Diving Deep into History (Literally) in Pécs
The gorgeous Art Nouveau architecture and mineral-rich hot springs of Budapest. The beautifully preserved baroque buildings of Eger and nearby hiking in the northern Bükk hills. The intact medieval Inner Town of Sopro, and the flourishing vineyards that surround it. Hungary is known for many historic and cultural riches such as these, but today we focus on Pécs, where travelers have the unique experience of going beneath the earth’s surface to discover Christian burial traditions from the fourth century.
Where Is Pécs?
Pécs is located on the slopes of the Mecsek Mountains in southwestern Hungary, near the border with Croatia. It’s the fifth largest city in the country. For many curious travelers, it’s second only to Budapest as a must-visit destination in Hungary - it is known as the largest single Christian tomb complex outside Italy.
Why is Pécs Special?
Beyond its mild, pleasing climate and collection of interesting museums, Pécs is most noted for its 4th-century sepulchers. These early-Christian tombs were discovered near Pécs Cathedral and have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since November 2000.
Pécs was originally built on the Roman settlement of Sopianae, which itself was founded in the early 2nd century. Over the next century, it became a thriving center of Christianity. Today’s travelers can explore the two-section complex, including the underground crypt where the deceased were placed in sarcophagi. A memorial chapel sits above the crypt. Both structures were burial sites for the nobility of the time.
The Chapels and Crypts of Pécs
Archaeologists and subsequent researchers came to know the sepulchers according to their mural paintings. Burial Chamber No. 1, for example, is the Peter & Paul Tomb and is the best-known early-Christian structure in western Hungary. Visitors can view a mural that depicts the apostle's Peter and Paul pointing at a Christogram (a symbol of Jesus Christ). In Burial Chamber II, or the Wine Pitcher Chamber, you can see a wine pitcher and glass painted on a northern wall of the chamber and other elaborate floral and lattice motifs.
The Christian Mausoleum believed to have been built in the 370s AD, was not discovered until 1975. It was the largest building in Sopianae, with a chapel at ground level and a crypt below. The murals here represent the fall of Adam and Eve and early Christian iconography
A Visit to Pécs
When you go to the Pécs sepulchers today, start at the visitors center, which includes the Mausoleum, six two-story burial chambers, and two larger, historic buildings. It’s a remarkable venture into this Christian necropolis that was built more than 1,600 years ago and a stunning example of late-Roman burial practices.
Interested in weaving a trip to Pecs into your Hungary itinerary? Let’s chat.