Buda Castle (Hungarian: Budavári Palota, German: Burgpalast, Turkish: Budin Kalesi) 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 (Hungarian: Királyi-palota) and Royal Castle (Hungarian: Királyi Vár, German: Königliche Burg). Buda Castle was built on the southern tip of Castle Hill, bounded on the north by what is known as the Castle District (Várnegyed), 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.
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 remain 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 and strengthened its fortifications. 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 an important artistic centre of the International Gothic style.
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. Little information exists about the interiors from the medieval and Baroque eras. However, the palace built at the turn of the 19th to 20th century was meticulously recorded, with detailed descriptions, photographic documentation, and grounds plans. Architect Alajos Hauszmann said about the royal apartments, "I created a 200 m [660 ft] 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.
Only a fragment of the medieval castle survived the destruction of 1686–1715. The surviving rooms were not the most important ones; none of the more famous rooms and buildings mentioned in the medieval sources exist today. The rooms which were unearthed after 1946 were only saved by chance, and by their geographical position at a lower Level than the newly-created Baroque terrace. The Gothic Hall and the Palace Chapel were built by King Sigismund Luxemburg at the beginning of the 15th century. The castle wing is surrounded by a complex system of medieval fortifications.
The first chapel in the castle was probably built in the 14th century during the reign of Louis I of Hungary. Eberhard Windecke claimed in his Chronicle that Charles II of Hungary was murdered 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 Gothic Hall is one of the most important surviving example of secular Gothic architecture in Central Europe. It was built by King Sigismund Luxemburg 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 metres (9.2 ft). A vaulted cellar was built under the hall to span this difference. The Gothic Hall is an irregular rectangle of 20.2 × 11.55 m (66 × 37.9 ft), with a closed niche on the eastern side (the inside of the balcony tower).
It is divided into two naves with Gothic rib vaults. The vaults are supported by two massive pillars which come up through the floor from the cellar beneath the room. Half-pillars in the corners support the ribs. All six vaults are quadripartite, and the two on the inner side are irregularly shaped.
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 the salon where guests were entertained, the great parlour, the parlour, the 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.
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 era. Many of the statues survived the destruction during the siege of Budapest in 1944–45, and were later restored. On the other hand, important works of art were destroyed during the controversial reconstruction of the castle during the 1950s and 1960s.
Matthias Fountain (Mátyás kútja) – The spectacular fountain decorates 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 in 1896 by poachers in the forest owned by Stróbl.
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 the 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.
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.
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 its 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 the Angevin coats of arms. Small gardens were recreated in the medieval zwingers around the oldest parts of the building.