The mosque of Gázi Kászim Pasa
The largest Ottoman structure still standing in Hungary, the church intertwines Christian and Muslim traditions.
The real place for Ottoman remnants is in the south, however. Pecs, 200km from Budapest, has a Mediterranean climate and pretty boulevards. Its central feature, and symbol, is an Ottoman-style mosque, now an Ottoman-mosque-style Catholic church. A brick building in the midst of painted baroque façades, a church with a crescent and a cross rising from its dome, it is unsettling inside and out. No amount of paint has been spared to retouch its vaulted corners, mihrab, or the bricks around its arched windows. To stand at the back of the church, looking past a modern Christian mural at the faded Koranic inscriptions on the walls and the mosque lamps hanging from the ceiling, is giddying. A similarly confusing experience awaits in Szigetvar, 33km west of Pecs, where the former mosque of Ali Pasha has been cleverly hidden inside an 18th-century church.
This Ottoman-era mosque was converted into a Catholic church by the simple expedient of hanging a crucified Jesus above the mihrab (the prayer niche pointing to Mecca). Even the original Arabic inscriptions inside the niche remain intact.
The first thing visitors will notice at the central square Széchenyi tér is the so-called Mosque Church. The name already tells the story: Once, the building was used as the Gazi Kassim Pasha Mosque – it’s nothing less than the largest preserved building left from the Ottoman occupation in Hungary. After the withdrawal of the Ottoman Empire, the mosque was transformed into a church without destroying the Islamic elements. The dome-shaped roof makes it the most characteristic building at the square.
Right behind the Mosque Church stands the Archeological Museum. On the central square you will also find the statue of a horseman and next to it the Holy Trinity Column.