The Royal Palace of Buda

The Buda Castle and its neighbourhood from the Gellért hillThe origin of the medieval palace fades into the mystery of the past. Due to the scant written sources and archaeological data available, the building of the very first royal palace in Buda cannot be dated or located precisely. The only fact for which there is any evidence is that the construction of Buda Castle took place after the town's foundation following the Tartar occupation. There is reason to assume that this new fortification, established by the king, must also have functioned as a royal residence. This question, however, has been the subject of controversy for a long time.

The history of building of the medieval palace that used to stand on the site of the one existing today can only be traced back to the middle of the 14th century. However, because of the regular devastation of the town, several details of the history of building in the Middle Ages and the Turkish-era are either unclear or disputed. More reliable data and plans are available only from the Baroque era.

Schoffer: Buda and Pest from the Rózsadomb - coloured engraving, 1782

The ceremonial lights of Buda to the honour of the Viennese Congree, 1814

Rudolf Alt: the view of the Royal Palace of Buda from Pest - aquarell

After Zeller Sebestyén: The eastern facade of the baroque palace, after 1758

The Palace during the Middle Ages and the Turkish era

The Royal palace of Buda in the 1390s - reconstructionThe first remnants of the palace that help to reconstruct its history of building were excavated at the southernmost corner of the narrowing plateau. It was a trapezoid block slightly widening from south to north, with its four wings embracing a narrow courtyard (the so called Kisudvar - Small Yard). On the southwestern corner of the enclosed block stood the sturdy "István Tower" - "Stephen's Tower", named most likely after Prince Stephen of Anjou, the younger brother of King Louis the Great. It had a quadrangular plan with an axis slightly turned aside from that of the main, trapezoid block. The chapel was most probably in the southern wing, which was attached to the eastern side of the tower. In the middle of the northern wing there was a gate with a long, vaulted gateway giving to the yard. The Royal Palaca of Buda - chapel, around 1366The prince's palace - mentioned by scholars nowadays as Istvánvár (Stephen's Castle) - was erected on a site that matched approximately the size of an average burgher's plot of Buda at that time. The building complex with its servicing establishments (stables, barns, warehouses, and probably workshops) seems rather modest for a princely court and household. Considering this and some other facts we can assume that a significant part of the plateau north from the block of buildings must have been the forecourt of the palace. The civilian part of the town, which was located to the north was separated from this forecourt by a cliff moat, the so-called Szárazárok (Dry Moat).

Following the death of Prince Stephen (1354), King Louis the Great (1342-82) began the building of a more splendid royal palace, mainly on the site of the aforesaid forecourt. This was later referred to in written sources as the Inner, Large or Ceremonial Courtyard.

The Knight Hall of the Royal Palace of BudaThe really large-scale development of the Buda Palace can be attributed to Sigismund of Luxemburg (1387-1437). Although Sigismund was regularly away from Buda and even often out of the country, he evidently kept an eye on the construction works that concluded in bringing the palace up to the European standards expected of a royal seat. He ordered drawings of several buildings - one of them was that of the Popes' Palace in Avignon - that could possibly serve as models for designing the palace. Throughout his trips abroad, he signed several contracts with different craftsmen for the construction work. The most significant part of the construction, carried out in phases, took place in the 1410's and 1420's. In the meantime, the royal offices were relocated from Visegrád to Buda, which was a major step towards the Buda Palace becoming a permanent royal seat.

Stove tile with the figure of a knight from the Buda CastleThe first phase of the construction effected most likely only the Anjou-palace complex. This time they built on the slope of the hill a multi-storied palace-wing at the southern side of the István Castle - partly replacing its southern wing. The renovated hall on the ground floor in the south-eastern wing (Southern Great Hall or Gothic Hall) is the sole example that remains of the imposing, secular premises of the medieval palace, and today serves as an exhibition hall. The extensive barrel-vaulted cellar beneath the hall is also reconstructed and is part of the exhibition area.

From the other wing, which was of similar distribution, but of a less refined design, built on the slope at the western side of the István Castle, only three barrel-vaulted cellars have remained. The two newly erected palace wings fully embraced the István Tower that used to stand out from the former building.

