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A church is a sanctuary of silence and darkness. An escape from the noisy streets; from the people rushing around; a temple of thousands of thoughts and prayers. There are sublime shadows hidden in the corners, that are brought alive only by the kind flames of small candles: the eyes of saints tracing your every step, following your soul, probing your feelings and awaiting your attention. The cross on the wall, the stained-glass windows allowing enough light to illuminate the floor, walls and altar, the faces of the saints and the rows of empty chairs. A consecrated space, wearing a dark outfit, with the strings of lights to lift up the mood of the congregation.

 

You do not need to be a believer to find yourself behind a huge wooden door. The beauty and simplicity of every church it is ability to accommodate anyone who seeks peace and quietness. Pray if you feel like it, sit in silence or wander around, admiring the art that reflects the love for God. Look into the eyes of the marble saints – they will not turn their heads away shyly from you. Talk to them, they will listen patiently. The only thing you might miss is a responsive gesture, but they will not avoid your eyes, they will not turn their gaze from you. On the contrary – they will pierce your soul, and smile sadly as they do so.

 

The huge dome of St Stephan’s basilica, situated in the middle of the town, faces a busy street.  The main entrance, with two pointy towers, ripping the sky above, opens towards a huge empty square, inviting you in. Equal in height with the Hungarian Parliament, at 96 meters, the basilica is one of the two tallest buildings in the capital of Hungary. By making both buildings the same height Hungary wants to send a clear message across: that there is harmony between spiritual and secular thinking in Budapest.

 

The basilica is almost empty. The modest chairs, neatly arranged in equal rows, seem out of place in comparison with the luxurious decorations encrusting the ceilings and walls. The dome, decorated with colourful stained-glass, lightens the heaviness of the building, creating a marvellous space for sun to play. There are sheltered corners that entertain the figures of saints or the paintings of the Holy Family. You might want to light a candle in the name of someone dear to your heart – to highlight the memory and love. Watch the delicate flame dancing with the wind created by passers-by or look at its stillness in the motionless air.

 

I am taking pictures, trying to capture the spirit of this building. I want to be able to show its sublime lines, the perfect dome bringing the heavy building back to the ground. Incredible towers pulling it up. The dirty pink columns surrounding me from every angle, and miraculously  open up hidden passages. Inviting to explore, to get lost, and forget. Time freezes with me here, magically stopped in the stillness of the church, slowly floating in the dark air, like a traveller on a mission. An unbreakable as long as the building sustain, plastered to the ground.

 

Practicalities:

Location: Szt. István tér, district V., M3 (blue line) metro Arany János utca station

Open for tourists: Mon-Fri: 9.00-17.00, Sat: 9.00-13.00, Sun: 13.00-17.00

More information available here

Szent István Bazilika

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