One of the quirkier sights in Budapest can be found at St. Stephen’s Basilica on the Pest side of the city. Known as the Holy Right, it is the nearly 1000-year-old mummified right hand of St. Stephen, Hungary’s first king. The holy relic is housed in a miniature gold and glass shrine that resembles the 13th-century Matthias Church located across the River Danube in Buda.
Legend has it that Stephen—who converted the Magyars to Christianity—always kept a bag of gold at hand that he dispersed to the poor. Following his death in 1038, St. Stephen was buried in a small town in central Hungary called Szekesfehervar. Legend again has it that when the sick visited the king’s tomb, they were miraculously healed. By 1083, Pope Gregory VII canonized the king to saint, which entailed exhuming Stephen’s body. It is said that his right forearm and hand was left completely intact, perfectly mummified, which was promptly lopped off and sent to Bihar, were the Magyar tribes first settled in 896. (Today that once-Hungarian land is known as Transylvania and makes up part of Romania.) Over the centuries, wars and invasions that followed, the hand had been moved several times for safekeeping, to Dalmatia (now part of Croatia), then Vienna, and finally to Budapest.
Visitors can see the Holy Right at St. Stephen’s Basilica in the 5th District. It is located in the back of the side chapel and requires a small fee for entrance. Or visit the city on St. Stephen’s Day, which falls on August 20th, and you can see the hand paraded around town with much fanfare for free.