Buda Castle in Budapest

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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 (, ).

Buda Castle was built on the southern tip of Castle Hill, bounded on the north by what is known as the Castle District , famous for its Medieval, Baroque and 19th century houses, churches and public buildings. It is linked to Clark Ádám Square and the Széchenyi Chain Bridge by the Castle Hill Funicular.

The castle is part of the Budapest World Heritage Site, declared in 1987.


Middle Ages

The first royal residence on the Castle Hill was built by King Béla IV of Hungary between 1247 and 1265. It is uncertain 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, the younger brother of King Louis I of Hungary. Only the foundations remained of the castle keep which was known as Stephen's Tower (Hungarian: István-torony). The Gothic palace of King Louis I was arranged around a narrow courtyard next to the keep.

King Sigismund 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 palace of the late Middle Ages. Buda was also an important artistic centre of the International Gothic style.

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

The most important part of Sigismund's palace was the northern wing, known as the Fresh Palace (Hun: Friss-palota). On the top floor, there was one huge hall (70 xx) with a carved wooden ceiling and great windows and balconies looking toward the city of Buda. 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 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, was probably built that time.

After the marriage of Matthias and Beatrice of Naples in 1476, Italian humanists, artists and craftsmen arrived at Buda. The Hungarian capital became the first centre of Renaissance north of the Alps. 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 and a passage with the frescoes of the 12 signs of the Zodiac. The façade of the palace was decorated with the statues of John Hunyadi, László Hunyadi 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 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 carried on the works of the Matthias Palace, especially after his marriage with Anna of Foix-Candale in 1502.

Under the reign of King John Zápolya, the last national ruler of Hungary, the palace was repaired a 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.

Ottoman Era

After the Battle of Mohács, the medieval Kingdom of Hungary collapsed. The Ottoman army occupied the evacuated town on 11 September, 1526. Although the town of Buda was sacked and burned, the Royal Palace was not damaged. Sultan Süleyman I carried away all the bronze statues (the Hunyadis, Pallas Athene and Hercules) with him to Constantinople. The statues were destroyed there in a rebellion a few years later. The Sultan also took many volumes from the famous Corvina library.

In 1529 the Ottoman army besieged and occupied Buda again. The palace was badly damaged at that time. On 29 August 1541 Buda was occupied again by the Ottomans without any resistance. The Hungarian capital became part of Ottoman Empire, as the seat of the Eyalet 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, a 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 Habsburgs tried to re-capture Buda several times. Unsuccessful sieges in 1542, 1598, 1603 and 1684 caused serious damage. The Ottoman 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 castle

The medieval palace was destroyed in the great siege of 1686 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 (gunpowder store by the Ottomans, exploded when hit by a single cannon, said to have been fired by a friar called Gábor, also referred as Tüzes Gábor i.e. "Gabriel Fiery". According to contemporary sources, the giant explosion killed as many as 1500 Turkish soldiers, and caused a tidal wave on the Danube that washed away standing guards and even artillery batteries on the opposite shore.

Habsburg military engineers made several plans and drawings about the buildings in subsequent 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 was beyond repair.

In 1715 King Charles III 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 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 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 Theresa in the dire need of the War of the Austrian Succession. 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 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 masterbuilder of Count Grassalkovich. Double false domes were typical features of the so-called Grassalkovich-type Baroque castles like Gödöllő. This special feature was later removed from the palace.

In 1764, the Empress/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 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 had no intention to use it as a royal residence because she had not spent much time in Buda. In 1769 Maria Theresa gave one wing to the Sisters of Loreto from Sankt Pölten, known as Englische Fräulein or angolkisasszonyok. The building was officially handed over on 13 May 1770, but the elegant 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 front, the false dome was removed to erect instead a four-storey 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 frescoes were 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 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 was oval, and it 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, Archduke Alexander Leopold of Austria. After the early death of the palatine in 1795, his younger brother Archduke Joseph succeeded him, followed by Archduke Stephen. 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 were not implemented, although the observatory tower, which hindered the works, was removed. 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 gardens 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's Hungarian army laid siege on Buda Castle, defended by General Heinrich Hentzi. 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 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 building.

The ballroom was redecorated with marbles and stuccoes. After 1853 stately rooms were designed in French Rococo 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-storey Stöckl housed the apartments of the archdukes and imperial officials. The Wachlokal was built for the royal guards.

Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria 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 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'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, at the foot of the Castle Hill, between 1875 and 1882. This splendid Neo-Renaissance gateway was designed by Miklós Ybl, 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 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 was not enough space for the new Krisztinaváros wing (so called after the neighbouring city district). Ybl solved the problem by erecting a huge substructure that goes down to the foot of the hill. The monumental western façade sits on this windowless, three-storey high substructure so the whole palace is making up a towering, 6+3-storey 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; hence, 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. 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 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 (with allegorical statues by Károly Sennyey) and a flight of stairs called the "Habsburg Stairs". The whole palace was crowned with a dome and a copy of the Crown of St. Stephen 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 (Hungarian: Mátyás kútja), a work of sculptor Alajos Stróbl. 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, the victorious leader of the Habsburg army in the Battle of Zenta. The eastern forecourt was closed off with a lavish wrought iron rail. Two flights of stairs 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 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 for 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 use of them.

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 (comprehensive artwork) of architecture, sculpture, applied arts and gardening.

Interbellum years and World War II

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. 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 in 1937 and Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli (later Pope Pius XII) 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 occupied the Royal Palace and forced the regent to abdicate.

Buda Castle was the last major stronghold of Budapest held by Axis forces (Germans and Hungarians) during the siege of Budapest between 29 December 1944 and 13 February 1945. The defenders of the castle finally attempted to break the Soviet blockade on 11 February 1945, but utterly failed, leaving 90% of the soldiers dead on the sidestreets of Buda. Allegedly the Russians knew about their plans and had 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 were 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. 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 had 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 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, such as 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 evidence made possible its reconstruction, but the new tower is only a 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 and other cities. A delegation of Polish experts, led by architectural historian Jan Zachwatowicz, 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 were ready only in the 1980s. Buda Castle became a cultural centre with three museums and the home of the National Széchényi Library.


