St Stephen’s Basilica

Another stop on the Budapest whirl wind tour is St Stephen’s Basilica.

One of the top ten most photographed buildings in the world it’s named in honour of Stephen, the first King of Hungary.

Apparently his mummified right hand is rather gruesomely still housed in the Basilica’s relic shrine.

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Today, it is the third largest church building in Hungary and is host to one of the most spectacular ceilings I have ever seen! (Brace yourself – it’s going to get fact and photo heavy!!)

Built in a Neo-Classical style the exterior is dominated by two large bell towers. In the southern tower is Hungary’s biggest bell, weighing over nine tonnes.

The north tower houses five bells (presumably to try and compensate for the single, epic bell in the other tower!)

Here’s the ornately carved door to the Basilica and some of the spectacular features inside the cavernous building.

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Here’s looking up into the ornate Cupola in the centre of the Basilica. Resplendent with Biblical imagery, culminating with a fresco of God the Father.

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It took more than five decades and  three architects to build the impressive Basilica. Several unfortunate events delayed the works.

József Hild made the designs in 1845 but construction was delayed due to the 1848/49 Revolution and War of Independence, works finally started in 1851.

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After the death of Hild, Miklós Ybl, took over overseeing the construction.

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In 1868 the dome collapsed, (luckily nobody died). Ybl drew up new plans and building started again almost from scratch. He couldn’t see his work completed, as he died in 1891.

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József Krauser finished St Stephen’s Basilica in 1906.

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Apparently, at the consecration mass Emperor Francis Joseph kept sneaking a peek upwards afraid of another collapse of the dome.

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I am sure you’ll agree that it was worth all the effort though!

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Vatican city, steps and icecream

Off to Vatican City on my non stop tourism quest. Vatican City is the smallest independent state in the world by area, and also the world’s least populated. (Cheers Wikipedia, as always)

First up St Peter’s Square and Basilica. St Peter’s is a late Renaissance church with the largest interior of any Christian church in the world.

Here’s the square. The giant TV screens, as we later discovered, were for broadcasting the Pope to the crowds as he made an appearance! As a result I have been accidentally blessed by the Pope. Cool.

The dome of St. Peter’s rises to a total height of 136.57 metres (448.1 ft) from the floor of the basilica to the top of the external cross. It is the tallest dome in the world and by god did I feel it after climbing to the top.

Here’s the iconic view from the top looking out over the square.

After nearly going blind climbing the hundreds of steps to the top I deserved ice cream, and the Italians do it rather well with Gelatto, a creamy creamy dollop of loveliness, here we are being typically restrained . . .

And here is Mr Caffine Addict himself with one of the million coffees of the holiday.

Vatican Museum, Gallery of Maps and the Sistine Chapel next up folks!!!

Venice Nov 2008

Back through the whirling mists of time now peeps, back to a fantastic break to Venice, the elaborate, gorgeous, decaying, sinking city of canals, mists and gondolas.

We arrived in the dark to find the B and B we had chosen had doubled booked our room and had an alternative for us for one night.

Up and down steps, around back streets, until we arrived at what we termed “The Coffin Room”.

Set below ground level, with no windows and creepy wood panelling, it is, to date, the worst room we have ever slept in (or not, as I was convinced we were going to be kidnapped in the night and sold to American hunters to kill for sport, Hostel style)

Here’s Neil in the creepy room that was so damp the sheets felt wet!!

Not a great start to the Venitian experience it has to be said, but onwards and upwards. The next day we were transfered to our chosen B and B and finally got to see some of the city.

First up obviously was Pizza San Marco (St Marks square), the Basilica, Campanile and the Doges Palace.
St Mark’s Basilica is highly ornate and the most famous of the city’s churches and one of the best known examples of Byzantine architecture.

Here’s part of the facade of St Mark’s basilica. It’s a beautiful 19th century gold mosaic of the Last Judgement.

Here you can see the Doges Palace on the right, its beautifully patterned with red and white. The palace was the residence of the Doge of Venice, the supreme authority of the Republic of Venice.

Here is some more detailing from the ornate facade of the Palace.

Here I am next to the Grand Canal, the water is lapping my feet!!

And next to the Gondola’s parking spaces . . . .

Next up we are nipping onto one of the water taxis (vaporetto) that cruise the Grand canal and the rest of the waterways for a zip around the sights.

Line 1 plies its trade up and down the Grand Canal, sort of the M1 of Venice, where all sorts of waterbourne crafts zoom around. Here we are, gosh we look young!!

The banks of the Grand Canal are lined with more than 170 buildings, most of which date from the 13th to the 18th century and demonstrate the welfare and art created by the Republic of Venice.

Some of the main sights include the Rialto bridge, the Ponte dell’ Accademia and numerous palaces that emerge directly from the water.

Here’s some snaps as we cruised past ornate buildings and tiny hidden gardens and later as we criss crossed little bridges and rambled the back streets.

Lots of ornate windows to be found.

This bizarre thing is advertising where the Bridge of Sighs is being renovated, it’s like a strange car advert / Disneyfied version of it!

Next up Gondolas and the colourful delights of Murano and Burano.