Sigismund of Luxemburg -  a painting by PisanelloThe two towers that secured the opposite sides (the north-eastern and north-western) of the Anjou palace-complex were most likely also constructed at the same time. The smaller, north-eastern tower later served the purpose of a gate-tower (North-eastern Gate-tower) and its remnants that stick out from the palace's terrace can still be clearly viewed from the eastern zigzag road.

The tower standing on the Northwest used to be of a more considerable size. Remnants of this construction that were circumscribed by very thick outer-walls could only be partially excavated. Its ground plan is depicted as red stripes on the stone floor tiles of the Oroszlános (Lion) Courtyard of the modern palace. Since the construction of this tower was never completed for some reason, it was referred to as the Turris Manca i.e. Incomplete Tower in medieval sources.

The Royal Palace of Buda in the 1420s - reconstructionDuring the next phase of construction, the area occupied by the palace increased significantly. In order to find room for the new palace wings, the walls were extended to the northern part of the plateau, where a new, larger courtyard (Sigismund's Courtyard or Second Courtyard) was formed. This extension required the part of the town that used to stand there be demolished. The new courtyard was separated from the town by a new, giant moat, the Second Dry Moat, which cut through the entire plateau.

There was only some archaeological investigation in the courtyard. However, it can be established that on the eastern side there were two, shorter wings with a north-south axis while a third, longer wing with an east-west axis was located on the courtyard's northern side. The southern wing of this east-west axis has been investigated extensively. Remnants of cellars have been excavated and partly restored in this area and can be seen today (Cellars of the Eastern Wing). As it is depicted on the first vista of Buda of around 1470 on Schedel's woodcut the southern wing had a rather modest design. Considering its roof with its characteristic chimney-stacks, we may assume that it was a kitchen.

The view of Buda in Hartmann Schedel's Word Chronicle, 1493

As regards the shape of the other building to the north, only speculative assumptions can be made, based on the Schedel's woodcut, since no archaeological excavations have taken place yet. Considering its external features the wing had to have residential and representational functions.

Stove tile with the figure of Sigismund from the Buda Castle, the first half of the 15th centuryThe third palace wing - standing roughly at right angles to the other two, - must have been the era's largest building. This wing, which is referred to as Sigismund's Palace in written sources, provided a site for the Ceremonial Hall, the immense sizes of which - 100 x 25 steps cca. 70/75 x18/20 meters - is mentioned later in connection with the wedding of King Matthias.

The main entrance of the courtyard, as well as that of the palace, used to open around the middle of the northern side, and a bridge lead to it over the Second Dry Moat. (Two streets going south from the town run into each other exactly at this point). Later, however, the main gate together with the bridge was relocated to the western side of the dry moat, which can hardly be explained by anything else but the construction of the Sigismund's Palace (hence the blocking of the original main road.)

The north-eastern facade of the Sigismund palace - reconstructionIn relation to the palace wings built by Sigismund, another building must be mentioned. This one was outside of palace-complex and was situated further to the north, i.e. within the town, but must nevertheless have been a royal property. It is most likely identical with the Friss Palota (Fresh Palace), which is often cited in written sources.

When speaking about the construction works of the Sigismund's era, one must draw attention to the famous Gothic statue-find unearthed during the archaeological excavation carried out by László Zolnay in 1974. While uncovering archaeological findings, at the Northern Forecourt of the medieval palace, (that was in fact formed after the reign of Sigismund), several hundred carved stone fragments of different sizes were dug up. As a result of the restoration of this large number of bits and pieces, the identification of 60 different statue-figures was made possible, the statues having very probably been part of some palace-wings or/and chapel embellishments of Sigismund's age.