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. [1] There is no decision about the realization of the development plan.

On 25 July 2007 Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány 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 funds between 2007-2013.

In 2008 an underground garage for 700 cars was built by an international consortium under the former Csikós Court. The developer was granted permission to demolish a 4.5 m 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' 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, plans were made for the formerly derelict Csikós Court to be landscaped and the medieval zwingers restored.

Medieval wing

Architect László Gerő in 1958-1962 partially recreated the façades of the Gothic castle facing the narrow southern, western and eastern courts. Only the ground and first floors were reconstructed although the castle was originally much higher. The unfinished state of the façade is indicated by the fact that roof is flat – the castle is simply cut in the line of the Baroque terrace above it. There are two windows opening towards the southern and another two opening towards the eastern court. The four windows are almost identical and all belong to the Gothic Hall behind them. They are square, four-panel stone windows of very fine Gothic craftmanship. Their outer frame is decorated with small columns. One window which had been walled up was discovered in situ during the archeological research, and the others were reconstructed from fragments by sculptor Ernő Szakál by means of anastylosis. The ground floor openings are more simple. An arched stone doorway gives access to the southern court from the cellar under the Gothic Hall.

The façade was originally plastered. The whitewashed surface was decorated with a painted pattern in rusty hue, resembling to rustication. Painted geometrical decoration was common feature on the medieval buildings of Buda. Fragments of the decoration were discovered on the eastern façade but the it wasn't restored.

There is a Gothic balcony tower projecting from the wall at the end of the eastern façade. It is the only second floor part of the medieval palace which was recreated in 1958-62. Its reconstruction was a much debated issue because the balcony tower goes above the level of the Baroque terrace, disturbing the harmonious panorama of the palace. On the other hand it clearly indicates the existence of the missing higher floors.

The balcony tower is a two-storey high structure which stands on a wide stone basement. The first floor is made up of a solid stone wall without any openings. The niche behind it belongs to the Gothic Hall. The second floor is a closed balcony with three windows. Originally it must have been part of an important ceremonial room. Now there is no room behind the façade, which was closed off with a glass wall from behind. The ground plan of the balcony shows the half of an octagon. The three Gothic double lancet windows are the most important architectural elements of the tower. The profiles, frames and mullions were restored in a simplified form but many original stones were also built in. The tower is covered with a flat metal roof.

The building of the Gothic Hall is connected to the Stephen's Castle (István vár) on the western side. It is the oldest part of the medieval royal palace which was built in the 1340s-1370s. It was named after Prince Stephen, Duke of Slavonia, the younger brother of King Louis I of Hungary. Only the foundation of the so-called Stephen's Tower and three interconnected, barrel-vaulted rooms survived from the original castle.

The Stephen's Tower (István torony) was the keep of Stephen's Castle. It was a huge building which was shown in every old picture of Buda Castle with its typical turreted spire. It was destroyed by an explosion in 1686. Only the ground floor walls were discovered after 1946. It was a square building (11,7 x 11,1 m), built upon the natural rock surface of Castle Hill. The walls are 2,31-2,7 m thick. There are narrow loopholes on the southern, western and northern sides. The original doorway on the eastern side was walled up after the Gothic Hall was built in the 15th century.

The siting of the tower was different from the later buildings and the triangle in front of it was walled up to create a continuous southern façade for the palace. During the post-war reconstruction this part of the façade (with a broken stone doorway) was not reconstructed to make it obvious that the Stephen's Tower was originally a free-standing structure. On the ground floor of the tower there was a vaulted room (6,2 x 6,3 m) which was still intact in 1820 according to a contemporary drawing. Although the ribs, corbels and the key stone was discovered during the archeological research, this room wasn't reconstructed. A spiral stairway had connected the room with the missing higher floors.

The remaining part of the Stephen's Castle (with the barrel-vaulted rooms behind) has a simple stone façade with a Gothic doorway. The pointed arch was restored.


The interior from the time of Maria Theresa and Franz Joseph was mostly destroyed during World War II and the post-war reconstruction, except the Palatinal Crypt which survived both. There is very little data about the interiors from the medieval and Baroque eras. However, the turn-of-the-century palace was meticulously recorded with detailed descriptions, photographic documentation and grounds plans. Architect Alajos Hauszmann himself said about the royal apartments, "I created a 200 m long series of rooms, longer than any similar royal apartments in continental Europe except Versailles."

A series of rooms from the medieval castle were unearthed and reconstructed during the postwar rebuilding of Buda Castle in 1958-62. They are now part of the permanent exhibition of the Budapest History Museum in "Building E" of Buda Castle.

Medieval period

Architectural context

Only a fragment of the medieval castle survived the destruction of 1686-1715 and the surviving rooms were not the most important ones of the original building. On the contrary, none of the more famous rooms and buildings, which were mentioned in the medieval sources, exist today. The rooms which were unearthed after 1946 were only saved by the chances of destruction and their geographical position, situated on a lower level then the newly created Baroque terrace. Both the Gothic Hall and the Palace Chapel were built by King Sigismund Luxemburg in the beginning of the 15th century. The castle wing is surrounded with a complex system of medieval fortifications.

Castle chapel

The first chapel in the castle was probably built in the 14th century during the reign of Louis I of Hungary. The chapel was mentioned in the Chronicle of Eberhard Windecke. Windecke claimed that Charles II of Hungary was attacked by his murderers in 1386 in a room from which the royal chapel could be seen: "konig Karle von Nopols erslagen zü Ofen in der vesten in der stuben, do man sicht in die capell." The chapel was also mentioned in the Chronicle of Lorenzo de Monaci, written around 1390.

