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The City and The Víziváros Area

saint of the church and there is another statue of him above the main entrance. The mosaics were designed by Hungarian painters and made in Venice by Salviati e Jesorum. The neo-Renaissance ground plan is in the form of a Greek cross. The façade facing busy Bajcsy-Zsilinszky út is not the main one, rather the main one is on Szent István tér on the opposite side. The basilica is a rare example in city planning since during the time it took to build it, the city’s structure changed. When the second plan was made after Hild died, a “second façade” was already needed. Ybl cleverly solved this problem by enriching the walls outside the chancel with an elegant Ionic colonnade and statues of the twelve apostles. The Holy Dexter (Szent Jobb), which is the right hand of St. Stephen, is the most revered relic of the Hungarian Catholic Church. There is a gap in the story of the relic, between the death of the king in 1038 and the first time the relic appeared in 1090, but it is a relatively short one. Empress Maria Theresa received it as a forced gift from the Dominican monks of Raguza (now Dubrovnik) in 1771 in return for some defense against the threat of the Russian fleet of Admiral Orloff. The relic was then brought to Vienna, where the archbishop, the court librarian and the great historian of the day, György Pray, were asked to declare whether it was authentic or not. They decided it was, especially since 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. Drop a coin in the slot, and the relic lights up (if not, the guard gives the case a knock, and behold, it lights up). Every year on August 20, a national holiday celebrating the feast day of St. Stephen, the relic leaves the cathedral to be paraded in a traditional procession. Under the church there is a large cellar where many important city documents and some valuable art treasures survived the last war. The windows of the church overlook Bajcsy-Zsilin­ szky út. In the second half of the 1960s some unknown student elements painted LENIN, MAO, CHE on the windows with large letters. Since they did not have spray cans then, they must have had to carry buckets of paint to the spot. Before the completion of the recent renovation, you could still decipher the fading graffiti on the wall. (After reading these lines, a friend of mine, who is a well-known scholar and critic, called me and claimed responsibility.) The chancel is also worth looking at from the other side of the road, for example from the café on the other side of BajcsyZsilinszky út at the corner of Révay köz. These few metres do make a difference. Or you can look at the basilica again from

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The City and The Víziváros Area

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an unusual angle, while sitting comfortably on the terrace of the small café on the corner of Lázár utca, which often changes owners and names. To read why it is an absolute must to go up to the dome, turn to page 46. Check the website, www.basilica.hu, to see some photos of the collapsed dome. A Nice Block of Flats 9K – M V. Bajcsy-Zsilinszky út 19/a, 19/b, 19/c. ••• In the 1930s modern architecture made a breakthrough in Hungary (for the second time) and the city underwent a construction boom. The aim was to achieve the optimal use of space while creating healthy, cleverly arranged flats. This block is an example of how well this style could be integrated into its surroundings, which were 50 or 100 years older (Jenő Schmitterer, 1940). All three gateways hold their own surprises. The 19/a building has lead glass windows on the ground floor and interesting lamps on the capitals of the columns. The gateway of 19/b has pleasant proportions, and on the ceiling behind the entrance the present tenants have managed to solve the problem of “squaring the circle” (a Hungarian catchphrase: doing something apparently impossible): they added a squareshaped ordinary lamp to the circular design. The third building is the one currently in the best state. It has the best preserved lighting fixtures, and even the mosaic glass has survived, redolent of the atmosphere of the old times. All of the tranquility and elegance of this style is summarized in the stone giant resting on the edge of the roof of the 19/b block. It can only be seen from a distance, so do not forget to look back.

Walk TWO

Walk TWO

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Podmaniczky tér was once occupied by houses, but they were destroyed during the war. The square holds the Arany János utca metro station (M3), and is becoming a new gateway to the city. At the request of the Budapest City Preservation Society, it was named after Baron Frigyes Podmaniczky (1824 – 1907), who was a leading figure in city planning during the second part of the 19th century. His nickname was “the Chequered Baron”, since he loved chequered suits. He loved Budapest so much that he allegedly never left the city, not even for a summer holiday. When he was very old, once he appeared at the city council meeting, and cast a vote – forgetful of the fact that he had retired long ago. Nobody dared to remind him of the fact, but his vote was disregarded. The Most Complex Public Landmark Ever – a Bench and a Clock ••• In the middle of Podmaniczky tér, Baron Frigyes Pod­ ma­n iczky, the doughty 19th century campaigner for new urban projects, holds the statue of Pallas Athene which has become the symbol of Budapest’s conservationists. The original, life-sized version of this Athene statue (now in a museum) has a lance in

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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