A knight from the statue findings in the Buda Castle, 15th centuryMadonna from the statue findings of the Buda Castle, 15th centuryThe construction works performed in the Sigismund-era were meant not only to extend the palace with new wings, but also to improve and expand the fortifications. While the castle walls during the Anjou-era - at least according to our current knowledge - only lay along the plateau's edge, the new fortifications built in several phases also extended to the slopes facing out in westerly, southerly and easterly directions. The curtain-walls, which were constructed parallel with one-another but stood on different levels intercepting different size courtyards and wards, formed a well-jointed system of defence. The Eastern and Western Ward, Head of an apostle from the statue finding of the Buda Castle, 15th centurywhich can still be seen today, as well as the first southern fortification, were built around this time. In contrast to what was fashionable at the time, only few fortification-towers rarely protected the new outer curtain-walls. In the south-western corner of the Western Ward - so on a strategic point - stood the solid Mace Tower with a cirular ground plan, which still exists in its restored form. Similarly solid-structured but quadrangular plan smaller towers were erected at the south-eastern and north-eastern corners of the Eastern Ward. A stronger tower was only located at the southern corner of the triangular plan southern fortification block, however, this used to be a gatehouse.

Man's heaf from the statue findings in the Buda CastleNo construction work of any significance can be traced to the two decades that followed Sigismund's death incorporating the reigns of Albert, Wladislas I and Ladislas V. The next flourishing period of the palace construction undoubtedly took place during the reign of King Matthias (1458-1490). It seems that Matthias' efforts were mainly to reconstruct and modernise already standing buildings. Although during this time the characteristic features of Gothic style were still prominent, any real significance can be attributed to the blossoming out and the flourishing of the Renaissance.

The mace tower of the Buda CastleReconstruction work in the Renaissance style effected the entire building complex, but according to written sources it must have been specifically significant in the Anjou-wings of palace, that surrounded the Inner Court and in the chapel. This was the time when the buildings of the court were given a uiform architectural character by placing a concatenation of two-storied arched loggias in front of the inner façade on all three sides (east, south and west). However, the reconstruction in Renaissance style influenced the palace-wings themselves, especially their interiors - ceilings, floors, door- and window-frames. The western wing, where the throne-room was most probably located, was given a second storey at this time. Matthias' famous Corvina library was housed in the eastern wing next to the chapel. The chapel must have gone through major reconstruction to such an extent that its building was attributed to King Matthias by Bonfini, a Humanist historian of that age. The construction works carried out here are related to obtaining the relics of Saint John in 1489, and the chapel is often referred to by this title. The Renaissance image of the Inner Court was emphasised by the "Pallas" Fountain erected in the middle, with a bronze statue set in the marble basin.

Portrait of King Matthias with a laurel wreathLarger scale construction is also assumed to have taken place at the north-eastern building of the Sigismund's Court. Another supposition is that King Matthias rebuilt it from almost the foundation. In lack of archaeological excavations this question can not be answered.

From the remaining buildings however, only one, the Cisterna Regia can be truly attributed to Matthias. The large, cellar-like cistern was constructed in the narrow court situated west from the western wing of the István Castle (today an exhibition hall in its restored form). Its top, which has been converted into a terrace, was formerly covered with hanging gardens.

Missale.King Matthias' Renaissance construction work in Buda had more than local importance. This assertion is supported by the fact that the new style, which originally came from Italy, was the first of its kind to appear north of the Alps in its original and pure version, after which time it spread rapidly. This can be mainly attributed to Matthias marrying the Aragonese princess Beatrix, in 1476. Beatrix came from Naples, and many Italian artists and craftsmen followed her to the Hungarian royal court. Most of the construction works took place at the end of the 1470's and in the 1480's.

Besides the construction work carried out on the buildings of the palace, the curtain-walls and gardens are also worthy of note. In regard to the castle walls, new fortifications were not so much newly constructed, but rather the existing ones were "dressed up". The making of wooden structure, covered wall-walks crowning the walls turned the entire panorama of the palace into a picturesque one. This is included in the vista of the Schedel's woodcut, (the first known view of Buda) the original sketch of which was prepared around 1470.

