EFFE Laureate - Festival of Five Churches
For most in the musical world Gyor (then known as Raab) deserves fame as the birthplace of Hans Richter, who conducted the first performances of Wagner's Ring cycle, was also a great champion of Brahms, Dvorak and Elgar and the first conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra. Gyor's place on the Danube, though, just down river from the modern Austrian border, has also meant that most of the peoples and faiths of central Europe have had a foothold there over the centuries. The Five Churches of the festival title is a misnomer; there are actually four churches of different denominations (Serbian Orthodox, Catholic, Calvinist and Evangelical) and a Jewish synagogue - the Hungarian word 'templom' is more accurate.
The festival was founded with the aim of celebrating European cultural diversity with the religious communities of the street, to open their temples to the other cultures, denominations and religions. The message of the festival has been the same since the beginning and is becoming even more relevant. For a week each May each denomination is open to the tradition of the others as a demonstration of peaceful cohabitation.
The EFFE Jury said the programme happens, in the religious buildings, “the gardens, pubs and restaurants in that street. It's a very powerful festival. They have 20,000 visitors from Hungary and neighbouring countries and show that there is a place for other faiths, other races, to be together and have fun, enjoy art and culture”.
The programme of the festival covers theatre, visual arts and music but also includes a celebration of the architecture and the traditions it represents. Heritage is seen as having a direct bearing on the continuing development of the community. “We find it important,” the organisers say, “to invite religious theatre performances that are novel, experimental and transcend genre boundaries, and to facilitate them in our church spaces.” There is also, “a national architectural design competition which focusses on the architectural challenges of the district.”
By Simon Mundy for EFA