Six months to go – Saint Stephen's Hall ever closer to (re)completion

Hungarian version of the article: Fél év múlva megnyílik az újjászületett Szent István-terem a Budavári Palotában

February 20, 2021 at 9:30 AM

On 20 August, the first reconstructed ornate hall of the Royal Palace of Buda Castle will open to the public. Saint Stephen's Hall has the most lavish representative space of the turn of the century, housing several unique artistic and applied artistic solutions. The structure of the rebuilt Southern Connecting Wing of the Royal Palace is now complete, internal work will begin in the coming days.

Saint Stephen's Hall was named after the founding king of Hungary. The room was an ornament of Buda Castle. Designed by Alajos Hauszmann the greatest masters of Hungarian applied arts turned out en masse to work on the project, which eventually won a Grand Prize at the World Fair in 1900. The works of Enre Thék, Vilmos Zsolnay, Gyula Jungfer, and Alajos Strobl lined the hall. After being destroyed in the Second World War, the room is being reconstructed according to original plans as part of the National Hauszmann Program.

Detail of the former Saint Stephen's Hall. Visitors will soon be able to admire its beauty once again. (Photo: FSZEK Budapest Collection)

A new announcement from Várkapirányság – the company responsible for carrying out the National Hauszmann Program – notes that the long-overdue restoration of the Royal Palace of Buda Castle began last year with the reconstruction of the Souther Connecting Wing, which also houses Saint Stephen's hall. The roof of the wing has been completed and work on the interior has begun. Visitors will be able to visit the hall from 20 August 2021.

The scaffolded part of the Buda Castle seen in the picture, the so-called Southern Connecting Wing, hides Saint Stephen's Hall (Photo: Várkapitányság)

The Southern Connecting Wing after its construction (Photo: Várkapitányság)

The Hungarian masters involved in the project have been working on the interior for years. The Zsolnay pyrogranite pictures of the kings and saints of the Árpád House that lined the walls have been recreated. The central fireplace and the bust of Saint Stephen and the floorboards, the metal and goldsmith work, custom furniture, and curtains have also been completed according to the original plans, as have the ornate walnut wood wall panels. Representatives of disappearing trades have been involved in the project to further enhance the value of the historical reconstruction. The announcement reveals that masters of seven trades are working around the country, several hundred in all, on ensuring the hall is rebuilt with the utmost fidelity.

Detail of the future curtains (Photo: Várkapitányság)

Tapestries following the original designs will cover the walls of the room (Photo: Várkapitányság)

The original, Zsolnay-tiled fireplace and its reborn copy (Photo: Várkapitányság)

The bust of Saint Stephen will be placed on the mantlepiece, where it originally stood (Photo: Várkapitányság)

The most defining element of the interior, the Zsolnay fireplace, more than 2 metres wide and 4.5 metres high, will be assembled on-site in March. Over the coming months, professionals will gradually restore the original look from floor to ceiling. The new hall will offer yet another location for visitors to the Royal Palace to spend time in.

Pyrogranite images of kings: Coloman the Learned, Béla III and Saint Emeric (Photo: Várkapitányság) 

Masters of seven trades are working in twenty workshops across the country (Photo: Várkapitányság)

The announcement notes that the National Hauszmann Program not only saves and recreates objects of national value but has led to exciting new finds. Hidden elements of the Royal Palace have been uncovered as part of the work several times over the last few years. These help experts in recreating the original layout and interior of the palace buildings. As part of the reconstruction of the southern connecting wing, workers uncovered valuable remains from the era of the Angevin Kings and columns from the period of the Hauszmann reconstruction. Several of these artefacts will be visible in their original location once the construction has been completed.

Hauszmann-era columns found behind the walls in 2019 (Photo: Várkapitányság)

according to the announcement published by Várkapitányság, following the historical restoration of the Southern Connecting Wing of the Royal Palace of Buda Castle and the reconstruction of Saint Stephen's Hall, the complete exterior and interior renovation of the palace complex will continue.

Cover photo: The original Saint Stephen's Hall (Photo: FSZEK Budapest Collection)

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