Immediately after the war, archeological research was begun in order to unearth the remains of the medieval castle. The research, led by László Gerő (1946–1966) and László Zolnay (1967–1979), was likely the biggest castle excavation in Europe. The former Royal Gardens stairways, pavilions and glass houses, which dated from the turn of the 20th century, had to be sacrificed. Important parts of the former Sigismund and Matthias Palace had survived under the thick earth fill.
The burned-out ruins of the Royal Palace and the Chain Bridge (1946)
The first reconstruction plan of the medieval remains was written by László Gerő in 1950 and finalised in 1952. The reconstruction work was finished in 1966. Contrary to the generally accepted principles of historic reconstruction, the medieval fortification system was rebuilt in its entirety. Important elements like the 16th century Great Rondella and the medieval Gatehouse, the Mace Tower, the walls and the zwingers were reconstructed according to the results of the archaeological research and contemporary pictorial evidence. The low-lying southern wing of the Gothic palace was also reconstructed, together with the vaulted Gothic Hall and the Lower Church of the former Royal Chapel. Medieval-style gardens were planted in the zwingers. The foundation of the Stephen’s Tower was unearthed, but as archaeological evidence was lacking, the tower was not reconstructed. The remains of the Broken Tower were covered again.
The large-scale reconstruction of the medieval fortifications substantially changed the cityscape of Budapest. At the time it was considered a highly successful project, reconciling historical authenticity with urban-planning demands.
In the 1970s, archeological research continued on the northern and western side of the palace, led by László Zolnay. It produced many important achievements, including the Late Gothic Buda Castle Statues. The Karakash Pasha Tower, in the Újvilág Garden, was a Turkish-era tower demolished at the end of the 19th century. Photographic evidence enabled its reconstruction, but the new tower was only a copy of the original, and the details are not considered authentic.
The modernist dome designed by Lajos Hidasi in 1961. Vast amounts of art work and sculpture on the exterior and almost all of the interior that survived the war were intentionally destroyed during the postwar reconstruction.
Aerial view of the castle today
The government made a decision about reconstruction only in 1948. According to contemporary photos, all the important interiors were in a damaged state, but their reconstruction was technically possible. The new communist government of Hungary considered the Royal Palace a symbol of the former regime. Therefore, Hungarian leaders chose to thoroughly modernise the interior and exterior of the palace. Architectural trends played a part in the decision, as modernist architects had condemned the Hauszmann style as “too ornate”.
The first modernist reconstruction plan was made by architect István Janáky in 1950. His controversial concept was later modified. In 1952 the Hungarian government asked for help from Poland, because they had successfully rebuilt Warsaw and, indeed, other cities. A delegation of Polish experts, led by the architectural historian Jan Zachwatowicz, proposed the rebuilding of the Hauszmann palace.
During the 1950s the palace was gutted and all the remaining interior, including the rooms and halls that were undamaged, were destroyed. Important exterior details, such as the main entrance, the Habsburg Steps, the dome, the Royal Stables, the guardhouse and the riding school were demolished, and the remaining façades were simplified. In Lions Court the ornate gates of King’s Stairs and Diplomat’s Stairs were demolished. The doorway of the castle church disappeared, as did the chapel. The detailed Neo-Baroque roofs were simplified and plain new windows were installed. The allegorical sculpture group of the tympanum was destroyed.
At the same time however, medieval elements that were uncovered were reconstructed in what was thought their appearance was. No precise drawings existed of the medieval elements, therefore an approximate reconstruction of their appearance was done.
The modernist dome was designed by Lajos Hidasi in 1961 after Italian Baroque models. The palace was rebuilt by 1966, but the interior spaces were ready only in the 1980s. Buda Castle became a cultural centre, home to three museums and the National Széchényi Library.
- : Hungary