St Stephen’s Roman Catholic Basilica, named in honour of the first King of Hungary, whose right hand is kept in the reliquary. It is the most important church in Hungary, one of the most significant tourist attractions and the third highest building in Hungary.
Equal with the Hungarian Parliament Building, at 96 metres it is one of the two tallest buildings in Budapest – this equation symbolises that worldly and spiritual thinking have the same importance. According to current regulations, there cannot be a building in Budapest taller than 96 metres.
Visitors may access the dome by elevators or by climbing 364 stairs for a 360° view overlooking Budapest.
The neo-Classical basilica with a Greek cross ground plan was completed in 1905 after 54 years of construction, according to the designs by Miklós Ybl, one of Europe’s leading 19th-century architects. The delay was caused mainly by the collapse of the dome in 1868. It forced the demolition of the completed works and rebuilding from the ground up.
The St Stephen Basilica has played an active role in the musical community since its consecration in 1905. In the past century it has been home to choral music, classical music as well as contemporary musical performances. In the summer months, every Sunday you can listen to performances from many distinguished Hungarian and foreign organ players.
One of the most famous Hungarian organists is Miklós Teleki. Along with András Virágh, they are among the best organ players in Hungary. The concerts include arias sung by Kolos Kováts, one of the most famous Hungarian concert and oratorio singers. Among numerous prizes, in 1992 he received the Kossuth Prize, the highest honour that Hungarian artists can receive.
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.
The façade of the basilica is anchored by two large bell towers housing six bells: one in the southern tower and five in the northern one. The bell in the south tower is Hungary’s biggest one, weighing over 9 tonnes. Its predecessor had a weight of almost 8 tonnes, but it was taken away during World War II.
Great St Stephan bell, located in the south tower, weighs 9250 kg and has a diameter of 240 cm. It was made in Passau, Germany in 1990.
Blessed Virgin Mary bell, the oldest one in the church and founded by Ferenc Walser in 1863, weighs 3100 kg and has a diameter of 178,5 cm.
The great bell was consecrated on 20 August 1990, on the day of St Stephan. The four smaller bells (St Henry II, Blessed Gizella, St Emeric, St Erzsébet (Elizabeth) from the House of Árpád) were consecrated three years later on the same day.