Restoration of Habsburg Gate and Turul statue in Buda Castle has begun

Hungarian version of the article: Megkezdődött a Habsburg-kapu felújítása és a Turul-szobor restaurálása a budai Várban

Written by: Péter Bukovszki

February 19, 2021 at 9:00 AM

The ornate gate built during the Hauszmann-reconstruction of Buda castle stands at the Szent György Square station of the Buda Castle Funicular. The ornate fence, stairs, and the adjoined great Turul statue – erected in 1905 – are being restored.

Those who take their daily health walk around Szent György Square in Buda Castle have already seen the scaffolding opposite the Sándor Palace. The well-known Turul statue was recently hidden behind the beams: the ornate structure's renovation has begun. 

Scaffolding erected around Habsburg Gate and the Turul statue (Photo: Balázs Both/pestbuda.hu)

The Habsburg Gate, and the connected stairs and fence, were designed by Alajos Hauszmann, who managed the rebuilding of Buda Castle at the turn of the century (after taking over from Miklós Ybl in 1891, after the latter's death). The fence, divided by double stone columns, was created in the workshop of Gyula Jungfer and is closed at the castle wall with a massive stone pillar. The Turul statue created by Gyula Donáth in 1905 adorns the top of the column.  The staircase, which connects Szent György Square with the Savoy Terrace one level below it, served as one of the entrances to the ornate castle gardens that once surrounded the palace.

The Habsburg Gate with the stairs and the Turul statue in 1905, with Sándor Palace in the background (Photo: Magyar Pályázatok, August 1905)

21st technology used for restoration

The structure was damaged in World War 2 and last renovated in the 1970s. However, the last forty years have left their mark on the decorations. Várkapitányság – the company responsible for the restoration of Buda Castle – is restoring the works as part of its ongoing project to renovate the Royal Palace.

Gyula Donáth's work, the Turul, will be restored on the Savoy Terrace (Photo: Balázs Both/pestbuda.hu)

The iron fence will be restored in a workshop, where missing elements of the gate and candelabras will be replaced. The statue will also be removed from the pedestal and restored on the Savoy Terrace using the newest techniques available. 

The damaged Habsburg Gate and fence after the war, 1947 (Photo: Fortepan/No.: 101927)

The stone elements will also be repaired, and the foundations of the structure reinforced where needed. 

How did a bronze Turul end up in Buda Castle? 

According to the urban legend, the creator of the sculpture, Gyula Donáth, was friendly with Árpád Feszty, the famed painter of the work "Hungarians ride into the Carpathian Basin", and often visited the painter's studio on Bajza Street. Two stuffed birds could be found in the house: a vulture and a bald eagle, which Feszty used as models for his panorama painting in the years of the National Millennium. In connection with the nation's 1000th anniversary, several monuments were erected all over the country, and the government ordered Gyula Donáth to make the statue intended for Bánhida. "But how could he display 1000 years of Hungarian history?" the artists asked himself. Until looking at Feszty's massive painting, he realised its birds. As a result, the stuffed animals became the models of Turul statues in Bánhida (present-day Tatabánya) and Budapest. The story was published in the March 1983 issue of the Budapest periodical and retold by István Feszty, a cousin of the famous painter. 

Section of Árpád Feszty's studio with one model birds on the mantelpiece (Source: Uj Idők, 5 April 1896) 

The particular symbiosis of the gate named after the House of Habsburg and the bird of Hungarian legends on Szent György Square is a precious memorial of the largely destroyed garden system that once surrounded the Royal Palace of Buda Castle. As an architectural unit, it is a survivor that preserves the architectural and artistic achievements of Hungarians as a memento. A standing example of Ybl's and Hauszmann's efforts to reimagine the Royal Palace. While the terrors of the 20th century have left few treasures of the castle intact, at least those few that stand are in good hands. 

Cover photo: Habsburg Gate and the Turul as seen from Savoy Terrace, with the Sándor Palace in the background. (Photo: Balázs Both/pestbuda.hu)


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