After the Hungarian Parliament Building, the St. Stephen's Basilica is the second highest (96 meters tall) building in Budapest, and it is one of the most important Roman Catholic churches in Hungary. The Basilica was named in honour of St. Stephen, the founder of the Kingdom of Hungary. It was decided to build a church after the Great Flood of Pest in 1838 because hundreds of people had taken refuge there, fleeing from the water. The construction of the church began on 14th August, 1851 and the foundation-stone laying ceremony was on 4th October.
The designer was one of the most significant builders who played an important role in shaping the facade of the city, József Hild. Hild, the man behind the neo-Classical church, led the work until his death in 1867, and later, as it turned out, the quality of building materials and construction had been defective: on 22nd of January, 1868 the semi-finished dome collapsed because of an unforeseen storm, the unbalanced static pressure and the uneven subsidence of the foundation. After that, Miklós Ybl, another great architect of the era carried on the construction works, with some changes on the plans. He was working in style of Renaissance Revival, contrary to Hellenistic Greek style of Hild. After Ybl’s death in 1891, building works was going on, regarding his instructions, plans, schemes. The consecration of the Basilica was held in 1905. (After Ybl’s death, József Kauser led the decoration and interior works, the final design of the building can be connected to his name.)
The press remembered the grand opening ceremony of the Basilica so: "Welcome, dear Basilica! There were a lot of people who greeted the largest church in Budapest with these words. We've waited for half a century for the latest masterpiece of monumental construction works in Lipótváros; eagerly waited!"
Among the main attractions for visitors were some mosaics of Bertalan Székely and Mór Than (at the main entrance hall), a great creation of Károly Lotz (at the dome above the sanctuary), the high altar with baldachin, designed by József Kauser and a work of Alajos Stróbl. The glass-painting works were created by Miksa Róth.
During the bombardments in World War II, the walls, the towers and the roof got damaged in 1944-45. In 1983, it was decided to renovate the basilica completely, including all works of art, mosaics, pictures, sculptures and stained-glass windows as well. A panoramic view can be seen from the dome of the Basilica, and the treasury has been opened to the public, showing the Basilica’s art objects and relics as well. The complete reconstruction of the building was finished on 14th August, 2003.
One characteristic feature of the building can be read on the ledge, below the tympanum: Ego sum via, veritas et vita (‘I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life') – from Christ.
Coordinates: 47° 30.0237' N, 019° 3.267' E