History of Buda Castle

History of Buda Castle

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The history of Buda Castle
Buda Castle
Buda Castle is the historical castle and palace complex of the Hungarian kings in Budapest, first completed in 1265. In the past, it was also called Royal Palace and Royal Castle ....

is marked by periods of building, destruction and rebuilding in connection with the changing fortunes of the city and Hungary
Hungary , officially the Republic of Hungary , is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is situated in the Carpathian Basin and is bordered by Slovakia to the north, Ukraine and Romania to the east, Serbia and Croatia to the south, Slovenia to the southwest and Austria to the west. The...

 itself. The historical castle
Buda Castle
Buda Castle is the historical castle and palace complex of the Hungarian kings in Budapest, first completed in 1265. In the past, it was also called Royal Palace and Royal Castle ....

 and palace complex of the Hungarian kings was established in the 14th century by the Angevin
Capetian House of Anjou
The Capetian House of Anjou, also known as the House of Anjou-Sicily and House of Anjou-Naples, was a royal house and cadet branch of the direct House of Capet. Founded by Charles I of Sicily, a son of Louis VIII of France, the Capetian king first ruled the Kingdom of Sicily during the 13th century...

 rulers of the Kingdom of Hungary
Kingdom of Hungary
The Kingdom of Hungary comprised present-day Hungary, Slovakia and Croatia , Transylvania , Carpatho Ruthenia , Vojvodina , Burgenland , and other smaller territories surrounding present-day Hungary's borders...

. In the past, it was also called Royal Palace and Royal Castle .

Middle Ages

The first royal residence on the Castle Hill was built by King Béla IV of Hungary
Béla IV of Hungary
Béla IV , King of Hungary and of Croatia , duke of Styria 1254–58. One of the most famous kings of Hungary, he distinguished himself through his policy of strengthening of the royal power following the example of his grandfather Bela III, and by the rebuilding Hungary after the catastrophe of the...

 between 1247 and 1265. It remained unsettled whether it was situated on the southern tip of the hill or on the northern elevation near the Kammerhof.
The oldest part of the present-day palace was built in the 14th century by Stephen, Duke of Slavonia
Stephen, Duke of Slavonia
Stephen, Duke of Slavonia was a Hungarian Angevin prince who served as governor of Transylvania, Slavonia, Dalmatia and Croatia during the reign of his brother, King Louis I of Hungary. -Family:...

, the younger brother of King Louis I of Hungary. Only the foundations remained of the keep which was called Stephen's Tower (Hungarian: István-torony). The Gothic
Gothic architecture
Gothic architecture is a style of architecture that flourished during the high and late medieval period. It evolved from Romanesque architecture and was succeeded by Renaissance architecture....

 palace of King Louis I was arranged around a narrow courtyard next to the keep.

King Sigismund
Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor
Sigismund of Luxemburg KG was King of Hungary, of Croatia from 1387 to 1437, of Bohemia from 1419, and Holy Roman Emperor for four years from 1433 until 1437, the last Emperor of the House of Luxemburg. He was also King of Italy from 1431, and of Germany from 1411...

 significantly enlarged the palace. Sigismund, as a Holy Roman Emperor, needed a magnificent royal residence to express his primacy among the rulers of Europe. He chose Buda Castle as his main residence, and during his long reign it became probably the largest Gothic
Gothic architecture
Gothic architecture is a style of architecture that flourished during the high and late medieval period. It evolved from Romanesque architecture and was succeeded by Renaissance architecture....

 palace of the late Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

. Buda was also an important artistic centre of the International Gothic
International Gothic
International Gothic is a phase of Gothic art which developed in Burgundy, Bohemia, France and northern Italy in the late 14th century and early 15th century...


The construction works began in the 1410s and were largely finished in 1420s although some minor works continued until the death of the king.

The most important part of Sigismund's palace was the northern wing, called Fresh Palace (Hun: Friss-palota). On the top floor of it there was one huge hall (70 m x 20 m) with a carved wooden ceiling and great windows and balconies looking to the city of Buda
For detailed information see: History of Buda CastleBuda is the western part of the Hungarian capital Budapest on the west bank of the Danube. The name Buda takes its name from the name of Bleda the Hun ruler, whose name is also Buda in Hungarian.Buda comprises about one-third of Budapest's...

. It was called the Roman Hall. The façade of the palace was decorated with statues and coat-of-arms. The palace was first mentioned in 1437 under the name "fricz palotha"

Sigismund also strengthened the fortifications around the palace. The southern part of the royal residency was surrounded with narrow zwingers. Two parallel walls, the so-called cortina walls run down from the palace to the River Danube
The Danube is a river in the Central Europe and the Europe's second longest river after the Volga. It is classified as an international waterway....

 across the steep hillside. The most imposing structure, the famous Broken Tower (Hun: Csonka-torony), on the western side of the cour d'honneur remained unfinished. The basement of the tower was used as a prison, the top floors were probably the treasury of the royal jewels.

In front of the palace stood the bronze equestrian statue of Sigismund, later repaired by King Matthias Corvinus.

The last phase of grand-scale building activity happened under King Matthias Corvinus). During the first decades of his reign the king carried on and finished the works on the Gothic palace. The Royal Chapel - with the surviving Lower Church
Palace Chapel (Buda Castle)
The medieval Palace Chapel in Buda Castle was built in the 15th century by King Sigismund Luxemburg as the lower chapel of the former Castle Church. The Gothic chapel, which survived the destruction of the 1686 siege, was buried under a Baroque terrace for centuries...

 - was probably built that time.

