St. Stephen’s Basilica – What happened to the first dome?
This is it, Stephen’s Basilica is the biggest church in the capital, though interestingly enough, not the largest in the country (see the mega-basilica in an imposing hilltop position in the town of Esztergom on the Danube Bend just under 50 km to the north.) Construction of this huge edifice was a real drama. It started in 1851 according to plans by one architect József Hild, who died in 1867 with it still unfinished. To make things worse, the main dome was heavily damaged in 1868 and the plans had to be redrawn. This was carried out by Hungary’s most famous architect Miklós Ybl, (he of opera house fame) but he never got to see it finished either, as he died in 1891 at the ripe old age of 77, and the basilica was not completed and inaugurated until 1906. This church’s namesake is St Stephen, the canonised first king of Hungary, and he can be seen receiving the blessing of the virgin mary in a huge oil painting. St Stephen’s eerily preserved right hand is still in a chapel on the left of the building. In a touch of bizarre showmanship, it is kept with lights down, but if you enter coins in a slot, it is illuminated for a period. The Basilica is easy to reach on foot from the river, or by metro 2 (blue line) at the Arany János Utca stop. If you fancy climbing the 302 steps up to the 96m dome (or taking the elevator halfway up) for a small fee, you will be rewarded by a great view of the city, as there is an ordinance that no buildings may be higher than this 96m, in this area. The parliament dome is exactly the same height too, symbolising the equality or worldly and spiritual matters.
Address: St. Stephen’s Basilica, Budapest 1051, Szent István tér 1
Map ref: 47.500747, 19.053369
Opening hours: 9am-7pm Monday to Saturday. 7:45 o Sundays see mass times)
Cost: It is nominally “free” but a donation of 200 HUF or more is heavily recommended. To get the full effect, either take a trip up to the top of the dome for 400 HUF, try a guided tour for about 2000 HUF, weekdays 10-3, or see an organ concert (Mondays at 5pm for 3000HUF and more expensive Gala performances on Fridays.
Find this on: Absolute Walking Tour, Evening stroll, (Segway tour, Bike tour and evening bike tour)