Majolica floor tiles from the Buda CastleMajolica floor tiles with a shield of crow, Buda CastleEven though the palace gardens already existed during the reign of Sigismund and even Louis the Great, their large-scale development must be associated with King Matthias and the Renaissance garden culture. The gardens situated in the valley west of the palace-complex are separately mentioned in written sources. Although their true appearance is not known, assumptions can nevertheless be made based on the Erhard Schön print depicting the siege of 1541. The print illustrates two enormous gardens, which reach as far as the stream that runs along the bottom of the valley. High walls separately sealed off the two gardens.

Fragment of a ceiling with angel heads, Buda CastleRenaissance construction works did not come to an end after King Matthias' death. Although written sources only vaguely refer to construction that took place during the reign of Wladislaw Jagiello - crowned as Ulászló II. (1490-1516)-, the carved stone archaeological finds are helpful in putting the picture together. The time period of their production can be concluded from several unearthed stone carvings embellished with his coat-of-arms and initials, as well as from other objects. The quality of these is in no way inferior to those dating from the reign of Matthias. It is highly probable that basically the appearance of the palace complex did not change during the reign of King Louis II (1516-1526).

The relief portrait of Matthias and Beatrix, Buda Castle

A well with the shield of King Matthias and Queen Beatrix, 1480sThe palace and the surrounding fortifications as they looked towards the end of the Middle Ages, are well illustrated by the earlier cited Schön-print from 1541. This clearly indicates that by this time, the basic area of the palace complex had significantly broadened towards the north. The newly established huge court - the Outer Court or the Northern Forecourt - was most probably developed over several phases. Some of the civic buildings that used to stand in the direct foreground of the second Dry Moat might have been demolished even during the reign of King Sigismund. According to the Schedel-woodcut prepared under King Matthias, the foreground area of the Sigismund's palace was rather spacious even though a few houses were still scattered around in the northern section. As a last step in developing the unutilised space outside the palace into a court, - probably in the 1530's - a massive partition wall was erected on the northern side (Northern Curtain), which from this point onwards served the purpose of blocking the palace area from the civilian town, right until the middle of the 19th century. An earlier townhouse and another, bigger building - mentionend above as Fresh Palace - were incorporated into this wall around the middle, of which the latter hereafter served as a gate-tower.

Fragment of a marble frieze - depicting a naked young child, Buda CastleAnother important element of the fortification development was carried out on the southern section of the complex. The triangular plan defences and the gatehouse from the Sigismund era that were situated on the southern part of the gently sloping hill were pulled down to make room for an enormous round bastion ("Rondella"), a common feature of the time. This new redoubt was designed to be a lot flatter and thicker than before, and for greater stability its inner part was packed with soil. This improved its efficiency in standing up to artillery assaults launched from the side of the Gellért Hill and also enabled it to retaliate more effectively with the fire of cannons mounted in it.

Red marble gable with the shield of King Matthias, Buda CastleLooking to the southern fortifications, another round bastion that used to stand on the south-eastern corner of the Eastern Ward, (Vízirondella, Waterrondella) ought to be mentioned. However, lacking excavation work the time of its construction is still in dispute: some experts link it up with King John Szapolyai, others with King Matthias. Since it cannot be identified on the Schön-print and its authentic form is only known from Turkish age views, it is possible as well that the Turks built it.

Stove tile representimg King Matthias, Buda CastleDuring the Turkish occupation that began in 1541, and lasted for 145 years, the royal palace completely lost its previous role and glory. The building complex that was used as military barracks, warehouse and prison was otherwise barely maintained, and only the fortifications were strengthened. As indicated earlier, the Water Rondella is also thought to have been built around this time. The origin of Karakash Pasha's Tower, which stands at the north-western corner of the Western Ward was - despite of its name - also initially dated to the Middle Ages, but this view has been modified recently in favour of the Turkish era. At the southern part of the Western Ward - which during the Turkish occupation was called the Yeni Mahalle (New Town) - the Turks even erected a djami. This fact can be established based on contemporary views and layouts.