After the marriage of Matthias and Beatrice of Naples
Beatrice of Naples
Beatrice of Naples was the daughter of Ferdinand I of Naples and Isabella of Taranto. She was queen consort to both Matthias Corvinus of Hungary and Vladislaus II of Bohemia and Hungary so she was Queen of Hungary and Bohemia.-Biography:Beatrice received a good education at her father's court in...

 in 1476, Italian humanists, artists and craftsmen arrived at Buda. The Hungarian capital became the first centre of Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

 north of the Alps
The Alps is one of the great mountain range systems of Europe, stretching from Austria and Slovenia in the east through Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Germany to France in the west....

. The king rebuilt the palace in early Renaissance style. The cour d'honneur was modernized and an Italian loggia was added. Inside the palace there were two rooms with a golden ceiling, the famous Bibliotheca Corviniana
Bibliotheca Corviniana
Bibliotheca Corviniana was one of the most renowned libraries of the Renaissance world, established by Matthias Corvinus, King of Hungary and Croatia between 1458 and 1490.-History:...

 and a passage with the frescoes of the 12 signs of the Zodiac
In astronomy, the zodiac is a circle of twelve 30° divisions of celestial longitude which are centred upon the ecliptic: the apparent path of the Sun across the celestial sphere over the course of the year...

. The façade of the palace was decorated with the statues of John Hunyadi
John Hunyadi
John Hunyadi John Hunyadi (Hungarian: Hunyadi János , Medieval Latin: Ioannes Corvinus or Ioannes de Hunyad, Romanian: Iancu (Ioan) de Hunedoara, Croatian: Janko Hunjadi, Serbian: Сибињанин Јанко / Sibinjanin Janko, Slovak: Ján Huňady) John Hunyadi (Hungarian: Hunyadi János , Medieval Latin: ...

, László Hunyadi
László Hunyadi
Ladislaus Hunyadi or László Hunyadi was a Hungarian statesman.Ladislaus Hunyadi was the elder of the two sons of John Hunyadi, voivode of Transylvania and later regent of the Kingdom of Hungary, and Elizabeth Szilágyi. He was the older brother of Matthias Hunyadi, who would later became the king...

 and King Matthias. In the middle of the court there was a fountain with the statue of Pallas Athene.

Only fragments remained of this Renaissance palace: red marble balustrads, lintels, decorative glazed tiles of stoves and floors.

In the last years of his reign Matthias Corvinus began to build a new Renaissance palace on the eastern side of the Sigismund Courtyard, next to the Fresh Palace. The Matthias Palace remained unfinished because of the early death of the king. It is known from written sources that it had a monumental red marble stairway in front of the façade. The bronze gates were decorated with panels depicting the deeds of Hercules. Matthias Corvinus was usually identified with Hercules
Hercules is the Roman name for Greek demigod Heracles, son of Zeus , and the mortal Alcmene...

 by the humanists of his court. A great bronze statue of the Greek hero welcomed the guests in the forecourt of the palace complex where jousts were held.

The walled gardens of the palace were laid out on the western slopes of the Castle Hill. In the middle of the enclosure a Renaissance villa was built by Matthias. Only one column survived of this so-called Aula Marmorea.

After the death of Matthias Corvinus his successor, King Vladislaus II
Vladislaus II of Bohemia and Hungary
Vladislaus II, also known as Ladislaus Jagiellon ; was King of Bohemia from 1471 and King of Hungary from 1490 until his death in 1516...

 carried on the works of the Matthias Palace, especially after his marriage with Anna of Foix-Candale
Anna of Foix-Candale
Anna of Foix-Candale was a Queen consort of Hungary as the third consort of King Vladislaus II of Bohemia and Hungary.-Life:Anne was the daughter of Gaston of Foix, Count of Candale, and Infanta Catherine of Navarre...

 in 1502.

Ottoman Era

After the Battle of Mohács
Battle of Mohács
The Battle of Mohács was fought on August 29, 1526 near Mohács, Hungary. In the battle, forces of the Kingdom of Hungary led by King Louis II of Hungary and Bohemia were defeated by forces of the Ottoman Empire led by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent....

 the medieval Kingdom of Hungary
Kingdom of Hungary
The Kingdom of Hungary comprised present-day Hungary, Slovakia and Croatia , Transylvania , Carpatho Ruthenia , Vojvodina , Burgenland , and other smaller territories surrounding present-day Hungary's borders...

 collapsed. The Ottoman
Ottoman Turks
The Ottoman Turks were the Turkish-speaking population of the Ottoman Empire who formed the base of the state's military and ruling classes. Reliable information about the early history of Ottoman Turks is scarce, but they take their Turkish name, Osmanlı , from the house of Osman I The Ottoman...

 army occupied the evacuated town on 11 September 1526. Although Buda was sacked and burned, the Royal Palace wasn't damaged. Sultan Süleyman I carried away all the bronze statues (the Hunyadis, Pallas Athene and Hercules) with him to Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

. The statues were destroyed there in a rebellion a few years later. The Sultan also got hold of many volumes from the famous Corvina library.

In 1529 the Ottoman army besieged and occupied Buda again. The palace was badly damaged that time. Under the reign of King John Zápolya
John Zápolya
John Zápolya was King of Hungary from 1526 to 1540. His rule was disputed by Archduke Ferdinand I, who also claimed the title King of Hungary between 1526 and 1540. He was the voivode of Transylvania before his coronation.- Biography :...

), the last national ruler of Hungary, the palace was repaired last time. On the southern tip of the Castle Hill the Great Rondella was built by Italian military engineers. The circular bastion is the most imposing surviving structure of the old palace.

