The ‘big’ Lutheran church
10 metres from the ’small’ church, the largest Lutheran church in Central East Europe is across the street. Thanks to its excellent acoustics, it is an ideal venue for classical music concerts. By the end of the 18th century the number of Lutherans in Békéscsaba had risen so steeply that the ‘small’ church could not accommodate them all. So the idea of building a new church emerged. There were heated debates over the site of the ‘big’ church that endangered even the survival of the ‘small’ one. Fortunately, the elders of the religious community supported that the old church should be left untouched and a new one should be built on the opposite side of the road. A total of 6 building sites were purchased to build it on. The foundation stone was laid down in 1807 hoping that the construction would be over soon; however, due to the inflation rate in 1811, the money collected for the construction lost its value completely. The construction was suspended for a few years, and proceeded slowly starting in 1813. In the end, it was completed on the 29th of June in 1824.
The style in which the ‘big’ church in Békéscsaba was built is rather special and quite rare in Hungary. By the early 19th century Baroque and rococo had disappeared, with classicism yet to follow. The style in which churches and buildings were built at the time is called ’empire’, which has a lot in common with rococo except that classicist details prevail and empire is more monotonous than rococo (e.g. a church may have as many as 20 windows in a completely identical arrangement).
The church is the largest Lutheran church in Hungary and in Central Europe. The building is truly impressive in terms of size, balance and ornamentation. It has a three-leveled tower with a clock, which is all together 70 meters high. It has a steeple with a star all together of 15 meters. The walls are puritanically white and green, while the windows are blue. The space complete with seven arches, a special ceiling and a two-level gallery can provide room for 5,000 persons. With a seating capacity for 2,500 persons, there are pews on the ground floor and on the gallery running along all four walls on the first floor. There are simple benches for circa 1,000 persons on the gallery running along three sides of the church on the second floor. Lőrinc Dunaiszky carved out the wooden podium; he was a sculptor in Budapest at that time. The altar painting made by Leonhard Landau (a professor at the Budapest School of Drawing) was stolen. It was replaced by another altar painting entitled “Consummatum”, depicting the crucifixion of Jesus, by a local painter called Mihály Szeverényi on the 11st of June in 2006. There is a group of sculptures of allegorical figures at the very top of the pulpit cum altar. The allegorical figures representing Faith and Hope are kneeling in front of Love, who sits on a throne. They are raising a heart in flames to God, advocating the truth of the gospel: “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
The ‘small’ and the ‘big’ Lutheran churches have become city symbols, both featuring on the logo of the city.