St Martin’s Cathedral - History and Facts | History Hit

St Martin’s Cathedral

Bratislava (Old Town/Stare Mesto), Slovakia

St Martin’s Cathedral is said to be Bratislava’s biggest and oldest church, famed as the former coronation site of the Hungarian monarchy.

Amy Irvine

22 Jul 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About St Martin’s Cathedral

St Martin’s Cathedral (Dóm sv. Martina) is said to be Bratislava’s biggest and oldest church, famed as the former coronation site of the Hungarian monarchy.

History of St Martin’s Cathedral

The site of St Martin’s Cathedral, located between the Danube River and Bratislava Castle, was previously home to a 13th century Romanesque church consecrated in the name of the Holy Savior. In 1291, Bratislava was given town rights, after which the church reconstruction began – being integrated into the city walls and its tower playing a defensive role. Consecrated in 1452, the new Gothic design now dedicated to St Martin, included architectural ideas from Vienna and Prague.

Between 1563-1830, the cathedral served an important role as the coronation church for Hungarian monarchs – 10 kings, 1 queen and 7 royal wives from the Habsburg Dynasty were crowned there. This is evident today as its spire is topped by a 300kg gilded replica of the Hungarian royal crown. Small gold-coloured crowns are also set in the pavement around the cathedral, marking the route the coronation processions took to the ceremony. Every September there is a recreation of a coronation procession through the Old Town.

The interior of the cathedral features 4 chapels dating from different periods. One of the showpieces is Georg Rafael Donner’s equestrian statue of St Martin, added in 1744.

In the 19th century, the cathedral was ‘re-Gothicized’ to repair damage from battle, fire, and other mishaps. The major result of this reconstruction was a neo-Gothic tower replacing the previous Baroque tower that had been destroyed by lightning. It was at this point that the crown was added to the spire.

For many years, Bratislava’s synagogue was located near the cathedral. In the Communist era the synagogue was demolished to make way for Novy Most (the New Bridge), though there is now a memorial to the synagogue and the Jewish community near the cathedral.

St Martin’s Cathedral today

On 30 June 1995, Pope St John Paul II visited St Martin’s, and in 2008 new Archdiocese of Bratislava was founded and the temple became the metropolitan cathedral.

St Martin’s is an active cathedral, though visitors are welcome each day at set times.

Getting to St Martin’s Cathedral

St Martin’s Cathedral is situated near the northern side of the New Bridge (Most SNP) in the historical city centre of Bratislava, just a 5-minute walk from the Danube River and close to Slovakia’s border with Austria. Underground parking is available in nearby Hviezdoslav Square.

Train line S50 stops at Most SNP (the nearest station, a 3 minute walk), as does the nearest light rail, line 4. Bus routes 191, 30, 37, 39, 70, 91 also stop here.