King Sigismund Luxemburg thoroughly rebuilt the old Anjou castle during the first decades of the 15th century. He erected a splendid Gothic church in place of the former chapel. Its façade was facing towards the inner palace courtyard, and the long chancel was projecting from the eastern side of the palace. The chancel was built upon a lower church, a solution which was necessitated by the lack of space on the narrow plateau. It had a 21 m nave and an 11 m chancel. Two-storey royal chapels were not uncommon in medieval Europe. The flamboyant Royal Church of Buda Castle was similar to the more famous Sainte-Chapelle in Paris.

The archeological research proved the dating of the church, because 15th century strata were discovered under the intact brick floor of the lower church.

In November 1489 Sultan Bayezid II sent the relics of John the Almoner to King Matthias Corvinus. The King placed the relics in the Royal Chapel which was re-dedicated and embellished with Renaissance furniture.

In 1526 Buda was plundered by the Ottoman Turks after the Battle of Mohács. The relics were rescued in time and carried to Pressburg where they are still kept today. A surviving church inventory from 1530 still shows the wealth of furnishings. Later King János Szapolyai converted the lower church into a bastion. The large Gothic windows were walled up, only the new, rectangular loopholes were left open.

In 1541 the Ottoman Turks captured Buda without fight and the Royal Church ceased to be a place of Christian worship. The upper church was destroyed in the 1686 siege of Buda and the ruins were demolished in 1715. The vault of the lower church fell down and the interior was filled with rubbish. The remains were buried under the new Baroque terrace for two centuries.

The ruins of the lower church were discovered by archeologists in 1949-50. The remains were buried in 1953 because of conceptional disputes about the possible reconstruction. The chapel was finally reconstructed by 1963. It was re-consecrated in 1990.

Gothic Hall

The Gothic Hall is one of the most important surviving example of secular Gothic architecture in Central Europe. It was built by King Sigismund Luxemburg of Hungary in the early 15th century as an extension of the earlier Anjou palace. It was built on the southern edge of the natural rock plateau of Castle Hill. The level difference between the plateau and the southern court was about 2.79 m. A vaulted cellar was built under the hall to span this difference.

The Gothic Hall is an irregular rectangle of 20.2 xx, with a closed niche on the eastern side (the inside of the balcony tower mentioned above). It is divided into two naves which are covered with Gothic rib vaults. The vaults are supported by two massive pillars which come up uninterruptedly from the cellar beneath the room through the floor. There are half-pillars in the corners supporting the ribs. The very low pillars are creating a distinct space effect. All six vaults are fourpartite, and the two on the inner side are irregularly shaped.

The hall has four windows, two on the southern and two on the eastern side. There are stone benches in the window niches. The Hall is connected to the palace through a new door in the northern wall, supposedly on the place of the original doorway. The northern section of the floor is on a bit higher level (three steps higher).

All the newly built side walls are plastered and painted white while the original stone surfaces were left uncovered. The ribs, pillars, arches and window niches were restored by sculptor Ernő Szakál in 1961-62. The ribs have a simple profiling, but fragments of a more complicated type were also found in the rubble, together with keystones. These pieces supposedly belonged to another stately hall situated above the room, but they were built into the reconstructed vaults by 20th century restaurators.

It is an interesting fact that the northern pillar of the Gothic Hall was already discovered by Alajos Hauszmann in the beginning of the 20th century. That time the remains were buried under the outbuildings of the Royal Gardens, but Hauszmann protected the medieval pillar by means of building a brick shaft around it.

Barrel-vaulted rooms

The three interconnected, barrel-vaulted rooms belong to the oldest part of the palace, the Stephen's Castle which was built by Prince Stephen, Duke of Slavonia in the 14th century. The northern room is larger (6.62 xx) than the southern ones (5 xx). Another important difference is that the northern room is covered with an east-west axial vault while the southern rooms have north-south axial vaults.

The southern room is connected to the inner courtyard with a doorway. There is a small window high above the western wall. The middle room has a similar window while the larger northern room has three slit windows, one towards the western side and two northwards (proving the existence of a northern courtyard). All the windows had iron rails. The rooms are connected to each other with carved Gothic corbel doors. The walls were originally plastered.

An interesting feature of the southern room is the medieval stairway which led to a trapdoor and a medieval toilet above which were hidden in the empty space between the walls of the castle and the keep.

The barrel vaulted rooms were supposedly used as a prison in the Middle Ages. Later the southern vaults collapsed. The intact barrel vault of the northern room was broken by Alajos Hauszmann in the beginning of the 20th century when he filled the cellar with rubble. The barrel-vaulted rooms were restored in 1958-1962.

Albrecht Cellar

There is a huge medieval cellar north of the barrel-vaulted rooms which was later called Albrecht Cellar (Albrecht pince). It is covered with a huge Gothic brick barrel vault and its walls are blackened from burning. The cellar was probably built by King Sigismund of Luxemburg as the Cisterna Regia, i.e. the great underground cistern of the palace.

The Cisterna Regia was situated under the former northern zwinger (courtyard) of the palace. This small rectangular courtyard became a private royal garden during the reign of King Matthias Corvinus. The private garden was an early Renaissance giardino segreto or "hidden garden". It was designed by architect Chimenti Camicia in the 1470s. There was a well in the middle of the garden which was fed by the cistern underneath.

The hidden garden, the well and the cistern survived the 1686 siege of Buda. They were indicated on the plans of the area drawn by military architect Joseph de Haüy in 1687. In 1715-1724 the former Cisterna Regia became the cellar of the new Baroque palace. A section of this room was later used as ice-chamber.

King's Cellar

The King's Cellar (Király pince) is not a medieval structure, but a huge Baroque-era brick cellar under the Danube side of "Building E". It was filled with tons of earth and rubble, but the original eastern façade of the medieval royal palace survived under the fill. The inner walls of the Baroque palace were actually built upon the old façade. Only the 7 m basement section of the original façade remained.

