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History of the Buda Castle

In the 13th century, trying to protect the city against a Tatar and Mongolian invasion, King Béla IV ordered to build a fortified complex on the hill, on the bank of the Danube. Inhabitants gradually settled around it, and their number was constantly growing. At the beginning of the 15th century the stronghold became a true centre of Hungary, and in the times of King Sigismund who received the title of emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Buda officially became capital. In that time next to the old royal castle a new palace in the Gothic style was built, outside it was protected by more impressive defensive walls strengthened with towers.

In the 15th century the Royal Castle in Budapest gained unprecedented size, becoming one of the most beautiful architectural complexes in Europe. The years when King Matthias ruled even today are called the "golden age" of the Kingdom of Hungary. Then Buda was the centre of political and social life. The most remarkable Italian architects and sculptors worked without a moment’s rest to create luxurious buildings and a palace embellished with marble, mosaics, sculptures and low reliefs in the Renaissance style. After King Matthias' death the royal residence kept its former wonderful appearance for a few years more, however, expenditures on maintaining the buildings in that condition finally became so burdensome that they started to be beyond the courtiers' capabilities. In 1526 the Buda area was for the first time conquered by the Turks, who although impressed by the luxury and greatness they found, plundered and burned the castle anyway.

The long rule of the Turks that lasted a hundred and forty years was a very sad period for the city and the stronghold, which from a magnificent royal palace turned into a border stronghold on the outskirts of the Ottoman Empire. The wonderful buildings of Buda stronghold were used as regular barracks and powder warehouses, and the old churches were converted into mosques. Endless attempts made by Hungarians to retake the castle were not successful until 1686 when combined forces of Lorraine and Bavaria managed to break the Turkish defence.

After the castle was recaptured, it had to face adversities many times because of natural disasters, plagues, fires and other misfortunes. It was not until the 18th century when the reconstruction of the castle and other fortified buildings started. Then beautiful buildings in the Baroque style appeared in place of numerous ruins. In 1749 the construction of a new royal palace ended, by the order of King Charles IV it was supervised by architects Nicolo Pacassi and Jean Jadot. Next, at a request of Hungarian noblemen who wanted to surpass their Austrian neighbours the castle was constantly altered and extended over decades.

This residence of the Habsburgs also suffered a sad fate – during the Hungarian revolution of 1849 insurgents occupied Buda Castle, as a result of fighting fire consumed the castle. In the times of the Austrian and Hungarian Concordat a royal palace was built again in Buda stronghold. Its architecture and the richness of its decor did not stand out from residencies of European kings. Architect Alajos Hauszmann put more than forty years of work in this magnificent building. Finally, in 1912 a ceremonial opening of the palace was held.

After the revolution of 1918 Budapest’s grandest building was seated by the Hungarian government led by Miklós Horthy. During World War II, in the times of bloody fights for the city, Buda Castle went to ruin. During their retreat, the Nazi army blew up and burnt the most beautiful Buda building. It took a few decades to reconstruct it. It was not until 1966 when it regained its former appearance, and the historical interior was not reconstructed until 1980.