Senate Square (Senaatintori) presents Carl Ludvig Engel's architecture as a unique allegory of political, religious, scientific and commercial powers in the centre of Helsinki. It has been the centrum of Helsinki since the city was established in 1640. Russians destroyed Helsinki entirely during the Great Northern War (1713-1721).
When the Finland became an autonomous part of Russia in 1812, the capital was moved from Turku to Helsinki. This started a massive construction programme to enhance the cityscape of Helsinki. The responsibility of the new design was given to German architect Carl Ludvig Engel. He decided that all buildings surrounding the old main square should be reconstructed to solid neoclassical ensemble. Many old buildings were demolished including the church of Ulrika Eleonora.
The Palace of the Council of State was completed on the eastern side of the Senate Square in 1822. The main University building, on the opposite side of the Senate Square, was constructed in 1832. The Helsinki Cathedral on the northern edge of the Senate Square was Engel's lengthiest architectural project. He was working on it from 1818 until his death in 1840. The Helsinki Cathedral — then called the Church of St. Nicholas — dominates the Senate Square, and was finalized twelve years afters Engel's death, in 1852.
A statue of Emperor Alexander II is located in the center of the square. The statue, erected in 1894, was built to commemorate his re-establishment the Diet of Finland in 1863, as well as his initiation of several reforms that increased Finland's autonomy from Russia. The statue comprises Alexander on a pedestal surrounded by figures representing the law, culture and the peasants.
Today, the Senate Square is one of the main tourist attractions of Helsinki. Various art happenings, ranging from concerts to snow buildings to controversial snow board happenings, have been set up on the Senate Square. Several buildings near the Senate Square are managed by the government real estate provider, Senate Properties.
St. Stephen"s Basilica is a Roman Catholic basilica named in honour of Stephen, the first King of Hungary (c. 975–1038), whose supposed right hand is housed in the reliquary. It was the sixth largest church building in Hungary before 1920. Today, it is the third largest church building in present-day Hungary.
The basilica was completed in 1905 after 54 years of construction, according to the plans of Miklós Ybl, and was completed by József Kauser. Much of this delay can be attributed to the collapse of the dome in 1868 which required complete demolition of the completed works and rebuilding from the ground up.
The architectural style is Neo-Classical; it has a Greek cross ground plan. The façade is anchored by two large bell towers. In the southern tower is Hungary"s biggest bell, weighing over 9 tonnes. Its predecessor had a weight of almost 8 tonnes, but it was used for military purposes during World War II. Visitors may access the dome by elevators or by climbing 364 stairs for a 360° view overlooking Budapest.
At first, the building was supposed to be named after Saint Leopold, the patron saint of Austria, but the plan was changed in the very last minute, so it became St. Stephen"s Basilica.
The Saint Stephen Basilica has played an active role in the musical community since its consecration in 1905. The head organists of the church have always been very highly regarded musicians. In the past century the Basilica has been home to choral music, classical music as well as contemporary musical performances. The Basilica choir performs often in different parts of Europe as well as at home. In the summer months they perform every Sunday. During these months you can see performances from many distinguished Hungarian and foreign organ players alike.