly on sacral architecture between the world wars in Hungary and also has participated in Department-related surveys. In addition to her research on interwar church architecture she has a special interest in historical plaster casts. Baku is a recipient of the 3-year research scholarship of the Hungarian Academy of Arts Research Institute of Art Theory and Methodology.


This workshop is part of a project that has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No 786314).

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