St. Stephen’s Basilica (Hungarian: Szent István-bazilika, Hungarian pronunciation: [ˈsɛnt ˈiʃtvaːn ˈbɒzilikɒ]) is a Roman Catholic basilica in Budapest, Hungary. It is named in honour of Stephen, the first King of Hungary (c 975–1038), whose supposed right hand is housed in the reliquary. It was the sixth largest church building in Hungary before 1920. Since the renaming of the primatial see, it’s the co-cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Esztergom-Budapest. Today, it is the third largest church building in present-day Hungary.
The church is named after Saint Stephen I of Hungary, the first King of Hungary (c. 975–1038), whose “incorruptible” right hand is said to be housed in the reliquary.
This is the most important church building in Hungary, one of the most significant tourist attractions and the third highest church in Hungary.
Equal with the Hungarian Parliament Building, it is one of the two tallest buildings in Budapest at 96 metres (315 ft) – this equation symbolises that worldly and spiritual thinking have the same importance. According to current regulations there cannot be taller building in Budapest than 96 metres (315 ft). It has a width of 55 metres (180 ft), and length of 87.4 metres (287 ft). It was completed in 1905 after 54 years of construction, according to the plans of Miklós Ybl, and was completed by József Kauser. Much of this delay can be attributed to the collapse of the dome in 1868 which required complete demolition of the completed works and rebuilding from the ground up.
The architectural style is Neo-Classical; it has a Greek cross ground plan. The façade is anchored by two large bell towers. In the southern tower is Hungary’s biggest bell, weighing over 9 tonnes (8.9 long tons; 9.9 short tons). Its predecessor had a weight of almost 8 tonnes (7.9 long tons; 8.8 short tons), but it was used for military purposes during World War II. Visitors may access the dome by elevators or by climbing 364 stairs for a 360° view overlooking Budapest.
At first, the building was supposed to be named after Saint Leopold, the patron saint of Austria, but the plan was changed in the very last minute, so it became St. Stephen’s Basilica.
Concerts in the Basilica
The Saint Stephen Basilica has played an active role in the musical community since its consecration in 1905. The head organists of the church have always been very highly regarded musicians. In the past century the Basilica has been home to choral music, classical music as well as contemporary musical performances. The Basilica choir performs often in different parts of Europe as well as at home. In the summer months they perform every Sunday. During these months you can see performances from many distinguished Hungarian and foreign organ players alike.
One of the most famous Hungarian organists is Miklós Teleki; along with András Virágh, he is among some of the best organ players in Hungary. The concerts include arias, which are sung by Kolos Kováts, one of the most famous concert and oratorio singers in Hungary; among numerous prizes, in 1992 he received also the highest prize Hungarian artists can acquire: the Kossuth Prize. The flute is played by Eleonóra Krusic, who is already known for her performances with different orchestras, from Barcelona to Zürich, Granz and Viena. These concerts take place on Thursday evenings and last a little over an hour. There are other performances available, such as the 15 minute “mini concerts” on Fridays, performed by András Virágh.
Bells of the basilica
The two towers have six bells altogether: five on the left side tower and one in the right side tower. This latter one, the Szent István-bell is the biggest bell in Hungary with its 9250 kilograms and its diameter of 252 centimeters. Usually it’s used twice a year, at 17 hour on the 20th of August, and at midnight on New Year’s Eve. There are also some special events when it tolls, but it’s quite rare.
- Great St. Stephan bell:
The largest bell in Hungary. Located in the south tower, it weighs 9250 kg and has a diameter of 240 cm. It was made by the Perner bell foundry in Passau, Germany in 1990.
- Blessed Virgin Mary bell:
The oldest bell in the church, founded by Ferenc Walser in 1863 in [Pest]. It weighs 3100 kg and has a diameter of 178,5 cm.
- St. Henry II. bell:
It weighs 2150 kg and has a diameter of 150 cm. Founded in Passau in 1993.
- Blessed Gizella bell:
It weighs 1250 kg and has a diameter of 117,8 cm. Founded in Passau in 1993.
- Saint Emeric bell:
It weighs 750 kg. Founded in Passau in 1993.
- Saint Erzsébet (Elizabeth) from the House of Árpád bell:
It weighs 500 kg. Founded in Passau in 1993.
The great bell was consecrated on 20 August 1990, on the day of St. Stephan. The four smaller bells were consecrated three years later on the same day.
View from the southeast
Aerial photograph of the Basilica
Sanctuary and altar
Window depicting St. Margaret
Window depicting St. Elizabeth
Statue of St. Elizabeth
Interior of the cupola
Looking down the staircase from the dome