Lukács Bath, where Kodály conducted standing on a bench

The building complex of the Szent Lukács Thermal Bath already existed in the 18th century; however, we can talk about today's bath only since the mid-1880s. The Lukács is a concept not only for those who want to recover, but because of its atmosphere; prominent representatives from the world of artists have often turned up here. According to a Lukács legend, their regular guest, Zoltán Kodály was even allowed to swim in the zigzag there. This week, the story of the Lukács Bath comes to life.

VF_36214.jpgIn the Middle Ages, this area was known as Felhévíz, which clearly refers to the thermal springs that originated here, and even to the geographical location of the area, as the southern part - Tabán - was called Alhévíz. Even today, these two groups of springs supply the water of the thermal baths of Buda. In addition, the most important hospital of medieval Buda, the Holy Spirit Hospital, was located in this area, and operated until the Ottoman occupation, when it was converted into a dervish monastery. The fortification that originally stood on the site of the spa building, besides its obvious protective role, also served economic purposes: it was a grain and gunpowder mill.

VF_32302.jpgHowever, the origin of the name Lukács is uncertain, it was allegedly formerly called “lukas” (holed) bath, according to one source; in Ottoman times the name of the bath was chukur-hamam, which means pit. According to other views, the “holed” was certainly not a very sophisticated attribute for the condition of the bath. We already know that the name Szent Lukács (St. Luke) Bath came from Rezső Palotay, who bought the area from the chamber in 1884. After the recapture of Buda, the spa became the property of the chamber due to the strategic importance of thermal springs (mill, water power, water extraction).

Then a new era began in the life of the Lukács. The developments immediately made it a famous spa in the Monarchy and even across Europe. At the beginning of the 20th century, until the completion of the Széchenyi and Gellért Baths, it was the most significant thermal bath in Budapest. The sights of the spa, the gratitude plaques report on miraculous healings. Unfortunately, during World War II, many of the plaques were destroyed, and the remaining ones were built into the walls of the building during the renovation.


In 1893, the Lukács Bath was transformed into a public limited company. The mud bath, the spa hotel and the public steam bath were also built. The first plans were made in 1888, by designer Rezső Nay, and the hotel was designed by Rezső Ray Sr. The bath was a one-storey building, with three pools on the ground floor. At the same time, the builders greatly underestimated the number of interested visitors. The undersized complex was soon expanded, all the more so because the planned hotel did not have a lobby.

It still has a larger swimming pool today, and in its main element it still preserves the interior design solutions, but in other respects there are hardly any parts referring to the original building. The bath building presents a rather eclectic picture due to frequent reconstructions and restorations. The unity of the façade was brought to a common denominator by Rezső Hikisch in the 1920s in the Classicist-Biedemeier style, which is essentially still visible today. Due to many construction periods, the interior facades are strongly articulated, giving a more romantic impression despite the strict classicism. The statue of St. Luke built on one of the corners and standing on a curly column, was put here presumably during the Hikisch reconstruction.


Significant transformations took place in the 1930s, the main reason for which may have been modernization, but at least as important was filling the previous gaps. The domed room, originally designed as a pool area, thus became the lobby of the already mentioned hotel.

The construction of the Lukács drinking fountain was around this time, and its opening ceremony took place in 1937, in the frame of the First International Congress of Bathing. After the Second World War, a hospital was transferred to the former hotel, and the ORFI has been operating here since 1951. ORFI, then known as the National Institute of Rheumatism and Bathing, was founded in 1951 by merging the State Hospital of Rheumatism, which included the Lukács and the neighbouring Császár spas, and the nationalized Hospital of the Hospitaller Order. The bath was renovated in 2013, but something reminds us of earlier traditions. The names of the two pools in the central part of the spa: the colder one (22 ° C) is called men’s pool, while the 26 ° C degree warm swimming pool is called women’s pool.


Lake Malom (Mill) does not belong closely to the Lukács Bath complex, but this interesting “Turkish bath” on Frankel Leó Road, opposite the bath, cannot be ignored. It is currently separated from the street by a glass wall built in the 1960s, but its area is larger than we can see, as s part of it continues below the street. This small lake was sluiced several times in recent centuries, when it became clear that it could play a significant role in the regulation of the thermal springs in Buda, because the runoff of the springs around Gellért Hill during sluicing also decreased. From the lakebed you can descend into the János Molnár Cave, of which only a small part is explored currently.

The 20–23 ° C thermal water coming from the cave is utilized by the Lukács Bath. Water lilies and other exotic plants lived in its warm waters not long ago. The lake was once bordered on the south by a spa building, which was designed by Rezső Ray Sr., but nothing can be seen from the building today, only the above mentioned “Turkish bath” that was never Turkish. Not so much that it is the first building in Hungary with a reinforced concrete dome. The Morisco building complex originally functioned as a (public) People's Steam Bath and was built by Palotay for the poor, who wanted to bathe. The popularity of the bath gradually declined with the appearance of bathrooms. In the 1960s, there was a catering unit called Malom Bistro here. The crescent moon has long disappeared from the dome of the building that still stands today. Supposedly, the building will no longer stand alone on Frankel Leó Road.



Translated by Zita Aknai




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