Erhard Schön: The Siege of Buda, 1541 - wood engraving, detailErhard Schön: The Siege of Buda, 1541 - wood engraving, detail

The Buda Castle, southern rondellaAs a result of the sieges and gunpowder explosions, the architectural complex of the palace was severely damaged by the end of the Turkish occupation. The Sigismund Court was the most damaged, and judging by the views it was reduced to a derelict space scattered with rubble. As a result of a gunpowder explosion, all of the glorious palace wings were destroyed, and cellars worth of restoring were only found at the southern wing of the eastern side. Similarly, the south-western palace wing that used to stand at the southern end of the palace and behind it the western wing of the István Castle was also raised to the ground. The south-western wall of the István Tower collapsed along its entire length, and the upper part of the Mace Tower also collapsed. Finally, the southern section of the southern Rondella also suffered severe damage. As contrasts to these the eastern side of the Inner Court with the chapel, but especially the western wing with the Incomplete Tower remained relatively intact.

M. Merion: Buda and Pest from the west - with Turkish  buildings, copper engraving, 1638

From the Re-occupation of the Palace to the 1880's

Alexander Glässer: View of Buda, middle of the 18th centuryEven long after it had been retaken from the Turks, Buda was not considered as a contender for the royal seat. During this time Buda castle's primary role was that of a fortification, and thus military functions determined its construction. The ruined curtain walls, which had been built in the Middle Ages, were quickly rebuilt and modernized. The southern Rondella, which was considered as the key strategic point of the palace and the entire castle quarter, was among the first sections to be repaired. After restoring the original walls it was made more defensible by surrounding it with modern bulwarks.

Besides the most necessary rubble clearance and demolition, the remnants of the palace that were still standing were left undisturbed. Johann Christian Leopold: View of Buda and Pest, middle of the 18th centuryIn the decade immediately after the re-occupation a massive military arsenal called in German the Zeughaus was built in the eastern half of the Northern Forecourt, within the palace area. Although the Zeughaus was burnt down in the 1723 fire, it was replaced in the period between 1725 and 1730. The new building constructed in the Baroque style remained a dominant element in Buda's view for 160 years.

The question of what to do with the remains of the medieval palace was raised in 1714 when the commander of the castle wanted to have everything pulled down. However, his idea was not put into practice and the new building was erected by using at least some of those parts of the old building that remained in better condition. The new "palace" was not designed for the monarch but rather for the commander and his staff. Consequently, its design was less refined: it was a two-storied building block raised on a quadrangular layout at the most southern part, with an enclosed courtyard and a narrow wing projecting from the western end of the northern side. The latter was redesigned from the former western wing of the Inner Court. In order to begin the construction work, the first step was to demolish the unnecessary ruins. This was the time when the greater part of the still standing medieval remnants was destroyed down to the rock surface, but usually not below.

Mikovinyi - Schutzler: The view of Buda with the royal palace, 1737 - részlet

Mikovinyi - Schutzler: The view of Buda with the royal palace, 1737 - detail

Some of the medieval remains were used for the foundation. For example, in the cellar of the eastern wing of the new block (the King's Cellar), the solid ashlar built sustaining wall of the frontage of the former wing was integrated. Similarly to this, the new western wing was placed on top of the former Cisterna Regia (today: the Albrecht Cellar), though here buttresses and arches were used to strengthen the medieval construction.

Langer: The ground plan of the Buda Castle, 1749The construction of the first Baroque Palace was never completed according to the original plans. However, its quadrangular block, albeit somewhat altered, still exists today and is known as building "E" in the palace-compound that stands today. Besides the medieval remains integrated in the new palace complex, a few other objects such as the Incomplete Tower, parts of the gatehouse at the western end of the 2nd Dry Moat, as well as the cellar from the south-eastern wing of Sigismund's Court used for powder-magazine, have also been preserved.

When in 1748 Antal Grassalkovich, president of the chamber managed to persuade Queen Maria Theresa to build a new royal palace, significant alterations were made to the old building and the entire area. Construction work began the following year. The second Baroque-style palace was designed on the basis of such plans, the new requirements of which demanded more space and higher expectations. Although the enclosed southern block as a starting point was preserved, its entire northern extension was pulled down. Thus the last existing palace wing built in the Middle Ages, as well as other remains that used to belong to the former courts, disappeared.