This wing was built by King Sigismund of Luxenburg in the early 15th century, but it was rebuilt by King Matthias Corvinus 50 years later. The surviving eastern façade was built from large, finely carved blocks of stone. It followed the contour of Castle Hill with a break in the middle. A huge buttress was added and a rectangular tower with two buttresses on its corners. It was possible to reconstruct the lower part of a balcony on the tower with three elegant Gothic corbels decorated with cusps.

It was not possible to demolish the King's Cellar because of structural reasons (the whole Baroque palace was resting upon it), but the inner fill was removed in 1961. The medieval façade was reconstructed inside the cellar space between 1961-1965. Now the architectural history of the palace is readable from the interwoven layers of the past. The outer wall of the cellar was broken through with large windows to let in the daylight.

On 25 July 2007 Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány chose the King's Cellar as the place to announce the list of the "most important public works projects", financed by European Union funds between 2007-2013.

Baroque and Historicism

Old ceremonial rooms

  • Ballroom (Nagyterem) - The ballroom (or Large Throne Room) on the first floor of the Baroque wing had several layers of Baroque decoration from the second half of the 18th and the 19th century. There are only two surviving drawings that record the oldest form of the room. Jakob Schmutzer's drawing from 1777 shows the opening ceremony of the university after it was moved to the palace. It seems that the room had a Late Baroque decoration with double grooved Corinthian pilasters between the windows and stucco garlands. The walls were decorated with Vinzenz Fischer's frescoes of the four faculties. József Pollencig's drawing from 1795 shows a ball scene in the "Prunksaal". The pilasters were kept, but the frescoes were already covered, and the whole room was stuccoed. On the vault the coat-of-arms of the Kingdom of Hungary can be seen. After the destruction of the 1849 siege the room was redecorated in Neo-Baroque style. In 1892 the old ballroom was rebuilt with a new ceiling and a gallery towards the Lions Court, but three of its side walls were preserved. It was enlarged again after 1896. In Hauszmann's time the room had a Rococo white-golden stucco decoration with three huge chandeliers. During the post-war reconstruction Vinzenz Fischer's frescoes were re-discovered in 1953. In spite of this all the decoration layers were destroyed. Today it houses the Gothic altar collection of the Hungarian National Gallery.
  • White Antechamber (Fehér előterem) - The White Antechamber on the first floor of the Baroque wing was situated south of the ballroom. In the Baroque era it was called Zweyten Antichambre ("second antechamber"). In Hauszmann's time it had a Rococo white-golden stucco decoration with one huge chandelier and a white Rococo stove.
  • "Coronation" Antechamber ("Koronázás" előterem) - The "Coronation" Antechamber on the first floor of the Baroque wing was situated next to the white antechamber. It opened from the main staircase of the southern wing and was the first room of the ceremonial apartments on this side. In Hauszmann's time it had a white-golden stucco decoration with one huge chandelier. Its name referred to the huge painting of Franz Joseph I's coronation as King of Hungary after the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867.
  • Audience Antechamber (Fogadási váróterem) - The Audience Antechamber on the first floor of the Baroque wing was situated north of the ballroom. In the Baroque era it was called Antichambre Ihrer Majestat der Kaiserin ("Her Majesty the Empress' Antechamber"). During that time, the room gave access to Maria Theresa's private apartments from the ballroom. In the Hauszmann era the audience antechamber became part of the ceremonial apartments and had the same white-golden Rococo stucco decoration as the white antechamber on the other side.
  • "Zenta" Antechamber ("Zenta" előterem) - The "Zenta" Antechamber on the first floor of the Baroque wing was situated next to the audience antechamber. It opened from the main staircase of the central wing and was the first room of the ceremonial apartments on this side. In Hauszmann's time it had a white-golden stucco decoration with one huge chandelier. Its name referred to the huge painting of the Battle of Zenta.

Old royal apartments

  • Small Throne Room (Kis trónterem) - The Small Throne Room on the first floor of the Baroque wing was situated next to the Audience Antechamber. In the Baroque era it was called Audienz-Zimmer and was part of the Empress' private apartments. In Hauszmann's time it was converted into the throne room of the palace with a simple Baroque throne under a baldachin. It had a white-golden stucco decoration with one chandelier and a Rococo tile stove.
  • "Circle" Tearoom ("Circle" teaszalon) - The "Circle" Tearoom on the first floor of the Baroque wing was situated next to the small throne room, in the corner of the southern wing with 2–3 windows opening on to the Danube. In the Baroque era it was called Gesellschaft Zimmer Ihrer Majestat der Kaiserin ("Her Majesty the Empress' Parlour") and was part of Maria Theresa's private apartments. In Hauszmann's time it had a white-golden stucco decoration with one chandelier and a Rococo tile stove. The furniture consisted a Rococo parlour suite.
  • Antechamber – This antechamber on the first floor of the Baroque wing was situated next to the "circle" tearoom with two windows opening on to the Danube. In the Baroque era it was called Ankleide-Zimmer Ihrer Majestat der Kaiserin ("Her Majesty the Empress' Dressing Room") and was part of Maria Theresa's private apartments. During that time it was connected to another small room, the Frauen Kammer. In Hauszmann's time the walls were largely clad with wallpaper. The furniture consisted a Rococo tile stove, chairs and paintings. The last small room of the Empress, the former Schreib cabinet ("writing room") with one window opening on to the Danube, later became a simple passageway.
  • Smoking Room (Dohányzó szalon) – The smoking room on the first floor of the Baroque wing was situated in the middle of the Danube side of the old palace with two windows opening on to the Danube. In the Baroque era it was called Schlafzimmer Ihrer k.k. Majestaten ("The Imperial Couple’s Bedroom"). It was the only common room of Empress Maria Theresa and her husband, Francis I. In Hauszmann's time the walls were largely clad with wallpaper. The furniture consisted a Rococo parlour suite and paintings. In the old imperial apartments only the ceilings had the typical white-golden stucco decoration, used all over in the old ceremonial apartments.
  • Writing Room (Írószoba) – The small writing room on the first floor of the Baroque wing was formerly part of the private apartments of Francis I. One window opened to the Danube. In the Baroque era it was called Ankleidecabinet S.M. des Kaisers ("Emperor’s Dressing Room"). It was connected to another small room, the second dressing room. Later the imperial dressing room was divided with a wall, one half converted into a simple passageway, the other into a small writing room. In Hauszmann's time the latter's walls were largely clad with a very ornate Rococo wallpaper. It had a white marble mantelpiece with a large Rococo mirror above.
  • Parlour (Társalkodó terem) – The parlour on the first floor of the Baroque wing was formerly part of the private apartments of Francis I. It was situated in the corner of the southern wing with 2+3 windows opening to the Danube. In the Baroque era the room was divided with a wall, one half called Empfangs Zimmer S.M. des Kaisers ("Imperial Audience Room"), the other Arbeits Cabinet ("Study"). In Hauszmann's time it was converted to a great parlour with wallpaper clad walls, a Rococo tile stove, a chandelier, paintings, chairs and a mirror.
  • Antechamber – This antechamber on the first floor of the Baroque wing was the last room of the former private apartments of Francis I. Two windows opened to the Danube. In the Baroque era it was called Zweyten Audienz Zimmer ("second audience room"). In Hauszmann's time the walls were mainly clad with wallpaper, and it had a Rococo tile stove, a chandelier, paintings and chairs.

