St. Stephen's Basilica in Budapest


St. Stephen's Basilica is one of the most beautiful churches in Hungary. It has been under construction for over 50 years and is the largest temple in Budapest.

Basilica history

The basilica is named after King Stephen - the founder of the Hungarian state. According to legend, in 1838 there was a devastating flood on the Danube, many people found refuge on the shore, and after their miraculous rescue, they began to donate money to build a temple on this site.

It began to be built in 1851 under the direction of the architect József Hild. The master began to erect a church building in the neoclassical style, but did not manage to finish it - he died in 1868. The construction was continued by the architect Miklos Ibl. After his death, the interior of the building, art and decorative work was completed in 1905 by Jozsef Kauser.

Interesting facts about the construction of the cathedral

January 22, 1868 is a tragic date for the basilica. On this day, due to defects in materials and mistakes of builders, the dome and the dome drum collapsed, which were designed according to the drawings of József Hilda.

The columns supporting the arches of the dome were built from donation stones of varying quality and strength. The domed drum was erected on the inner edge of the arches underlying it, resulting in an unstable structure. The work was suspended for more than 1 year.

Miklós Ybl prepared a new restoration project, and from 1875 the Hellenistic forms were replaced by neo-Renaissance elements.

In 1890 the construction of the building was completed, in 1891 decorative finishing works began under the direction of József Kauser. On November 9, 1905, the church was consecrated.

At the right entrance to the basilica there is an inscription reminding of an important event that took place in 1906. At the height of the festival, which was held under the vaults of the church, King Franz Joseph arrived. At his direction, behind the high altar, a cornerstone was laid and walled up. On May 23, the beginning of the jubilee year of St. Stephen was announced, after whom the basilica was named.

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In 1947, the basilica suffered another destruction: the wooden structure of the dome caught fire during repair work on the roof.

The Basilica, like the Hungarian Parliament Building, is one of the tallest buildings in Budapest. This equality symbolizes the equal importance of the secular and spiritual power of the city.

Why basilica

Due to the large dimensions of the building, residents of the capital of Hungary began to call the church a basilica. Its official name was given by Pope Pius XI, when in 1931 he awarded it the honorary title of a minor basilica. In 1993 it was given the status of a cathedral.

Post-war restoration

During World War II, the reconstituted marble mosaics and panels that adorned the interior walls peeled off. The walls of the basilica were so wet that the ancient mosaic broke down and fell. The building had to be heated from the inside and mechanically dried from the outside, and the mosaics were attached. There were not enough funds for the complete restoration of the building; it dragged on for 20 years. The renovation of the building was completed in 1983.

Current situation

The cathedral is an architectural monument under the protection of UNESCO. Music festivals, concerts of classical and organ music are often held under the arches of the temple.

Decoration and architecture of the building

The basilica, according to many architects, has insufficient internal lighting, but this has its advantages: when the eyes get used to the semi-darkness, a rich interior opens up before the eyes, which makes a strong impression.

Stained glass windows, gilding, colored mosaics are much more impressive in semi-darkness than if they were penetrated by rays of light.


The basilica was built in the neoclassical style and has the shape of an equilateral Greek cross. The relief figures that adorn the plane between the openings of the arch, and the statues that crown the colonnade of the building's ledge, were created by Leo Fessler. The large sculptural figures of the 4 apostles, installed in the niches of the drum, were also made by Fessler.

The massive wooden door is decorated with medallions depicting the 12 apostles.

At the intersection of the transverse naves, which is typical for cruciform temples, a large massive dome was erected. It is decorated with paintings showing scenes from the life of the Saint. Bell towers are located on both sides. On the right tower is the largest church bell in Hungary, its weight is 9144 kg. The height of the basilica is 96 m, the length of the cathedral is 87,5 m.

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Interior design

Architect József Kauser called on many Hungarian artists and sculptors to decorate the interior of the basilica. For decoration, 50 types of marble, a lot of gold, stained glass were used. The altar features a statue of the patron saint Stephen, the first Christian king of Hungary. Around the altar there are bas-reliefs depicting the lives of the saints.

The main relic is kept in the chapel - the hand of St. Stephen. Every year on August 20, on the anniversary of the saint's death, the shrine in which she rests is carried through the streets of Budapest.

Observation deck

A panoramic observation deck was created inside the dome; subsequently, elevators were installed to climb to it. Two old chimneys behind the main façade were converted into lift shafts. Tourists can climb to the observation deck both by elevators and by steps, of which there are 364 in the basilica.

The large bell of the basilica, which is visible from the observation deck, rings 2 times a year: on August 20, on the day of the consecration of the church, and on December 31.

Concert hall

The hall of the cathedral is famous for its good acoustics; therefore, it often hosts musical concerts, organ music and choral singing festivals.

Here are organized:

  1. Organ concerts on Fridays and Mondays.
  2. Classical music concerts on Sundays.
  3. Concerts featuring Baroque pieces.
  4. English-language masses, where you can hear Church Anglican music.

The performance of the male choir of St. Ephraim is of great interest.

The basilica has its own choir, which not only performs on the church stage, but also conducts tours of Europe.

Divine services in St. Stephen's Basilica

Mass is held every weekday in the chapel building during the following hours:

  • morning - at 7.00;
  • the second - at 8.00;
  • evening - at 18.00.

Students are invited to Mass on Sundays, with a special time at 8.30 am. The Great Mass in Latin begins at 10.00. Holy Masses are held at 12.00 and 18.00.

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From Monday to Friday, you can come to confession from 16.00 to 18.00 hours. On weekends, confession is held 4 times a day: at 8.30, 10.00. 12.00, 18.00.

Feast day

The main patronal holiday is St. Stephen's Day, which is celebrated annually on August 20. First, a solemn mass is held in the church, then the gilded casket with the relics of the saint is taken out and a solemn procession takes place through the streets of Budapest. The holiday ends with a festive fireworks display over the Danube.

Ceremonies and celebrations

On Christmas days, decorations are installed in the cathedral hall, depicting scenes of the birth of Christ. In the evenings, tourists and residents are shown a colorful light show on the walls of the basilica. A Christmas market is taking place on the temple square.

How to get to the Basilica of St. Istvan in Budapest

Address: Budapest, Szent István tér 1, 1051 Hungary.

You can get to the city center by bus, tram, metro. The nearest metro station is on the yellow line and is called Bajcsy-Zsilinszky út. Leaving the metro, you can immediately see the high dome of the basilica.

Metro line 1 - station "Bajcsy-Zsilinszky út"
Bus ost. "Szent István Bazilika" - No. 9, 914, 914А, 931, 950, 950А
Trolleybus ost. "Szent István Bazilika" - No. 72 *


Visit to the cathedral:

  • Monday-Saturday - from 09:00 to 19:00;
  • Sunday - from 07:45 to 19:00.

Observation deck and museum:

  • November-March - from 10:00 to 16:30;
  • April-October - from 10:00 to 17:30;
  • June-September - from 10:00 to 18:30.

The observation deck is closed for visits in bad weather.

Prices for visits

The entrance to the basilica is free, but donations of 200 HUF or 1 euro can be made at the entrance

Basilica Museum Ticket Prices:

  • for adults - 400 HUF;
  • for students and pensioners - 300 HUF;
  • for groups of more than 15 people - 300 HUF each.

To visit the panoramic site you need to pay:

  • adults - 600 HUF (or 400 HUF - in a group of at least 15 people);
  • students and retirees - 400 HUF (or 300 HUF - in a group of at least 15 people).

Please note that if you want to take an elevator to the observation deck, then you will need to pay an additional 400 HUF.