St. Stephen’s Basilica
St. Stephen’s Basilica of Budapest is one of the most impressive churches and leading tourist attractions in Hungary. The Basilica is dedicated to St. Stephen (King Stephen I of Hungary r. 1001 -1038) who was also the founder of the Hungarian state and the one who consolidated the Christian faith in Hungary.
The church construction commenced in 1851, based on the drawings of József Hild, a leading architect of Pest, who also designed the cathedrals in Esztergom and Eger. József Hild supervised the works until his death as of March 6, 1867. After his death the Council of the City of Pest appointed Miklós Ybl, a designer of numerous public buildings in the capital city (including the Opera House) to continue to supervise the design and construction of the Basilica. After his death, the interior of the building and the fine artistic and decorative works were assigned to József Kauser who a few months later was forced to cope with the collapse of the cupola due to some defects in materials and craftmanship.
The pillars holding the arches of the cupola were constructed with donated stones of assorted quality and solidity. The cupola drum was built on the inner rim of the arches underpinning it, resulting in a precariously balanced structure which distributed the load unevenly on the pillars.
The imbalance of the structure in turn gave rise to the collapse, after which works paused for more than a year, when the removal of the debris and the demolition of the poorly constructed parts commenced and continued until 1871. Miklós Ybl prepared new designs for continuing the construction works or revised the previous ones in terms of the structure and the appearance alike.
From 1875, the Hellenistic forms and Classicist style were replaced by Neo-Renaissance elements applied by Ybl, and works continued, even after his death of 1891, according to his sketches and ideas until the long-last dedication of the church in 1905.
(Source: A Szent István Bazilika, Budapest 1989.)
Today you can visit St. Stephen’s Basilica for free although we would recommend a guided tour that will take you through the treasury featuring the relic of Stephen King’s hand and up on the panorama lookout tower if you happen to be visiting during the Summer months. You could also combine your visit with an Organ Concerts, given once a week by a virtuoso of the kind. The adjacent square offers a number of choices for a coffee, a drink or a bite if you’re hungry. More