South Wing

  • Baroque Court (Barokk udvar) - The rectangular court is the oldest part of the Baroque palace. Here the original 18-19th century façades survived. In 1997 the court was covered with a glass roof and became the main exhibition hall of the Budapest History Museum.
  • King's Staircase (Király-lépcső) - The Baroque main staircase of the southern wing gave access to the private apartments of Emperor Francis I. Both the King's Staircase and its northern pair, the Diplomat's Staircase had ornate gates opening onto Lions Court, decorated with telamons. The kitchens were originally situated on the ground floor of the southern wing, but they were already relocated by Hauszmann.

Central Wing

  • Diplomat's Staircase (Diplomata-lépcső) - The Baroque main staircase of the central (originally northern) wing gave access to the private apartments of Maria Theresa. In the 18th century there was an officer's dining room and a smaller kitchen on the ground floor and another dining room with a cafe kitchen on the first floor. The southern and northern (later central) wings had the same ground plan: all the rooms opened from a passageway running along the sides of a rectangular central court. The two monumental stairways were rebuilt by Hauszmann in Neo-Baroque style.
  • St. Sigismund Chapel or Castle Church (Szent Zsigmond-kápolna, Vártemplom) - The palace chapel in the western end of this wing had no façades, only a door opening onto Lions Court (through an antechamber). Its construction was finished in 1768 and the church was consecrated in 1769. The ground plan was drawn by Nicolaus Pacassi, but the interior was designed by his follower, Franz Anton Hillebrandt. The ground plan followed a typical "violin" form, favoured in the Baroque church architecture of Central Europe that time. It had a rectangular chancel and a nave with four bays for side altars. On the first and the second floors two oratories opened into the chancel and a two-storey high gallery was situated above the entrance. In 1777-78 a new door was opened in the first side bay to give access to the new Chapel of the Holy Right. An engraving from 1771-80 shows the original interior design in its completed form: double pilasters, windows with segmental arches, stucco and false marble decoration, double oratory windows and an interesting doorway with a stucco veil drawn aside by flying putti. The church was slightly rebuilt by Hauszmann who demolished the Chapel of the Holy Right in 1899 and built a new chapel for the relic behind the chancel (converting a small recess). This chapel was decorated with the golden Venetian mosaics of Károly Lotz. A new Neo-Baroque main altar was built in the church in 1899. 20th century photos testify that the church survived in its Baroque form until the war. During the siege the vaults of the church partially collapsed and the furniture was plundered. The Castle Church was left decaying for more than a decade. In 1957 the remaining two vaults collapsed, and the church was totally destroyed and converted to exhibition spaces. The altar table was rescued and re-erected in Pilisvörösvár in 1957. The Lotz mosaics from the Chapel of the Holy Right were also rescued and re-assembled in Balatonalmádi.
  • Palatinal Crypt (Nádori kripta) - The Palatinal Crypt under the former palace chapel is now the only surviving room of the whole Royal Castle. The underground crypt was first used as a burial place between 1770–1777. In August 1820 Elisabeth Karoline, Palatine Joseph's infant daughter was buried in the crypt. Seventeen years later, the Palatine's 13-year-old son Alexander Leopold followed. This time Palatine Joseph decided to convert the crypt into a family mausoleum, and commissioned Franz Hüppmann with the task. The work was finished in 1838 and other members of the Palatine's family were reburied here. Palatine Joseph himself was interred on 13 January 1847. The crypt was continuously used by the Hungarian branch of the Habsburg family. It was repeatedly restored and enriched with new works of art, frescoes, statues and ornate stone sarcophagi, made by the best artists of the 19th century. The last member of the family buried here was Archduchess Klotild in 1927. The crypt survived the war unscathed and was spared during the post-war reconstruction. The crypt was robbed in 1966 and 1973 (during the construction works). Even the corpses were thrown out of the sarcophagi by the robbers. The human remains were later identified and reburied. The crypt was restored in 1985-1987. Since then the Palatinal Crypt is part of the exhibition of the Hungarian National Gallery.

