The walls of the rotunda (round temple), where the infant Saint Elizabeth was baptised, can be found in the square in front of the church. Based on its size and architecture, the rotunda is from the 11–12th century, and probably one of the oldest in the area.
On the site of today’s Gothic Church, a late Roman church was built in the second half of the 13th century. Its separate bell-tower, and the walls of the old parochial school at the foot of the castle wall still stand.
The present church was built by the 15th-century landlords of the castle, the Pálóczi family. At the southern entrance, a memorial plate of the Saint Elizabeth Year in 2007 commemorated the 800th anniversary of her birth. On the same occasion, the church of the castle received its ‘basilica minor’ title.
And now, let’s enter the church! There are more stairways leading down from the entrance, because during the 1964 excavation, the floor was rebuilt to match its original, 15th-century structure. In the same year, the catacombs were closed down, and some of the steles were installed on the walls. The cover stones built into the flooring mark the locations of the dismantled crypts.
The church served as a burial place for the Rákóczi and Dobó families. Zsuzsanna Lorántffy and her son, György Rákóczi II were buried here as well.
The three-bayed structure and the column rows separating the bays mark the era of the first construction period, similarly to the pillars of the side aisles. A major renovation took place after the Battle of Mohács (1526), as the northern walls were reconstructed as battlemented castle walls.
After the Wesselényi Conspiracy in 1671, Sárospatak was occupied by the troops of the Holy Roman Emperor. The church was then used as a military warehouse: enormous gates were created by destroying certain wall sections, opening the way even for carriages. A memorial glass brick on the southern side of the building and a wood carving by Tamás Mezei titled ‘Christmas Secret’ commemorate this period.
The church was destroyed by a huge fire in 1737, after which only the pillars and walls remained. The church was rebuilt in 1787. The Baroque organ-loft was also constructed that year, and the high, Gothic vaulting was replaced by the current, simple barrel-vaults. The 16-meter (50-foot) high altar is gold-leafed with 4.5 kilograms – over 10 lbs – of gold. This Baroque main altar was transported here from the Carmelite Church of Buda, and it is one of the most impressive architectural pieces of the installation.
The relic case of Saint Elizabeth – in which the Holy Right Hand of Saint Stephen was held earlier in Budapest– contains a skull fragment and a piece of silk garment. The images of Saint Elizabeth that decorate the church door and the battlements were created by goldsmith Csaba Ozsvári.
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