After Zeller Sebestyén: The eastern facade of the baroque palace, after 1758

Joseph Hillebrandt: The drawing of the chapel of the Holy Right, around 1778 The new palace was erected with two other buildings that were placed north of the old building, and both of them had inner courts. Short, medial wings connected the old and new parts. The main façade of the symmetrically arranged building complex faced the Danube. Its ground plan looked like a flat or squared "C" or "U" letter. The royal residences and the throne hall, were located in the middle wing (today: building "D"). The three wings embraced a ceremonial court - cour d'honneur, - open towards the west which forms the eastern part of the Lion Courtyard today.

The construction work, which had begun at a vigorous pace, slowed down and was only finished by 1768-1769. The last stage was to consecrate the new Saint Sigismund-chapel built in the western wing of the northern block.

Mansfeld: View of Buda, 1777The queen only visited the palace, which was still under construction at the time, on two occasions, once in 1751 and again in 1764, and she only used it as her quarters during her second visit. Between 1766 and 1777, the palace was used as an occasional residence by the governor of Hungary, Prince Albert of Saxony and Teschen. In the meantime, the Order of Mary Ward's Nuns newly moved to Hungary was also accommodated here between 1770 and 1777. In 1771 Maria Theresa, after obtaining the precious hand-relic of King Saint Stephen from Raguza (today: Dubrovnik), sent this 'Holy Right' to Buda and entrusted the nuns with the preservation of it. A bit later she even ordered to erect a new chapel for it. The construction of the Holy Right Chapel, designed by Hillebrandt with an oval plan inside but octagonal planoutside, was completed by 1778. It was erected in the north-western corner of the northern wing, directly connected to the Saint Sigismund Chapel of the palace.

The Buda Castle in the 18th century - engraving by Mansfeld

The palatine's crypt in the Buda CastleThe translocation of another institution, i.e. the university of Nagyszombat (today: Trnava, Slovakia) to Buda, i.e. its temporary housing within the palace, resulted in a more serious external re-construction. This was because in addition to the alterations made inside the building complex, an observatory tower was also erected above the Danube-side façade of the main building, for use of the university that operated there between 1777 and 1784.

Based on a decision made by King Joseph II in 1784, the university was moved to Pest. The Military Headquarters that was moved from Pozsony, was also given home in the palace right until 1791, a move which reinstated the palace with some of the governing and administration roles it had enjoyed in the past. The symbolic significance of the palace was further increased by the king's decision, according to which the Holy Crown of Hungary was returned from Vienna and from this point kept more or less continually in the palace. For a long time the crown was placed in the rooms located above the entrance of the Saint Sigismund Church.

Rudolf Alt: The view of Buda with the Chain Bridge, the Royal castle and the WharfAfter this point - during the reign of King Leopold II - the palace again began to operate as a residence when Archduke Alexander Leopold of Habsburg, Palatine of Hungary moved into the palace. After his death in 1795 his younger brother Archduke Joseph succeeded him, first in the role of governor, then as the palatine of Hungary. - right until 1847. (During this time the royal family also visited the palace several times). From 1820 onwards, the undercroft area of the Saint Sigismud Church was used as a burial place and in 1830 it was re-structured and turned into a crypt based on the design of Franz Huppmann. Between 1827 and 1830 the observatory tower in the middle wing was dismantled and replaced by a third level. After his death in 1847, Archduke Joseph was succeeded by his son Archduke István (Stephen). The re-structuring of the Danube-side façade of the main wing, as well as the development of the new, large stable: the so-called Hofstallgebaude were initiated by him.