On 29 August 1541 Buda was occupied again by the Ottomans without any resistance. The Hungarian capital became part of Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 as the seat of the Eyalet
Eyalets were a former primary administrative division of the Ottoman Empire. The term is sometimes translated province or government. Depending on the rank of their commander, they are also sometimes known as pashaliks, beylerbeyliks, and kapudanliks.From 1453 to the beginning of the nineteenth...

 of Budin.

Although Turkish travel writers wrote enthusiastically about the beauty of the palace of the Hungarian kings, the new Ottoman government left the palace decaying. It was partially used as barracks, storage place and stables, otherwise it stood empty.

The palace was called Iç Kala ("Inner Castle") and Hisar Peçe ("Citadel") by the Turks. The name of the cour d'honneur was Seray meydani. The favourite nickname of the complex was "Palace of the Golden Apples".

In the era between 1541 and 1686 the Habsburg
The House of Habsburg , also found as Hapsburg, and also known as House of Austria is one of the most important royal houses of Europe and is best known for being an origin of all of the formally elected Holy Roman Emperors between 1438 and 1740, as well as rulers of the Austrian Empire and...

s tried to re-capture Buda several times. Unsuccessful sieges in 1542, 1598, 1603 and 1684 caused serious damage. The Ottoman
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 authorities repaired only the fortifications.

According to 17th century sources many buildings of the former Royal Palace were roofless and their vaults collapsed. Nonetheless the medieval palace by-and-large survived until the great siege of 1686.

Destruction of the medieval palace

The medieval palace was destroyed in the great siege of 1686
Battle of Buda (1686)
The Battle of Buda was fought between the Holy League and Ottoman Turkey, as part of the follow-up campaign in Hungary after the Battle of Vienna...

 when Buda was captured by the allied Christian forces. In the heavy artillery bombardment many buildings collapsed and burned out. The Stephen's Tower, used as a pulver tower by the Ottomans, exploded. According to contemporary sources, the giant explosion killed 1500 Turkish soldiers, and caused a tidal wave on the Danube that washed away standing guards and even artillery batteries on the opposite shore. It was caused by a single cannon shot by a friar called Gábor, also referred as Tüzes Gábor i.e. "Gabriel Fiery".

Habsburg military engineers made several plans and drawings about the buildings in the next decades. Although the walls mainly survived, the burned out shell was rapidly decaying because of the lack of basic maintenance. In the decade between 1702 and 1715 the Stephen's Tower totally disappeared, and the palace went beyond repair.

In 1715 King Charles III
Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor
Charles VI was the penultimate Habsburg sovereign of the Habsburg Empire. He succeeded his elder brother, Joseph I, as Holy Roman Emperor, King of Bohemia , Hungary and Croatia , Archduke of Austria, etc., in 1711...

 ordered the demolition of the ruins. Johann Hölbling surveyed the still existing structures. According to the order of the king the surviving marble statues, antiquities, inscriptions and coins were spared (there is no evidence about the realization of the royal decree). The main part of the palace and the Broken Tower were totally demolished, the hollows and moats were filled, and a new flat terrace was established. Luckily the southern fortifications, zwingers and rooms were only buried under tons of rubbish and earth.

Early Baroque palace

In 1715 a small Baroque
Baroque architecture
Baroque architecture is a term used to describe the building style of the Baroque era, begun in late sixteenth century Italy, that took the Roman vocabulary of Renaissance architecture and used it in a new rhetorical and theatrical fashion, often to express the triumph of the Catholic Church and...

 palace was built according to the plans of Johann Hölbling. This very simple rectangular building had an inner court and a shorter side wing which was later demolished. The Hölbling palace is identical with the core of the present-day palace i.e. the Baroque Court of the Budapest Historical Museum.

The inside of palace was left unfinished and in 1719 building works stopped. The Hofkriegsrat
The Hofkriegsrat was the Court Council of War of the Habsburg Monarchy. Founded in 1556 in the reign of Emperor Ferdinand I, it was a council of men with military experience who could take charge of the army and its needs, in both war and peacetime...

 commissioned Fortunato di Prati to make several plans for the palace but lack of money hindered their implementation.

In 1723 the palace accidentally burned down, and their windows were walled up to stop further deterioration of the building. Several drawings from the 1730s and 1740s show the unfinished, decaying shell of the simple two-storeys blockhouse. Some engravings show an idealized, finished version which never existed. Some time around 1730 the roof was repaired.

Era of Maria Theresa

In 1748 Count Antal Grassalkovich, President of the Hungarian Chamber appealed to the public to finish the derelict palace by means of public subscription. Palatine János Pálffy also called upon the counties and the cities to grant for the project. The moment was favourable because relations between the Hungarian nobility and the Habsburgs were exceptionally good. Hungarians supported Queen Maria Therese
Maria Theresa of Austria
Maria Theresa Walburga Amalia Christina was the only female ruler of the Habsburg dominions and the last of the House of Habsburg. She was the sovereign of Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Bohemia, Mantua, Milan, Lodomeria and Galicia, the Austrian Netherlands and Parma...

 in the dire need of the War of the Austrian Succession
War of the Austrian Succession
The War of the Austrian Succession  – including King George's War in North America, the Anglo-Spanish War of Jenkins' Ear, and two of the three Silesian wars – involved most of the powers of Europe over the question of Maria Theresa's succession to the realms of the House of Habsburg.The...

. The Queen was grateful, and the new Royal Palace became the symbol of peace and friendship between the dynasty and the nation.

