Sunday, November 25, 2012

St. Stephen's Basilica, Budapest

St. Stephen's Basilica is the largest church in Budapest. It was built in the late 1800s in anticipation of the 1000th anniversary of the Magyar arrival in 896 AD. Consequently, the dome measure 96 meters in height, just like the top of the Parliament building. The first architect, Jozsef Hild, died in 1867 before it was completed. After his death it collapsed. Miklos Ybl took over; he too died before the basilica was completed in 1906.

St. Stephen's Basilica, Budapest

Backside of the Basilica

We were accosted by a panhandler on the steps of the cathedral. I don't know how many other people have run into this particular routine--the guy said (in English) he was homeless but was selling a newsletter to make honest money. He wasn't taking a handout. The newsletter looked like a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy of the original. It was barely legible though it was in English. I said I didn't have any Hungarian money (which was true, we didn't get to an ATM till later in the day). He said he could change money later in the day. "Lots of Americans give me US Dollars which I can get changed." Hint, hint! Well, I didn't have any American dollars on me either (we haven't had any for a while). I gave him a 50 Czech crown piece which he accepted gratefully.
Main door

Exterior mosaic, "House of God, Place of Prayer"

All visitors entering the church had to queue past a donation box where a clergyman asked for a donation. His suggested amount was one euro or the equivalent in Hungarian forints. The church got Czech crowns as well!

The interior is more square in shape, like a Greek cross. Many side altars adorn the church.

Side Altar

St. Stephen offers his crown to the Virgin

Altar of the Crucifixion

Boy Jesus in Temple

Many fine statues of various saints are also found inside.

Blessed Virgin Mary

St. Elizabeth


The main altar is not accessible to visitors. It features a large statue of St. Stephen by Alajos Strobl.

Unfavorable lighting on the main altar

The dome is quite impressive with its mosaics.

Interior of the dome

The big highlight of the church is the Holy Right. It is the mummified right hand of St. Stephen himself, first Christian king of the country. It is located in a special altar down a side aisle.

The Holy Right Relic

The chapel with the Holy Right has several more modern altars.

Altar next to the reliquary

Not sure what this is

The exterior of the church is adorned with many statues.

"I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life."

St. Ambrose

The exterior of the dome (that's St. Matthew the Evangelist)

Nearby was a fountain, at which J was happy to pose.

Mommy-boosted J

Who was Saint Stephen of Hungary?

By dumb luck or divine providence I am posting this on the feast of Christ the King (which falls on November 25, 2012). For such a feast we have a king-saint! Stephen of Hungary was born to the Hungarian chief Geza. They were both baptized in 985 AD by bishop Saint Adalbert, the son changing his pagan name Vaik to Stephen. He became king in 997 and had many projects in support of the faith in his homeland. His only son died seven years before Stephen, beginning a heated quarrel among his pagan nephews as to who would be king. Stephen died in 1038 and was canonized in 1083. Originally buried in Stuhlweissenburg, his relics were moved to Buda and his incorrupt right hand is a treasured relic in Hungary.


  1. Typo alert! I think you mean November 25th. Please correct for your detail-obsessed readers.

  2. Thanks, anonymous! I must have had Christmas on the brain.