THE ROMAN-CATHOLIC CATHEDRAL

Location: Oradea, 2 Șirul Canonicilor

For designing The Roman-Catholic Cathedral ‘The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary’, the bishop Forgách contacted the Viennese architect Franz Anton Hillebrandt, who went to Oradea in 1750 and signed the contract of designing. The foundation diggings started in 1751, and the cornerstone was laid on 1st May 1752. From this year, the name of Hillebrandt was never mentioned, but instead appears the Italian Giovanni Battista Rica who completely redesigned the project of the cathedral. In order to accomplish the building, Ricca takes the plan of the famous Jesuit church from Rome “Il Gesù”, the work of the architect Vignola. The known plan of the basilica – composed by the principal navy, two secondary navies formed of four bays, crossed in front of an elongated choir by a short transept – had the frontage adapted according to the model of the “Santa Agnesa” church in the Italian capital. This type is characterized by the arrangement of towers obliquely to the horizontal, forming a slightly curved frontage.
The works were led by Dominicus Luchini, who came together with Ricca from Italy. The enthusiasm of the works was stopped by the disappearance of Ricca (after 1756, the documents don’t mention Ricca’s name, he probably dies in this year) and, later, in 1758, by the transfer of Forgách at the head of the diocese of Vác. In this year – after the canonic Iosephus Salamon – the naves were completed, except for the two side chapels, remaining to be built four meters up to the cornice, in the area of the towers. In his memorials, the bishop Paul Forgách mentioned that the sanctuary and two chapels in the transept were completed when he left Oradea. One thing is certain: the church was not covered in 1759. It is to be mentioned that Luchini was the one who continued the work of the Italian architect Ricca.
In august 1759, at the head of the Roman Catholic Diocese from Oradea, was named Adam Patachich. He also wanted to build near the cathedral, a representative bishop palace, bringing for the elaboration of the project the architect Franz Anton Hillebrandt who was already the chef architect of the Imperial Court. From 1760 the representative of Hillebrandt in Oradea was the Austrian Johann Michael Neumann, who from 1761, besides the coordination of the construction of the cathedral, has also led the works of the episcopal residence. From this moment the works of the cathedral advance slowly, Patachich paying more attention to the construction of the episcopal residence. The changes that have occurred in the management construction of the cathedral had also negative effects on the unity of the cathedral style. While Ricca wanted to achieve a basilica in North-Italian Baroque style, Hillebrandt was not satisfied with this style considering it outdated and provincial. He chose the late Austrian Baroque and, therefore, Ricca’s plans in this respect were modified. The dome on the tambour was replaced by a calotte embedded inside the roof, a system used more often in the Austrian Baroque. The frontage, also modified through simplification, became even more foreign to the principles of the Italian Baroque, making place to a series of weighted elements, sometimes even classic-like. The towers realized under the direct leadership of Hillebarndt reduce considerably the equal appearance of the building, being too low and somewhat fragile beside the massiveness of the construction. In the decorative details we can distinguish the characteristic features of Hillebrandt both outside and inside. The secondary portals of the central frontage, crowned with triangular gables under which are arranged interweaving festoons forming late Baroque consoles, belong to his conception; we also notice the oval windows above the lateral tribunes or the scalloped ribbons motifs from the tribunes’ balustrades of the transept.
In April 1776 Adam Patachich was named archbishop of Kalocsa, and the cathedral works will be stopped. The chapter charges the canonic Iosephus Salamon to continue the works, who, being the supporter of Ricca, had many conflicts with Neumann, because he wanted to carry out the conceptions of Hillebrandt. Maria Theresa defended Hillebrandt and, at the same time, urged the completion of the cathedral. Despite efforts, the construction of the cathedral was completed only in the summer of 1779; the frontage greatly simplified, and, as seen, with classic-like elements and towers shortened to 61 meters, far too low for the cathedral volume. The sanctification of the church took place in 25th of June 1780. On this occasion, in the place of Roman-Catholic bishop of Oradea was named Ladislaus Kollonitz, until then the bishop of Transylvania.
It can be said that the Roman-Catholic Cathedral from Oradea was designed in forms that are characteristic to the structural basilical type, with three naves and transept, the lateral naves being compartmented, each compartment being able to fulfill separately the function of a chapel. The choir (sanctuary), wide as the median nave, ends with a slightly curved apse, in front of which is built a monumental altar. The lateral naves have downstairs and storey. At the intersection of the semi-cylindrical arches of the median naves and of the transept, the building is crowned with a dome in the form of a calotte embedded within the roof. Also in the exterior the monumental plastics is basilical. The very high median nave is covered separately by a unitary cover in partial sides, which, intersected with the cover of the transept raised to the same height, hide also a dome. Perpendicular to the super-elevated walls of the median nave are disposed a series of buttresses meant to take over the pushing of the double arches that strengthen the semi-cylindrical arch of the nave. Besides the constructive role, these processed buttresses like inverted consoles with rounded ends fulfill also an esthetic function giving the space a rhythm and attenuating the discrepancy between the body of the median nave, super-elevated, and the much lower frontages of the lateral naves, separately covered. The primary frontage, treated vertically, is enclosed by two thin towers, with a square plan, placed obliquely on the two corners like buttresses and connected to the wall of the frontage through curved walls. For over two centuries the cathedral was restored inside and outside for several times, but fortunately, without significant changes. In 1992, the cathedral was raised to the rank of Minor Basilica by Pope John Paul II.

Other tourist attractions nearby:

  • The Baroque Palace (Str. Șirul Canonicilor nr. 2)
  • The Corridor of Canons (Str. Șirul Canonicilor nr. 7 – 25)

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