Saturday, 9 July 2011
The most famous cathedral in Budapest is St. Stephen’s, named after Stephen, the first King of Hungary, who lived from 975 to 1038. His mummified fist is housed there, but if you want it bathed in light – which is necessary in order to see it in its cloister – you have to pay 2 Euro.
Incidentally, while we’re on the topic of holy relics like mummified hands, bones, bits of human remains or shrouds that are treated and revered as though they carry some sort of divinity – what the freak? Isn’t one of the tenants of Christianity the abolition of idolatry? There’s a difference between keeping and preserving something because it’s old and has historical value – like a vase – and the way these relics are treated. Not that I mind. Just sayin’.
Along with the Parliament building, St. Stephen’s is one of the tallest buildings in Budapest. It’s not that old – only completed in 1905 – which may account for the fact that of all the cathedrals I’ve seen in Europe or elsewhere, this is – by far – the most ornate. Take a look:
It’s a little disconcerting how richly ornamented and gilded it is on the inside.
To get inside, by the way, the suggested donation is one euro. Which, being poor, and taking the sign at its word, I declined to donate. But when I went to enter this drew some urgent protests from the elderly minder beside the box. And I tried to explain as best I could that a requested donation is,as far as I can tell, completely optional. I wouldn’t object if they said that a one-euro fee was required for entry; that’s their right, of course. I simply wouldn’t enter. And I had no intention of paying on this occasion, either. But my understanding from the sign was that payment was optional, and, as you can see, I was ultimately (though reluctantly) allowed in.