The Buda castle’s origins can be traced back to the
14th century. The earliest excavated remains of the palace came from the István Tower, named
after Louis I’s brother Stephen (1332–1354).
Adjoining it, around an inner courtyard, were two wings of the Angevin
palace, begun under Louis, which comprised the hall, the treasury and the royal office of
records. In the east wing was a double chapel, of which the lower part has been
King Sigismund of Luxembourg (1387–1437) extended the Angevin castle
by adding an L-shaped court bounded on the north and east by the so-called Frischer Palace,
first mentioned in 1424; according to the written sources this was never completed. Flanking
this courtyard was an enormous unfinished donjon, the Csonka Tower. The system of defence walls
and gate-towers around the castle, still mostly intact, was also built under
Construction continued under Matthias Corvinus (1458–1490), who built
a Renaissance palace in the east wing that included his library, the Biblioteca Corviniana, an
observatory, living quarters and a throne-room.
The earliest recorded date in this building is 1479, the year of the
contract to the Florentine builder Chimenti di Leonardo Camicia. Florentine influence is
clearest in the portico built around the trapezoid inner court of the Angevin palace. The
cistern and hanging garden in the west wing were probably based on similar works in Urbino and
were possibly also influenced by the Trattato de Architettura of Antonio Filarete.
Work on Matthias’s palace continued under Vladislav II Jagiellon
(1490–1516), and the whole Buda castle was heavily fortified against the Turkish threat by John
Under the Turkish occupation of the 16th and 17th centuries the Buda
Castle fell into ruin, and the 18th-century palace, which formed the kernel of the later Royal
Castle, was built partly on the filled-in medieval ruins.
The south wing of the royal palace was built between 1715 and 1735 on
the ruins of its predecessor, to a design by Fortunato de Prati; from 1749 the west wing was
converted to a Baroque royal residence by Ignác Oraschek, working to designs attributed to the
court architects Jean-Nicolas Jadot de Ville-Issey and Nikolaus Pacassi.
This had two courtyard blocks joined by a central wing, decorated with
rustication and a giant order of pilasters. From 1757 the Hungarian Treasury in the palace was
built by Franz Anton Hillebrandt, who had to modify it in 1762 to house the church of the
English Young Ladies (Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary), and again in 1777 for the
University, which was transferred from Nagyszombat (today Trnava, Slovakia) until its final
establishment in Pest in 1790.
The castle was decommissioned in 1875 and at once renovated in a
historicist style, beginning with the building of the Castle-Bazaar by Miklós Ybl from 1875 to
1881. Ybl also began the neo-Baroque restoration of the Royal Palace, which was continued up to
1905 by Alajos Hauszmann, who doubled the size of the Danube wing. The castle was badly damaged
in World War II.
The medieval remains were excavated from 1948 to 1963 and again from
1967, and their partial reconstructions are exhibited in galleries beneath the Széchenyi
National Library and the Historical Museum, while the architectural and sculptural fragments,
with many smaller finds, are exhibited in the Historical Museum in the south wing.
The most significant sculptures from the Royal Palace, a group of
damaged statues carved from local limestone, were excavated in the forecourt in 1974. They had
been used as infill in the 15th century. Most of the statues were either half-finished or had
been broken while being carved, or it is probable that none of them reached the buildings for
which they were intended. All the sculptures are now in the Budapest Historical
The group comprises religious figures including saints, the Virgin,
Apostles and prophets, secular figures, bishops, royal knights and ladies with their retainers
and shield-carriers in ceremonial court dress. Stylistically, they are contemporary to King
Sigismund’s palace, and perhaps in particular to work in the main hall of the so-called
Frischer Palast. Their unfinished state may be connected to the break in the building
The source of the sculptures cannot be directly identified from their
inscriptions, but Bertrandon de la Brocquière, the Burgundian envoy to Budapest, mentioned the
departure of the masons working at Buda in 1433. The royal arms of Bohemia found on the
fragment of a helmet-ornament unearthed with the statues indicates a date after 1419, when
Sigismund was crowned King of Bohemia.
The statues were probably carved over a relatively short period by a
large team of sculptors. Most of the figures show close links with the soft style practised in
Lower Austrian sculpture, particularly associated with works by the master of grosslobming. A
smaller group seems to be the work of a master from Brabant, or more specifically from the
Lower Rhine region around Cologne and Aachen.
The combined styles may have influenced local sculptors, in particular
one whose sculpted heads and cubic-type clothes transcend the dominant soft style and who can
perhaps be identified with a sculptor of red marble tombs at Buda around 1430
known as the Master of the Stibor grave-slabs. Buda Castle sculptures’
stylistic and iconographic affinities with French court art may demonstrate Sigismund’s taste
for representational art, presumably acquired during his travels as Holy Roman Emperor through
Western Europe from 1412 to 1419 in connection with the Council of Konstanz. These statues are
the most extensive group of secular sculpture of the period, and their undisputed provenance
gives them added significance.
Buda Castle Address: 1014 Budapest, Szent György tér 2, Hungary. Get directions using this
View Larger Map