North Wing

  • Lobby (Előcsarnok) - The main lobby of the Royal Palace was situated in the Danube side of Hauszmann's Northern Wing. It was a long, rectangular hall divided into four sections with free standing Ionic columns and two square pillars. The section in the southern end was elevated with a few steps. Nine arched windows were opening towards the Danube. In the middle of the other sidewall there was a doorway leading to the inner courtyard. The walls and the ceiling were stuccoed. The southern elevation was closed off with a stone balustrade between the pillars and the wall. The ornate lobby was designed for important state ceremonies.
  • Great Ballroom (Nagy bálterem) - The Great Ballroom in the middle part of the northern wing took over the function of the smaller old ballroom in the Baroque wing. It was the most splendid room of the palace, designed by Hauszmann. The two-storey high, airy room was lavishly decorated with stuccoes, half columns, trabeation, balconies and six huge crystal chandeliers in Neo-Baroque style. Seven arched windows and doorways opened towards a pillared terrace facing the western forecourt. On the other side the ballroom was connected to the Buffet Hall through three doors. Photos made after the war show the room with its vaulted ceiling collapsed. In the course of the reconstruction the ballroom was totally destroyed.
  • Buffet Hall (Buffet-csarnok) - The Buffet Hall on the Danube side of the northern wing was a very long hall used for state banquets. It was connected to the Great Ballroom nearby and it was possible to join them together. There was a shorter, passage-like space between the two rooms. This passage was separated from the Buffet Hall by six square pillars while its other side was made up by a solid wall (with three doors). On the eastern side of the Buffet Hall a long row of windows opened towards the Danube and a pillared terrace. The Buffet Hall itself was divided into three sections with free-standing Ionic columns, holding trabeations. The vaulted ceiling was lavishly decorated with frescoes and stuccoes.
  • Habsburg Room (Habsburg terem) - The Habsburg Room was situated right in the middle of the long palace complex, under Hauszmann's (false) dome where the new northern wing and the old palace met. Although this part of the building belonged to the original palace, it was thoroughly rebuilt by Hauszmann and this stately room was totally his own work. It was one of the three historical rooms of the palace representing the important periods of Hungarian history. A free-standing, double flight of steps, called Habsburg Steps, connected the room with the Royal Gardens on the Danube terrace. The room had a lavish Baroque decoration with half-pillars and gilded stuccoes. The vaulted ceiling was decorated with Károly Lotz's huge fresco Apotheosis of the Habsburg Dynasty. Károly Senyei's four Carrara marble busts stood in front of the sidewalls representing King Charles III, Queen Maria Theresa, King Franz Joseph I and Queen Elisabeth of Bavaria. The Habsburg Room survived World War II unscathed, but in the 1950s, it was deliberately destroyed for political reasons.

Krisztinaváros wing

The Krisztinaváros wing has its name since it faces the district of Krisztinaváros, which itself was named in honour of the daughter of Queen Maria Theresa, Archduchess Maria Christina, Duchess of Teschen.

  • Entrance hall (Előcsarnok) - The entrance hall opened from Lions Court, under an arcaded Neo-Renaissance portico, through ornate wrought-iron doors. Now this serves as the entrance of the Hungarian National Library. The hall was a long, oblong-shaped room with 4+4 free standing Ionic columns in front of the walls on the longer sides, holding a trabeation. In the end of the shorter sides two doors opened into antechambers. The three arcaded doorways on the longer side opened into a lobby. The ceiling of the hallway was stuccoed, and the whole design was Italian Renaissance in style.
  • Lobby (Előcsarnok) - The lobby was connected to the hall of the main staircase through pillars. The stuccoed ceiling was held by two rectangular pillars. The apartments of Archduke József Ágost and his wife, Archduchess Auguszta were situated on the ground floor of the Krisztinaváros wing, and opened from this room. Now it serves as the lobby of the Hungarian National Library in a radically modernized form.
  • Main Staircase (Főlépcsőház) - The monumental main staircase with three flights was leading up from the lobby to the first floor in an airy, glass-roofed hall. The side walls of the hall were decorated in Italian Renaissance style with colossal Corinthian half-columns, stuccoes and lunette openings. Ornate wrought-iron chandeliers and intricate balustrades decorated the stairs. At the ground-floor colossal Atlas statues stood beside the side pillars, holding the weight of the upper flights. The marble statues were the works of János Fadrusz from 1897. During the post-war reconstruction the main staircase was radically modernized. Only the two colossal Atlas statues survived. Now they are standing somewhat incongruently near their original places.
  • Saint Stephen's Room ("Szent István" terem) - Saint Stephen's Room on the first floor of the Krisztinaváros wing was one of the "historical rooms" of the palace, created by Hauszmann. Together with the Matthias Room and the Habsburg Room they represented the three most important periods of Hungarian history. Saint Stephen's Room connected the new Private Royal Apartments and—through a very long passageway—the Old Royal Apartments in the Danube Wing. Its style evoked the age of the Árpáds, the first Hungarian dynasty in the early Middle Ages. The walls were clad with dark, carved wood paneling. The most spectacular item was a large stone mantelpiece with Romanesque Revival architectural details and the bust of King Saint Stephen, the first king of Hungary. The room was furnished with medieval-looking metal chandeliers and heavy wooden furniture.
  • Matthias Room ("Mátyás" terem) - Matthias Room was named after Matthias Corvinus, the greatest Hungarian king in the late Middle Ages. It was one of the three "historical rooms" of the palace, created by Hauszmann. The room opened from the Royal Bedroom, in the end of the line of the Private Apartments. It had three windows, opening towards the hills of Buda. There was a long terrace in front of the room. The style of the Matthias Room was aptly chosen as Renaissance with carved wooden paneling and a coffered ceiling. It was only furnished with a mantelpiece in the corner and two chandeliers, the most spectacular item being the equestrian statue of King Matthias, sculpted by János Fadrusz. The statue was a miniature copy of the original standing on the main square of Kolozsvár (now Cluj-Napoca). This copy was saved after the war and put on display in the Hungarian National Gallery.
  • Strong Room (Páncélterem) - The Hungarian crown jewels were kept in the specially designed strong room on the second floor of the Krisztinaváros Wing. The Crown of Saint Stephen was kept here between 1900 and 1944.
  • Queen Elisabeth Memorial Museum (Erzsébet Királyné Emlékmúzeum) - This small museum on the second floor of the Krisztinaváros Wing was established in remembrance of Queen Elisabeth after the popular queen was murdered in 1898. Memorabilia were collected by Ida Ferenczy, Elisabeth's former duenna, Viscountess Pallavicini and Countess Ilona Batthyány. The museum opened on 15 January 1908 as an affiliate of the Hungarian National Museum. The collection contained personal items, letters and clothes. Its most important relic was the costume that Elisabeth had been wearing when she was murdered. One room was meticulously recreated as the Queen's own writing room with her original writing desk and her 219 Hungarian books. The museum was badly damaged during World War II,<ref name=UNESCO/> and the surviving relics were bestowed to other museums.

