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The history of the Royal Palace in the Buda Castle, which was at that time recognised as a magnificent royal residence in Europe, dates back to the 14th century, the reign of kings Louis the Great, Sigismund, and Matthias Corvinus (1458–1490). The state of the building badly deteriorated during the Turkish occupation starting in 1541, and during the Battle of Buda in 1686. The restoration, in the then fashionable Baroque style, began during the reign of Queen Maria Theresa in 1749. At the end of the 19th century the palace was expanded with another wing according to the plans of architects Miklós Ybl and Alajos Hauszmann, and later neo-Baroque ornamentation was also added. During World War II the building was again severely damaged; its reconstruction began in the 1960s. The Hungarian National Gallery moved to the Royal Palace of Buda Castle in 1975.
HISTORY OF THE MUSEUM
The Hungarian National Gallery is the largest public collection documenting and presenting the rise and development of the fine arts in Hungary. It has operated as an independent institution since 1957. The HNG moved to its present location, the former Royal Palace of Buda, in 1975.
The Hungarian National Gallery was established to display Hungarian art in itself. The basis of its collection is the New Hungarian Picture Gallery at the Budapest Museum of Fine Arts, and the Hungarian material belonging to that museum’s collections of modern sculpture, medals, and prints and drawings. The holdings of the new institution include approximately 6000 paintings, 2100 sculptures, 3100 medals, 11,000 drawings, and 5000 prints. The Hungarian National Gallery opens in Budapest on 5 October 1957, in a building that formerly housed the Supreme Court today this building houses the Museum of Ethnography).
The Hungarian government designates Buda Palace as the home of the HNG.
The Hungarian National Gallery moves to Buda Palace, into buildings B, C and D, which have been refurbished for the purpose. In October it opens its exhibitions, in a provisional form. Its holdings are augmented with the material of the Department of Old Hungarian Art at the Budapest Museum of Fine Arts. In this way the showing becomes possible of the entire history of art in Hungary, works from the 11th century to the present.
Two permanent exhibitions, ‘Panel Paintings and Wooden Sculptures from the Mediaeval Period’ and ‘Baroque Art in Hungary’, are opened.
The permanent exhibition ‘Late Gothic Winged Altarpieces’ opens in the former throne-room of the palace.
The opening takes place of the permanent exhibition ‘Mediaeval and Renaissance Stone Carvings’.
Inside the Museum, on the ground floor of Building C, the crypt of the Habsburg palatines (viceroys) is opened to the public.
The HNG’s exhibition spaces are augmented through the acquisition of Building A of Buda Castle.
THE HABSBURG PALATINE CRYPT
The family crypt in Buda Castle holding the earthly remains of Archduke Joseph, Palatine of Hungary, his family members and descendants, is the only part of the Hungarian National Gallery that still preserves something of the palace’s original, 19th-century beauty. The crypt was part of and located under the Saint Sigismund chapel, which was demolished in 1961. From the 1790s the palace became the residence of the palatine, i.e. the prevailing Hungarian representative of the king. Archduke Joseph, a brother of King Francis I, held the title of palatine between 1795 and 1847 and, with royal consent, was the first to have the crypts of the castle chapel converted into a family burial place. After the death of the palatine and his widow their son, Joseph Karl, commissioned two architects, first Miklós Ybl and later Alajos Hausmann, to reconstruct the crypt, while the sculptor, György Zala, was entrusted with making the palatine’s sepulchre.
The crypt’s most spectacular ornamentation is a twice life-size marble sculpture of the palatine and another five figural monuments. György Zalai’s sculpture shows Archduke Joseph kneeling before the holy crown, evoking the impression that he is not only guarding the nation by extending his right arm over the crown but also the visitors who walk below this self-same arm as if they were partaking of the blessing itself. At the southern end of the north-south oriented crypt is a huge bronze angel extending its wings over the deceased, namely over the recumbent figures of the tombs of the Archduke Joseph Karl, who was the youngest son of the palatine, and his wife, Clotilde. These two sculptures are also the work of György Zala. To their right stands a tomb sculpted by Alajos Stróbl erecting a monument to the young Archduke Ladislaus, who died in a hunting accident in 1895.
During the siege of Budapest the Buda Castle was damaged extensively but nothing disturbed the peace of the deceased in the palatinal crypt. However, during the construction work that began in the early 1950s the demolition of numerous old buildings that could have been saved, including the castle chapel, posed a grave threat to the crypt too. At the beginning of 1973 the completely unguarded crypt was broken into and ransacked. The coffins were prized open and the palatine’s head was severed from his mummified body.
Following this, the director-general of the Hungarian National Gallery had the crypt walled up, and it was only reopened in October 1977 with the firm intention of a scholarly foundation to present it to the public restored to its original beauty. Renovation work was completed by spring 1987, and the crypt was consecrated on 3 October of the same year at a ceremony attended by eleven descendants of the palatine and some other invited guests. Since the re-consecration in 1987 the earthly remains of another nine family members have been placed in the crypt; thus, twenty-four members of the family are now at rest here, hopefully in everlasting peace.
Please note that a visit is only possible with our tourguide and it is necessary to make prior arrangements at least one week before your planned visit. Register here ››
Fee: entrance fee to permanent exhibition, plus the fee of the guided tour: HUF 20.000 / group (in foreign language)
Maximum number of participants per group: 15 people
Duration of the visit: 30 minutes
Meeting point: Building C, information desk
The Buda Palace with its characteristic Dome, easily recognizable even from afar is one of the symbols of Budapest. As the highest point of the Palace, the Dome of the Hungarian National Gallery offers an unparalleled view on the capital.
The Dome can be visited with a ticket bought to the permanent or temporary exhibitions, depending on weather conditions during opening hours from 10 am to 5 pm.
For reasons of safety the Dome can host a maximum of 15 people at a time.