The altar of the nation: the millennium monument in budapest

(This is a chapter of my book: András Gerő: Imagined history. Chapters from Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Hungarian Symbolic Politics. Boulder, Colorado – Columbia University Press, New York – Center for Hungarian Studies and Publication Inc. Wayne, New Jersey 2006.)

The Millenium Monument in Budapest could not have come about without the convergence of three trends. First, there had to be a capital city — a place the dominant nationality in Hungary could consider its center. In other words, the institutionalized central location had to be created for the nation-religion. Second, the idea of some kind of national altar the function of which would be to represent the greatness and glory of the nation had to take shape within the political culture of the nation-religion. Third, the three-dimensional solution to realize and communicate the desired content had to be imagined, along international norms. Of course, all three requirements had to meet along the dimension of time.

From our perspective the three factors are not of equal importance. If the spatial dimension of symbolic politics is our primary focus, it is not Budapest, nor even the international trends in art history that are so important – although they need to be discussed — but rather the concept of a millennium monument and the function reinforcing that concept.

The Capital City

Budapest as the capital city was no more than a concept at the beginning, for there was no official “capital” in public awareness.1 The diets in the first half of the nineteenth century were held in Pozsony [Pressburg], as were the coronations of the kings.2 Although there was a Royal Castle in Buda, the king did not use it, and the building had become practically uninhabitable. Of course, the lack of a capital was due to the fact that, strictly speaking, Hungarian statehood did not exist within the Habsburg empire, for the king of Hungary did not have a separate de facto existence, the executive was not an independent feature.

A capital city, at least within the Western context, is a settlement of special rank and significance where the administrative agencies of the given state are concentrated.3 Its background may be a settlement that was a royal see, but it may also be a place which has attracted administrative agencies due to its economic and social importance.

The concept of a capital is partly related to the process of becoming a nation, which entailed not only national symbolism but also the development of a national space. Of course, the space of the nation is the nation-state itself, which in turn entails the spatial embodiment of other national institutions, such as parliament, government, supreme court, and the secular temples of national culture, such as a national theater, an opera house, a national museum, or museums.4 It may also include those symbolic spatial representations which express the great- ness and glory of the nation, the memorials to national heroes, to the great figures of the nation. Thus the capital is more than and distinct from the original see of the ruler, provided the capital city is truly the articulation of the nation.

In the case of Budapest, it was indeed the need for national self-expression that became the dominant factor. But before proceeding with our analysis, it is necessary to mention yet another factor, namely the fact that “Budapest as the capital of the nation” came about in a competitive field in which Vienna, the capital of the empire, played a decisive role.

As regards national content, the roles played by Budapest and Vienna were quite divergent. Vienna was the see of an extremely heterogeneous dynastic unit, the territory of which was in flux. It acquired its central role not because of its national background or by its geographic location, but rather by the fact that it was where the emperor lived, ruling under various titles; it was also the location of the central apparatus of the empire. Most of the Habsburg rulers were born here and were buried here.5 Vienna was the see of the dynasty, of the central organs of the Habsburg empire, and could thus become, as a matter of course and of history, the capital of the Austrian half of the Dual Monarchy. In theory, had the ruler moved elsewhere, the capital could have moved with him but, because of the pressure of tradition, this could not happen. On the contrary! Vienna was so much the actual imperial center, that when Emperor Ferdinand I (or King Ferdinand V) abdicated the throne in late 1848 while retaining his title as ruler and moved to the Hradžin Castle in Prague, the center of gravity did not shift, even though the ruler remained the head of the dynasty formally speaking and controlled the financial resources of the family.6 In short by the nineteenth century the central role of Vienna had become indisputable, without any particular national content. This “lack” was compensated by the fact that, on the one hand, it was the actual administrative center, reinforced by the presence of the dynasty which bore the imperial title, and regarded itself as the symbolical terminal point of the “West.” Metternich’s famous witticism, that the Balkans begin at the Karlsplatz, was meant to signify that “civilization” is an attribute of Vienna.

