The 4-toured Romanesque cathedral is one of the symbols of Pécs with a history reaching back to ancient times.
Sopianae, the predecessor of Pécs in ancient Roman times was a major town of the era. The spread of Christianity is truly demonstrated by ancient Christian tombs found under the square just outside the church. However, archaeological finds presented evidence even from times 1.5 thousand years ago.
The diocese of Pécs was founded by Stephen I in 1009. The town already had a cathedral at the time with a crypt from the 4th century, however, little is known about its origins. Supposedly, a chapel of an ancient Roman cemetery was transformed. The construction of a new cathedral was commissioned by King Peter Orseolo, but it burnt down in 1064.
Building today’s cathedral began in the late 11th century and finished sometime in the second half of the 12th century. As usual with churches built those times, the original Romanesque-style building was remodelled and extended several times. Aisles and chapels were built, and many Gothic elements were added in the 14th century. Pécs was under Turkish rule for a long time (1543-1686), when Corpus Christi Chapel on the western side was used as a mosque and the rest of the building served as a storehouse for food and military supply.
Before the church could have been restored after the reconquest, it was further devastated during Rákóczi’s war. Finally, it was restored at the end of the 19th century. As it was meant to bring back Árpád era design, Baroque altars, benches and chairs were removed, causing an irretrievable loss. In return, a new organ made by reputable organ maker József Angster was installed in 1887.
Entering the cathedral visitors are amazed by the interior. Walls with a colour scheme of blue and gold, the wooden coffered ceiling with the paintings of the 12 Apostoles and the canopied main altar in the centre of the nave. The chapels of the cathedral are decorated with murals by renowned painters Károly Lotz (Chapel of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Chapel of Corpus Christi) and Bertalan Székely (Chapel of Mary, Chapel of Saint Maurus).
The crypt hosts the tomb of Janus Pannonius, poet and bishop of Pécs. The location of his grave was unknown until 1991, when it was discovered during renovation works. After identification his remains were reburied here in 2008.