Our Lady of Hungary Art & Architecture…
Chancel: The part of a church near the altar and typically separated from the nave by steps or a screen.
Clerestory: The upper part of a church, containing a series of windows. It is clear of the roofs of the aisles and admits light to the central parts of the building.
Transept: Either of the two parts forming the arms of the cross shape, projecting at right angles from the nave.
Triptych: A picture or relief carving on three panels, typically hinged together side by side and used as an altarpiece.
The Church of Our Lady of Hungary is built in a stately Romanesque Revival style using a cruciform plan. The rounded arches seen in the church’s doors, windows, and the arcades along the nave, are a defining aspect of Romanesque architecture. The most striking features of Our Lady of Hungary are the altar triptych and the murals adorning the walls of the chancel and transepts.
Painted in the early 1960s by Father Peter Prokop (1919-2003), a Hungarian priest and artist who trained in Budapest and Rome. Father Sabo discovered his work during a visit to the Eternal City and invited him to South Bend. Sabo desired to highlight Hungarian artistic traditions at Our Lady of Hungary and the widespread use of triptychs in the Hungarian churches he studied motivated him to install one in South Bend.
The central panel of the triptych depicts Mary as a queen with the Infant Jesus in her arms while He holds a globe. St. Margaret, St. Elizabeth, and St. Stephen lead the saints flanking the Blessed Mother. The side panels depict scenes from Mary’s life. The murals on either side of the triptych invoke Mary as the patroness of Hungary and the United States, emphasizing the link that Our Lady provides between the two nations.
Along the sides of the chancel, Prokop drew inspiration from Psalm 150, which is a song of praise to God, and painted saints and angels glorifying God with music and incense. The Four Evangelists with their symbols are depicted on the walls near the front of the sanctuary. In the right transept, the mural’s central figure is St. Emeric, son of St. Stephen. Given that the Latin form of Emeric is Americus, the imagery stems from a tradition that implies that the Americas ultimately derive their name from this saint.
For the left transept, Prokop created a meditation on the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He included a portrait of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, since her visions of Jesus helped popularized this devotion, as well as depictions of three parables that epitomize Divine Love: the Good Shepherd, the Prodigal Son, and the Good Samaritan. It is considered one of Prokop’S finest works.
Additional artistic highlights include the stained glass windows, which feature the saints mentioned in the Eucharistic Prayer of the Mass along with significant local patrons. The Rose Window depicts Christ the King surrounded by the Four Evangelists and four angels. The angel in the lower right (as viewed from inside) is a memorial to the child of the donor of the window. The Stations of the Cross were created by Elizabeth Kormendi (d. 1980), a Hungarian artist who came to South Bend in 1939 with her husband, Eugene Kormendi (1889-1959). A model of his sculpture, Christ, the Light oj the Worl”, is in the right transept. The full bronze was installed in Washington, DC, in 1949; since 1989 it has been at the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.
(Article courtesy of Andrew J. Remick)