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5 Interesting Facts About the Hungarian House of Parliament

This author loves to travel but could never imagine living anywhere other than his beloved Budapest.

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Of Budapest’s many amazing edifices the Hungarian Parliament Building is one of the most iconic. Only a few know that Parliament is not only Hungary’s largest building but also one of the oldest legislative buildings in Europe.

Hungary's House of Parliament (Országház in Hungarian) is a UNESCO-listed site as part of the Danube panorama since 2011. Erected in the late 19th century, it is a prominent symbol of Hungarian nationhood, the seat of the National Assembly and also an excellent exhibition centre.

The building has countless beautiful details and its history is really exciting.

Kossuth Square on which the House of Parliament stands

Kossuth Square on which the House of Parliament stands

According to a Hungarian writer, The House of Parliament “was a colourful mixture of a Gothic chapel and a Turkish bath” referring to the impressive elements of the building. Well, its designer, Imre Steindl was fond of past centuries, his architectural interest was initially historicism, then Renaissance and Gothic style.

Imre Steindl’s dream was an elegant neo-Gothic palace standing firmly on the shore of the Danube River.

1. The Story Behind the Hungarian Parliament

Over centuries, the descendants of the conquering Hungarian leader, Arpad enacted laws without use of a permanent house for the Hungarian National Assembly. But after the Hungarian Revolution of 1848, the dynamically altered nation began to feel the need to change that situation. Thus in 1882 a competition was announced to design a building that would worthily represent the Hungarian Parliament, and Imre Steindl won the competition.

Three years later on the 12th of October, the works began on a sandy area surrounded by old houses. This was the largest investment of the late 19th century, and for nineteen years nearly a thousand people worked on it.

The Hungarian Parliament Building in 1900

The Hungarian Parliament Building in 1900

Carl Lutz Swiss diplomat and his wife in 1943. Carl Lutz was the first Swiss national named to the list of "Righteous Among the Nations" by Yad Vashem, Israel's memorial to the Holocaust.

Carl Lutz Swiss diplomat and his wife in 1943. Carl Lutz was the first Swiss national named to the list of "Righteous Among the Nations" by Yad Vashem, Israel's memorial to the Holocaust.

2. Inspirations

The building was put up between 1885 and 19004 to the plans of Imre Steindl who, inspired by the Houses of Parliament in London, had in mind an imposing building, which, apart from the typical Gothic, also represents the forms and characteristics of other ages; thus the front, the towers and the statues on the inside are neo-Gothic, the central dome is neo-Renaissance, while the ground plan shows Baroque features.

His studies were another important source of inspiration: he dedicated his life to the Middle Ages and became a professor of medieval architecture at Budapest’s University of Technology. During his student years he extensively studied the historic buildings of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, and went on study trips to France In one of Imre Steindl's drawings of the tabernacle of the St. Bartholomaeus Church, we can see motifs that he incorporated and developed during the construction of the Parliament and the St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish Church.

One of Imre Steindl's drawings

One of Imre Steindl's drawings

Similar detalils, Gothic elements of the Hungarian Parliament Building

Similar detalils, Gothic elements of the Hungarian Parliament Building

3. The House of the Hungarian Parliament in Numbers

A gigantic amount of material was used in the construction of the building – nearly 40 million bricks and 30 thousand cubic metres of dressed stone. By the spring of 1894 the bricklaying was finished and the building was standing up to main cornice level.

The building is 268 metres-long, 118 metres-wide, and has a spire of 96 metres (this represents the dates of the conquest of Hungary, 896). It has 365 small and large towers, the number refers to the days of one year. The building is also full of sculptures outside, and every lace, cornice, column has its own decorative function.

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There are 691 rooms, 29 staircases, 27 gates, 10 courtyards, and the length of all of the stairs put together is about 20 kilometres.

