Missing inscription to return to the facade of Palace of Justice

Hungarian version of the article: Visszakerül az eltüntetett felirat a Kossuth téri Igazságügyi Palotára

April 30, 2021 at 2:00 PM

A Latin inscription once proclaimed the judicial role of the building that stands opposite the Parliament building on Kossuth Square. Until 1949 the Palace of Justice housed the Curia, Hungary's highest court of appeal. The inscription was removed in the 1950s. During the building's renovation and the relocation of the Curia, the original inscription will return after seventy years.

After seven decades, the removed inscription will return to Kossuth Square – writes the Facebook page of the Steindl Imre Program. When the Palace of Justice was completed, a Latin inscription above the main entrance proudly proclaimed the judicial role of the building: “Iustitia regnorum fundamentum”, meaning “Justice is the cornerstone of nations” or "Justice is the foundation of the empire”). The Latin saying was the motto of King Francis I of Hungary, Emperor of Austria – who also had the motto carved on a new gate to the Burg in Vienna, built during his reign.

The Palace of Justice (the Hungarian Royal Curia and Court) around 1898, photographed by György Klösz (Source: Fortepan/Budapest Archives Reference no.: HU.BFL.XV.19.d.1.07.148)

The main facade with the inscription after completion, 1897 (Photo: Ernst Wasmuth, 1897, FSZEK Budapest Collection, no .: 000704)

As the Steindl Imre Program notes, before moving to Országház Square - today's Kossuth Lajos Square – the Hungarian Royal Curia and the Royal Court operated in two adjacent buildings in the Pest city centre. The inscription “Iustitia regnorum fundamentum” was placed on the tympanum above the entrance of the former building in 1804. Respecting this, Alajos Hauszmann included the inscription on his design. However, it only remained in place for about fifty years (1896-1952).

The original construction plan, 1894, Hauszmann office, the central part of the main façade (Source: BFL XV.17.f.401.53.)

The one-party state created in the 1940s abolished the Royal Hungarian Curia with the 1949 constitution, modelled after the Soviet example. The Supreme Court of the Hungarian People's Republic took its place. However, not only was the name changed from Curia to Supreme Court, the Kossuth Lajos Square building was taken from the transformed court. The building was planned to be the headquarters of the Labour Movement Institute and Museum of the Hungarian Workers' Party.

The main facade repaired after the war, 1955 (Photo: Fortepan/Image no.:  12502)

The renovation of the facade was completed in March 1952. Although it is not clear from contemporary documents, it is clear from later documents and photographs that the only major change to the façade compared to the original design was the removal of the Latin inscription.

The construction plan, 2021, the middle part of the main facade with the inscription (Source: Archikon Kft.)

In the future, however, the building will regain its original function and will once again be home to the Curia, i.e. the Supreme Court of Hungary. The palace will be renovated as part of the Steindl Imre Program. -

During the current renovation, the original Latin inscription of the tympanum will be restored on the frieze of the ledge. The change will architecturally and morally rehabilitate the building before the Curia moves in, claims the Steindl Imre Program.

The main facade of the Palace of Justice today, without the inscription under the tympanum (Photo: Balázs Both/pestbuda.hu)

The representative building in the Neo-Renaissance and Neo-Baroque styles, completed in 1896, was the seat of the Hungarian Royal Curia until 1949. It was divided into two parts, the Museum of the Hungarian and International Labour Museum and the Museum of Ethnography. Various institutes of party and later, general political history used the southern part of the building.

Cover photo: The main facade of the Palace of Justice with the inscription, after completion in 1897 (Photo: Ernst Wasmuth, 1897, FSZEK Budapest Collection, no .: 000704)


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