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, Aug. 20, the mummified hand of St. Stephen is transported out of the side chapel and walked through the building. The hand, known as the Holy Right Hand, is considered Hungary’s most sacred relic. But if you’re too squeamish or not there in August, the organ concert might be of interest, playing at 5 p.m. every Monday for a small price.
Initially designed by architect Joszef Hild, the church sits 96 meters 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, reflected in its rich wood decoration and poignant stained glass windows.
Well-known works of art in the church consist of statues by Alajos Stróbl and a painting of St. Stephen’s offering his country to the Virgin Mary by Gyula Benczúr. The inside “cupola” is comprised of various mosaics; if the organ is playing, you can’t help but feel like a character transported into an episode of “The Borgias.”
If you have a few days to sightsee in Budapest, the church is simply not to be missed. The basilica also makes the perfect stopping point on a longer journey.