Completed in 1905 after more than 50 years of construction, three different architects and a dome collapse, St. Stephen’s Basilica sits proudly as a dedication to the nation’s first king and is the largest religious building in Hungary. On St Stephen’s Day, August 20, the mummified hand of St Stephen is transported out of the side-chapel and walked through the building, but if you’re too squeamish or not there in August perhaps the organ concert might be of interest, playing at 5pm every Monday for a small price.
Initially designed by architect Joszef Hild, the church sits 96 metres high, an identical height to the parliamentary building, embodying a literal sense of balance between the church and the state in Hungary. To reinforce this, it’s definitely worth the 306 steps to the top, although on a windy day, it’s best to avoid. After Hild’s death in 1867 Miklos Ybl, a renowned European architect of the time, began devising plans and took the church away from Hild’s initial neo-classical plans, leaning towards a more modern neo-Renaissance style which is reflected in its rich wood decoration and poignant stain glass windows.
Well-known works of art in the church consist of statues by Alajos Stróbl and a painting of St. Stephen’s contribution his country to the Virgin Mary by Gyula Benczúr. The inside ‘cupola’ (dizzying as it is) comprises of various mosaics; if the organ is playing you can’t help but feel like a character transported into an episode of ‘The Borgias’.
The church makes the perfect stop off point on a longer journey or if, like many, you have a few days to kill in Budapest it is simply not to be missed.