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Saint Stephan Basilica

Saint Stephan Basilica (29)

The Saint Stephan Basilica is Budapest’s cathedral and its huge proportions will surely surprise you. It measures eighty-six metres in length and fifty-five in width and can hold up to eight thousand, five hundred people. The temple has one floor shaped like a Greek cross, a large central cupola and nine naves in a cannon dome. 

It may be of interest to know that the building process was complicated and took over fifty years. To be specific, construction started in 1851 but the architect in control died soon after and had to be replaced by someone capable of continuing the process. In 1868 a great storm knocked down the cupola and it had to be rebuilt from the base. Finally, a third architect, Joseph Kauser, finished the building in the year 1906. 

When you walk into the Basilica, you may find that its interior is rather dark and gloomy, but it is worth taking the time to explore a little. In general, rich decorations made up of tapestries, frescoes, and statues by renowned Hungarian artists stand out. What’s more, no expense was spared when the interior’s golden decoration was installed. In fact, forty-two kilos of twenty-four carat gold were used in total. 

On the right-hand side there are some very special sacred objects, such as the statue of Saint Elizabeth, daughter of King Andrew II, who became a widow at the age of twenty and entered the Franciscan order, dedicating herself to the poor. 

But the most renowned part of the Basilica is the Saint Diestra Chapel, where you will find the mummified right-hand of Saint Stephan, the patron saint of Hungary. Saint Stephan was crowned king of Hungary in the year 1000 and was the first to accept Christianity in a bid to encourage Hungary’s acceptance into the European community. This relic is one of the most venerated in the country and was found in a Bosnian monastery, from where it was returned to its country of origin by the Hapsburg Empress Maria Theresa in 1771. The Hungarian people feel such devotion towards it that it is displayed in a procession every year on the 20th of August, Saint Stephan’s day.  

You may be a little disappointed by a visit here because, seeing that it is the biggest church in Budapest, you would expect its interior to match the title. However, reality may come as a let-down. We recommend though that you take the lift and then the winding one hundred and fifty step staircase up to the top of the main cupola where, in return for a small fee, you will be greeted with wonderful views of the city. 

Lastly, the square located in front of the basilica is a great place to enjoy a summer concert or sip hot coffee in the winter.

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