Budapest, or rather the conversion of Pest-Buda into the capital city, was a deliberate process with a nationalist end, certainly a delayed process in comparison with Vienna.7 In the early 1830s Count István Széchenyi raised the “Budapest idea.”8 Here we can see the national aspect clearly in operation for, as Széchenyi put it, the country needed a “heart,” a capital city. The idea, eventually espoused by Lajos Kossuth9 and the entire liberal reform movement, indicated, by the same token, that Hungary did not have an “official” capital for, while diet was in Pozsony, the Royal Castle and the Palatine’s Council were in Buda, and Buda and Pest were two separate, even rival cities. It is no accident, therefore, that Széchenyi decided to build the first permanent bridge across the Danube, the Lánchíd (Chain Bridge), at this location; nor was it an accident that the laws enacting the transformation in 1848, inspired by the demands of the March Revolution, insisted the diet be brought to Pest. It is also a logical consequence that Bertalan Szemere, the prime minister, declared the city to be the capital of the country, and already called it Budapest. After the defeat of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848–49, the neo-absolutist regime perceived Pest and Buda, separate once again, merely as regional centers. Budapest was declared a single settlement only after the Compromise, in 1872, even though the national assembly called upon to approve the Compromise was summoned to Pest already in 1865, and the two cities on both sides of the Danube were regarded as one de facto capital.10

Thus we may say that the concept of a capital city has deep national overtones in Hungary and its realization was viewed as a success story for Hungarian national consciousness. An other important episode in this discourse was the castle of Buda functioning as a royal see, but no one objected to the fact that after 1867 the royal couple preferred to stay at the palace at Gödöllő, presented to them as a gift by the nation, rather than at the forbidding and uncomfortable palace in Buda.11 The gist of the matter is that the Hungary of the Hungarians now had a capital city, where there was room for the king, the government, the parliament and everything required to make a city into a national capital.

Imperial Vienna, national Budapest: perhaps this dichotomy allows us to better understand the real historical content of the term capital in the Habsburg Dual Monarchy. All this, however, does not provide the entire context; for instance, what does the concept capital mean to the Hungarian? On the one hand, a significant proportion of the citizens was not Hungarian, moreover, the majority of the citizens of the country did not have Hungarian as their mother tongue before the turn of the century, around 1900, and even after that the majority who did was slight. These basic issues, however, exceed the framework of this book’s topic. Suffice to say, that much of the population of the capital became Hungarianized or Magyarized; in other words, a process of assimilation was taking place. As regards the country, the ideological construct, while recognizing ethnic heterogeneity, maintained the fiction of a united political nation, and this “political nation” was supposed to be Hungarian. The breaking point between the process of assimilation and of the ideological construct appeared suddenly and spectacularly, precisely at the turn of the century, to become a new reality with the dissolution of the Monarchy.

The state, redefined as a result of the compromise, acquired an ambiguous name, almost a contradiction in terms: “The lands of the Hungarian Crown and other countries under the rule of His Majesty.” On November 14, 1868, Francis Joseph issued the royal decree which systematized the nomenclature of the lands under his rule. Austro-Hungarian Monarchy became the name of the new state even though, as we know, the term Austrian included large number of Slavs, and included constitutionally the title of king of Bohemia. The Hungarian side included a kingdom in which the Hungarians were a minority until about 1900. The term Dual Monarchy became an accepted term, for want of anything more appropriate, as was the expression “two capitals.”12

The two states, constitutionally equal, had centers of apparently equal rank. The constitutional agencies overseeing the common affairs connecting the two states were expected to meet in each capital, Budapest, and Vienna, alternately — as stipulated by the Compromise. Nevertheless, the joint ministries (foreign affairs, defense, and the finances providing for these) functioned in Vienna, and the issue of moving to the other capital was never even raised. The main reason for locating these ministries in Vienna was not Vienna’s sophisticated civilization but rather the fact that the ruler preferred to rule from Vienna rather than from Budapest. It remained Budapest’s perennial grievance, that the city had no royal court. The office of majordomo in Budapest was subordinated to that of Vienna, in spite of the fact that the Hungarian parliament passed the royal budget. Thus the relationship between the two capitals, in spite of the semblance of equality, included an element of grievance on the part of Budapest — a grievance which was inevitably formulated in national terms. It also led to the urge to demonstrate that Budapest will eventually “catch up” with Vienna.

As a result, Budapest became not just a capital, but emphatically a national capital. The need to create a national space overrode the ethnic makeup of the city, and overrode the relatively late start (compared to cities in Western Europe). The rivalry with Vienna endowed the development of Budapest with a national content. By the same token — although I do not wish to go into much detail — its status as a metropolis, its rapid modernization, also immediately elicited the fear of losing national character. By the turn of the century and the beginning of the twentieth, the capital city had become a political issue. Something that was originally meant to be extremely national was beginning to be interpreted as anything but, something “sinful.”13

We must realize that the function of a city as “capital” gives it extra weight. But if the state-national representation is not surrounded by what is appropriate for national urban development in the nineteenth century, then it is mostly the state aspect that remains dominant. Indeed, Budapest became a metropolis, a modern urban center. All the civil, economic, social innovation of the century appeared in this urban center in concentrated form; this was particularly true of spiritual and intellectual innovation, providing opportunities, even a modicum of livelihood to the knights, squires and pages of cultural life.

