The Gellért Hill Cave is part of a network of caves within Gellért Hill. The cave is also referred to as 'Saint Ivan's Cave', regarding a hermit who lived there and is believed to have used the natural thermal water of a muddy lake next to the cave to heal the sick.
In the 19th century the cave was inhabited by a poor family who built a small adobe house in the great opening. The mouth of the cave was closed off with a planking and it was used as a peasant courtyard. This situation was recorded on a painting by Mihály Mayr (made sometime in the 1860s) and a photograph by György Klösz in 1877.
The first modern entrance for the caves was constructed in the 1920s by a group of Pauline monks who have been inspired by similar rock constructions during a pilgrimage in Lourdes, France. Kálmán Lux, professor at the Budapest University of Technology was the architect in charge. After its consecration in 1926, it served as a chapel and monastery until 1951. During this time, it also served as a field hospital for the army of Nazi Germany during World War II.
In 1945, the Soviet Red Army captured Budapest. For six years, the cave continued its religious functions, but in 1951, the State Protection Authority raided the chapel as part of increasing action against the Catholic Church. As a result of the raid, the cave was sealed, the monastery's superior, Ferenc Vezér, was condemned to death, and the remaining brothers were imprisoned for upwards of ten years.
As the Iron Curtain disintegrated, the chapel reopened on 27 August 1989 with the destruction of the thick concrete wall that had sealed the cave. By 1992, the Chapel had been restored and the Pauline Order had returned to the cave. Today, the monks continue to perform religious functions within, though the cave is also a common tourist attraction. The church is complemented by a mysterious monastery carved into the rock and decorated with striking neo-gothic turrets. The walls of the cave is formed of all-natural living rock. The church features many rooms, worthy of attention is the one in which all the ornaments have been carved in hardwood by a faithful follower of the Pauline Order. The terrace in front of the entrance is proudly guarded by the statue of Saint Stephen standing besides his horse.References:
German crusaders known as the Livonian Brothers of the Sword began construction of the Cēsis castle (Wenden) near the hill fort in 1209. When the castle was enlarged and fortified, it served as the residence for the Order's Master from 1237 till 1561, with periodic interruptions. Its ruins are some of the most majestic castle ruins in the Baltic states. Once the most important castle of the Livonian Order, it was the official residence for the masters of the order.
In 1577, during the Livonian War, the garrison destroyed the castle to prevent it from falling into the control of Ivan the Terrible, who was decisively defeated in the Battle of Wenden (1578).
In 1598 it was incorporated into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Wenden Voivodship was created here. In 1620 Wenden was conquered by Sweden. It was rebuilt afterwards, but was destroyed again in 1703 during the Great Northern War by the Russian army and left in a ruined state. Already from the end of the 16th century, the premises of the Order's castle were adjusted to the requirements of the Cēsis Castle estate. When in 1777 the Cēsis Castle estate was obtained by Count Carl Sievers, he had his new residence house built on the site of the eastern block of the castle, joining its end wall with the fortification tower.
Since 1949, the Cēsis History Museum has been located in this New Castle of the Cēsis Castle estate. The front yard of the New Castle is enclosed by a granary and a stable-coach house, which now houses the Exhibition Hall of the Museum. Beside the granary there is the oldest brewery in Latvia, Cēsu alus darītava, which was built in 1878 during the later Count Sievers' time, but its origins date back to the period of the Livonian Order. Further on, the Cēsis Castle park is situated, which was laid out in 1812. The park has the romantic characteristic of that time, with its winding footpaths, exotic plants, and the waters of the pond reflecting the castle's ruins. Nowadays also one of the towers is open for tourists.