St Stephen’s Basilica (‘Szent István Bazilika’) is the largest church in Budapest. Planning and construction took 54 years, involving three chief architects and the collapse of the entire dome nearly two decades into the project. It was around this time that Miklós Ybl of Opera House fame took over the reins, though his death in 1891 meant that József Kauser saw the Basilica through to its completion. Deliberately designed to reach an exact height of 96 metres, the same as Parliament, the Basilica wasn’t ready for the 1896 Hungarian Millennial celebrations, only seeing the light of day in 1905. Today, accommodating 8,000 worshippers, characterised by rich ornamentation and huge windows radiating light and dignity, it provides a suitable setting for state funerals.
The public can observe the somewhat macabre sight of the preserved right hand, the Holy Dexter, of Hungary’s first king, St Stephen, kept as a relic in the main aisle. His mummified body is buried in the undercroft.
While one lift takes you to the treasury, the other goes up to the dome, with marvellous views over the city. The Basilica also hosts recitals and concerts.