Within the whole of the Habsburg empire only Vienna and Budapest qualified as full-fledged settlements, by cosmopolitan European standards. Prague was unable to evolve along the path on which it set out on in the eighteenth century, whereas Vienna and Budapest, adopting a deliberate policy of urban development, became metropolises with a million residents each. (In 1910 the population of Budapest was “only” 900,000 but, if we add the suburbs, it amounted to 1.1 million.) Moreover, both in Austria and in Hungary the other cities remained behind by several orders of magnitude, meaning that to satisfy their desire to make a career the aspiring bourgeois societies had to congregate in one of these two cities. The cities became the symbolic and actual terrain of modernism and great opportunities.14

The quantitative factors assumed a qualitative dimension. With its civil servants, factory workers, petty bourgeoisie and middle class, with its new type of urban pauperism and its big bourgeois style of life, the bohemian, the artist, the wannabes, all unlike the residents of earlier towns, assembled and created something different. This something different attempted to manifest itself politically as well. The reverse is also true: the qualitative change elicited a strong and ideologically based critique of city life. The city appeared as a phenomenon enticing to sin, dragging innocence into the mud, a kind of “secular devil” become flesh. It tempted the one who wanders by, transformed its soul, even changed her or his speech. Indeed, the language became different: the vocabulary, the pronunciation could either exalt, or render one a stranger.

In the case of Budapest, becoming the capital and a metropolis was interpreted as a national undertaking; thus the self-image of the city and the Hungarian character did not entail significant divergences. Hungarian national consciousness was born under the aegis of liberalism. Hungarian “grandeur et gloire” manifested itself through liberalism, and this liberal nationalism appeared as the guarantor of civilization and progress. A good example of this was the series of millenary commemorations in 1896, giving the city serious opportunities for further development.15

Of course, a neoconservative reaction against liberalism, adorned with Christian values, appeared in Hungary too; the Catholic People’s Party was founded in 1895 in the shadow of one of the greatest achievements of liberalism, the separation of church and state. The advance of the neoconservative agenda, often tinged with overtones of anti-Semitism, was rendered more arduous by the national component of the regime, tied to liberalism and internal stability. The internal stability brought about by the Compromise signified the hegemony of the Hungarian elite, and its vested interest was to deem every kind of assimilation positive, for it usually enhanced the social, economic, demographic weight of the Hungarians. This elite, with its vested interest in preserving its hegemony, saw no advantage in anti-Semitic politics, in the stigmatization of the Jews. Nor was it in their interest to do away with the liberal brand of nationalism, although it did prepare the way for its ultimate demise. The critique of Budapest, the slogan of Jewdapest16 and all the paraphernalia that came with it, did show up in the culture of the turn of the century, but remained of secondary importance as long as Hungarian nationalism had to prevail in multi-ethnic Hungary. Its real force, and its dominant political discourse, was to reveal itself only after the dissolution of the Monarchy, when the country was inhabited by 96 percent Hungarians and the political elite, even though its composition remained much the same, was seeking a new socioeconomic and cultural image of the enemy. As long as the monarchical lid was on top of the pot called Hungary, Hungarian nationalism, coping with the realities, was interested in a liberal political framework, which included Budapest. The city was the heart of the nation, not its enemy.

And this was relevant to the creation of the Millennium Monument.

The Origins of the Idea

Two factors were needed for the development of the concept of a monument: the crystallization of the idea, and the consciousness of the monument as object, although the two are part of the selfsame process. Nevertheless, let us begin with an analysis of the latter.

Art history distinguishes between several types of monuments.17

Monuments celebrating monarchies or dynasties are the oldest form. Their origins can be traced to the Renaissance or the Baroque and are founded on the idea, from the fifteenth century, which glorifies the ruler, declares him immortal. This led to the representation of authority as active, living, even fighting. Such monuments became typical in European culture from the eighteenth century. Monuments celebrating the creative genius, such as the one dedicated to Jean-Jacques Rousseau, were inspired by those dedicated to the genius of the ruler, such as Frederick or Peter the Great.

