Come with Unitrips to one of the best treasures of Hungarian architecture that, despite its youth, exhibits as one of the most impressive constructions of the magical state. Start your tour around Europe in this incredible city and accompany us to discover the secrets of St. Stephen’s Basilica in Budapest.
It is not a Basilica
The Hungarian’s first little secret with regard to their famous cathedral is that, in fact, it is not a Basilica, despite the citizens insisting on naming it so since its construction, back in 1851. In reality the building does not have Basilica form and in its place has a Greek cross floor plan.
It is the biggest Church in Hungary
St. Stephen’s Basilica, located in the city of Pest, is the largest Church in the country. It can house more than 8,500 people, in its 87 metres long by 55 metres wide layout. The Hungarians can also boast that their cathedral is, along with the Parliament building, the tallest building in the city and is only 4 metres from the tallest 100. The sights from the dome are incredible, so we can’t forget our cameras. Certainly, you don’t have to overdo it climbing stairs, because you can reach the top in an elevator, although if you are going to exercise, it is also accessed by climbing more than 360 steps.
The ringing of the bell
And it rang so much. The Hungarians spared no expense on preparing and taking full advantage of their bell tower. In fact, St. Stephen’s Basilica has the biggest bell in Hungary. No more and no less than 9 tonnes of iron. It is the second that hangs from the belfry, but do not think that the previous one was nothing. They also went all out and that bell came to 8 tonnes, but they melted it down in the Second World War.
The mummified hand of St. Stephen
The truth is that this relic can seem a bit gory, and it is. In the interior of the cathedral you will find the Holy Hand. There is nothing else except the mummified hand of St. Stephen. This man was the first King of Hungary and was attributed to the conversion of the Magyars to Catholicism. The founder of the Hungarian state is very appreciated in his country and his fellow citizens expressed their gratitude through many ways, including keeping his ancient limb preserved, which has been lifeless for over a millennium. If you want to admire it in all its splendour, you will have to loosen 1€ and, in that case, a good light will illuminate the Holy Hand.
The Queen of Pop Got Married Here
Well, not really. In reality, Madonna, the Queen of pop, attended her film betrothal in 1996, and it was this cathedral that Alan Parker, director of the film, ‘Evita’ chose to shoot the scene of the wedding of his blonde protagonist and her beloved Perón.
The St Stephen’s Basilica Christmas Market
If you’re one of those people who enjoy the beauty of Christmas markets, marzipan, the three kings, Santa Claus and all the bits and bobs surrounding Christmas, you have to take advantage of your visit and come to the Christmas Markets which are erected during certain dates in front of the Saint Stephen’s Basilica. It’s so typical of Hungary! it’s here that you can find all the jumble sale items from central Europe: stalls, hot wine, gingerbread biscuits, crafts… Jingle bells, jingle bells…. all underneath the real bell tower!
The tomb of a Real Madrid player
Indeed, another of the cathedral’s hidden secrets is that it is home to the mortal remains of one of the most important football players of all time, the Hungarian Ferenc Puskás. The Magyar player remained in Real Madrid from 1958 to 1966 and was part of one of the most legendary frontmen of the Merengue team, in company of Di Stéfano, Kopa, Real and Gento.
To go to concerts
The acoustics of Budapest’s St. Stephen’s Basilica are simply unparalleled. If you enjoy classical music, you have to go see the concerts on this imposing stage. The frequent celebration of auditions of sacred music and its organ recitals are famous throughout Europe. Vivaldi, Bach and Mozart are regulars in the cathedral. It is said that the organist of St. Stephen had a good collection of international prizes and that the Basilica offers concerts every Thursday, for a price of around € 20. Of course, if you go in winter, try to attend wrapped up. We are in Hungary and it is very cold indeed.
Youth meeting point
Around the Hungarian Basilica, there are plenty of cafes, bars and places to have a drink. It is the ideal place to sit for a while and admire the fantastic neoclassical façade of the building. It is also in this area where the young people of Budapest usually are. You know, if you want to integrate and meet people, join one of the internet meeting points at the door of the cathedral.
From Buda on the Danube
One of the best ways to access St. Stephen’s Basilica is from Buda, crossing through the famous Chain Bridge. This tour will provide you with one of the most amazing views of the Danube. Worth it.
Rose shaped ice cream
Just 100 meters from the front of the building, in a corner of the Basilica square, you can enjoy one of the most famous ice creams in all of Hungary. They are rich cones shaped like a rose. Delicious and creamy petals from Gelarto Rosa gelato. They are a little expensive, but it is worth tasting them. If you fancy you can ask for different petals each with a different flavour and you will get a very colourful and tasty rose.
20th Century Hungarian Art
For art lovers, Budapest’s St. Stephen’s Basilica contains one of the most representative examples of the best Hungarian artists of the 20th century. In a setting of red and black marble, you can see frescoes, sculptures, paintings, liturgical objects … Perhaps one of the strangest images in the world is that of the Hungarian Cardinal József Mindszenty, for whom communism was not his cup of tea. The man died of natural death in Vienna in 1975. However, in the representation he appears crucified on a sickle and a hammer, in a barbed wire of thorns. It was thought to be too much and the crucifix was removed from the sickle and hammer that Evo Morales gave to Pope Francisco.
Now you know, if you go to Budapest do not hesitate for a second to visit the Basilica and attend each and every one of its curiosities.
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Translated by Astrid Tate