The plans of the splendid, U-shaped Baroque palace with a cour d'honneur
Cour d'Honneur
Cour d'Honneur is the architectural term for defining a three-sided courtyard, created when the main central block, or corps de logis, is flanked by symmetrical advancing secondary wings, containing minor rooms...

 were drawn by Jean Nicolas Jadot, chief architect of the Viennese court. After 1753 the plans were modified by his successor, Nicolaus Pacassi. Ignác Oraschek, master builder, who guided the works between, also modified the plans according to his own ideas. The foundation stone of the palace was laid on 13 May 1749, the birthday of the Queen. The works continued in a good pace until 1758 when financial difficulties caused a seven-year break. By that time only the interiors were left unfinished.

According to surviving historical documents the layout of the palace followed the signed plans of Jadot from 1749. The façades, some interior elements and the St. Sigismund Chapel are the works of Pacassi, while the special double false domes were probably planned by Oraschek, formerly the master builder of Count Grassalkovich. Double false domes were typical features of the so-called Grassalkovich-type Baroque castles like Gödöllő
Gödöllő is a town situated in Pest county, Budapest metropolitan area, Hungary, about northeast from the outskirts of Budapest. Its population is about 31,000 according to the 2001 census. It can be easily reached from Budapest with the suburban railway . Gödöllő is home to the Szent István...

. This special feature was later removed from the palace.

In 1764 the Queen visited the palace and allowed the spending of 20,000 thalers a year for the purpose. The work was recommenced in 1765 according to the plans of Franz Anton Hillebrandt. Hillebrand altered the cour d'honneur façade of the central wing in Rococo
Rococo , also referred to as "Late Baroque", is an 18th-century style which developed as Baroque artists gave up their symmetry and became increasingly ornate, florid, and playful...

 style. In 1769 the St. Sigismund Chapel was consecrated, and in the same year the palace was finished. According to the aggregate statement of Grassalkovich the costs were 402,679 forints.

Nuns and scholars

The future function of the complex was still uncertain. It was obvious that the Queen has no intention to use it as a royal residence because she hasn't spent much time in Buda. In 1769 Maria Theresa gave one wing to the Sisters of Loreto
Sisters of Loreto
The Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, more commonly known as the Loreto Sisters , is a women's Catholic religious order founded by an Englishwoman, Mary Ward, in 1609 at Saint-Omer in northern France...

 from Sankt Pölten
Sankt Pölten
Sankt Pölten is the capital city of the State of Lower Austria in northeast Austria. With inhabitants , it is Lower Austria's largest city...

 known as Englische Fräulein or angolkisasszonyok. The building was officially handed over on 13 May 1770 but the splendid Baroque rooms were absolutely unsuitable for a nunnery. In 1777 the Queen decided that the University of Nagyszombat should move to Buda.

The nuns moved out and the palace was hastily adapted to its educational purpose. The works were guided by Farkas Kempelen. New classrooms, teacher's cabinets, museums, library and a university press was built. In the frontal false dome was removed to erect instead a four-stories observatory tower, planned by Hillebrandt or Karl Georg Zillack.

The ribbon cutting ceremony of the university was held on 25 June 1780, the 40th anniversary of the coronation of the Queen. The throne room became a splendid aula decorated with frescoes depicting the four faculties. In 1953 two grisaille
Grisaille is a term for painting executed entirely in monochrome or near-monochrome, usually in shades of grey. It is particularly used in large decorative schemes in imitation of sculpture. Many grisailles in fact include a slightly wider colour range, like the Andrea del Sarto fresco...

 fresco was discovered on the shorter sides of the room.

In 1778 Hillebrandt built a new chapel for the Holy Right of Saint Stephen of Hungary, the mummified right hand of the first Hungarian king, recovered by Queen Maria Therese from the Republic of Ragusa
Republic of Ragusa
The Republic of Ragusa or Republic of Dubrovnik was a maritime republic centered on the city of Dubrovnik in Dalmatia , that existed from 1358 to 1808...

 in 1771. The Chapel of the Holy Right was sitatuated near the St Sigismund Chapel, in the middle of an inner court. Its outside form was octagonal, the inside oval and was crowned by a dome. The altar-piece was painted by Joseph Hauzinger.

Residence of the Palatines

Functional problems of the university remained basically unresolved, so in 1783 the faculties were moved to Pest. In 1791 the palace became the residence of the new Habsburg Palatine of the Kingdom of Hungary
Kingdom of Hungary
The Kingdom of Hungary comprised present-day Hungary, Slovakia and Croatia , Transylvania , Carpatho Ruthenia , Vojvodina , Burgenland , and other smaller territories surrounding present-day Hungary's borders...

, Archduke Alexander Leopold. After the early death of the palatine in 1795, his younger brother Archduke Joseph succeeded him. The last palatine of Hungary was Archduke Stephen between 1847 and 1848. The palatinal court in Buda Castle was the centre of fashionable life and high society in the Hungarian capital.

In 1810 the palatinal palace was damaged by a fire. In the next decades many plans were made to raise the building with an upper storey but they weren't executed, although the observatory tower, which hindered the works, was removed in. In 1838 the crypt of the St. Sigismund Chapel was rebuilt according to the plans of Franz Hüppmann. The Palatinal Crypt was the burial place of Palatine Joseph and his family. The crypt is the only part of the palace that survived the destruction of the Second World War.

Palatine Joseph established gardens on the southern and eastern hillsides of the Castle Hill according to the plans of Antal Tost. The gardens of Buda Castle were among the most famous English-style landscape garden
Landscape garden
The term landscape garden is often used to describe the English garden design style characteristic of the eighteenth century, that swept the Continent replacing the formal Renaissance garden and Garden à la française models. The work of Lancelot 'Capability' Brown is particularly influential.The...

s in Hungary.

Palatine Stephen finally left the palace on 23 September 1848 when the break between the liberal Hungarian government and the dynasty became inevitable.

