To appreciate the sheer grandeur of the building, admire it from the opposite bank of the Danube — or better yet, from a boat!
After the Austro-Hungarian Compromise in 1867 resulted in a dual monarchy, Hungary was more independent: it wrote its own constitution, and resolved to build a new, impressive parliament building to underline its sovereignty. 40 million bricks, half a million precious stones and 40 kilograms of gold later, the spectacular Hungarian Parliament Building was complete.
It lies in Lajos Kossuth Square, on the bank of the Danube, and is currently the largest building in Hungary. It also holds the title of being the joint tallest building in Budapest, along with St Stephen’s Basilica. They both stand at 96 metres, and this was no accident: it symbolises the equal standing of worldly and spiritual matters in Budapest. The height of 96 metres refers to 896, the year when the Magyar tribes settled in the Carpathian Basin.
The architect, Imre Steindl, sought to combine historical architecture with modern techniques, and the Hungarian Parliament is a fine example of historical eclecticism. It features elements of the Neo-Gothic style, with its many turrets and towers, but also takes inspiration from Renaissance and Byzantine traditions. Steindl may have based his design on the Houses of Parliament in London, but the result was far from imitation.
The interior is just as stunning as the exterior: the staircase hall, for example, is a marvel, with its granite Corinthian columns, gilded ornaments and sprawling ceiling painting by Károly Lotz. The building also houses some treasures, including the Hungarian Crown Jewels which after World War II were given to the Americans for safekeeping from the Soviet Union. President Jimmy Carter eventually returned them in 1978.
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