TOWN UNDER THE TOWN
The former cellar system of the Archbishop of Eger
In 1687 the Turkish army left the town. When the Bishop of Eger, György Fenessy, returned he did not wish to live in his former residency in the Castle, he bought building sites in the town and started to build a brand new Palace instead. The building material was the rhyolite tuff, a volcanic stone, which was mined from the hillside under the construction site. So by the time the Palace was finished it already had a huge cellar system underneath. In this cellar the Church stored tax wine, the tithe, which came from the vineyards from Hatvan to Munkács (the latter one is now part of Ukraine) – in good years the Bishop could collect 11-12 million liters of wine.
The cellar system used to spread under the town from the Rácz Gate (the former northern entrance of Eger) to the Hatvan Gate (the former southern entrance of Eger), and covered more than 4 Kilometres all together. The most impressive part of the cellar system is the Pillared-hall – here 7 cellar lines are cut across by 7 other cellar lines, which creates a chess table-like structure with 35 separate pillars.
In 1947, during the nationalization of the cellar system all the wine was transported from here and the empty cellar became neglected and dangerous. In the 1980s most parts of the cellar system had to be strengthened with concrete to save it from caving in. Unfortunately during the construction an error was made: the water insulation layer was forgotten, so the ground water is dripping through the concrete since. As the water keeps washing out the chalk from the tuff limestone surfaces are being created on the walls and dripstones are growing from the top of the arches cellar-wide.
In 2007 the cellar system became one of the 7 Architectural Wonders of Hungary.
The entrance of the cellar system can be found at Eszterházy square, next to the steps leading to the Basilica, at the right hand side, under the statue of King St. László.