Sunday, June 24, 2012

Day 3: Heroes' Square & St. Stephen's Basilica

In addition to afternoon and evening concerts, the tour company organized guided tours each morning. On our first full day in Budapest, we were driven up to Heroes' Square (Hősök tere). Built in 1896, it commemorates 1000 years of Hungarian history in statues. (The area was supposedly first settled in 896.) In the center of square, the Angel Gabriel stands aloft on a pillar; beneath him ride seven horsemen, one for each of the founding Magyar tribes. That's the Museum of Fine Arts on the left (above); on the right behind the column you can see one of two curved colonnades whose interstices are occupied by the succession of rulers. Below left is the first figure and the most famous, King Stephen I (r. 1000-1038). Below right is one of the figures atop the semi-circles, Labor (with scythe) and Wealth (with cornucopia). (I note that she is wearing a dress, but he apparently can't afford clothes. Somebody get that worker a union!)

After a quick tour of the square to hear some facts and take some photographs, we piled back on the bus to drive around the City Park and down the boulevard that used to be the swankiest in the capital (Andrássy Avenue). A number of foreign embassies are still located there. 

Next stop: St. Stephen's Basilica, named for the king. He is the patron saint of Hungary, and his saint day (August 20) is still one of three national holidays, as the Communists were not able to stamp out devotion to him during their forty-one-year rule. In fact, Hungarians are so devoted to St. Stephen that while erecting the basilica, they asked the Vatican for a special dispensation to put a statue of him on the main altar, rather than a crucifix. It was granted. In addition, his right hand is preserved in the reliquary.

At 96m (315ft), the Basilica is one of the two tallest buildings in Budapest; the other is the Parliament, completed a few years earlier. No building in the capital is allowed to be taller. The church would have been done much earlier if the first architect hadn't died, leaving unsound plans for the dome. When the second architect couldn't get permission to alter them, construction went ahead. The dome collapsed, just as the replacement architect had predicted. They had to tear it down and start over! The interior is gorgeous, warm with gold and brown and sunlight. Good acoustics, too, despite the bustle of tourists hurrying to the next place. The group had decided beforehand to do a sort of "flashmob" and sing one song from their repertoire, which they did.

1 comment:

  1. Did anyone video the flashmob for YouTube?


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