On 5 January Buda was occupied by the Austrian army led by Alfred I, Prince of Windisch-Grätz. The chief commander lodged in the royal palace.

On 4 May 1849 Artúr Görgey
Artúr Görgey
----Artúr Görgey de Görgő et Toporcz was a Hungarian military leader.He was born at Toporz in Upper Hungary of a Hungarian noble family of originally Zipser German descent who immigrated to Upper Hungary during the reign of king Géza II . During the reformation they were converted to Protestantism...

's Hungarian army laid siege on Buda Castle
Battle of Buda (1849)
The Battle of Buda was a battle at Buda, Kingdom of Hungary during the Hungarian Revolution of 1848. It was part of the Spring Campaign between 4 and 21 May 1849 and ended with Hungarian victory.- Castle :...

, defended by General Heinrich Hentzi
Heinrich Hentzi
Heinrich Hentzi von Arthurm was a Hungarian general in the army of the Austrian Empire. He was famous for his refusal to defect to the Hungarian rebels during the Battle of Buda in 1849, defending Buda city and castle on behalf of the Austrian Habsburgs.Born in Debrecen, Hentzi's military...

. On 20 May the Hungarians captured Buda with a great assault. The palace was the last stronghold of the Austrian troops and became a site of heavy artillery fighting. The ensuing fire consumed the central and southern wings that completely burned out and their interiors were destroyed.

Era of Franz Joseph

The palace was soon rebuilt between 1850 and 1856 by Josef Weiss and Carl Neuwirth. The 13-axis central wing was raised with a third storey and a very squat attic-tower. The central risalit
A risalit, from the Italian risalto for "projection", is a German term which refers to a part of a building that juts out, usually over the full height of the building. In English the French term avant-corps is sometimes used. It is common in façades in the baroque period.A corner risalit is where...

 was decorated with a balcony of six colossal columns. With these changes the former Viennese Baroque palace of Maria Theresa became a more austere Neoclassical Baroque
Neoclassical architecture
Neoclassical architecture was an architectural style produced by the neoclassical movement that began in the mid-18th century, manifested both in its details as a reaction against the Rococo style of naturalistic ornament, and in its architectural formulas as an outgrowth of some classicizing...


The ballroom was redecorated with marbles and stuccoes. After 1853 stately rooms were designed in French Rococo
Rococo , also referred to as "Late Baroque", is an 18th-century style which developed as Baroque artists gave up their symmetry and became increasingly ornate, florid, and playful...

 style with white-gold stuccoes and furniture from the Hofburg.

That time the palace was already too small for the needs of the royal court, so the kitchens and service rooms were housed in the neighbouring Zeughaus. The palace was connected with the Zeughaus with a glassed-in passageway.

On the western side of the cour d'honneur two smaller buildings were erected by the plans of Weiss and Neuwirth in 1854. The two-storeys Stöckl housed the apartments of the Archdukes and imperial officials. The Wachlokal was built for the royal guards.

Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria
Franz Joseph I of Austria
Franz Joseph I or Francis Joseph I was Emperor of Austria, King of Bohemia, King of Croatia, Apostolic King of Hungary, King of Galicia and Lodomeria and Grand Duke of Cracow from 1848 until his death in 1916.In the December of 1848, Emperor Ferdinand I of Austria abdicated the throne as part of...

 visited Buda Castle in 1856 and 1857. Later in 1867 after the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867 Franz Joseph was crowned to the king of Hungary. The palace played an important part in the lavish ceremony, symbolizing peace between the dynasty and the nation.

In the last decades of the 19th century Budapest experienced rapid economic development. Ambitious urban planning
Urban planning
Urban planning incorporates areas such as economics, design, ecology, sociology, geography, law, political science, and statistics to guide and ensure the orderly development of settlements and communities....

 projects were carried out to express the growing wealth and higher status of the Hungarian capital. Among these projects special attention was paid to the rebuilding of Buda Castle. The autonomous Hungarian government intended to create a royal palace that matches any famous European royal residence (especially the old rival, Vienna
Vienna is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Austria and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.723 million , and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre...

's Hofburg). The process of rebuilding lasted about forty years between 1875 and 1912, and caused sweeping changes in topography of the whole area.

At first the Várkert-bazár (Royal Garden Pavilion) was built on the embankment of the Danube
The Danube is a river in the Central Europe and the Europe's second longest river after the Volga. It is classified as an international waterway....

, at the foot of the Castle Hill, between 1875 and 1882. This splendid Neo-Renaissance
Renaissance Revival is an all-encompassing designation that covers many 19th century architectural revival styles which were neither Grecian nor Gothic but which instead drew inspiration from a wide range of classicizing Italian modes...

 gateway was designed by Miklós Ybl
Miklós Ybl
Miklós Ybl was one of Europe's leading architects in the mid to late nineteenth century as well as Hungary's most influential architect during his career...

, the most famous Hungarian architect of the period. The structure was an open business arcade with pavilions, stairways and ramps and two blocks of flat. Ybl also built a new waterworks pumping station, called Várkert-kioszk (Royal Garden Kiosk) and two stair towers standing against the medieval cortina walls. The southern one followed French Renaissance style, resembling a small turreted castle, while the northern one was similar to a Gothic brick-donjon. Only Várkert-bazár and Várkert-kioszk survived the destruction of the 20th century of these works.
In 1882 Prime Minister Kálmán Tisza
Kálmán Tisza
Kálmán Tisza de Borosjenő was the Hungarian prime minister between 1875 and 1890. He is credited for the formation of a consolidated Magyar government, the foundation of the new Liberal Party and major economic reforms that would both save and eventually lead to a government with popular...

