Probably nobody are surprised by the fact that many of the most popular Gothic-style buildings of Budapest –for example the Parliament – were not built in the Gothic period, and were far from the Gothic Revival era as well. It is true that for Frigyes Schulek it was important to restore the original conditions during the reconstruction of Matthias Church, but at the construction of the Fishermen’s Bastion, choosing the classical style already conflicted the modernisation trends of the period.
It is the same in the case of the Parliament designed by Imre Steindl or Vajdahunyad Castle in Városliget and a part of the building complex connected to it. Architect Ignác Alpár thought that it would have been better to evoke the atmosphere of ancient periods instead of following the modern architectural trends, and he copied famous buildings mainly in Gothic style.
The fairyland of Városliget and Vajdahunyad Castle
The Vajdahunyad Castle of Városliget and the building complex connected to it, which was built with wooden framework, temporarily, due to the short time-limit because of the approaching millennial Expo, had to be pulled down after the expo:
“One of the most beautiful memories of the fairyland of Városliget: the historical group of the millennial expo is decaying. Ravages of time have damaged the frame houses, and the proud Vajda-Hunyad Castle that falls onto Andrássy Road is slumping. Water attacked its piles, its walls are tumbling down, and the whole creation shows the sad image of decay. (…) The expensive monument, in which so many people found joy for some short years, has ripened for demolition. It has become dangerous for public safety.” – Magyar Székesfőváros, 1899.
As the artists’ world and the population grew fond of the building complex, the city management decided to rebuild it from enduring materials. Although the idea of constructing it from enduring materials had already occurred as of the start, it was disapproved due to sparing aspects in fact and not because of tight deadlines – according to Ignác Alpár’s notes. The reconstruction of the building complex merging several architectural styles was finished in 1907. One of its main elements is the copy of the Chapel of Ják.
The Gothic atmosphere is provided by the replica of Vajdahunyad Castle with the Apostles’ Tower, whose original sample was the Castle of Segesvár. The Baroque and Renaissance parts of the complex, the palace of the Agricultural Museum nowadays, were not connected to the Gothic part originally. As Vajdahunyad Castle has a very similar style as Count Dracula’s castle in Transylvania had – according to Stoker’s novel -, the directors of the film series Dracula decided to choose the building complex to the location of film shootings in 2013.
A real survivor: the Neo-Gothic Matthias Church
Matthias Church, which reached its present state at the end of the 19th century, is Frigyes Schulek’s masterpiece. It is not just the tourists’ favourite but it is also so popular among the Hungarian population and the architect community that it can be listed among the most frequented buildings of Budapest. Unlike other churches in Buda, it was not destroyed during the Ottoman regime because it was converted into a mosque, and functioned as the main mosque of Buda. In the middle of the 20th century, it could not escape the siege of Budapest and the hardest battles in the castle district without damages. In addition, the Germans used the crypt as a military kitchen and the Russians used the church as a stable.
Later, the communist leaders were considering its demolition due to ideological reasons. For unknown reasons this did not happen fortunately, but certain parts of the church were closed to public. According to operators, adventuresome youngsters – without minding the risk of being caught - sneaked up to the tower several times. Nowadays fortunately, there is no need to take such risks, because the tower, which is the most exquisite panorama point of Budapest, can be visited since its restoration. In order to see the breathtaking view, you have to climb 197 steps up to the tower terrace, thus you need to be very fit.
Full of towers and winding stairs: the Fishermen’s Bastion
According to anecdotes, the Fishermen’s Bastion got its name from the former Fishermen’s Town that lay below it. It has Neo-Gothic and Neo-Romanesque style marks as well, and was built on the basis of Frigyes Schulek’s plans:
“Professor Schulek has just handed his grand plan to Minister Baron Loránd Eötvös this week. (…) According to this plan, a cross corridor with roofed arcades would be built on the Pest side of Matthias Church, along the northern and southern fishermen’s bastions, in the fashion of the 12th century. – Buda és vidéke, 1894.
Although its construction started only in 1899, organised by the public work council of Budapest, some people foresaw its future popularity:
“With such a progress in the work, we can hope trustingly that the monumental masterpiece will be completed soon and will be a desired favourite place of those who wish to enjoy the beauties of the picturesque view that opens from this spot of the castle.” – Magyar Székesfőváros, 1901.
The construction of the Fishermen’s Bastion, which was adjusted to the style of Matthias Church, was finished in 1905. Its towers are connected with a roofed line of arcades, reminding of half-opened corridors (ambulatories) of Romanesque monasteries. Two stone knights are on guard on the two sides of the top of Schulek Stairs. As of 1987, it has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Translated by Zita Aknai