Private royal apartments

  • Royal Entrance Hall (Fejedelmi előterem) - The Royal Entrance Hall on the first floor of the Krisztinaváros Wing gave access to the rooms of the Private Royal Apartments of King Franz Joseph. The private apartments were situated in the southwestern part of the Krisztinaváros wing, their windows opening towards the green hills of Buda. The Royal Entrance Hall was connected through a wide passageway to the main staircase hall. The spacious, oblong-shaped hall was divided in three with two pairs of Ionic marble columns supporting architraves. The central part of the room was much longer than the "bays" in both ends. Doors connected the hall with the different rooms of the Private Apartments. In the middle of the longer wall stood an ornate stone mantelpiece with the bust of Franz Joseph. On the other side three windows opened to the inner courtyard of the Krisztinaváros wing. The ceiling was stuccoed and the side walls of the hall were covered with marble.
  • Antechamber (Előterem)- The antechamber of the Private Apartments opened from the Royal Entrance Hall. It had three windows towards the hills. The room had a typical Biedermeier white-golden stucco decoration with floral wallpapers, resembling to the cosy rooms of Schönbrunn Palace. All the rooms of the Private Apartments followed this Viennese style, favoured by the King. The antechamber was furnished with a stone mantelpiece (with a huge mirror above), an Empire crystal chandelier, a stone flowerpot standing on a fluted column and Neo-Renaissance table with chairs.
  • Audience Room (Fogadószoba) - The audience room of Franz Joseph was situated in the corner of the Private Apartments wing with two windows opening southwards and three windows opening westwards. It had a beautiful stuccoed and frescoed ceiling. The walls were covered with floral wallpapers. The room was furnished with a crystal chandelier, a golden Rococo console table with a large mirror and a parlour suite.
  • Writing Room (Írószoba) - The writing room of Franz Joseph had two windows opening towards the hills of Buda. It had a white-golden stuccoed ceiling and the walls were covered with floral wallpapers. The room was furnished with a crystal chandelier, an ornate white tile stove, a table and chairs. To the right and left two similar parlours opened from the room.
  • Royal Bedroom (Fejedelmi hálószoba) - The bedroom of the king had two windows opening towards the hills of Buda. It had a white-golden stuccoed ceiling and the walls were covered with floral wallpapers. The room was furnished with a crystal chandelier, the baldachined royal bed and a folding screen. The bedroom was connected to a dressing room, a private bathroom and smaller rooms belonging to the butler and the servants.
  • Royal Dining Hall (Fejedelmi ebédlő) - The Royal Dining Hall opened from the Royal Entrance Hall, and it was the largest room of the Private Apartments. The long hall had six windows, opening towards Gellért Hill. Three big crystal chandeliers gave light to the elegant, stuccoed space. In the middle of the longer side wall, between the two doors, stood a marble mantelpiece.
  • "Circle" Room ("Circle" terem) - The "Circle" Room opened from the Royal Dining Hall. It was the last room of the Private Apartments on the southern side, with three windows opening towards Gellért Hill. It had a white-golden stuccoed ceiling and the walls were covered with floral wallpapers. The room was furnished with a crystal chandelier, an ornate white tile stove and chairs.
  • Dining Room (Ebédlő) - The small dining room was situated in the northern part of the Krisztinaváros wing, among the other rooms of the Royal Guest Suite. Four windows were opening towards Krisztinaváros. The ceiling was stuccoed while the walls were covered with carved wooden paneling and wallpaper. A stone mantelpiece and large painting above it (depicting a hunting scene with a deer) gave a homely feeling to the room. It was furnished with a crystal chandelier and a long dining table with 12 chairs.

Archducal apartments

These apartments on the ground floor of the Krisztinaváros Wing were designed in 1902 for Archduke József Ágost (1872–1962), the head of the Hungarian branch of the Habsburgs, and his wife, Archduchess Auguszta (1875–1964). They could be reached from the lobby of the Krisztinaváros wing through a long passageway. The most important rooms were (in due course): the salon where guests were entertained, the great parlour, parlour, dining room (in the corner of the building with 2+3 windows), the Archduke's study, the Archduke's bedroom, the Archduchess' bedroom, the Archduchess' study, and the breakfast parlour. All rooms had a stylish, but relatively simple, decoration with white stuccoed ceilings and stucco panels above the doorways. The walls were covered with wallpaper. Crystal chandeliers, stone mantelpieces and typical turn-of-the-century furniture gave the rooms a homely ambiance. The great parlour was decorated with large paintings.

Works of art

The 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 mainly created by the most important Hungarian artists of the turn-of-century. Many of the statues survived the destruction during the siege of Budapest in 1944-45 and they were restored later. On the other hand important works of art were destroyed during the controversial reconstruction of the castle during the 1950s and 1960s.

