St. Stephen’s Basilica (Basilica Sf. Stefan)

Among the must-see tourist attractions in Budapest, you will undoubtedly find St. Stephen’s Basilica, a Roman Catholic basilica which was erected in the honor of King Stephen, the first king of Hungary. The relics of the king, or more precisely his right hand, are still preserved in the reliquary of the basilica. The importance of the relics is known throughout the Hungarian territory, if not beyond its borders. King Stephen I was an honorable man who could have never been corrupted, and his right hand is mean as a reminder of the dignity with which he conducted himself as well as of the importance of ethics in a world prone to moral degradation.

The basilica is the third largest construction in Hungary and it measures 96 m. There is an important aspect worth mentioning at this point and that is that St. Stephen’s Basilica has the same height as the Parliament Building. This characteristic is definitely not dictated by chance and there is a symbolism in the matter. The parliament is in charge of administering the worldly matters concerning the Republic of Hungary, whereas the basilica is meant to look after the spiritual life of the Hungarian citizens. The fact that the two buildings have the same stature can allude to only one thing: that one is not superior to the next, but that they are equally important and should be looked upon with the utmost reverence.

St. Stephen’s Basilica, which measures 55 meters in width and 87.4 in length, took 54 years to be erected. The construction work was not finished earlier than 1905, but there is an explanation for the extensive timeframe in which it was built. In 1868, the basilica suffered a terrible fate, as the cupola collapsed. While in many cases, this part of the edifice can be reconstructed as such, the structure of the basilica did not allow for the dome to be added at a later time. The fact was that the remaining part of the structure had to be completely demolished and reconstructed from scratch.

In terms of structure, the Basilica is shaped as a Greek cross, whereas in terms of architectural design it is representative for Neoclassicism. The bell towers which limit the fascia are quite large and the cupolas which cover them are identical to the larger one of the basilica, only that they are miniature representations of this one.

The southern bell tower stands out because it holds within the largest bell found on the territory of Hungary, which weights more than 9 tons. The Great St. Stephen Bell, as it is known, has been constructed in the ‘90s and measures 240 cm in diameter.

The northern tower, on the other hand, comprises five bells, each bearing a specific name, so as to differentiate among them. Thus we have the Bell of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Henry II Bell, St. Emeric’s Bell, the Bell of the Blessed Gizella, and St. Elizabeth’s Bell. Each carries a specific significance, but probably the most important one is the first one listed as it is the second largest bell after the Great Bell, but it is also the oldest one in the basilica.

The dome is accessible to visitors who can climb the tower either by means of the elevators especially designed for this purpose or by going up the 364 stairs. Upon reaching the top, you will comprehend why it was a good idea to ascend to the cupola. The view you are presented with is impressive as you have the opportunity to look at Budapest and at the life it shelters within its limits.

The Basilica fulfills an important role in the community as it organizes on a regular basis various cultural events. Each Sunday is dedicated to music as concerts are scheduled in the evenings. Visiting the basilica on such a day will give you the opportunity to listen to gospel, classical and contemporary musical compositions.

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