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The City and The Víziváros Area

and democratizing them began to obsess him in the early 1980s. In 1984 he set up his foundation in Budapest, which was followed by many more in other countries in Central and Eastern Europe, and even in Central America. This university is said to be the largest single long-term charitable commitment of his anywhere in the world. He hopes it will play a pivotal role in educating the future elites of the region. Soros himself, now over eighty (though he looks considerably younger), often comes to attend the university’s events. The meetings are held on the first floor above the circular entrance hall, which holds the statues that represent the four seasons. Soros still speaks impeccable Hungarian. “Piranesi House” – The Favourite Building of this Book’s Illust­rator V. Zrínyi utca 14. ••• This building was converted to its present form in 1879. It is heavy, bombastic, but still somehow majestic even though it blocks the light, takes up a lot of space, and attempts to impress with its fireworks of forms and shapes (which is enough material for an architecture student to fill two sketchbooks with). It has been illustrator András Felvidéki’s inspiration for several of his works. It reminds him of Piranesi, the great 18th century artist who portrayed Rome in hundreds of etchings. (The Museum of Fine Arts has a huge collection of original Piranesi prints.) Október 6. utca 3. 9I ••• This house with the passageway was built between 1844 and 1845 and has recently been restored. If you include the two small spiral ones hidden at the sides, it has four staircases. The statue in the garden honours Béla Czóbel (1883 – 1976), who was a great post-impressionist painter who once lived in the building and had an atelier that overlooked the inner courtyard. During the daytime the building’s gate is open, unlike the other ones which are carefully closed since they are private property. It reminds one of the Budapest of the 1970s, when all Budapest buildings were accessible. True, the crime rate was much lower then, which was a good side-effect of totalitarianism. Budapest Cathedral: The “Basilica” 9J ••• Located on Szent István tér, St. Stephen’s is the largest church in the city. It can hold 8,500 people and has a 96 metre-high dome. The name, however, may be misleading since strictly speaking, basilica means a church of a totally different shape (it technically is a “basilica minor”). Until 1993 there was no bishop seated here, but when the Archbishop of Esztergom became the Archbishop of Eszter­gom and Budapest, the church could properly be called a cathedral.

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It took so long to build the church that people used to say: “I’ll settle up when the basilica is finished”. Work on the building began in 1851 when Pest was still a small town. The architect, József Hild, died in 1867, and was succeeded by Miklós Ybl, who later designed the Opera House. On examining what he had inherited, Ybl was astonished to find cracks in the walls. He had a fence built around the half-completed church and had watchmen guard it. Eight days latSt Stephen’s Church, the “Basilica” er, at 3 a. m. on January Alpári Gyula utca ALPÁRI GYULA UTCA 22, 1868, the dome collapsed. You can imagine St. Stephen’s Church, how empty the streets the “Basilica” were back then, since a baker’s apprentice was the only eyewitness to the disaster. He gave an eloquent account of what he had seen to the newspaper reporters: “I can see small clumps of stone starting to roll down from the top of the dome. As they are falling slowly downwards, tumbling in the air, a kind of groanlike sigh permeates the air, and the whole dome begins to tilt. First in absolute silence, then with a horrible roar.” More than 300 windows were broken in the area. Inferior building materials were blamed. Ybl drew up new plans and work started again, almost from scratch. But he did not live to see the church finished and decorated, since he died in 1891. In 1906 the internal decoration was finished by József Kauser. Emperor Franz Joseph spoke at the inauguration ceremony and, it was rumoured, cast suspicious glances at the dome, which is 22 metres in diameter. For many years the general opinion was that the Basilica was too gloomy. Since a complete, and wonderfully done, renovation was completed in 2003, many in Budapest have changed their minds. Behind the main altar stands a statue of St. Stephen, King of Hungary, by Alajos Stróbl. St. Stephen (1000 – 1038) is the patron Bajcsy-Zsilinszky út BAJCSY-ZSILINSZKY ÚT

Walk TWO

Walk TWO

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decided it was, all the more so when they scrutinized it Pray found a small piece of old parchment with the following Latin words: Dextera beati Stephani regis et confessoris gloriosi. It can be visited in a chapel to the left of the main altar. You drop a coin in the slot and the relic lights up. If not right away, the guard gives the case a knock, and behold, it does. Every year on 20 August the relic leaves the Cathedral to be carried in the traditional procession. The City and The Víziváros Under the church there is a large cellar; it was here that many of theArea important documents of the city and some valuable art treasures survived the

2011.04.20. 15:49:20

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András Török's Budapest: A Critical Guide  

The Celebrated Insider's Guide, upgraded many times, probably the deepest and funnieast and truest portrait of any major European city. With...

András Török's Budapest: A Critical Guide  

The Celebrated Insider's Guide, upgraded many times, probably the deepest and funnieast and truest portrait of any major European city. With...

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