Sculptural monuments

  • Matthias Fountain (Mátyás kútja) - The spectacular fountain is decorating the western forecourt of the palace. It shows a group of hunters led by King Matthias Corvinus together with hounds, a killed deer, Galeotto Marzio with a hawk and Szép Ilonka with a doe. This group of people stands between fallen rocks with water running down into a basin. The fountain was made by sculptor Alajos Stróbl. The dead deer was modelled upon a majestic stag killed by poachers in the forest, owned by Stróbl in 1896. The damaged sculpture was restored after the war. Nowadays it is probably the most photographed object in the palace.
  • Monument of Prince Eugene of Savoy - The equestrian statue of Prince Eugene of Savoy stands on the Danube terrace, in a prominent position, high above Budapest. The Neo-Baroque statue was made by sculptor József Róna for the town of Zenta, but the town could not afford its price. The monument was bought in 1900 as a temporary solution until the planned equestrian statue of King Franz Joseph was completed. This never happened so Prince Eugen remained on his plinth. This plinth is decorated by two bronze reliefs, showing the capture of the earth-works in Zenta and the decisive cavalry charge in the famous battle in 1697.
  • Horseherd (Csikós) - The statue of the Hortobágy horseherd taming a wild horse originally stood in front of the Riding School in the former Újvilág terrace. It is the work of György Vastagh from 1901. The statue was displayed in the Exposition Universelle in Paris (1900). The damaged statue was removed during the 1960s, but it was later restored and erected in the western forecourt of the palace in 1983, next to the Matthias Fountain.
  • Turulbird (Turulmadár) - The mythological Turul, high above the Danube, was made by Gyula Donáth in 1905. The plinth and the ornate Neo-Baroque rail (Gyula Jungfer's work) was seriously damaged during the siege of Buda, but they were restored in 1981, together with the broken coat-of-arms of the Kingdom of Hungary on the plinth.
  • Fishing Children - The Fountain of the Fishing Children on the Danube terrace is the work of sculptor Károly Senyey from 1912. It depicts two children grappling with a huge fish. The fine workmanship of the fishing net is remarkable. The fountain was removed in 1955, and re-erected on the Rákóczi Square in Pest, but brought back to its original place in 1976. It was restored in 2001.
  • Csongor and Tünde - The two statues depicting Csongor and Tünde, literary figures from Mihály Vörösmarty's drama, originally decorated the Habsburg Steps in front of the place. They are the works of sculptor Miklós Ligeti from 1903. The steps were demolished after the war, but the statues were saved and re-erected in 1976 on top of two simple concrete plinths near their original places.
  • Lions - There are two pairs of lions guarding the monumental gate leading into Lions Court. The four statues are the works of János Fadrusz from 1901. The animals standing on the outer side of the gate are menacing while the inner ones are calm and dignified. One lion was broken in two pieces during the war, but it was recreated in the 1950s.
  • War and Peace - The monumental allegorical bronze statues of the War and the Peace are standing on the sides of the entrance to the Budapest History Museum. They are the works of Károly Senyey. Both War and Peace are represented by angels, one with a trumpet, the other with an olive branch. Under the angel of the Peace there is a soldier who is coming back to his family while under the angel of War there is a dead Ottoman soldier and ancient Hungarian warriors.
  • There are sepulchral monuments in the Palatinal Crypt decorated with the statues of György Zala, Alajos Stróbl and Károly Senyey.

Lost works of art

  • Hungaria - The monumental sculpture group decorated the main (northern) façade of the palace, facing Szent György Square. On the top of the attic, crowning the façade, there stood the female figure of Hungaria, the allegorical representation of Hungary. Two semi-nude figures were sitting on her sides, one male and one female, representing Industry and Commerce. The group was made by sculptor Gyula Jankovits in 1905. The group was destroyed together with the whole northern façade during the 1950s.
  • Pediment Group - The pediment above the Habsburg Steps was decorated with an allegorical group of Károly Senyey representing the Apotheosis of the Dual Monarchy. It was destroyed during the 1950s together with the great coat-of-arms of the Kingdom of Hungary which originally crowned the façade. The present-day pediment is plain without any sculptural decoration.
  • Apotheosis of the Habsburg Dynasty - The ceiling of the Habsburg Room was decorated with a huge fresco, representing the apotheosis of the Habsburg Dynasty. It was the last important work of Károly Lotz, painted in 1903, one year before his death. The artist was already seriously ill when he worked on the fresco. The "Apotheosis" followed the traditions of Baroque court painting and the work was praised by contemporary critics. The fresco survived the war unscathed, but it was destroyed in the 1950s.


Museums and institutions

The Budapest History Museum is located in the southern wing of Buda Castle, in "Building E", over four floors. It presents the history of Budapest from the beginnings until the modern era. The restored part of the medieval castle including the Royal Chapel and the rib vaulted Gothic Hall belongs to the exhibition. The highlights of the exhibition are the Gothic statues of Buda Castle and a 14th-century silk tapestry decorated with Angevin coats-of-arms. Small gardens were recreated in the medieval "zwingers" (walled enclosures) around the oldest parts of the building.

The Hungarian National Gallery is located in Building A, B, C and D. The museum presents the history of Hungarian art from the 11th century until the present, with a special exhibition concentrating on Gothic altarpieces (housed in the former Baroque Ballroom). The only surviving interieur from the pre-war Royal Palace, the Palatinal Crypt belongs to the museum.

"Building F" is occupied by the National Széchényi Library, the national library of Hungary. Its collection of rare and antique books, codices and manuscripts contains 35 Corvina pieces from the famous library of King Matthias Corvinus. The original Bibliotheca Corviniana was housed in the medieval Royal Castle of Buda.

Popular Culture

Katy Perry filmed her second single "Firework" (from the album Teenage Dream) at Buda Castle. The video of the song has over 200 million views on YouTube.

See also

  • Gödöllő Palace, summer residence of the Hungarian monarchs
  • Sándor Palace, residence of the president of Hungary
  • Hofburg Palace
  • Prague Castle


Further reading


  • Miklós Horler: Budapest műemlékei I, Bp: 1955, pp. 259–307
  • György Kelényi: A királyi udvar építkezései Pest-Budán a XVIII. században, Bp: Akadémiai Kiadó, 2005, pp. 27–34
  • György Kelényi: A királyi udvar építkezései Pest-Budán a XVIII. században, Bp: Akadémiai Kiadó, 2005, pp. 34–38
  • László Gerő: A helyreállított budai vár, Bp, 1980, pp. 11–60.
  • Péter Farbaky: Magyar újkori építészet, [2]


Works of art

  • László Prohászka: Szoborhistóriák, Bp, 2004, pp. 145–150.
  • [3] (Hungarian, about Lotz's fresco)

External links

Source en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buda_Castle