Unique ceiling and parquet of Saint Stephen's Hall recreated

Hungarian version of the article: Újraalkották a Szent István-terem különleges mennyezetét és parkettáját

June 1, 2021 at 1:00 PM

The construction of Saint Stephen's Hall in the southern connecting wing of the Royal Palace of Buda Castle has entered a new phase. According to the announcement from Várkapitányság, the spectacular ceiling and parquet have been installed, and most of the custom furniture has also been completed. The next task will be to recreate the lavish wall covering

Named after King Saint Stephen, the hall was one of the most significant representative interiors of the Royal Palace and an outstanding achievement of Hungarian applied arts at the turn of the century. The room soared to international success at the 1900 Paris World's Fair. 

The announcement notes that meticulous, intimate details played the main role in the furnishing of the hall. Hungarian ornamentation appeared in addition to the neo-Romanesque style features. In addition to the craftsmen who worked on the hall, the works of sculptor Alajos Strobl and ceramicist Vilmos Zsolnay, as well as the pyrogranite pictures based on the royal figures by the painter Ignác Roskovics, adorn the interior.

The original wooden ceiling, wall coverings, parquet and furniture of Saint Stephen's Hall were made in the furniture factory of Endre Thék (Source: FSZEK Budapest Collection)

The legendary room was housed in a part of the Royal Palace completely destroyed in World War II. It is being recreated as part of the reconstruction of the Southern Connecting Wing. Under the National Hauszmann Program, many art historians, craftsmen, restorers and other professionals have been working for years to return Saint Stephen's Hall to visitors. As a first step, they reconstructed the decorations and furnishings of the room in as much detail as possible, using old documents and photographs. Fortunately, the latter was of such quality that the meticulous, intricate wood carvings could be seen on them.

The intricate wood carvings were reconstructed based on archive photos (Photo: Várkapitányság)

Ceiling of Saint Stephen's Hall (Photo: Várkapitányság)

The high-quality archive photos also show that the most defining material of the room was wood, which covered the floor, ceiling and walls. The parquet was made at the turn of the century in the factory of the Neuschlos brothers. Specialists remade it with the same technique, using three types of wood. The main motif of the extremely complex inlaid floor is a dragon shape. All elements are made of three materials: red oak, black walnut and mahogany. The parquet is accompanied by a decorative strip with a geometric pattern that runs under the wall covering.

The inlaid floor is made of three types of wood (Photo: Várkapitányság)

The dragon shape is the main motif (Photo: Várkapitányság)

The ceiling, sidewall and furniture all came from the workshop of Endre Thék, who became famous for his artistic woodwork during Dualism. The ceiling of the room consists of beamed, carved decorations with coffered sections. The wood is first-class, knot-free, pre-steamed walnut, 24-carat gold plates were used for the surface decoration. The Zsolnay pyrogranite tiles inserted into the cassettes are the unique feature of the ceiling, which can also be interpreted as separate images.

The Zsolnay pyrogranite tiles inserted in the coffers of the ceiling are most unique (Photo: Várkapitányság)

The ceiling highlights carved decorations  (Photo: Várkapitányság)

In the next stage of the reconstruction, the lavish wall covering will be installed. A carved panel will reach 2.5 meters high, above which an embroidered tapestry will hang. Completion of the woodwork was preceded by in-depth historical research to apply the procedures and wood bindings used at the turn of the century in the recreation of the hall. The wall will consist of many hundreds of smaller and larger interconnected elements, the special feature of which is that the visible panels will not contain any metal screws or other joints used today.

Specialists are also constantly working on furniture. The photos used to recreate the furniture depict the chairs and tables one by one. However, it was a particular challenge for today’s designers to determine the size of the furniture, as no data survived.

Many times measurements were deduced from the ratio of the parquet and the furniture based on triangulation completed with digital technologies. The armchairs, a side table with carved decorations and the six stools have also been completed.

Saint Stephen's Hall is slated to open to the public on 20 August 2021.

Source: Várkapitányság

Cover photo: The ceiling of Saint Stephen's Hall has been completed (Photo: Várkapitányság)

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