Rudolf Alt: the view of the Royal Palace of Buda from Pest - aquarell


Weiss - Neuwierth - Holczer: The cross-section of the palace, 1856The 1848 -1849 revolution and war for independence, and the siege by the Hungarian Army in May 1849 affected the palace at this stage. Although the whole building was heavily damaged during the siege, particularly the middle and southern wings which burnt out, the restoration, re-construction and modernizing of the palace soon began. Emperor Franz Joseph used the palace as his occasional quarters as early as 1852, but it only properly re-gained its residential role in 1856 when the apartments of Archduke Albrecht of Habsburg, the governor of Hungary and his wife were established in the southern wing. The neo-rococo-style suite of the governor and his wife was located on the first floor, while on the second floor their two daughters lived with their retinue. Premises on the ground floor were related to their household. The middle building block remained as the quarters and ceremonial area for the monarch, but on special occasions the archduke also used the ceremonial hall with its pertinent premises. The archduke's chief marshal was accommodated in the northern wing. Albrecht lived in the palace until 1866 and after he left the southern wing was turned into a royal residence. Following this event, construction work on the palace was suspended for a while but throughout several visits the royal couple paid to the palace it became evident that the place was rather lacking for a stately court and that expansion would be required.

Miklós Ybl: Stall in the Castle Garnden, 1874-1879However, the following first construction work did not focus on expansion yet but put another expression of the royal splendor among the first considerations, which was only partially related to the palace building itself. In relation to the royal gardens, based on the design of Miklós Ybl, the Castle Bazaar with its neo-renaissance-style garden and architecture was established on the south-eastern slope of the Catsle Hill between 1875 and 1881.

The Palace at the Turn of the Century and Today

The view of the Buda Castle, 1896The planning and design regarding the expansion of the entire palace finally began in 1885, when the architect Miklós Ybl was again entrusted with its execution. The plans included the wide-scale extension of the palace complex both to the west and north. The actual construction commenced under the direction of Miklós Ybl in 1890 with preliminary work on the new wing (today: building "F") located opposite the middle wing of the Baroque Palace on the west. The enormous, newly designed building block required the construction of an extensive terrace-like foundation, which extended over the former medieval Western Ward. The preparatory work for the supporting brick wall, which with its decorative yet massive appearance is still a determining feature of the western side of the palace, was also begun around this time. This work had enlarged the surface of the terrace to be potentially used for further buildings. At the same time along the outer side of the wall a new road, the Palace Road, leading from west to the palace was also built.

Gates with lions in the Buda Castle, 1902The new wing became the largest block of the entire complex. It is attached to the old northern and southern wing from the northeast and southeast. Together the Baroque wings and the new wing completely encircled the original Baroque Court. The newly established Lion Courtyard was named after the main gate opening to north, the inner and outer side of which was guarded by one-one pair of lion statues.

The bottom four floors of the newly erected building of seven levels were used for servicing establishments and for the staff. The residential areas and banquet halls were located on the fifth and sixth floors - which are the ground floor and first floor from the direction of the Lion Courtyard - while the seventh (second) floor was allocated to the staff, and was the secure vault for the coronation insignia.

The plan of Miklós Ybl to enlarge the throne room, 1880sFundamentally the new western wing served the purpose of a residential area, and was not used so much for royal ceremonial functions, which normally took place in the banquet- or throne-hall, situated in the opposite, Baroque main wing. However, during the course of various events it was realised that the banquet hall was too small, so Hauszmann further expanded it towards the court. Nevertheless it was still too small during the series of events of the millenary festival in 1896.

Further on only a northern extension, beyond the Baroque Palace, was feasible. As a first step, the building of the Baroque Arsenal, the Zeughaus, was demolished, which was followed by filling-up the open parts of the second Dry Moat. Two new wings were added to the previous building complex. The extension took place along the longitudinal axis of the Baroque Palace in a northerly direction and followed the principles of symmetry. Instead of the former three wings of the Baroque Palace, five now stood on the eastern side: they are buildings "A", "B"C, "D" and "E" today. As a result, a 304 metre long chain of buildings was constructed. The former northern wing (building "C") became the centre of the new façade on the Danube's side. An open grand staircase with two slightly curved flights, named as the Habsburg Staircase was built here in front of its eastern, main entrance.

