Said to be one of the most beautiful baroque buildings in the world, the twin towered edifice of Eger’s Minorite Church was sadly swathed from top to bottom in scaffolding as architectural tarting up was in progress. Stealing a chunk of text from my guide book, on the southern side of the Main Square, or Fő Tér, stands this exquisite building. The altar piece of the Virgin Mary and St Anthony (the church patron) was completed by the ubiquitous Kracker, whilst the Latin inscription above its entrance asserts that ‘Nothing is Enough for God’, which was just how I felt whenever I found a building as strikingly gorgeous as this to be in a state of repair so that I could only admire if from the inside.
Again I had only one companion in this magnificent place of worship but I ruined the tranquil atmosphere myself by elbowing an elderly lady, who stooped by the door, pointing at the altarpiece and saying, ‘It’s a Kracker’ in a Belfast accent and then howling with uproarious laughter. The old lady didn’t laugh. She was either not familiar with the work of Frank Carson or she just didn’t like the way I tell ‘em. However, I had not been familiar with the work of the painter, Johann Lucas Kracker, until my visit to Eger but I had at least made the effort.
Before taking any photographs I pointed at my camera to gain the woman’s approval. She nodded her head slowly. I noticed that her clothes were little more than rags, her hair was very sparse and she look as though she was in very poor health. The church must have been very dear to her as she sat there alone as its minder.
I couldn’t disagree with the words of my guide book as it was possibly the most beautiful I had ever seen (the church that is, not the guide book); and I’ve been in a few, I can tell you! So it was impossible to resist snapping a picture or two, thanks to the lady by the door. I wanted to take a photograph of her as she was the only other person there and consequently an integral part of this surreal situation that I found myself in, but she spoke no English so I couldn’t explain and I didn’t want her to think I was treating her as just another of the ancient artefacts. Consequently, I only have a mental record of her but it is one which will stay in my mind forever.
Eger's Minorite Church.
As I passed her again on the way out she held out a plastic cup. Was she a living plastic cup dispenser or was she a beggar lady? I soon convinced myself of the latter. No wonder she had so readily agreed to me taking photographs. She probably thought that I wanted photographs of her, which I had but I didn’t like to. I could only give her 30 Forint (about 10p) as I had already put the rest of my loose change in the ‘official’ begging bowl halfway down the aisle. I felt mean as I walked away but consoled myself with the thought that if she got another nine contributors as generous as me she would be able to buy a bottle of Egri Bikavér to take home to her family.
Seriously though, hit again by the problem of only having large denomination bank notes in my pocket which has struck so many times before, I did feel very, very mean. I promised myself that from that point onwards I would always have something in my pocket to give to the likes of this poor woman. I usually do but usually isn’t good enough.