Take a trip to the top of the dome for spectacular views from the highest perch in Budapest. It’s a mere 364 steps, or an elevator
Construction of St Stephen's Basilica began in the mid 19th century, and it took over 50 years to complete. This was mainly due to the dome collapsing during a storm, an act of God which set them back a long time. But when the building was finally completed in 1905, its beauty made it more than worth the wait.
It is the largest church in Budapest, holding up to 8,500 people. Although technically a cathedral, it was given the title of basilica minor by Pope Pius XI in 1931. Along with the Hungarian Parliament Building, it is one of the two tallest buildings in Budapest at 96 metres. This was no accident: it was meant to be symbolic of the equal standing of worldly and spiritual matters. Current regulations dictate that no building in Budapest can be taller. The height of 96 metres is itself also significant: it refers to 896, the year when the Magyar tribes settled in the Carpathian Basin, leading to the foundation of Hungary.
Inside, the basilica is dark, sombre and beautiful. Many of Hungary’s most well-known sculptors and painters were called upon to contribute to the decoration of the interior. It’s certainly opulent, with more than fifty types of marble, exquisite little chapels and numerous sculptures — including one of St Stephen, naturally.
Right hand man
The Holy Right Chapel is perhaps the highlight of the basilica. It allegedly contains the mummified right hand of St Stephen, who was the first King of Hungary and namesake of the basilica. This relic was pinched during World War II but it was returned home soon after. It is supposedly incorruptible, and is paraded through the city every year on August 20th, the anniversary of St Stephen’s death.
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