© inda fotó/Balla Béla
© inda fotó/Balla Béla
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A bright beam from the dark Middle Ages in Velemér, Hungary

3 minutes to read

Not so long ago, I already introduced you to one of the most charming regions in my country, the Hungarian Őrség, an unspoiled natural treasure close to the Slovenian and the Austrian borders. Őrség offers countless opportunities to admire our beautiful nature, such as mysterious woods, forest lakes, and green valleys. However, it’s not only the area’s environmental characteristics that attract people who decide to visit this fairy part of Hungary. Őrség provides you with a mighty portion of history and artistic heritage as well, considering that you can find multiple edifices, mainly temples, from the so-called Árpád-age (1000-1301) here. Out of them all, admittedly the most unique one is a bright beam from the dark Middle Ages in Velemér.

© inda fotó/Naki77
© inda fotó/Naki77
Őrség Nemzeti Park, Hungary
Őrség Nemzeti Park, Hungary
Őriszentpéter, Őrségi Nemzeti Park igazgatóság Látogatóközpont, Városszer 57, 9941 Magyarország

Religion has always accompanied the history of humankind so, unsurprisingly, some of the most ancient remnants from our past are relating to it, such as the 1000-year-old monastery of Pannonhalma. At the same time, the existence and significance of religion quite frequently becomes the focus of debates amongst people. However, one thing is beyond any disagreement for sure. Churches, with a slight exaggeration, are the most critical and persistent witnesses of our history. In Velemér, you have a chance to meet a church of 700 years of age with its frescos dating back to a similar time.

© wikipédia/Cs-mester
© wikipédia/Cs-mester

Surviving the stormy centuries

The original church had been built by the probable instructions of Saint Stephen I, Hungary’s first ever king. The church standing by this very day in the same place was built at the end of the 13th century. In 1377 or 1378, János Aquila of Radkersburg painted the interior of the temple, completely covering the wall with representations from the Bible and the legends of the Saints. It is a sheer miracle that the church has remained as it is today. Not only that it survived the stormy centuries, especially the Turkish devastation, but it wasn’t even fully rebuilt – except for a few small life-saving restorations. Although its roof had collapsed entirely and the walls had been barely visible from the thick weed, there was an individual who found the church too valuable to let it vanish.

© wikipédia/Cs-mester
© wikipédia/Cs-mester

The oldest self-portrait in Europe

In the 1860s, Flóris Rómer, the father of Hungarian monument protection, had found the ruined church. Following his call for fundraising, he succeeded in repairing the roof structure and stopping the destruction of the temple. As for the frescos inside, they include the oldest self-portrait in Europe according to the specialists – the one of János Aquila. The church painter understood the celestial orientation and the science of light play; therefore, he painted the frescoes on the walls so that he could tell how and when the sun was shining. It was illuminating the details through the windows.

© wikipédia/Cs-mester
© wikipédia/Cs-mester

The infiltrating light beams illuminate specific details exactly when it is the right time. The light passes by shining at different parts of the frescoes on the walls. For example, on January 6th, at the Epiphany, the ray of light from the sanctuary’s round window falls on the Star of Bethlehem. It is also interesting that, at the sunrise of the summer solstice, the first light illuminates the souls that are seeking protection under Mary's mantle. This indicates that there is grace even for sinners. However, the path of light is composed so that the sunrays never shine at the part of the frescos showing hell.

Holy Trinity Church, Velemér
Holy Trinity Church, Velemér
Velemér, Paprét, 9946 Magyarország

An invaluable cultural heritage

Undoubtedly, this enchanting temple is an existing miracle, that can be found in a forest clearing in the Western Hungarian village with only 80 inhabitants. Considering that 60% of its frescos remained intact over time, the Holy Trinity Church of Velemér is not only a historic religious sanctuary but also a bright beam from the dark Middle Ages. Additionally, this invaluable cultural heritage showcases our long history. The church attracts people from all over the world, but it is never crowded owing to its remote location and the undeservingly little attention that it gets. Fortunately, itinari brings to the spotlight all the rare gems from Hungary and other countries of the world.


The author

Vivi Bencze

Vivi Bencze

Hello, my name is Vivi and I'm from Hungary, always excited to explore as many places as I can. I live in Budapest and my motivation is to make you explore Hungary the way I see my country.

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