 charged Ybl with drawing a masterplan for rebuilding the palace. In his 1885 masterplan Ybl preserved the old Baroque palace but mirrored it on the western side of the cour d'honneur, doubling the size of the residence. He also planned a new carriageway on the western hillside demolishing the medieval walls and towers of the Újvilág-kert terrace. The main problem was caused by the narrowness of the natural plateau of the Castle Hill because there wasn't enough space for the new Krisztinaváros wing (so called after the neighbouring city district). Ybl solved the problem with erecting a huge substructure that goes down to the foot of the hill. The monumental western façade sits on this windowless, three-storeys high substructure so the whole palace is making up a towering, 6+3-storeys high block almost absorbing the whole hill. On the other hand the main façade on the cour d'honneur has only the same modest height as the Baroque palace. The whole façade was clad with stone slabs while the old parts are stuccoed so the difference between the original Baroque and the Neo-Renaissance wings is obvious. The formerly open cour d'honneur became a closed court with a splendid, arched gateway guarded by the four lions of sculptor János Fadrusz
János Fadrusz
János Fadrusz was a Hungarian sculptor. He was a celebrated artist of the age with many important public commission.-Early life:...

. The court is called Lions Court (Oroszlános udvar).

The works began on 1 May 1890 but Ybl died on 22 January 1891. His successor, Alajos Hauszmann
Alajos Hauszmann
Hauszmann Alajos was an Austro-Hungarian architect, professor, and member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.-Life:...

 only slightly modified the plans of the Krisztinaváros wing. In 1896 the building reached the level of the court and King Franz Joseph ceremoniously laid down the foundation stone of the palace that was soon completed.

In 1893 the 25 years jubilee of King Franz Joseph's coronation was celebrated in the Royal Palace. The old banqueting hall proved to be too small so Hauszmann enlarged the room with knocking down and reconstructing the wall towards the cour d'honneur (the one with the Hillebrandt façade).

In spite of this and Ybl's new wing the palace was still deemed insufficient for great royal celebrations so another new construction began. The north wing, standing on the site of the old Zeughaus, was completely designed by Hauszmann. The architect doubled the Baroque palace on the Danube side, generally imitating its traditional architectural style. At the meeting point of the old and the new wings a huge colonnaded portico was erected with a lavishly decorated tympanum
Tympanum (architecture)
In architecture, a tympanum is the semi-circular or triangular decorative wall surface over an entrance, bounded by a lintel and arch. It often contains sculpture or other imagery or ornaments. Most architectural styles include this element....

 (allegorical statues by Károly Sennyey) and a flight of steps called the Habsburg steps. The whole palace was crowned with a dome and a copy of the Crown of St. Stephen
Crown of St. Stephen
The Holy Crown of Hungary , also known as the Crown of Saint Stephen, was the coronation crown used by the Kingdom of Hungary for most of its existence.The Crown was bound to the Lands of the Crown of Saint Stephen, The Holy Crown of Hungary (Hungarian: Magyar Szent Korona, German: Stephanskrone,...

 on its top. The dome shows German Jugendstil influences like other details of the north wing, for example the rear façade towards the western forecourt. This forecourt was decorated with the famous Matthias Fountain
Matthias Fountain
Matthias Fountain is a monumental fountain group in the western forecourt of Buda Castle, Budapest. Alajos Stróbl’s Neo-Baroque work is one of the most frequently photographed objects in the Hungarian capital. It is sometimes called the ’Trevi Fountain of Budapest’.-Description:The group depicts a...

(Hungarian: Mátyás kútja), a work of sculptor Alajos Stróbl
Alajos Stróbl
Alajos Stróbl was a Hungarian sculptor and artist. His work can be best characterized with sensitive realistic modelling and he became one of the most renowned sculptors of memorials in Hungary at the turn of the 20th century....

. Above the main gate towards Szent György tér stood the statue of Goddess Hungaria. This side was the main façade of the complex although it was much shorter and less characteristic than the long Danube façade. The old Chapel of the Holy Right was knocked down for the sake of a carriageway.
Hauszmann also designed a new Riding School in the former Újvilág terrace that was now called Csikós court after the Csikós statue of György Vastagh (now in the western forecourt). Before the middle of the long Danube façade another equestrian statue was erected in honour of Prince Eugene of Savoy
Prince Eugene of Savoy
Prince Eugene of Savoy , was one of the most successful military commanders in modern European history, rising to the highest offices of state at the Imperial court in Vienna. Born in Paris to aristocratic Italian parents, Eugene grew up around the French court of King Louis XIV...

, the victorious leader of the Habsburg army in the Battle of Zenta
Battle of Zenta
The Battle of Zenta or Battle of Senta, fought on 11 September 1697 just south of Zenta , on the east side of the Tisza river, was a major engagement in the Great Turkish War and one of the most decisive defeats in Ottoman history...

. The eastern forecourt was closed off with a lavish wrought iron rail. Two flights of steps lead up to the Szent György tér, laying on much higher ground. The rail ended in a pillar crowned by a monumental statue of the legendary Turul
The Turul is the most important bird in the origin myth of the Magyars .It is a divine messenger, and perches on top of the tree of life along with the other spirits of unborn children in the form of birds...

, the sacred bird of the Magyars, spreading its wings above Budapest.

In the western forecourt Hauszmann designed a new neo-Baroque Guardhouse and rebuilt the old Royal Stables. The Royal Gardens on the southern hillside were famous about their precious plants, glasshouses and picturesque terraces. In the middle of the gardens stood the Swiss House of Queen Elisabeth furnished with Hungarian folk art objects. The house was built above the ruins of the medieval Gatehouse partly making them use.

