St. Stephen's Basilica is the most magnificent and largest Roman Catholic church in Budapest. It contains the most valuable relic in Hungary and offers a breathtaking panoramic view of the city from the balustrade of its dome.
St. Stephen's Basilica in the Hungarian capital is one of our top 10 Budapest sights. It is located on the square of the same name, Szent István tér, and is the largest Roman Catholic church in Budapest. After the basilica in Esztergom and the church in Eger, it is the third largest church in all of Hungary. The impressive basilica was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1987.
Origin of St. Stephen's Basilica in Budapest
The construction of the basilica began in 1851 by the architect József Hild. After his death Miklós Ybl and after him József Kauser took over the construction management. In 1868 the dome collapsed because the ground is extremely wet due to the proximity of the Danube. The foundation had to be significantly reinforced and now includes a three-story basement almost as voluminous as the basilica itself.
St. Stephen's Basilica was consecrated in 1905 and named after the first Christian king of Hungary. The embalmed right hand of King Stephen I, the most valuable relic in Hungary, can still be seen in the Chapel of St. Leopold in the basilica.
The so-called "Holy Right" is the destination of thousands of pilgrims and the center of a procession every year on August 20 for the feast of St. Stephen. In 1931 it was the first Hungarian church to receive the title of basilica minor from Pope Pius XI.
The two magnificent church towers flanking the entrance portal seem almost even larger than the mighty dome behind them. Incidentally, this is exactly 96m high, together with the Hungarian Parliament, which symbolizes the equality of secular and spiritual power - it is not permitted to build higher than this 96m in Budapest.
Visit to the Basilica of Budapest
The interior of the impressive sacred building offers space for up to 8,500 believers, and the enormous dimensions of St. Stephen's Basilica leave every visitor breathless. You have to put your head back to be able to look up to the enormous, almost 100m high dome. There you can see a magnificent mosaic depicting the Lord and Jesus Christ surrounded by angels.
The entire basilica is decorated with ornate paintings, stained glass and sculptures. Especially in summer, the fantastic acoustics of the basilica are exploited and choral singing and organ concerts are held by Hungary's most renowned organists.
When visiting the St. Stephen's Basilica, the (chargeable) ascent to the balustrade of the imposing dome should not be missed. The gallery can be reached comfortably by elevator or, for the more athletic, via 297 steps.
Tip: If physical fitness is sufficient, the stairs are recommended to climb the tower. This way, you also get to know the inside of the dome and see the ingenious "dome within the dome", which statically allows a particularly powerful dome to be built on the outside, while a smaller one can be seen on the inside.
From the dome you have a spectacular view over Budapest and you are also almost at eye level with the six bells of St. Stephen's Basilica, which includes the 9-ton "Great St. Stephen's Bell", the largest bell in Hungary. The "St. Mary's Bell" dates back to 1863 and is the oldest bell of St. Stephen's Basilica.