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All Hungarian history in one place: on Heroes' Square

Heroes' Square
Budapest
Greater Budapest

Take a journey through Hungarian history. An outdoor World Heritage site, lined with monumental statues. What is it? Heroes' Square, of course. It’s worth getting to know a bit about Hungarian history virtually beforehand so that you can absorb it better at the site itself.

What stories do the statues of Heroes' Square tell?

Originally, in the second half of the 19th century, an ornamental fountain designed by renowned Hungarian architect Miklós Ybl stood in Heroes' Square (Hősök tere), at the end of Andrássy Avenue. The Gloriette Well was ultimately relocated to Széchenyi Hill (where it has since been functioning as a lookout point), as an imposing monument was designed to take its place to commemorate the 1000th anniversary of the Hungarian conquest of 896: the Millennium Monument. Architect Albert Schickedanz and sculptor György Zala were asked by Sándor Wekerle, Prime Minister at the time, to design the monument.

 

The monument comprises two semi-circular colonnades and a central group of sculptures. Today, the statues of the colonnades are not entirely identical with the original statues, some having been replaced over time for historical reasons.

Today visitors to Heroes' Square are greeted by the following:

In the centre stands the statue of Archangel Gabriel on a 36 m column. In his left hand, he holds a double cross and in his right the Holy Crown, because, according to the legend, Stephen, the first king of Hungary was prompted by the Archangel in a dream to convert to Christianity and crown himself. Not only did the work prove to be popular with Hungarians: it also won the grand prize of the 1900 Paris World's Fair.

 

The base of Gabriel's column is surrounded by the equestrian statues of the chieftains of the seven Hungarian tribes, led by Grand Prince Árpád.

 

The colonnades feature 2.8 m bronze statues of historical figures that played an active role in creating modern Hungary. Each has a related relief depicting a scene typical of that person’s era or activity.

The left colonnade has the following statues and reliefs (first the statue, then the subject of the relief):

 

Stephen I of Hungary; Stephen receives the crown from the Pope at Christmas of 1000.

 

Ladislaus I of Hungary; King St. Ladislaus slays the Cumanian abductor.

 

Coloman of Hungary; King Coloman prohibits the burning of witches.

 

Andrew II of Hungary; King Andrew II leads a crusade to liberate Jerusalem.

 

Béla IV of Hungary; King Béla IV rebuilds the country after the Tatar invasion.

 

Charles I of Hungary; the Battle on the Marchfeld. (This is the only relief without an inscription, which is no coincidence: this battle was not fought during the reign of Charles I. So this is a mistake which they tried to conceal by not adding an inscription.)

 

Louis I of Hungary; King Louis occupies Naples in 1384.

 

The right colonnade has the following statues and reliefs (first the statue, then the subject of the relief):

 

John Hunyadi governor and general; John Hunyadi stops Turkish invaders at the Siege of Nándorfehérvár (Belgrade).

 

Matthias Corvinus; King Matthias with his scholars.

 

Stephen Bocskai, Prince of Transylvania; Hajdú soldiers defeat the Habsburg imperial forces.

 

Gabriel Bethlen, Prince of Transylvania; Bethlen signs a treaty with Bohemia in 1620.

 

Emeric Thököly, Kuruc general and Prince of Transylvania; Thököly’s kuruc army defeats the Austrian troops at the Battle of Szikszó in 1679.

 

Francis Rákóczi II, Prince of Transylvania; the peasant army welcomes Prince Rákóczi returning from Poland.

 

Lajos Kossuth, Governor; Kossuth rallies the peasants of the Great Plain.

 

The top of the semicircular colonnades shows the chariots of War and Peace, as well as the allegorical bronze figures of Labour and Wealth, Knowledge and Glory.

 

The Memorial Stone of Heroes was placed here later, with the robust slab commemorating the heroes of WWI.

Five interesting facts about Heroes' Square

1. The kings' statues on Heroes' Square are the works of different artists.

2. The last five statues had to be replaced after WWII for political reasons.

3. A replica of Heroes' Square was built in China.

4. Heroes' Square is the largest square in Budapest and, as such, it is often selected as a location for cultural, religious and political events.

5. The square was completely renovated in 2001 to ensure that we see it in its full original glory today.

While you’re on Heroes' Square, don’t miss these

If you do decide to dive headfirst into Hungarian history, it would be a pity to miss the attractions in the direct vicinity of Heroes' Square. The Museum of Fine Arts invites you to take a trip through time, from Ancient Times all the way to the end of the 18th century; while the Műcsarnok offers exhibitions by contemporary artists. If you need a break between the many cultural programmes, slip into the pool at the Széchenyi Thermal Bath or go for a walk in the beautiful City Park.

 

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