The inside of the whole palace complex was decorated and furnished exclusively with works of the leading Hungarian artists of the age. The Royal Palace was officially inaugurated in 1912. Contemporary critics praised it as the most outstanding Hungarian building of the turn of the century. Indeed it was a magnificent Gesamtkunstwerk
A Gesamtkunstwerk is a work of art that makes use of all or many art forms or strives to do so...

 of architecture, sculpture, applied arts and gardening.

Interwar years and siege

The Hauszmann palace existed for only three decades. On 30 December 1916 the building played a part in the coronation ceremony of the last Hungarian king, Charles IV. After the 1918 revolution and the dethronization of the Habsburg dynasty the Royal Palace became the seat of the new regent of the Kingdom of Hungary, Miklós Horthy
Miklós Horthy
Miklós Horthy de Nagybánya was the Regent of the Kingdom of Hungary during the interwar years and throughout most of World War II, serving from 1 March 1920 to 15 October 1944. Horthy was styled "His Serene Highness the Regent of the Kingdom of Hungary" .Admiral Horthy was an officer of the...

. Horthy lived in the Krisztinaváros wing with his family between 1920 and 1944. In this era the palace was the centre of Hungarian political and social life. The garden parties of the regent were especially fabulous events. Famous guests entertained by Horthy in the palace were King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy
Victor Emmanuel III of Italy
Victor Emmanuel III was a member of the House of Savoy and King of Italy . In addition, he claimed the crowns of Ethiopia and Albania and claimed the titles Emperor of Ethiopia and King of Albania , which were unrecognised by the Great Powers...

 in 1937 and Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli (later Pope Pius XII
Pope Pius XII
The Venerable Pope Pius XII , born Eugenio Maria Giuseppe Giovanni Pacelli , reigned as Pope, head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of Vatican City State, from 2 March 1939 until his death in 1958....

) in 1938.

On 15 October 1944 Horthy made an attempt to get out of the war. Next day a German commando led by Otto Skorzeny
Otto Skorzeny
Otto Skorzeny was an SS-Obersturmbannführer in the German Waffen-SS during World War II. After fighting on the Eastern Front, he was chosen as the field commander to carry out the rescue mission that freed the deposed Italian dictator Benito Mussolini from captivity...

 occupied the Royal Palace and forced the regent to abdicate.

Buda Castle was the last major strongpoint of Budapest held by Axis forces (Germans and Hungarians) during the siege of Budapest
Battle of Budapest
The Siege of Budapest centered on the Hungarian capital city of Budapest. It was fought towards the end of World War II in Europe, during the Soviet Budapest Offensive. The siege started when Budapest, defended by Hungarian and German troops, was first encircled on 29 December 1944 by the Red Army...

 between 29 December 1944 and 13 February 1945. The defenders of the castle finally attempted to break the Soviet blockade on 11 February, but utterly failed, leaving 90% of the soldiers dead on the sidestreets of Buda. Allegedly the Russians knew about their plans and aimed heavy weapons at the possible escape routes hours earlier. This is considered one of the biggest military catastrophes of Hungarian history.

Heavy fights and artillery fire rendered the palace once again into a heap of ruins. All the furniture disappeared, roofs and vaults collapsed and the southern and western wings burned out. The destruction was only comparable to that of the great siege of 1686.


Immediately after the war archeological research was begun to unearth the remains of the medieval castle
Medieval Royal Palace (Buda Castle)
The Medieval Royal Palace of Buda Castle is a series of rooms from the old palace of the Hungarian kings, destroyed after 1686. Some rooms were unearthed and reconstructed during the postwar rebuilding of Buda Castle in 1958-62...

. The research, led by László Gerő (1946–1966) and László Zolnay (1967–1979), was probably the biggest castle-excavation in Europe. The former Royal Gardens with their turn-of-the-century stairways, pavilions and glass houses had to be sacrificed but the results compensated for the loss. It came out that important parts of the former Sigismund and Matthias palace survived under the thick level of earth fill.
The first reconstruction plan of the medieval remains was written by László Gerő in 1950 and finalized in 1952. The reconstruction works were finished in 1966. Contrary to the generally accepted principles of historic reconstruction the medieval fortification system was rebuilt in its entirety. Important elements like the 16th century Great Rondella and the medieval Gatehouse, the Mace Tower, the walls and the zwingers were reconstructed according to the results of the archeological research and contemporary pictorial evidence. The low-lying southern wing of the Gothic palace was also reconstructed together with the vaulted Gothic Hall and the Lower Church
Palace Chapel (Buda Castle)
The medieval Palace Chapel in Buda Castle was built in the 15th century by King Sigismund Luxemburg as the lower chapel of the former Castle Church. The Gothic chapel, which survived the destruction of the 1686 siege, was buried under a Baroque terrace for centuries...

 of the former Royal Chapel. Medieval style gardens were planted in the zwingers. The foundation of the Stephen's Tower was also unearthed but lacking enough archeological evidence the tower was not reconstructed. The remains of the Broken Tower were covered again.

The grand-scale reconstruction of the medieval fortifications substantially changed the cityscape of Budapest. At the time it was considered a highly successful project which managed to reconcile historical authenticity with urban planning demands.

In the 1970s archeological research continued on the northern and western side of the palace, led by László Zolnay. It produced many important achievements, including the famous Late Gothic Buda Castle Statues. On the other hand the more conservative methods in reconstruction did not produce such harmonious results like Gerő's more innovative approach a decade before. The remains were only conserved except the so-called Karakash Pasha Tower in the Újvilág Garden. The Turkish era tower was only demolished in the end of the 19th century. Photographical evidences made possible its reconstruction but the new tower is only modern copy of the original and the details are not authentic.


