On 18 October, the stone lions decorating the Buda bridgeheads of the Chain Bridge returned to their original place, beautified, the Budapest Transport Centre (BKK) announced. The lion statues guarding the Buda bridgeheads, each weighing more than 10 tons, were transported back to their place by three trucks. As with their departure more than a year ago, the stone statues were lifted by crane in three pieces onto the three-metre granite plinths.

BKK also reported that the sculptures carved from Sóskút limestone were carefully placed on their pedestals by the professionals, and then in the following weeks they are fitted and "glued" together in the work area.

The lion statues weighing more than 10 tons were lifted into place in three pieces with a crane (Photo: BKK)

The restorers first build up the crust of the gaps between the statue parts with the stone supplement mortar and then fill the inside of the cavity with sand. Then, these surfaces are also patinated, that is, their colour is deepened until the traces of fresh joining disappear. As a final step, the stone lions are provided with final surface protection that delays the reappearance of dirt on their surface - details of the restoration were described.

They also informed us that the restoration of the lions took more than a year. The experts worked on them in a workshop in Újpest under monument protection supervision. First, they assessed the condition of the Chain Bridge lions. Because the limestone "becomes plastery" due to the environmental effects, it binds dirt, and its surface becomes discoloured, the sculptures were cleaned first. In the meantime, they put chemical wraps on those surfaces - for example around the mouth or the bends - where the environmental pollution made the surface of the lions even darker. To clean the Buda lions, a modern medical laser was used to remove the deepest, most stubborn dirt.

The parts of the sculptures carved from the Sóskút limestone block are assembled on site (Photo: BKK)

The experts also revealed where the statues contain foreign material, stone inserts or other previous replacements. To do this, they had to tap the lions with a hammer. A detailed fault map was created, on which they marked where there were cracks or parts in need of repair.

The BKK also announced that the discovered defects were repaired with a special stone supplement mortar, and the worn or broken details, such as the teeth, were reattached and rebuilt using carbon fibre pins. It is important that the restorers only replaced parts that could be proven to have existed before. They, therefore, did not incorporate any teeth that were not originally part of the statue.

The restorers removed the dirt from the public statues and rebuilt the missing parts (Photo: BKK)

The concept also included the fact that not all traces of time were removed from the surface of the lions. They kept the small dimples that naturally formed on the surface of the limestone over the past 170 years. Therefore, after carrying out the repairs and replacements, the professionals used hand tools to form the structure of the surface of the sculptures - the same as the original.

The Pest statues will follow their Buda counterparts within a few weeks. The pedestal of the lions will also be renewed during the renovation of the Chain Bridge, the engravers are still working on the inscriptions on the pedestal on the Buda side before they begin to gild them.

The renovation of the Chain Bridge is planned to be completed in 2023, but the roadway will be returned to traffic as early as December.

Source: Budapest Transport Centre (BKK)

Cover photo: Stone lions returned to the Buda bridgehead of the Chain Bridge (Photo: BKK)