Churches and ecclesiastical collections
Inner City Franciscan Church (V. Ferenciek tere): There was a church and monastery on this site as far back as the thirteenth century. The ornate baroque structure seen today dates mostly from the eighteenth century. Its frescoes are the work of Károly Lotz and Vilmos Tardos Krenner, and its baroque high altar and associated statues are particularly noteworthy.
Inner City Parish Church (V. Március 15. tér 2): The oldest church in Pest has origins going back to the twelfth century and is also the site of the grave of the martyr Bishop Saint Gellért. During the Turkish occupation in the seventeenth century the church was converted for use as a mosque. After their expulsion and a great fire in 1723 it was rebuilt in baroque style, although the interior also contains Classical elements. The Gothic chapel, the neo-Gothic carved pulpit, the fifteenth century Italian frescoes and the twentieth century high altar are all well worth observing.
Inner City Calvinist Church (IX. Kálvin tér): Built in neo-Gothic style in the nineteenth century, the four-columned great porch, the organ loft and the pulpit are all the work of the great Hungarian architect József Hild. Master stained glass craftsman Miksa Róth designed the acclaimed windows. The treasury contains a fine collection of liturgical objects dating from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
Dohány utca Synagogue: Designed in Byzantine and Moorish styles in the mid nineteenth century by the Viennese architect Ludwig Förster, this is the biggest synagogue in Europe. With its red and white brickwork, onion domes and rich ceramic ornamentation it is one of the most distinctive buildings in Budapest. The adjacent museum contains an extremely rich collection of Jewish artefacts spanning the last two millennia.
Lutheran Church (V. Deák tér): Lending its character to the square around it, this imposing structure is notable for the extreme simplicity of its early Classic lines. Although the church was built mostly from 1797 to 1808, the main frontage with its characteristic Doric columns and tympanum was only added in 1856. It is a popular venue for organ recitals owing to its excellent acoustics. Next door the National Lutheran Museum houses an exhibition charting the history of Lutheranism in Hungary.
Matthias Church (I. Szentháromság tér): This is the best known and most spectacular Catholic Church in Budapest. It dates from many different periods, the earliest parts having been built between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries. It gained its neo-Gothic appearance during rebuilding under the direction of Frigyes Schulek in 1896, and its frescoes and stained glass windows are the work of Károly Lotz, Mihály Zichy and Bertalan Székely. King Béla III and his wife, Anne of Châtillon are buried within, and three other kings were crowned here. There are plenty of interesting stone monuments and relics to see, plus a rich treasury of ecclesiastical vestments, coronation robes and thrones, and gold ware.
Saint Stephen’s Basilica (V. Szent István tér): Budapest’s largest church, whose landmark dome can be seen from all over the city, was built in Classical style between 1851 and 1905. Inside is the Hungarians’ most revered relic – the mummified right hand of Hungary’s first monarch, King Saint Stephen. Among many famous works of art the statues of Alajos Stróbl are well worth studying, as is the painting by Gyula Benczúr depicting St. Stephen commending his country, by the offering up of his crown, to the patronage of the Virgin Mary.
Construction of the largest church of the capital (seating 8,500 persons) was beset by vicissitudes. No sooner did the groundwork begin when the War of Independence broke out in 1848, then construction was resumed in 1851, followed by the immediate death of the two architects, and even the dome collapsed during the works. The church with a Greek cross plan was finally consecrated in 1905.
With the river Danube in the vicinity, huge foundations and three underground levels had to be laid under the church, resulting in an underground "house" almost as large as on the surface. It took 60 years and two architectural époques - Classicism and Eclecticism - to build the Basilica. Special works of art present the life of King St. Stephen - in whose name the basilica was dedicated - founder of the Hungarian State and Christian Church in Hungary.
A grandiose cupola dominates the edifice offering visitors a good view of the city from its rim. From the unique 360-degree circular lookout you can admire Budapest from a height of 65 meters. A modern and secure elevator will take you most of the way up, from where you climb to the circular lookout on a spiral staircase.
Serbian Church (V. Szerb u. 2-4): Built in baroque style by the Serbian community itself in 1698. The interior follows the practice of Greek Catholic Churches in separating the women’s church from the men’s, one step lower, by a wooden railing. The iconostasis dates from 1850 and shows a marked Italian Renaissance influence.