The fate of the ruined Neo-Baroque palace was different. In the first years after the war nothing happened. The government made a decision about the reconstruction only in 1948. According to contemporary photos all the important interiors were in a damaged state but their reconstruction was technically possible. The new Communist government of Hungary considered the Royal Palace a symbol of the former regime similarly than GDR leaders who ordered the demolition of the Berlin Stadtschloss. Hungarian leaders were not so radical - they chose "only" the thorough modernizaton of the interior and exterior of the palace. Architectural trends also played a part in the decision because modernist architects of the era condemned Hauszmann style as "too ornate".

The first modernist reconstruction plan was made by architect István Janáky in 1950. The controversial concept was later a bit modified but the Hungarian government in 1952 asked for help Poland because this country was highly successful in post-war rebuilding of Warsaw
Warsaw is the capital and largest city of Poland. It is located on the Vistula River, roughly from the Baltic Sea and from the Carpathian Mountains. Its population in 2010 was estimated at 1,716,855 residents with a greater metropolitan area of 2,631,902 residents, making Warsaw the 10th most...

 and other cities. A delegation of Polish experts, led by architectural historian Jan Zachwatowicz
Jan Zachwatowicz
Jan Zachwatowicz was a Polish architect, architectural historian, and restorer.- Biography :...

, proposed the rebuilding of the Hauszmann palace.

During the 1950s the palace was gutted and all the interiors were destroyed. Important exterior details were demolished like the main entrance, the Habsburg Steps, the dome, the Royal Stables, the Guardhouse and the Riding School. The remaining façades were simplified. In Lions Court the ornate gates of King's Stairs and Diplomat's Stairs were demolished. The doorway of the Castle Church disappeared together with the church itself. The detailed Neo-Baroque roofs were also simplified and plain new windows were installed. The allegorical sculpture group of the tympanum was destroyed.

The modernist dome was designed by Lajos Hidasi in 1961 after Italian Baroque models. The palace was rebuilt by 1966 but the interior spaces got ready only in the 1980s. Buda Castle became a cultural centre with three museums and the home of the National Széchényi Library
National Széchényi Library
The National Széchényi Library is a library in Budapest, Hungary. It is one of the two Hungarian national libraries, the other being the University of Debrecen Library.-History:...



In March 2006 the National Office of Cultural Heritage finalized the long term development plan of Buda Castle. Asserting that the modernization in 1952-66 caused irreversible damage they proposed the partial reconstruction of the façades including the dome and the Habsburg Steps. http://www.nol.hu/cikk/390037/ There is no decision about the realization of the development plan.

On 25 July 2007 Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány
Ferenc Gyurcsány
Ferenc Gyurcsány is a Hungarian politician. He was the sixth Prime Minister of Hungary from 2004 to 2009.He was nominated to take that position on 25 August 2004 by the Hungarian Socialist Party , after Péter Medgyessy resigned due to a conflict with the Socialist Party's coalition partner...

 chose the medieval King's Cellar in Buda Castle as the place to announce the list of the "most important public works projects", financed by European Union
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

 funds between 2007-2013.http://www.nfu.hu/a_kormany_dontott_az_uj_magyarorszag_fejlesztesi_terv_akcioterveirol

In 2008 an underground garage for 700 cars were built by an international consortium under the former Csikós Court. The developer was granted permission to demolish a 4,5 m long section of the 15th century castle wall. The agreement was criticized by archeologists and the public alike but the demolition was carried out. Previously the whole area was excavated by archeologists who discovered many important finds, including medieval children toys and the tooth of King Matthias Corvinus
Matthias Corvinus of Hungary
Matthias Corvinus , also called the Just in folk tales, was King of Hungary and Croatia from 1458, at the age of 14 until his death...

' pet leopard. The area outside the inner walls was used as a garbage dump during the 15-17th centuries. After the completion of the garage works the formerly derelict Csikós Court will be landscaped and the medieval zwingers restored.

See also

  • Interiors of Buda Castle
    Interiors of Buda Castle
    The interiors of Buda Castle, the former palace of the Hungarian kings in Budapest, Hungary, were all destroyed during World War II and the post-war reconstruction . There is very little data about the interiors from the medieval and Baroque era...

  • Medieval Royal Palace (Buda Castle)
    Medieval Royal Palace (Buda Castle)
    The Medieval Royal Palace of Buda Castle is a series of rooms from the old palace of the Hungarian kings, destroyed after 1686. Some rooms were unearthed and reconstructed during the postwar rebuilding of Buda Castle in 1958-62...

  • Palace Chapel (Buda Castle)
    Palace Chapel (Buda Castle)
    The medieval Palace Chapel in Buda Castle was built in the 15th century by King Sigismund Luxemburg as the lower chapel of the former Castle Church. The Gothic chapel, which survived the destruction of the 1686 siege, was buried under a Baroque terrace for centuries...

  • Works of art in Buda Castle
    Works of art in Buda Castle
    Buda Castle and its gardens have been decorated with works of art since their foundation in the 14th century. Only written sources speak about the most important medieval works, but detailed pictorial and written information exists about the 19th century artistic decoration of the palace which was...

Further reading

  • History section: Miklós Horler: Budapest műemlékei I, Bp: 1955, pp. 259–307
  • Baroque palace: György Kelényi: A királyi udvar építkezései Pest-Budán a XVIII. században, Bp: Akadémiai Kiadó, 2005, pp. 27–34
  • Nuns and scholars: György Kelényi: A királyi udvar építkezései Pest-Budán a XVIII. században, Bp: Akadémiai Kiadó, 2005, pp. 34–38
  • Post-war reconstruction: László Gerő: A helyreállított budai vár, Bp, 1980, pp. 11–60.