Saturday, March 29, 2014

St. Stephen's Basilica - Budapest

St. Stephen's Basilica in Budapest, Hungary, is named after Stephen, the first king of Hungary, founder of the Hungarian state, who lived from 975 to 1038. The basilica is 315 feet tall, by law the tallest building in Hungary, only equaled in height by the Hungarian Parliament Building. It is young by European standards, completed in 1905. It is in the form of a Greek cross and has two large bell towers. It was named a minor basilica in 1931 by Pope Pius XI. In 1991, Pope John Paul II visited the basilica for the festival of king St. Stephen.  This as just four years after St. Stephen's Holy Right (see below) was put on display in the Holy Right chapel. 
The dome and spire of St. Stephen's standout in this view from the Buda side of the Danube. St. Stephen's is on the Pest side of the Danube.
St. Stephen's, along with the Hungarian Parliament Building, are the tallest buildings in Hungary.
St. Stephen's from the front courtyard.
The courtyard, from St. Stephens. Note the narrower street at the end of the courtyard.
St. Stephen's from the narrower street at the end of the courtyard.

Above the front entrance.
A statue of Mark (with his lion) on the facade.
I love this statue of Mark: the hat, the flowing robes, the flowing mustache and beard, the decorative hat strap.
Given the book, I'm sure this must be an evangelist, perhaps Matthew with a dove on his shoulder?
Upper portions of the basilica.
A beautiful door with the images of early saints.
Apostle John
Apostle Peter
Apostle Paul
An angelic border decoration.
Beautiful woodwork
Wood door panel.
Inside the dome.
An unusual centerpiece in the dome. Quite often a dove. Is this Moses?
I always enjoy representations of the evangelists, perhaps because I can recognize them. Matthew, represented by a winged man or angel. The evangelists are in the four corners of the supports holding up the dome. 
Mark is represented by the winged lion.
John is symbolized by an eagle.
Luke is symbolized by the winged ox or bull.
Likely another of the evangelists - holding a book. This is higher inside the dome.
Inside the basilica.
The altar. It looks like the overhanging crown might represent the Hungarian Royal Crown and underneath a statue of St. Stephen.
St. Stephen.

The dome above the altar
The underside of an arch with a painting, reliefs and other decorations. 
One of the reliefs, a pudgy angel.
A different arch with figures, in relief, lounging along the sides.

Stained glass showing the keys of heaven. They are metaphorical keys that represent the office of St. Peter and are found on the papal coat of arms. The gold and silver key represent the power of loosing and binding. The triple crowned tiara represents the pope's three functions as supreme pastor, supreme teacher and supreme priest. 
I love the more modern stained glass. 
Elongated pieces of stained glass in the robe with chunkier pieces outside.

King Ladislau or St. Ladislau, King of Hungary. He is the one who tracked down the Holy Right and turned the spot into an abbey.
A fun sculpture of a knight with sword, in chain mail.
King and Saint Stephen:
King Stephen was born in Esztergom. His parents were both baptized, but he was the first member of his family to be a devout Christian. He was a grand prince of the Hungarians and in a series of wars he defeated and unified the Pannonian Basin, which today includes Hungary, northern Serbia, parts of Croatia, Slovenia, Romania  and Bosnia. On December 25, 1000, or perhaps January 1, 1001, Stephen was crowned with a crown sent by Pope Sylvester II and became the first king of Hungary. He helped spread Christianity among his people, establishing a number of bishoprics, monasteries and punishments for ignoring Christian customs. He was canonized in 1083, just 45 years after his death, by Pope Gregory VII. His feast day, August 20, is also a public holiday, which commemorates the founding of the Hungarian state. 
This equestrian statue of King Stephen is outside Matthias Church in Buda, across the Danube and up the hill. 
St. Stephen holding a replica of his church.
A younger representation of St. Stephen in stained glass.
I believe this is a relief of St. Stephen from the facade.
Stained glass with the Royal Crown of Hungary.
The Royal Crown of Hungary, or the Crown of St. Stephen, was taken during WWII to prevent it from falling into the hands of the Soviet Army. In 1977, after the easing of Cold War tensions, President Jimmy Carter returned the crown to Hungary. This replica of the crown was given to Pres. Carter by the President of the Republic of Hungary in 1998 and it is found in the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library in Atlanta. 
Another view of the replica in the Carter Library.
This replica of the Crown of St. Stephen was in Matthias Church on the Buda side of the Danube. There is also a representation of the crown on the steeple of St. Martin's Cathedral in Bratislava
The Holy Right:
When King Stephen died in 1038 he was embalmed and placed in a marble sarcophagus in Fehervar, now known as Szekesfehervar, Czech Republic, about 40 miles southwest of Budapest. His right hand was believed to have miraculous power, so it was detached and taken to the treasury of the basilica. The right hand was stolen by a treasury ward named Merkur and taken to Merkur's estate in Bihar, now known as Saniob in Romania. King Ladislaus later heard about the theft and discovered who had taken the hand. He forgave Merkur and founded an abbey where it was located. The abbey was named Szentjobb, meaning "Holy Right," what King Stephen's right hand has come to be called.  During the 1400s the Holy Right was taken and ultimately ended up in Raguza in Bosnia, now known as Dubrovnik, in 1590, where it was kept by the Dominican monks. In 1771, Empress Maria Theresa arranged to have the Holy Right taken to Vienna, then to Buda. For awhile it was held by the Archdiocese of Esztergom, then in Buda castle. During WWII the Holy Right and coronation jewels were hidden in a cave in Salzburg where they were found by the US army which delivered the Holy Right ultimately back to Hungary and during the era of communist rule, it was hidden in the safe at St. Stephen's Basilica. In 1987, after regime change, the Holy Right chapel was dedicated and the Holy Right was put on display. When we visited, the Holy Right chapel was mobbed and it was difficult to get close to and view the shriveled Holy Right. 

This picture of the Holy Right was taken from here. I didn't have the patience to wade through the masses to get a good picture.  
This painting of St. Stephen is in the Holy Right chapel.
This Chinese style  ceramic decoration seemed totally out of place in the Holy Right chapel. 
Archdiocese of Esztergom-Budapest:
There are almost 3.9 million Roman Catholics in Hungary, about 39% of the population. Hungary has 12 dioceses, including four archdioceses. Budapest is part of the Archdiocese of Esztergom-Budapest which was founded in the tenth century. Budapest is the current capital of Hungary, but Esztergom was a former capital of Hungary when Hungary was much larger, including the eastern half of the Habsburg empire. Surprisingly, up until 1993 the diocese was known as the Archdiocese of Esztergom. St. Stephens is the co-cathedral of the archdiocese, along with Esztergom Basilica in Esztergom. It became a co-cathedral at the same time the name of the archdiocese was changed. The same architect, Jozsef Hild, designed both basilicas. 

1 comment:

  1. Loved this church--such a mixture of old and new, sacred and bizarre. I hadn't realized the Holy Right(hand) had traveled so much. It seems it should have been a foot rather than a hand.