St. Stephen’s Basilica, in Hungarian Szent István-Bazilika, is a catholic basilica located in the center of Budapest. At first the structure was supposed to be named after Saint Leopold, the patron of Austria, but the plan was changed and the church was named after Stephen, the first king of Hungary, whose alleged right hand is supposed to be preserved in the reliquary of the basilica.
Today St.Stephens’s Basilica represents the third largest church in Hungary. Many sculptors have contributed to the inner decoration of St. Stephen’s Basilica: more than 50 different types of marble were used to shape a number of sculptures.
Just like the Hungarian Parliament Building, the Basilica is one of the tallest buildings of Budapest with its 96 meters. Back in the days this equality symbolized the same importance of the laical and spiritual power within the city.
The site where today St. Stephen’s Basilica is constructed was a theater in the 18° century. This theater, called Hetz-Theater, used to host animal fights. During those times a wealthy man called Janos Zitterbarth financed the construction of a temporary church right inside the structure.
At the beginning of 1800, a few hundred people created the Lipótváros Parish. They started the fundraising to build a permanent church, which now is St.Stephen’s Church.
The church was completed in 1905, after 54 years of constructions. The works were started by the architect Miklós Ybl and completed by József Kauser. The delay was due to the collapse of a dome in 1868, which required the complete demolition of some of the areas that had been built until that moment, and which were rebuild from scratches.
St. Stephen Basilica was built in Neo-Classical style, and the church has a Greek cross ground plan. The facade is characterized by its two large bell towers. In the southern tower there is the largest bell of Hungary. The two towers feature six bells all together: five are located on the north side bell, while the largest bell is located in the southern tower.
This bell is used about twice a year: on August 20th, on the church consecration day, and on December 31st. Visitors can access the dome by elevators or by climbing 364 steps and enjoy a wonderful view of Budapest.
St. Stephen’s Basilica plays a very active role in the Budapest music scene, since its consecration on 1905. The head organists of the church have always been very high level musicians. In the last century the basilica has hosted choral music, classical music, as well as contemporary music shows.
The Basilica choir often performs around different European countries. Its performance schedule includes different concerts open to the public.
St.Stephen’s Basilica is located in the heart of Pest. In order to reach it one can take the underground line M3 getting off at Arany Jànos station.
The Church is open from Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm. On Saturdays it stays open from 9am to 1pm, while on Sundays from 1pm to 5pm. The entrance to the Basilica is free, except for the visit of the dome – which is open only on spring and autumn months.
During the opening months some guided tours are organized, including the visit to the chapel featuring the relic of Stephen King’s hand, as well as a visit to the treasures and the access to the dome.
City Card allow you to save on public transport and / or on the entrances to the main tourist attractions.