Ceremonial hall in the Buda Castle, 1896The entire eastern building complex served the purpose of the royal ceremonial functions, balls, banquets, receptions, audiences, etc. It consisted of a nearly 200 metres long concatenation of rooms and halls opening into each - other on the first floor. The new Northern wing ("Building "A") was given the role of the reception area with its main gate opening in the direction of Saint György Square, which is located north of the palace. The Entrance Vestibule was formed here in the eastern section. The new centre of royal ceremonies, the Great Ballroom was given place at the western side of the new wing located lower south (Building "B" ), while on the eastern part facing the Danube, the Buffet Hall was built. The ballroom with its impressive size (724 square metres, 15.5 metres height) was able to accommodate large-scale events from this point onwards. The former northern Baroque wing (Building "C"), - which became the main wing, - gave home to the smaller but similarly elegant premise, the Habsburg Hall. In the former Baroque main wing (Building "D") the Throne Room or Ceremonial Hall which was extended by Hauszmann, had preserved its previous function.

Róbert Nádler: The plan of the eastern facade of the Royal Palace of Buda, 1900

Róbert Nádler: The planed view of the royal palace from the north, 1900

Ceremonial halls were also placed in the western wing during previous /re/-construction works. Since they were specifically designed for the royal private residence, they were naturally smaller. King Matthias' Hall as well as the Saint Stephen's Hall are worthy of particular note.

Gyula Gyula: The statue of a Turul bird on the gates of the Buda Castle, 1903The extension and furnishing of the palace was completed by 1904. The renovation and extension work did not only effect the palace itself, but included all servicing buildings and gardens in the immediate surrounding of the palace. The vast stable and riding school set-up in the middle of the 19th century was given a new face in the manner of the historical architecture of the turn-of-the-century. Functions of the riding school were relocated in a new, impressive building at the Western Ward (or as newly named the Horse-Herder's Court). Finally, south of the old stable at the west end of the 2nd Dry Moat right in the forefront of the Lion Gate, a new guard post was erected in line with the fashion of the turn of the century.

The architectural development of the palace was completed with the above-described constructions and at the same time stopped for almost half of a century. However, this group of buildings - even if altered on several points - has remained a determining feature of the view of Budapest up to the present day. The palace, which was used by the last Habsburg ruler, Charles IV until October 1918, after the revolutions and counter-revolution became the residence of Miklós Horthy, governor of Hungary in 1920. He was removed from here by the German troops on October 16, 1944.

Ball room in the palace, 1912

The Hunyadi Mátyás room of the royal palace, 1912

During the siege of Budapest from Christmas 1944 until February 11, 1945, the Buda Castle and within it the palace was used as the General Headquarters and the last stronghold of the German and Hungarian troops, and subsequently became the scene of terrible destruction.

The bombed Buda Castle, spring 1945Under the direction of László Gerevich archeological investigation into the medieval history of the ruined palace began in 1948. As a result, the ruins of the medieval palace that had been buried for two centuries were coming to light step-by-step. The findings continuously contributed to the line-up of monuments to be displayed. Restoration works were directed by László Gero from the beginning.

Besides the preservation and archaeological work carried out on location the redesigning of the entire palace was also under way. According to the original plans the Communist Party Headquarters as well as State- and Administration Center would have been established here. However, in 1959 a favourable change was made to the plans when it was decided that the palace should house exclusively cultural institutions and public collections. According to this building "A" was given to the Museum of Modern History, buildings "B", "C" and "D" for the Hungarian National Gallery, building "E" for the Budapest History Museum and building "F" for the National Széchényi Library.

The dome of the National Gallery, 1986After the decision was made, however, more than a quarter of a century passed before the last institution was placed in its part of the building. First, the Budapest Historical Museum moved to building "E" in 1967. The Museum of the Working Class Movement (after 1990 replaced by the Ludwig Contemporary Museum of Art) was placed in building "A" only in 1974. The same time was the National Gallery moved to the buildings "B-C-D". Finally, the National Széchényi Library was relocated to building "F" in 1985.

With the exception of building "A", the reconstruction did not change the original ground-plan of the palace. In contrast to this, however, radical changes were made inside the palace wings. Instead of restoring and replacing the damaged or destroyed interior, it was completely modernised. Nothing was left from the interior of the former royal palace. All the service buildings outside the palace that were built during the 19th and 20th centuries, such as the royal stable, the new riding school and the guard post, were demolished.

Exhibition hall in the National Gellery