Hungary’s own tragic Basilica fire in 1947

On June 20, 1947 the iconic dome of St. Stephen’s Basilica in Budapest burned down. The cause of the fire was worker’s negligence during the roof’s renovation. Firefighters desperately tried to save the cupola, but their equipment couldn’t reach the height of the building.

In the surrounding streets thousands of citizens watched with horror the struggle of the firefighters. (Watch the original film clip of the fire here.)

The 1947 basilica fire

Ironically, the Hungarian Communists and their leader, Mr. Mátyás Rákosi, lobbied for immediate government aid and also collected funds. St. Stephen Basilica was soon rebuilt and the dome restored.

St. Stephen Basilica is a Budapest landmark and I was surprised to learn that it is a relatively new structure. Construction started in 1851 based on plans of architect József Hild. After his death in 1867, the celebrated architect of the time, Miklós Ybl continued his work. He died in 1891. Construction continued and following his plans the building was finally completed in 1905.

St. Stephen’s Basilica today.

In 1868 due to “defects in materials and craftsmanship” the dome structure collapsed and construction stopped for years. Miklós Ybl modified the original Hild plans and re-designed the building to its current form. The official dedication ceremony was held on November 9, 1905.

György Lázár

2 Comments

  1. Theodor Hohlbaum says:

    With friends we run to push out the heavy and large pews from under the cupola. It was particularly difficult to push over the heating grilles in the floor with some of the anchoring bolts screaching-scratching the floor.
    It’s not correct that the water didn’t reach the hight – in fact the firebrigade managed to estinguish the fire of the timber cupola, but the cascading water damaged the stonework of the dome which took years to dry out and get repaired. Apart that the Bazilika was our Parish church, my jewish born grandfather Tivadar Feleki (father of actor Kamill) contributed to the then new church, was good friend of Béla Witz (Pál Teleki’s father confessor); my parents wed there; my first communion in 1938……….;

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