During the Second World War, in the area of Upper Christina Town parish in Budapest, they began the construction of a church but it had to be abandoned because of the war.
They got as far as the ground floor and the reinforced concrete pillars stretching toward the sky. The Rákosi era deprived the Church of the area and the unfinished edifice, too, and in the late 70’s the unfinished church was converted into a disco. The sanctuary was taken over by music and dance. I have now designed a church from this physical and spiritual distortion by honoring the original ground plan.
As I approach the end of my life, the strength that can vanquish the “dragon”, the distortion, the clever and selfish distortion, the temptation to modify one’s vital energies, becomes more and more important.
The elegance which creates balance by keeping the forces of darkness at bay and which is a precondition of inner peace and is thus of the goal of Creation, the free individual, becomes increasingly important.
This is why the church I have designed is the church of St. Michael, this is why it is the church of the saints and the damned alike.
The towers of the church are as alive as poplars. The nave is topped by arched wooden beams, and about two-thirds of it is also designed to tend inward and appear upside down. The upper and lower churches are divided by a glass floor.
What are we to make of this? That I am making visible the invisible contrast of visible reality, that the person standing on the glass floor who wishes to live together with and to draw strength from the Eucharist should realize that he is standing perched on the borderline between heaven and earth, that despite the dragon-world, the gate to salvation is open to him, too, but that the world — and within it he, too — was created so that damnation is also a realistic alternative.
But in this milieu, the drama taking place in the church can also serve as proof that if he partakes of the sacrament of the wine and bread, he will be saved.
St. Michael vanquished the dragon, but he thrust him down into our world. We need protection and fortification against the temptations of Satan. For this we need the strength of the Creator, for which — shaken by the battle raging in and around us — we can pray in this church.
Above the head of the churchgoer, on the bridges sinking and rearing toward the sky, there is a procession of statues of saints and of humans who tend toward damnation, and the churchgoer sees the same thing in the world beneath the glass floor.
This is the scene of the duality of what has transpired and what might have transpired, of actions and missed opportunities, united in the House of God.
On the towers are the eyes of accumulated suffering that can nevertheless see into the distance, just like the eyes of men who have suffered at the hands of fate.
The new church is the scene of belabored man, of man capable of losing himself in temptation as well as of finding redemption. It is the scene of St. Michael’s own struggle.
The birth of all creative work involves a sequence. First appears a vision, and along with it a “mood” that involves all the details. Only then comes the rough sketch for the structure, regardless of whether we are dealing with music or architecture. The elaboration of the vision and the mood become one with matter. The departing or destruction of a work of creation keeps to the sequence of its creation, except in reverse order. When its material is annihilated, the vision and the mood remain. Where are they located, and can they be accessed? This is a question involving one’s world view. Whether we believe that the alpha of all beginnings is the Word.
If this is not clarified but mixed and muddled, it is no use continuing the search; it is no use trying to understand. It is time to decide.
Why? Because if it is true that the Word, the idea, the vision of the Word comes first, then God created the world in six days and there is no linear development, only a cyclical space-time — maybe — in curved space, in which case the drama of creation lies in time as time-space-location, etc.
If it is not true, then we’re left with the interminable eras of uncertainty, the numbers 6 or 666, the Demiurgos* of false creation as based on one of the principles of the Satanic threesome which is in turn based on the Trinity, etc. Even surnaturalism is better than this unappetizing brew, and so is the wonder mixed with fear; it is better to look Awe in the eye, and it is better to accept the inconceivable, the unacceptable reality of things.
It is better to accept that we come from somewhere and must go somewhere, that we are born and that we must die, that birth and death are not the beginning and the end. However, this must not relieve or circumvent the drastic and unacceptable reality of facts.
The disconsolate wailing, the delirious pleading for life in the face of death is justified and sacred, and the world of pain and blood into which we are born is terrifying. It is not for the faint at heart to confront the Almighty.
* Plato’s name for the Creative principle.