The Downtown Church, a defining building on the main city square of Pécs, possesses a remarkable history. In the Middle Ages, the area was the site of the fair-ground on which in the 13th century bishop Bartholomew ordered the construction of parish church dedicated to the apostle Saint Bartholomew. The edifice was gravely damaged during the end of the same century when Palatine (Hungarian: Nádor) Mizse set the entire city including the church aflame. In place of the simple, single-naved church with a quadratic chancel, a new edifice was erected in Gothic fashion complete with vaults and buttresses.
This edifice was completed in 1335. In the 15th century it was expanded with two aisles converting it to a three nave church. In 1543 the Ottomans occupied Pécs. Pasha Gazi Kasım ordered the demolition of the Saint Bartholomew Church and using its stones established a Mosque in its place, visible even today. Its construction was finished in 1546. In 1686 Imperial forces have liberated Hungary, including Pécs. The Mosque was donated to the Society of Jesus, who have gradually converted it to a Catholic church. In 1754 following the design of Jesuit friar Procopius Schlick, its complete interior was refurnished. In the course of the same year John Neff reinforced the timeworn dome. On the side of the former entrance a chancel arch was opened which connected to the sanctuary, straddled by the sacristy and the side-chapel of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga on its two sides. A short Baroque tower crowned by a bulbous dome was erected behind the church.
Later on the church entered into possession of the Cistercian order who renovated it in 1823. After the restoration, the church was consecrated again and dedicated to Candlemas of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Neo-Renaissance tower, tambour and dome were constructed between 1899 and 1906. In the 1930s the idea of restoring the original state of the Mosque emerged, as by that time the original structures were completely altered by Baroque and historicizing transformations. Gyula Gosztonyi, architect of the Bishopric of Pécs created the plans for the monumental reconstructions. The tambour was reconstructed only in the 1960s, based on the restoration plans by Andor Nendtvich and at the same time the dome was refashioned into a hemicycle. A public tender was opened for the expansion of the church which was won by Nándor Körmendy, thus the Modern northern expanse of the church was constructed according to his designs between 1939 and 1940. Our short animated movie displaying the construction phases of the edifice is accessible to visitors of the church.