The building was inaugurated in 1896 to mark the 1000th anniversary of Hungary’s founding.

nterior view of Hungarian Parliament Building

nterior view of Hungarian Parliament Building

Deputy Council Chamber

Deputy Council Chamber

Interior of the building

Interior of the building

4. Where are the Chimnies of the Parliament Building?

If you take a closer look at the pictures of the building, you may notice after a while that there are no chimneys anywhere on the Parliament. But of course they heat it up in the winter.

The building`s heating and ventilation was considered one of the most modern systems in Europe. This one-of-a-kind heating and cooling system was the product of Imre Steindl`s genius. While heating was provided by a boiler room built a few blocks from the building, two fountains and a network of tunnels were responsible for cooling the Parliament. The humid air flowed through the fountain's drains into the tunnels and travelled for 80 metres underground until it reached the Parliament Building, cooling down even more on its way.

This cool air moved underneath and inside this mysteriously winding network of tunnels paved with tiles. These air ”boulevards” split into alleys and connected to every part of the building. During the wintertime heating season, hot steamy air was combined in a ”mixing chamber” under the assembly hall and that warm air circulated into the halls and rooms of the Parliament through floor vents made of brass, copper and bronze. Stale air was captured and flowed out of a ventilation system by the chandeliers into the underground network and left the building by the Danube side through a huge cavern.

In 1927 the whole Kossuth Square had gone under reconstruction and the tunnel network was shortened. The fountains have been replaced by a well-covered with a grill and ornamented with a cast iron hemisphere. This well is much closer to the building than the fountains were. Water pipes have been installed that provide water creating a light mist which is now how the whole building has access to fresh cool air. This method is still being used, moreover, from the 1930`s up till 1994, large blocks of ice were placed here on hot summer days to generate even cooler air for the building. Through this underground circulation system one can still smell grass inside the building whenever the lawn is freshly mowed on Kossuth Square.

A building without chimnies

A building without chimnies

5. The Holy Crown of Hungary

At the heart of the building is the cavernous hexadecagonal (16 sided) Central Hall. It is here that the Hungarian Coronation Regalia – including the Holy Crown, the Sceptre, the Orb and the Mantle – is displayed.

The coronation crown was used by the Kingdom of Hungary for most of its existence; kings have been crowned with it since the twelfth century. The Crown symbolized the King's authority over the Lands of the Hungarian Crown (the Carpathian Basin), and it was a key mark of legitimacy. Through the history of the country more than fifty kings were crowned with it, until 1916 and the last king Charles IV of Hungary and Emperor of Austria.

“During World War II, the crown was spirited out of Hungary to protect it from the Germans and the Soviets. On May 2, 1945, the Holy Crown and other jewels were handed over by a Hungarian Army Colonel to a U.S. Army Colonel near Egglesberg, Austria. The Crown had been packed in a large black satchel. It was initially sheltered in Wiesbaden, in the American Zone, but was later transferred to the United States Gold Reserve at Ft. Knox, Kentucky. It was not considered as spoils of war; rather, the U.S. Government stored it in hopes of returning it to the Hungarian people one day.” (Source: U.S. Embassy in Hungary.) After undergoing extensive historical research to verify the crown as genuine, it was returned to the people of Hungary by the order of U.S. President Jimmy Carter on 6 January 1978.

The Holy Crown

Nearby Places

1. The Shoes on the Danube Bank. They are a memorial and a monument to the Hungarian Jews who, in the winter of 1944-1945, were shot on the banks of the Danube River by the members of the Arrow Cross Party.

2. Liberty Square (Szabadság tér) with the building of the Us.S. Embassy in Hungary, the sculpture of Ronald Reagan, of George H. W. Bush and Harry Hill Bandholtz, also the memorial of Carl Lutz.

3. Falk Miksa Street with antique shops and gorgeous galleries and the statue of Columbo.

Shoes - Holocaust memorial

Shoes - Holocaust memorial

Ronald Reagan's statue

Ronald Reagan's statue

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