Romanesque style Benedictine church (Ják, Hungary)

Romanesque style Benedictine church (Ják, Hungary)

A Romanesque style Benedictine church with a special gateway, built in the 13th century in Hungary.

History

Keywords

church of Ják, Ják, Jáki Nagy Márton, Benedictine, abbey, Szent Jakab-kápolna, Frigyes Schulek, St. George, chapel, church, Romanian, Catholic, tower

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Scenes

The Benedictine abbey of Ják

The former Benedictine abbey is located on a hilltop in the village of Ják, Western Hungary, 10 km (6.214 mi) from Szombathely.

The construction of the church started in the 1220s; it was built in three stages and received its final shape after the Mongol invasion. It was consecrated in honor of St. George in 1256.

The building is the most extraordinary work of Romanesque architecture in Hungary.

The abbey has had a turbulent history: parts of it were destroyed, it was struck by lightning and damaged by fire. Its last renovation took place in the early 20th century, according to the plans of Frigyes Schulek.

The Benedictine abbey and the garden

The façade and the portal

Most of the external decorations of the church are found on the western wall, around the main portal. The bottom of the façade is dominated by the ornate main portal, decorated with geometric patterns. The decoration of the portal is rich and varied, with geometric patterns, characteristic of Norman style.

The tympanum above the portal is decorated with niches of trefoil arches, separated by pillars. The niches contain ornamental statues, good examples of Hungarian Romanesque architectural sculpture. The statues depict Jesus Christ and the 12 Apostles. Today only 3 of the statues have the original heads, the others were destroyed by Ottoman raiders in 1532 and were replaced later.

The top of the façade ends in a tympanum, forming an organic transition toward the higher parts of the building.

The façade and the portal

St. James chapel

The St. James chapel is located opposite the main, western façade. As it was forbidden to use abbeys as parish churches in the Middle Ages, it was the chapel that functioned as the local church.

The chapel was built around 1260, soon after the church had been completed. It was also built in the Romanesque style, with a quatrefoil floor plan and two levels. It received its final shape during a renovation in the 18th century.

The chapel is far less decorated than the abbey. The similarity of the decorations above the entrance doors however proves that the chapel was probably built by the same masters.

Floor plan and side view of the chapel

Narration

The church is located on a hilltop in the village of Ják, Western Hungary, 10 km (6.214 mi) from Szombathely. The memory of the former Benedictine abbey is now only preserved by the church building and the St. James chapel, located in the church yard.

The church is the most extraordinary work of Romanesque architecture in Hungary. Its architectural elements suggest that it was probably built in the early 13th century, in several stages. It was likely to have been commissioned by Márton Jáki Nagy (or Martin of Ják), the first Hungarian nobleman to be mentioned in a charter, around 1220. The church was consecrated in honor of St. George in 1256.

The building fits well into its environment, with towers visible from the entire area, dominating the landscape. The triple-nave church was built in a typical Romanesque style, on a basilica plan. The towers form an integral part of the exterior, the side aisles start under the towers.

The church and the yard are surrounded by a wall. On the southern part of the wall the Folnay gate is decorated with the coat of arms of the abbot after whom the gate was named. Inside the gate, the southern side of the church features an entrance door, much smaller than the main portal. Turning right we find the sacristy, the side apses and the main apse on the eastern side.

The northern side of the church is less ornate. Most of the external decorations are found on the western wall, around the main portal. The bottom of the façade is dominated by the ornate main portal, decorated with a geometric pattern. The portal is one of the greatest treasures of Romanesque architecture in Hungary. Niches above the portal contain ornamental statues, examples of Romanesque architectural sculpture. Only 3 of the statues of Jesus and the Apostles have their original heads, the others were destroyed by Ottoman raiders in 1532 and were replaced later.

The St. James chapel is located opposite the main, western façade. As it was forbidden to use abbey churches as parish churches in the Middle Ages, it was the chapel that functioned as the local church. It was built in the Romanesque style with a quatrefoil floor plan, around 1260. Far less decorated than the Abbey church, it took on its final form during a renovation in the 18th century.

The abbey church of Ják has had a turbulent history: parts of it were destroyed, as it was struck by lightning and damaged by fire. The last renovation took place in the early 20th century, according to plans by Frigyes Schulek.

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