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The renovated Chain Bridge

Chain BridgeBudapestGreater Budapest

Budapest received a beautiful gift for its 150th birthday: the renovation of the city's oldest, and perhaps most beautiful, bridges has been completed. It was perfect timing. The "old lady" shines again in her old glory. 

Damaged by a ship

The bridge was last done up in the late eighties, but major reconstruction has been planned since 2002, so the planners and workers had plenty to do. The bridge was primarily damaged by dirt and moisture at the thermal expansion joints and along the edges of the worn out reinforced concrete road surface. At these points, a large amount of precipitation and salty snow had leaked into the bridge structure in recent decades, causing the elements around it to rust quite badly. When parts started being removed it turned out that it was not only rust that had to be managed: a part of the support structure was bent out of shape after being hit by a ship.

Taken apart and put back together again

The Chain Bridge was closed to traffic, and renovation started on 16 June 2021. The bridge structure being taken apart started with the removal of the lampposts and the asphalt being taken up. Removal of the bridge's pavement began in July. The worn reinforced concrete was sliced up and lifted out piece by piece, then with the help of special gantry cranes it was taken to the bridge heads and transported from there. 

Tested at thousands of points

Professionals examined the remaining steel structure of the bridge at thousands of points and carried out the necessary on-site repairs based on precise plans. The uncovered parts were first cleaned, their condition was assessed and then a detailed fault map was created. Coordinating the work processes was a huge engineering challenge: it was necessary to proceed methodically in the work area, in the factory that made the steel structures, and in the design office as well.

A colour just like the original

Working from a covered stand suspended from the chains, specialists shot blasted the chain links and suspension rods, made up of dozens of plates, and then applied the primary, intermediate and top layers of paint to give the bridge its final blue-grey colour. A special, flexible coating system was used at the joints of the chains, which can follow the movement of the chain links.

Lions being done up for a year

The restorers worked on the lions for more than a year – under monument protection supervision – in a workshop in Újpest. First, the statues were cleaned and chemical coatings were applied to the plastered surfaces that had been darkened by environmental pollution. A state-of-the-art medical laser was also used to clean the lions on the Buda side and to remove the most stubborn dirt. During the repair, restorers only replaced parts that were proven to have existed before, for example, the broken or worn teeth of the lions were rebuilt on carbon fibre posts. The stone lions decorating the bridgeheads in Buda returned to their original place in October last year, and those in Pest in November. In autumn, a mysterious new lion also appeared at the Pest bridgehead: a LEGO lion, built using more than 850,000 bricks, later turned up at several places around the capital.

Treasures found underwater

Underwater work led to an amazing discovery: In June 2021, specialists found a cannon ball from Turkish times. First, it was carefully lifted from the gravel bed, brought to the surface and placed on a boat, then taken to the Pest bridgehead, where it was placed on Budapest History Museum truck with the help of a tower crane. On the Buda side, a completely intact, stone-carved cannonball with a diameter of 36 centimetres had previously been recovered. What makes it special is that cannonballs in those days usually exploded into pieces when they hit the castle wall, so they are rarely found intact. 

Shining like a string of lights above the Danube

It wasn’t just the public lighting, consisting of new and old, restored lampposts, that was renewed on the Chain Bridge. The decorative lighting was also replaced with an energy-saving system. The string of 1,180 lamps was replaced by modern LED light bulbs. This system allows the bridge to shine in several colours, although it will probably glow with a single, warm white light for most of the year.