Short statue walk in Budapest

In our virtual exhibitions, we have already written about buildings in Budapest, which were demolished and which were built in their places. This time, we continue with statues that guard memories of the past. Besides the most important creators of the Hungarian memorial sculpture, the adventurous lives of statues will also be mentioned. It is surprising that although this field of sculpture was flourishing in the 19th century, its beginning is not related to the birth of a statue, but that of a pamphlet.

Nereids’ Fountain

Néreidák kútja - Magyar Nemzeti Digitális Archívum és Filmintézet, CC BY-NC-NDThe first stop of our walk is at the first public well with sculptural decorations in the old Pest, which is standing on Ferenciek Square now. It consists of two female figures (Nereids) with jars. Nereids are the caretakers of seas, wells and fountains in the Greek mythology, thus presenting them in a public fountain is clear and proper. The statue was made by sculptor artist Ferenc Uhrl and master stonemason József Fessl. Unfortunately, the statue was destroyed in 1944, but it was carved again and can be adored nowadays while waiting for the Nr. 15 bus.

Statue of István Széchenyi

The theoretical decision of the necessity of this statue was made on 10 April in 1860, two days after Széchenyi’s death, but nothing happened until 1863. The above mentioned pamphlet was published then about the memory of István Széchenyi, written by the famous politician and art historian of the era, Zsigmond Ormós. (His study was published in the magazine Koszorú in sequels.) After a multi-round competition, sculptor artist József Engel won the work finally. The statue that stands near the Chain Bridge and the Academy was unveiled in 1880, due to contradictory esthetical and conceptual debates of the statue committee and the lack of a genre sample.Széchenyi szobor - Magyar Nemzeti Digitális Archívum és Filmintézet, CC BY-NC-NDFinally, it was finished and still stands on its original place for the satisfaction of the people.

Statue of St Stephen

The huge bronze figure of the state founder, covered with a crowning cloak is sitting on a decorated horse, with a double cross in his hand, crown and gilded glory on his head. The statue was erected on the square between the Fishermen’s Bastion and the Matthias Church in 1906. Its sculptor was Alajos Stróbl and it was his first important historical memorial statue commission that he won. The following newsreel shows the statue for a moment. Allegedly, the sculptor had a creative crisis during the creation, but that did not affect the fascinating result of his work.

Statue of János Arany

The three-figured statue, whose main figure is János Arany with Miklós Toldi on the right and Piroska Rozgonyi on the left side, can be found in front of the entrance of the Hungarian National Museum. It is also Alajos Stróbl’s work that was mentioned in Vasárnapi Újság (Sunday Paper) as well. ‘(…) Stróbl was lucky in modelling the two side-figures, because he had excellent models. It was the time when he was working on the bust of Countess Alice Széchenyi, daughter of Count Béla Széchenyi. Afterwards the young countess allowed the artist to use her successful bust for Piroska’s figure. And for modelling Miklós Toldi, the most robustful champions of the Hungarian Athletic Club were sitting for the artist.’ The statue is still on its original place.


The Millennium Monument on Heroes’ Square

The original statue group consisted of the bronze figures of nine Hungarian kings and five Habsburg rulers. They were made by György Zala, Ede Telcs and Ede Markó among others. The statues of the Habsburg rulers cannot be seen anymore, but they must have witnessed several significant historical events during their existence.

At the time of the Council Republic (1919), they were covered with red overdrape. These statues were the first that the proletariat removed from their stands later on. They were not overthrown, but lifted from their feet and removed, except for Franz Joseph’s statue that was broken by some proletarians after landing. György Zala had to remake it – the first one had been made by Richárd Füredi – and the new statue was not wearing a hussar uniform, but a crowning cloak without a crown.

After the fall of the Council Republic, and especially after the Treaty of Trianon (1920), the Millennium Monument got a completely new connotation.

The statues were still standing there in 1932, when the square was named Heroes’ Square. They were also decorating the 34th Eucharistic World Congress six years later. The Second World War did not have mercy on them either. The Monument got a bomb shot. Leopold II was destroyed completely; Maria Theresa was destroyed partly and is now in the Castle park of Gödöllő.

The fate of the statues out of favour is well-known. The Rákosi era wanted to demolish the Monument, but decided on transforming it finally. In the 1950s, they replaced Ferdinand I of Austria with István Bocskai, Charles III with Gábor Bethlen, Maria Theresa with Imre Thököly, Leopold II with Ferenc Rákóczi II and Franz Joseph with Lajos Kossuth.

Statue of St Gerard

The statue was made by Gyula Jankovits in 1904. Originally, it was planned to be 3 meters long, but later it was extended to 7 meters so that it would not fade into the hill behind it. The statue represents Bishop Gerard delivering a speech, with a cross in his right hand lifted up towards the sky, and his left hand on his heart. A converted knight is at his feet. It was planned to be placed on the very spot, where the Bishop was martyrized by the pagan Vata.

Memorial of Lajos Kossuth

kossuthszoborcs.jpgThe adventurous life of this memorial might be the least known. It is János Horvay’s work and it was inaugurated in 1927. Although we can find it in front of the Parliament again (as of 2015), it took more than 60 years to put it back to its original place.The Council of Ministers of the Hungarian People’s Republic removed it in 1951 as a ‘pessimistic and unworthy’ work of art. The group statue was separated and moved to the New Public Cemetery of Budapest. The city of Dombóvár took it in 1959, saving it from evanishment. In 1972-73, the statue was placed in the beautiful park of Szigeterdő in Dombóvár, not as a composition, but separately. The Parliament decided on the surroundings of the Parliament building in 2011 and on the reconstruction of Kossuth Square. According to that, the artistic image before 1944 had to be restored, thus the re-creation of the statue composition was done.