Imre Steindl’s rich Neo-Gothic Parliament is Hungary’s largest building and a symbol of Budapest. Hungarian materials, techniques, and master craftsmen were used in its construction on the bank of the Danube River. The building is 880 ft (268 m) long and 315 ft (96 m) high. The north wing houses the offices of Hungary’s prime minister, while the south wing contains those of the president of the Republic.
The building was intended to symbolize the country’s thriving democracy. Steindl drew inspiration from Charles Barry and A. W. Pugin’s Neo-Gothic Houses of Parliament in London. However, for the internal spaces, including the superb Dome Hall, he also used references from the Baroque and Renaissance styles as well.
SACRED CROWN OF ST. STEPHEN I
The first Hungarian king, St. Stephen I (c. 975- 1038), received the royal crown from Pope Sylvester II in the year 1000. The crown became a symbol of Christianity and all Hungarian kings who followed after Stephen I were crowned with the sacred diadem. Many today believe that the crown bears little resemblance to the original crown, because over the centuries it has been lost and stolen. Battles and wars have also been fought for possession of the crown. At the end of World War II, it was taken to the US for safekeeping and returned to Hungary with much fanfare in 1978. The crown now resides in Hungary’s Parliament.
Surrounding the external facade of the Parliament building are 90 statues, which include some of the country’s past monarchs, prime minsters, writers, and revolutionaries.
A statue of the Transylvanian prince Ferenc Rakoczi II (1676-1735), who fought the Habsburgs for Hungary’s freedom, is at the southern end. Nearby is a seated statue of the Hungarian writer Jozsef Attila (1905-37). His first collection of poems was published when he was 17. Adorning the north wing is the statue of Lajos Kossuth (1802-94), who fought for Hungary’s independence for six months in 1849 before being driven into exile. Next to it is a statue of the democratic prime minister and revolutionary Mihaly Karolyi (1875-1955). He ruled Hungary for five months in 1919 until he was forced into exile after the government was overthrown by the Communists.
Deputy Council Chamber
Formerly the upper house, this hall is now where the National Assembly convenes. Two paintings by Zsigmond Vajada hang on either side of the Speaker’s lectern. These were especially commissioned for the building.
Lobbies, the venues for political discussions, line corri dors lit by stained-glass windows.
Adorning the massive pillars that support Parliament’s central dome are figures of some of the rulers of Hungary.
Over 500,000 stones were carved for the exterior decoration.
Almost every corner of the Parliament building features gables with lacelike pinnacles based on Gothic sculptures.
This hall is decorated with a Gobelin tapestry illustrating Prince Arpad, with seven Magyar leaders under his command, signing a peace treaty and blood oath.
Old Upper House Hall
This vast hall is virtually a mirror image of the National Assembly Hall. Both halls have public galleries running around a horseshoe-shaped interior.
The ceiling of the 315-ft (96-m) high dome is covered in an intricate design of Neo Gothic gilding combined with heraldic decoration.
The Crown Jewels of Hungary, except the Coronation Mantle, are kept in the Dome Hall.
The best contemporary artists were invited to decorate the interior. The sumptuous main staircase features ceiling frescoes by Kroly Lotz and sculptures by Gyorgy Kiss.
The magnificent dome marks the central point of the Parliament building. Although this facade is elaborately Neo-Gothic; the ground plan follows Baroque convetions.
In 1954, the Herend Porcelain Manufactory made the first Parliament Vase. It stood in the Dome Hall for ten years and was then moved to the Herend Museum. A new vase was created in 2000 to mark Hungary’s 1,000 years of statehood.
1882: Imre Steindl wins the competition for the design of the Parliament building.
1885: The foundation stone is laid along the Danube embankment.
1902: Work on the Parliament building is completed.
1987: The historic area of Budapest, including the Parliament building, is inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.