Saint Stephen's Basilica

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Saint Stephen's Basilica (Szent István-bazilika) is an ecclesiastic church in Budapest. Although it has not been basilica yet, people call it so because of its size. It is the largest church in Hungary that can hold 7,000 people. It got its name after Stephan I Hungarian. His mummified right fist is housed in the Chapel of the Holy Right.

Its height is 96 metres what makes it (together with the Hungarian Parliament Building) the tallest building in Budapest. The construction took unbelievably long – 54 years, started in 1851 and was completed in 1905. The greatest delay was caused by the collapse of the dome in 1868. It was designed by two famous architects, József Hild and Miklós Ybl, who had both died before work was finished.

Saint Stephen’s Basilica was built in neoclassical style and the interior is laid out in a Greek cross. It has a dome and two steeples – bell towers. The church was considered so sturdy that important documents and artworks were stored in it during the World War II bombings. However, the dome burned down during the war and was rebuilt in 1948-49.

Although, the main façade is facing the Danube, the main entrance is on St. Stephan’s Square and there is a bust of King Stephen, Hungary's first Christian king above it. The vestibule of the main entrance is shaped like a triumphal arch. The relief of the tympanum above the two Corinthian half columns depicts Our Lady, the Patroness of Hungary, together with the Hungarian saints. There is a relief of the Hungarian king St. Stephen and a mosaic depicting the resurrection of Christ on the wall above the main entrance. The works of famous Hungarian artists of that time, (for example Mór Than, Bertalan Székely, and Gyula Benczúr) decorate the inside of the church and the chancel. Near the inside main pillar of the dome there are statues of Hungarian saints-St. Elizabeth, St. Gerard, St. Emeric, and St. Ladislas holding his sword high-stand. Károly Lotz, the famous fresco-painter, designed the mosaics of the dome. St. Stephen's statue on the main altar is the work of Alajos Stróbl; the five bronze relieves of the chancel illustrate scenes from the life of the first Hungarian king.

In 2003 a full-scale renovation of the church and neighboring square was finally completed. Visitors may access the dome by elevators or 364 stairs for a 360° view overlooking Budapest.
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