St. Stephen's Basilica (Szent István-bazilika) is the iconic Catholic basilica located on a square of it's own name in Budapest District V.
St. Stephen's Basilica (Szent István-bazilika) is the iconic Catholic basilica located on a square of it's own name in Budapest District V. One of the cities' top tourist attractions, it is listed as one of the most photographed buildings worldwide. The design and construction of St. Stephen's took over 60 years from 1845 to 1906 and involved a succession of notable Hungarian architects.
The original plans were drawn up by József Hildand detailed a large neoclassical church based on the Greek cross design similar to the basilica at Esztergom the birthplace of St. Stephen (c. 975). Numerous set backs, both external political situations and difficulties with the construction meant there were significant delays and adaptations to the original plans. Following Hild's death Miklós Ybl took over and in 1868 he had to deal with the most significant setback, the complete collapse of the newly constructed dome, which resulted in essentially rebuilding he entire structure from the ground up. Ybl did also rework some of Hild's original designs and you can see his influence in the neo-Renaissance features of the buildings' main facade and the Ionic columns and statues on the Bajcsy-Zsilinszky út side. The eventual completion in 1906 was overseen by József Kauser and unconfirmed reportage from the time state that, at the consecration mass Emperor Francis Joseph kept looking up afraid of another collapse of the dome. The dome however did not collapse and visitors today can climb approximately 300 steps to the cupola and enjoy breathtaking panoramic views of the city.
The basilica stands 96 metres tall making it the joint tallest building in Budapest (the other being the Hungarian Parliament Building), Current planing regulations in the city mean no buildings taller than these are permissible. Due to the structure's close proximity to the Danube a vast underground cellar nearly as big as the basilica itself exists and during WW2 many priceless pieces of art and historic documentation were safely stashed here. The basilica did sustain serious damage through the aerial bombing of the city during WW2 and the restoration work was only eventually completed in the 1980s. Enclosed in the towers are six bells, with the right-hand tower housing a singular 9 tonne bell which tolls only twice a year on New Years Eve and on 20th August St. Stephen's patron saint day.
Stepping inside this structure gives you a better idea of it's vastness, the building can house 8,500 people at one time. It contains the mummified hand (the Szent Jobb, Holy Right Hand), of St. Stephen himself which was enshrined here following his death in the August of 1058. St. Stephen was born a Grand Prince of Hungary and after battling his relatives and armies of pagan warriors he became the first King of Hungary at the turn of the first millennium, with the support of Pope Sylvester II. During his reign he was instrumental in unifying the Carpathian Basin, establishing Christianity across his kingdom and in 1030 he successfully expelled Roman Emperor Conrad II and his armies protecting Hungary's independence. Such an important figure, following his death civil wars broke out which continued for many years.
Entrance to the basilica is free with a fee being charged to ascend the dome a guided tour or to enjoy one of the variety of concerts which include a regular organ recital every Thursday evening.
Szent István tér 1, 1051 Budapest