All beginnings are difficult
Commonplace, but also true for the first permanent bridge over the Danube: the Chain Bridge. Long studies, many debates and even more begging for money preceded its birth. Why was it necessary? It is obvious. The semi-permanent bridges on the Danube could not endure the debacle in winter, thus they were usually pulled down. Although the image of the frozen Danube is a returning topic, it happened rarely – especially after the regulations -, and the constant traffic on the ice would have been dangerous. Allegedly, István Széchenyi’s decision that a bridge must be built was also connected to a terrible ice debacle that prevented him from taking part in his father’s funeral.
The second one: the Margaret Bridge
After that, the Chain Bridge was built in 1849; a new bridge followed it just 27 years later. The primary point was necessity again, because the Chain Bridge stood the increased traffic badly. The Margaret Bridge as a part of the Grand Boulevard was an important conducing element of the development of the capital city Budapest. The bridge was constructed according to the French Ernest Goüin’s plans finally. The tension-bridge with a broken axle, upper deck and statue decorations is a nice example of the French bridge building, but even Hungarian engineers could get important roles in its construction. The broken axle can be seen and felt whenever you cross it, because it was an important aspect that the bridge link Margaret Island, so that is the reason for the wobbling in the tram. You will see that the bridge-building fever got an impulse not only due to the development that started in the Monarchy, but also because it was a profit-earning venture.
City Hall vs. bridge
As of 1888, there were continuous negotiations about where to build the new bridge. For the suggestion of Prime Minister Sándor Wekerle in 1893, they put the construction of two bridges at one go in writing: one on Fővám Square and one on Eskü Square. In 1894, an international tender was invited for their design, which was regarded as a grand thing. From the two winning plans of the hyped tender, János Feketeházy’s application was realised first between 1894 and ’96. The bridge planned to Fővám Square received its name after the monarch, Franz Joseph I, but today it is called Liberty Bridge.
The city-planning concept of downtown Pest was unformed – to put it mildly – thus, no wonder that a tiny little problem occurred before they started building the other bridge on Eskü Square. The City Hall and the Downtown Parish Church stood on the place of the bridgehead of Pest. After a long struggle, they managed to achieve the demolition of the old City Hall of Pest, which was ordered by Prime Minister Kálmán Széll. Both the clergy and the board of the capital insisted on keeping the church that thus survived. The popular belief that the Downtown Parish Church was pushed away from its original place because of constructing the Elisabeth Bridge is only a rumour. However, it is a fact that this was the only bridge that could not be rebuilt in its original form, due to its high costs.
Temporary but necessary
To replace the Danube bridges in Budapest, the semi-permanent Kossuth Bridge was built on a new place, which became the first road-bridge between the banks of the river after WW II; it operated from 1946 to 1960. There was a vital necessity for a new bridge, because none of them survived. The Kossuth was finished within eight months, at a record speed, thus it became the symbol of the restart. The bridge was designed for a lifespan of ten years; its load capacity was limited, so it was put out of traffic gradually as reconstructions began.
First, the Liberty Bridge – Franz Joseph – that was the least damaged relatively was rebuilt. Margaret Bridge was the second and later the Chain Bridge followed them by its 100th anniversary in November 1949. The Árpád (formerly Stalin) Bridge was finished in November 1950, the Petőfi (formerly Miklós Horthy) Bridge in November 1952. Six Danube bridges were rebuilt during six years, and they had to pull out the wrecks from the river as well. It was a fantastic accomplishment, not only compared to the circumstances of the period. Maria Valeria Bridge that was blown up by German troops in December 1944 was standing as a maimed bridge, a sad memento. It was rebuilt only in 2001 after a long planning interval, and it functions also as a border crossing point nowadays.
The apropos of our compilation is the concept of a new Danube bridge in progress, which is going to link South Buda and Csepel. The applications can be viewed at the new exhibition of the Hungarian Museum of Science, Technology and Transport.
Domanovszky Sándor · Koller Ida · Kozma Károly · Tóth Ernő · Träger Herbert: Duna- hídjaink, Közlekedésfejlesztési Koordinációs Központ, Budapest, 2009.
Translated by Zita Aknai