On the north
side of the Vatican Grottoes and to the left side of the Gallery
of Clement VIII, is the entrance to the Chapel of Our Lady the
Great Queen of Hungary.
started in 1977, when Hungarian priests living in Austria and
in Germany, led by Mons. Stephen Laszlo, the Bishop of Eisenstadt
in Austria, presented to Pope Paul VI the request, on behalf of
their Catholic nationals, to build in the grottoes a chapel dedicated
to the Madonna "Magna Mater Hungarorum."
relative research done by the Fabbrica di San Pietro, the pope
assigned a vast room to Cardinal Laszlo Lekai, the Archbishop
of Esztergom, to realize the project.
The gilded bronze statue
of St Stephen, the first
king of Hungary,
on the steps of the
Statue of the
chapel is located exactly behind the shrine with the
tomb of Paul VI and was created from Rooms VIII and IX of the
grottoes and the gallery of Clement VIII as the atrium.
8, 1980, Pope John Paul II inaugurated the chapel with the celebration
of Mass. Present at the event was Cardinal Laszlo Lekai; some 20
Hungarian bishops; Mr. Janos Szita, the Hungarian Ambassador to
the Quirinal; Mr Imre Miklos, the Hungarian Secretary of State for
Ecclesiastical Affairs; some 100 priests and 500 Hungarian pilgrims,
who came to Rome for the occasion.
entrances leas into the chapel. They are decorated with artistic
iron gates made by the sculptor Josef Kovacs and placed in the chapel
in 1982. The floor is paved with slabs of red Hungarian marble separated
with thin brass listels. The back wall of the chapel is entirely
covered by 3 stainless steel gilded panels with the embossed figures
of legendary deer from the Hungarian tradition. The central panel
represents the tree of life with the statue of the Madonna "Magna
Domina Hungarorum" with Child. By the first gate is a life-size
statue of St Stephen, the first king of Hungary represented in the
act of descending the stairs and walking toward the Madonna to the
Celestial Lady to present his crown and his entire people.
patined statues dressed in silver plated drapes are by the Hungarian
sculptor Imre Varga. The cloak of St Stephen is an exact copy of
the original cloak woven by the king's wife, Blessed Gisela, preserved
in the treasury of the Cathedral in Esztergom.
Chapel of Our Lady - Queen of Hungarians
Entrance to the Hungarian Chapel of Our Lady
the presbytery are some surviving pieces from the old basilica.
The small altar is decorated in the center with an early Christian
cross in bas-relief, on the front are Cosmatesque motifs. The cathedral,
the candelabra, the base of the procession cross and spiral column
supporting the lectern, are all decorated with original Cosmatesque
The walls are
faced with travertine slabs and decorated with 20 white limestone
panels representing the scenes from the lives of the Hungarian saints,
who form a procession proceeding toward the Madonna. The panels
were made by Hungarian artists. The figures of St. Adalbert, St
Gerard, and Blessed Eusebius are by the sculptor Pal Ko. St Elizabeth,
St Margaret of Hungary and Blessed Gisela are by Sandor Kiss. Blessed
Kunegunde, Blessed Prisca and St Ladislaus the King, are by Anrdas
Kiss Nagy. Blessed Iolanda, Blessed Salomea, Moses of Hungary and
St Luis of Touluse are by Laszlo Marton. St Isabel, St Emeric and
St Margaret of Scotland are by Gyula Kiss Kovacs. Blessed Elizabeth,
Blessed Hedvig, and Blessed Giovanni Dominici are by Robert Csikszentmihalyi.
The same artist made the panel with Blessed Apor Vilmos, the Bishop
and Martyr, in 2001.
Panels of Hungarian Saints - West Wall
Panels of Hungarian Saints - East Wall
On the opposite
wall, visible on its lower part, are fragments of the wall of the
Vatican basilica built by Bramante. Above, is the oval bronze bas-relief
by Amerigo tot with a central cross dividing the space into four
equal parts. In the upper left part, is St Stephen Receiving the
Royal Crown from Sylvester II. To the right is Pope Callixtus II,
who after the victory of Belgrade introduced the daily Angelus prayer
at midday. In the lower part to the left is Paul VI consigning the
model of the chapel under construction to Cardinal Lekai; to the
right is John Paul II receiving from the Primate of Hungary the
model of the completed chapel.
on Rear Wall of Chapel
The special relationship binding your people to the See
of Peter finds a significant expression in the
Hungarian Chapel of the Vatican Grottoes, which I myself
had the joy of blessing 20 years ago on the feast of
the Magna Domina Hungarorum, to whom you also wished to
entrust your Jubilee pilgrimage."
Pope John Paul II's address to the National Hungarian Pilgrimage
October 9, 2000
Roma Sacra The Vatican Grottoes, © Fabbrica of St. Peter's, June 2003
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