The 18th century residence of the Roman-Catholic bishop of Nagyvárad (Oradea, Großwardein) is close to being restored to its former glory. The historical park surrounding the palace is also being revitalized and redesigned in the spirit of baroque gardens. The romkat.ro catholic news portal recently reported that the exterior renovation of the Episcopal palace has been finished, and the utilities infrastructure of the building modernized. The work continues with the refurbishment of the interiors and the revitalization of the gardens; the restoration process ought to be completed by the end of 2020. The bishop of Nagyvárad, László Böcskei, has pointed out to romkat.ro that the Episcopal residence, the cathedral and the gallery with pillars that interconnects ten buildings, known as the Prebend-row, together form an imposing complex. The park of 5 hectares surrounding the palace is being redesigned in a way to harmonize with the baroque architecture.
“The outlook of the gardens will be transparent, breezy; we would like it to become a harmonious green oasis in the middle of the city. The palace itself will be surrounded by an English garden, and it will be allowed for people to walk around, sit down at the foot of a tree and relax, admire the beauty of nature,” emphasized the bishop. Near the basilica, there will be a “Biblical garden” arranged as well, consisting of little “islands” on which the plant species mentioned in the Bible will be grown. The lighting of the plaza in front of the cathedral is also designed and installed to discretely and elegantly highlight the architectural elements, added Böcskei.
The building of the imposing Episcopal palace, similar to an aristocratic residence, was commanded by Bishop Ádám Patachich (1759–1776). It was designed by the leading architect of the Viennese imperial court, Franz Anton Hillebrandt, and the construction work was led by Johann Michael Neumann. The architectural design and U-shaped plan relates to the cour d’honneur (the court of honor) of French castles. The main façade of the palace shows the influence of the Austrian baroque style; it has a clearly arranged design, decorative oval-shaped windows and architectural elements with curved lines.
In the structure of the palace, the ground floor figures like the plinth of the building, and the dominant main floor is linked to the subordinated second one by lesenes, low-relief vertical pillars on the façade. The alternation of the different architectural motifs creates a representative appearance, and the abundance and diversity of the elements on the façade is eye-catching.
The interior design of the palace is logical and easy to comprehend at first glance. The hallways go around the courtyard facades on every level. The ground level passages are covered by Bohemian (spherical) vaults. The decorative stairway is placed near the main entrance; the stuccos of the vaults and the ornaments of the pillars are varied.
The grandiose great hall opens to the central courtyard from the first floor, and the doors from the hall lead to the main saloon. From this central space, the spacious chambers of the main façade open radially. The stucco work of garlands, decorating the ceilings and the side walls, give a festive look to these rooms.
Maybe the most beautiful interior of the Episcopal palace is the chapel consecrated to Saint Charles of Borromeo. The painting of the main altar, depicting the saint offering himself as a sacrifice to God during the plague, and the huge fresco covering the side walls and the ceiling were realized by Johann Nepomuk von Schöpf, around 1775. On the ceiling painting, one can notice four smaller scenes: the Agnus Dei (Jesus depicted as the Lamb of God), Peter sinking in the waves, Jesus feeding a multitude and Jesus as the Good Shepherd. In the skies above the figures, an angel is flying with a drawn sword, and between the clouds, groups of angels appear.
The architectural concept of the bishop’s residence shows the influence of South-German baroque palaces as well. This can be seen in the arrangement of the building wings stretching to the courtyard, in the architectural solutions of the ceremonial stairway, the great hall, the saloon. The lesenes connecting the representative main floor and the second floor and the high mansard-roof are of French style.
Therefore, the residence of the Nagyvárad bishop is a beautiful, valuable example, one could say, a gem of 18th-century, late-baroque palace architecture of the region. And after the completion of the restoration work, it surely will be a sight to visit and admire. The refurbishment of the palace is supported financially by the Hungarian government, while the revival of the park is financed from an EU tender.
Title image: The beautiful park of the late baroque palace is rearranged harmoniously