Ruins of observatory found on Gellért hill

Hungarian version of the article: Megtalálták a Csillagda maradványait a Gellért-hegyen

November 25, 2020 at 1:00 PM

Archaeological excavations are happening in preparation of the renovation of the Citadel. Around the fortification, the ruins of the observatory that once stood on Gellért Hill but was destroyed in 1867 have been found. The dig team has also confirmed the find of a First World War gun carriage, Celtic, Roman, and Ottoman Turkish coins. The renovation of the courtyard is set to begin soon, accompanied by the restoration on the outer walls.

Renovation of the unfairly dilapidated Citadel is progressing on schedule.  Work began with a survey and archaeological excavations. As part of this, the ruins of the observatory that once stood atop the hill have been uncovered, alongside a gun carriage from the first world war, coins from Celtic, Roman and Ottoman periods, as well as various ceramics – writes Várkapitányság in its press release. 

Work will continue with renovations in the courtyard of the fort, and the restoration of its outer walls.

View from atop the canon tower of the Citadel (Photo: Balázs Both/pestbuda.hu)

The Citadel and its surroundings are being developed as part of an exceptional government project. Renovation work has been long-awaited in the area, as one of Budapest's most stunning tourist attractions, offering possibly the best view of the city, has stood neglected for decades. Work is being carried out by Várkapitányság overseen by Gergely Fodor, a government commissioner appointed to the project.

Preparations for the project began with a general survey of the area and its condition, followed by a large archaeological excavation effort, which led t several interesting finds. The dig team found the walls of the University Observatory constructed in 1815 by the initiative of Palatine Joseph. The observatory was one of Europe's most modern institutions of its type but only stood for 50 years, and was torn down in 1870.

"We found the foundations of the southern walls during the current dig, and the astrological meridian still indicates the location of the eastern tower." This means we now know exactly where the observatory once stood" – said Zoltán Fullár, head of the Várkapitányság archaeological team.

A section of the southern wall (Photo: Várkapitányság)

Alongside the observatory walls, archaeologists also found an anti-aircraft gun carriage from World War I. The Military History Institute and Museum was involved in identifying the artefact. A total of 4–5 examples of the system created by the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy have remained extant throughout Europe. Current research shows that this is the second artefact of its type found in Hungary. The 1250-kilogram gun carriage has been added to the Military History Museum's collection.

"Even the screws of the gun carriage remained intact, making it an extremely valuable find. The other example of such a gun carriage can be seen before the Military History Museum on the Anjou Promenade in Buda Castle. These two once stood together here in the Citadel, it is great that both of them have been found" – stated Dr Vilmos Kovács, Commander of the Military History Institut and Museum.

Gun carriage from a First World War anti-aircraft gun (Photo: Várkapitányság)

Celtic ceramics, Roman coins, and Ottoman ceramics and coins were also unearthed. These finds were all found in layers which were moved to the hilltop as part of earlier landscaping efforts from other parts of the hill.

Roman coins (Photo: Várkapitányság)

In the next phase of the project, the World War II anti-aircraft bunker will be torn down. The first phase of the project will run until 2022 and give the neglected area a new lease on life. The dilapidated courtyard will be converted into one of Budapest's most beautiful public parks, and the outer walls of the fort restored.

In 2023, the second phase of the project will focus on creating a spectacular and inspiring permanent exhibition in the canon tower about the Hungarian fight for independence, entitled Szabadság Bástyája ('bastion of freedom').

The goal of the project is to create an area that both Hungarians and visitors will enjoy in the long run. The new greens, modern community spaces, comfortable infrastructure will provide visitors with a new and more meaningful way of spending time in this unique area, the peak of the capital.

Source: Várkapitányság

Cover photo: Renovation of Citadel begins (Photo: Várkapitányság)


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