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The 10th anniversary of the bronze relief’s unveiling of Blessed László Batthyány-Strattmann, also known as the doctor of the poor, was celebrated with a commemorative symposium on 2 June 2022 in the lobby of the Centre for Theoretical Medicine (EOK) at Semmelweis University. The work of art, which is a copy of the marble statue unveiled in the Chapel of the Hungarian Saints in the Vatican in 2004, was donated to the university in 2012 by its creator, the Hungarian-born sculptor Éva Olah Arré who lives in Milan. At the anniversary commemoration, in addition to recalling the spirit of Blessed László Battyhány-Strattmann, a portrait film of the artist was shown and the winners of the competition organized by the Dr. László Batthyány Medical Circle Public Benefit Association were introduced.

In June 2012, a monument to the work of Blessed László Batthyány-Strattmann, the doctor of the poor, was unveiled in the EOC lobby. The 10-year anniversary of the event was commemorated on 2 June 2022, at a symposium which took place where the statue was erected. Dr. Miklós Kellermayer, Dean of the Faculty of General Medicine, said in his introduction that entering the lobby of the central building of Semmelweis University, one cannot avoid looking at the chiselled bronze relief of Blessed László Batthyány-Strattman, the work of Éva Olah Arré, an internationally renowned Hungarian sculptor who has been living in Milan for almost 50 years. He added that the event, which recalls the ceremony 10 years ago, is a symbol which reminds us daily that the university is a place where teachers and students want the same thing – and that is to be a role model.

In his speech, Rector Dr. Béla Merkely emphasized that László Batthyány-Strattmann was born into the most prestigious aristocratic family, yet he became a helper of the most disadvantaged. His acquaintances held him in high esteem, and his patients blessed his name during his lifetime.

We have the responsibility to preserve his memory, and carry on his spirit

– said Dr. Béla Merkely.

According to the rector, the relief placed in the EOC’s prominent spot reminds us all of the original, true purpose and meaning of medicine and healing. The commitment and vocation that should permeate all those who dedicate their lives to preserving life, health and helping people.

As the rector pointed out, the artwork promotes the commandments of devotion, solidarity and help at the university, just like the original model of the Hungarian Saint’s Chapel in the Vatican, standing since 2004. It also expresses that the vocation of healing, when combined with the experience of spirituality, can give the highest meaning to a person’s life,” added Dr. Béla Merkely, thanking the artist, Éva Olah Arré for creating the gilded bronze version of the original marble statue in the Vatican for the university.

The rector also thanked the Association of Christian Healthcare Professionals of Dr. László Batthyány-Strattmann for initiating the placement of the relief and for cherishing the memory of Batthyány-Strattmann. Dr. Béla Merkely then expressed his gratitude to the Dr. László László Batthyány-Strattmann Medical Circle Public Benefit Association for their tenders targeting medical students to help keep the spirit of the eponym alive for the generation of medical students who are now preparing for their profession.

He concluded his speech by stressing that the commemorative symposium is a good example of how the persistent effort of the associations that uphold the Batthyányi-Strattmann tradition coincide with the values represented by the university.

Dr. György Salacz, head of the Dr. László Batthyány-Strattmann Association of Christian Healthcare Professionals, said that the idea of placing the relief at the university is linked to the former president of the association, Dr. Margith Fazekas, who contacted the renowned Hungarian sculptor living in Milan. Éva Olah Arré’s sculpture in limestone from Süttő was unveiled in the Chapel of the Hungarian Saints in the Vatican in 2004, a year after Batthyany-Strattmann’s beatification. The relief depicts a moment when ’the doctor for the poor’ and his assistant, who was also his wife, remove the blindfold from the eyes of a girl who had been blind for years. The artist donated a bronze copy of this work to the university in 2012. Arré was not able to attend the anniversary event in person, but her letter to the rector and the commemorative symposium was read out and a portrait film of her life was shown.

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On behalf of the Batthyány family, Boldizsár Batthyány spoke about his great-grandfather who cured patients living in poverty for free, and donated two thirds of his income to charity.

Dr. Ilona Faigl, Head of the Dr. László Batthyány-Strattmann Medical Circle Public Benefit Association which supports medical students and established the Blessed László Scholarship, gave a lecture on following Battyhány’s example, and passing on his spiritual heritage. Since its foundation in 2018, 20 medical students have benefited from the scholarship programme.

At the symposium, the most recent scholarship holders – Judit Bognár, Semmelweis University, ÁOK, fifth-year medical student, Nóra Kárász, Semmelweis University, ÁOK, fifth-year medical student, Dr. Marx-Gombocz Eszter, general practitioner resident, Szili Annamária, SZTE ÁOK, fourth-year medical student, Dr. Újházy Domonkos János – Pediatric Department of the ÉKC St. János Hospital, pediatric resident – all gave a testimony.

Anita Szepesi
Translation: Viktória Kiss
Photo: Bálint Barta – Semmelweis University