ST. ISTVAN BASILICA. BUDAPEST
Saint Istvan Basilica is the biggest church in Budapest. Its height reaches 96m, dome diameter is 22m, and total area of this basilica is 4730 sq.m. This church is capable to house up to 8500 church people at a time. The basilica is famous not only for to its size but for its unusual bell as well. Its ringing is recognized to be rather special, and at the same time it is the biggest bell in Hungary.
It was decided to build a church after the huge flood that took place in the city in 1838. The church was established on the 14th of August, 1851, in a small Hungarian town called Pest. It took place before Hungarian towns were united in the majestic Budapest. It is towering on the central square named in honor of St. Istvan. Architect Joseph Khalid performed the construction of St. Istvan basilica. However, he didn’t finish the erection of this church because of his death. Miklos Ybl took the completion of such a great thing under his sensitive supervision. To great surprise of Miklos, deep cracks appeared on unfinished walls. However, construction works were not stopped. The year 1868 was remarkable not in the best light, as the whole dome constructed by that time fell down which proved incorrectness of engineering calculations. Ruins were cleared and construction of the church was started from the beginning. Miklos made another project of the dome, but when the cathedral was almost finished the architect died. Finishing works were performed by the third architect named Joseph Kaiser. Construction of Saint Istvan Cathedral lasted for 54 years. The church was finished in 1905. Franz Josef was present at its dedication. In the year 1938 the church received the status of a basilica on the order of the Pope.
During the Second World War 1944-1945 a bomb attack massively damaged the church, namely its walls, roof and towers. However, in the year 1983 the church was fully repaired, as well as all the works of art: paintings, mosaics, windows of crystal glass and majestic sculptures. A round belvedere was made in its dome.
The basilica is constructed in the style of neoclassicism. Architects believe that St. Istvan basilica is not properly illuminated and only in rather sunny days light rays get into the church and vitalize wall ornament and statues with their pale light. Construction of Basilica represents an equilateral cross, and there is a dome in the convergence place of the transept and the middle pace, on the both sides of the church façade is decorated with bell towers. The biggest bell in the country is installed on the right tower and it weighs more than 9 tons. Entrance to the church is adorned with the inscription «Ego sum via veritas et vita» meaning “I am the way and the truth and the life”. Finishing of walls is made of various types of marble and terrazzo according to designs of the best Hungarian professional masters.
Main flavor in the interior of St. Istvan basilica is the altar, behind which there is a statue of king that is surrounded with five bronze bas reliefs representing scenes of St. Istvan life. The sculpture was made by Alas Strobol, and images by Ed Meier. There is a gilded shrine installed to the left of the altar where the right hand of St. Istvan is kept there. This is the main Catholic relic of Hungary. From year to year, the day of king Istvan is celebrated on the 20th of August. He was from canonized and for many centuries he has been considered to be the patron of Hungary. The shrine with hallows (Holy Hand), makes a solemn sacred procession around Budapest and the trusting in god can touch hallows.
Windows of basilica are decorated with the most beautiful stained-glasses with saints’ images on them, and dome painting tells about the world creation. Visitors of this wonderful place have a unique chance to climb the highest dome, using an old staircase or a modern elevator. There is a viewing platform under the dome from which you can see picturesque views to the wonderful city of Budapest.
A number of great Hungarian masters were involved in finishing interior works of the church: Beni Forentsi, Dul Bancuri, Leo Fessl, Pal Patsai. St.Istvan basilica keeps a secret. In war time a deep cellar was dug under the church where all church treasuries were hidden as well as the city archive and other valuable documents, art assets. Another interesting fact is that in 2006 a very famous footballer Ferenc Puskas was buried here.