St. Stephen’s Basilica is the largest Catholic church in Budapest was named after St. Stephen, the founding king of Hungary.
Today, it is one of the main attractions of Budapest, visited by almost every tourist who spend time in the city.
Building a Basilica took many years (1851 – 1905) and three architects:
It’s first architect, József Hild died in 1867, leaving the rest of the work to Miklós Ybl.
Ybl found cracks in the walls, so he decided to fence it around. Eight days later, in 1868, the dome collapsed. Fortunately, nobody was hurt: the collapse happened at 3 a.m. and at that time, Pest was still a small town. After investigations, it turned out that inferior building materials had to be blamed for the disaster.
Ybl had to draw up new plans and the work had to start almost from scratch. Unfortunately, he also did not have the chance to admire the church finished and decorated, since he died in 1891.
It was the third architect, József Kauser’s task to finish the church and decorate it’s interior.
It took so much time to build it, that the city’s structure has changed significantly during the construction.
Height of St. Stephen's Basilica
Today, it can hold 8000 people and has a 96 meter-high and 22 meters diameter dome.
It is exactly the same height as another of Budapest’s iconic buildings, the Parliament.
And it is intentional, it represents the balance between church and state in Hungary.
What to see inside of the Basilica
Behind it’s main alter stands a statue of St. Stephen, made from white marble from Carrara. The statue is so different from the traditional, catholic portraying, that the Pope had to give permission to its exhibition.
There is another statue of him above the main entrance: between the two towers on the facade is a tympanum with a group of statues. They are Hungarian saints, bowing before the Madonna and the baby Jesus. The crowned figure on their left is St. Stephen.
Below them are Jesus’s words in Latin: Ego sum via, veritas et vita (meaning: I am the way, the truth and the life).
The bells of the Basilica
The bell in the right tower is the biggest in Hungary and it is also called St. Stephen.
It rings on very special occasions, the National Day (20 August) and at midnight on New Year’s Eve.
In the left tower there are bells, too:
Boldogasszony (Blessed Virgin) – it indicates every quarter-hour
St. Henrik – Sunday 9:30
St. Erzsébet (Elisabeth)
Boldog Gizella (Blessed Gisela) – indicates the mass at 17:30 and at 17:59
Under the church there is a large cellar with documents and art treasures, such as broidery made by Queen Elisabeth (1837 – 1898). The most famous tomb of the crypt is Ferenc Puskás’s (football player) tomb.
The Holy Right
St. Stephen’s embalmed and mummified right hand is the most revered relic of the Basilica. It can be visited in a chapel to the left of the main alter.
20 August is the founding day of the state, the biggest national holiday. That morning, the Holy Right is taken out of the chapel and paraded around the city.
Panorama terrace of the Basilica
Today the space between the inner and outer dome is opened, making the lookout terrace accessible. There are two elevators (they take you up only until halfway!) or if you feel yourself fit enough, you can use the 364 stairs to climb up to view the panorama which is one of the very best in the city. It worth every step on the spiral staircases.
The panorama terrace is open every day from 10.00-16.30, and during main season until 18.30 in the evening. The fee is only 500 HUF.
Entrance fee to the Basilica
The entry of the Basilica is free every week from Monday to Saturday from 9 o’clock to 7 (from 7:45 on Sundays).
Throwing some donation in the little box at the entrance is favorable but not required. Have some coins (about 200 HUF) with you.
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