St. Stephen’s Basilica, or Lipót City Parish Church based in Vörösmarty Square … is named after St. Stephen, the founder of the Kingdom of Hungary, whose incorruptible right hand, known as the Holy Right, is kept here as a relic.
Famous masterpieces in the church include statues by Alajos Stróbl as well as a painting of St. Stephen offering his country to the Virgin Mary by Gyula Benczúr.
Excerpt from ‘Budapest: Info (English)’
As a functioning church, please be respectful to any services that might be taking place during your visit as well as taking notice of any areas that may be off limits during these periods.
St. Stephen’s Basilica is free to enter although donations are most welcome and is open throughout most of the day either closing around 7pm, or sunset depending on the time of year. Whether you enter from the left or the right through a set of double-doors you instantly step into a large, open chapel area that reaches far into every direction except the one you came from. Taking 54 years to build from start to finish, the Basilica is contains so many intricate features and details that you will simply be stunned, unsure whether to move on from one or venture further, losing yourself inside and in time. I’ll admit, I admire many forms of art and I could spend ages just taking everything in to the frustration of my travel companions. Oh well…
The photographs in this post doesn’t give the Basilica any justice, you will just have to see it for yourselves. The Basilica is virtually impossible to ignore wherever you are in Budapest as you can pretty much see the dome from every part of the city, one of the tallest buildings in the capital city, none are taller than this.
The Holy Right Hand
Hidden away at the back of the church in a room off from the main chapel, the Holy Right Hand is a relic that is believed to belong to St. Stephen, the founder of the Kingdom of Hungary and that this Holy Right Hand holds miraculous properties. Why just the right hand? Due to its believed powerful nature it was detached from St. Stephen’s body not long after he was buried and subsequently stolen. It took a few centuries before the relic was returned to Hungary, after being discovered a couple of centuries earlier in another country and travels to many others. It wasn’t until 1950 that the relic was placed in the Basilica for safe keeping, put on display for the first time in 1987. For a more detailed history, just visit the St. Stephen’s Basilica website.
Donations are very much encouraged and you will notice that most people will donate some money before accessing this section of the Basilica compared to the donation boxes at the entrance.
Upon seeing the Holy Right Hand and the casing it rests in, I was surprised my how small the display was even though that a hand is small – The casing is not large in size but rather its grandeur is in the design and materials indicating the significance of the contents on this alone. Tucked away in a small corner of the room hanging on the wall, you could be mistaken for thinking that upon entering that a much larger display next to an alter is the relic, but it isn’t. There are benches for people to come sit and pray, but keep going and you’ll see the Holy Right Hand of St. Stephen. The room was that busy when I was there but this can fluctuate throughout the day.
The Evening Show
Unexpectedly, as we came out of the Basilica we found ourselves comfronted with a crowd of people looking up at us from the bottom of the steps – “What’s going on?” we asked ourselves, looking behind us to discover that a light show or rather a story was being projected onto the front walls of the church. Joining the crowds, the story lasted for a few minutes as small and large figures danced around the changing images and environments with the accompaying music. Pleasant and beautiful.
This seemed to happen every night if we were in the area at around sunset but I am not sure if it happens every evening or just something for the Christmas Market. If you know the answer, let me know in the comments!