Saturday, August 19, 2006

Budapest: The Holy Hand Grenade of Saint Antioch (or somesuch)

The Holy Right Hand

The highlight of yesterday's packed day of 'being a tourist n Budapest' for me was the visit to St Stephen's Church. The views of the city from the roof are quite stunning. However the visit had its surreal Monty Python and the Holy Grailmoments when we spotted the signs for The Chapel of the Holy Right Hand, featuring a photo of an embalmed, severely shrunken hand, daubed with all kinds of baubles and trinkets.

It turns out that St Stephen introduced Christianity to Hungary in the early 11th century and lost his hand in battle around 1014. The severed hand was discovered and has become a holy relic, with it eventually being returned to Hungary for a second time in 1945.

The Holy Right Hand is returned to Hungary in 1944/1945

The hand, no more than a couple of inches in size, is kept in the most ludicrously over-the-top presentation case and can be viewed by the public, although there are signs all over the place warning of 'no flash' (studiously ignored by one tourist while we were visiting, causing much tut-tutting from the security staff - people are ignorant no matter which country you go to). It seems that St Stephen's ability to perform miracles has not peristed since his death. To actually see the hand a light is needed, and that requires the insertion of a florin (about 27p) into a slot machine. The whole thing feels like something much more ludicrous than the Python's could ever have come up with.

The hand, complete with presentation casket, will apparently be part of the big National Holiday procession tomorrow, so will be leaving its place of rest. Will the little hand be getting a big hand from the public, one wonders? Unfortunately, it's becoming obvious I screwed up our return flight booking very royally since we'll miss the big fireworks display in the evening, and may end up missing much of the Red Bull Air Race too in our desperate attempts to get out of a city where everything grinds to a halt with immoveable crowds for a day. Ho hum!

Holy Right Hand in Presentation Case

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