Chronologically the next type is the “memorial temple.” The trend was initiated in Paris when the church dedicated to Saint Geneviève was renamed the Panthéon. The memorial temple is also an indication that religious forms are becoming secularized, while maintaining their sacred essence. The heroes, the outstanding figures of the nation, the new sacred community, are buried here, surrounded by secular worship reminiscent of the worship accorded to saints. At the beginning of the nineteenth century such memorial temples were projected in several locations, albeit very few were actually realized. There were other memorials, however, which resembled the temple in their outward appearance.

A clearly nineteenth century type, initiated somewhat later, were the “historical-cultural” monuments. These are the embodiments of the nation, of national self-representation, fashionable in German or Austrian areas.

The fourth type is made up of the so-called “national-democratic” monuments, in which the people play the major role. Rare in the nineteenth century, it becomes commonplace after World War I, memorializing the unknown soldier.

These various types often appear in conjunction or mixed. Hungary joined the trends belatedly and often with her own cachet. The memorial of the dynastic type was rare in the nineteenth century; except for the memorial to the Palatine Joseph, already discussed; only Maria Theresa earned the respect of posterity, with her memorial in Pozsony by János Fadrusz in 1897. Although the idea of an equestrian statue of Francis Joseph was raised after the Compromise, it never came close to execution.

While monuments to the dynasty were rare, the ones to the cultural or political representation of the national genius gained all the more currency. A monument dedicated to Károly Kisfaludy was projected already in his lifetime, in 1830 (although carried out in 1875). From the 1870s a whole series of monuments were erected to celebrate statesmen, poets, writers. Included were József Eötvös (1879), István Széchenyi (1880), Sándor Petőfi (1882), Ferenc Deák (1887), János Arany (1893), and Mihály Vörösmarty (1908). While in the 1860s there were no more than two or three statues of secular personalities in a public space, there were nineteen by 1900, and thirty-seven more between 1900 and 1918.18  These memorials outnumbered the statues of religious or ecclesiastic figures, as well as the purely esthetic works.

Modelled on the Walhalla in Bavaria the idea of a national memorial was raised time and again. After visiting the Walhalla, Széchenyi came up with his idea of an “Üdvlelde” [Place of Salvation],19 which would be a burial place for those who earned the respect of the nation by their merits. For Széchenyi the ideal was the pantheon of Westminster Abbey, which became the burying place not for those of rank or title but rather personal achievement.

All these trends, sinuous as they may be at times, begin to converge in the 1880s, in the direction of a memorial for the one thousandth anniversary of the conquest. Since there was no national head of state, it was national consciousness, the nation-religion, that sought the idea of “national glory” which would correspond to the idea of a “grandeur” or “glory.” Some advocated the idea of “memorial temple” as inspired by Széchenyi or misinterpreted from Széchenyi, to be inhabited by historical figures20 — a sacred place which would amount to an altar to the Hungarian genius.21 There were others who interpreted such an altar literally, in its religious sense — a national temple that would serve as a place of worship for various denominations.22

Eventually the idea of connecting the memorial to the approaching celebration of the millennium came up. Árpád, the chieftain who was the leader of the Hungarian tribes at the time of the conquest, was closest to the concept of a Hungarian royal dynasty. The independentist,

’48-er worldview, which fully indulged in symbolic politics, favored Árpád as well, for the rulers of the House of Árpád and the cult were indirectly indicative of their anti-Habsburg stance.

These gathering concepts received official endorsement for the first time in 1881.23  The assembly of the municipality of Budapest addressed a memorandum to parliament proposing to erect a memorial for the millennium which would be appropriate to celebrate the conquest, as well as the history of the nation since that time. While it did raise the idea of a memorial, the yearning for a national altar and, of course, that the most appropriate site for a national memorial would be the freshly found capital city, yet this proposal was not the one that was eventually carried out.

First, the date of the conquest had to be clarified. As we have already noted, the government asked the Hungarian Academy of Science in 1882, and the academy came up with a time span of twelve years, between 888 and 900 CE.24 One of the representative leaders of the ideas of independence, Kálmán Thaly, proposed in the lower house:

I must confess, I would like to see a statue which expresses the immutability of the Hungarian concept of state, and would cut in every direction from which it is attacked (voices of approval from the far left). Please understand what I have in mind: I do not mean to express animosity toward anyone, but I want an expression of our power, of our consolidated state existence, which enjoyed a full existence at one time and which, while it is not fully in existence now, let the God of the Hungarians grant it soon (approval on the far left).

It would be commendable if certain episodes of the conquest known to history be commemorated in those regions of the country, those border areas, and those areas inhabited by the nationalities were to be immortalized and made visible wherever it would redound to the credit and advantage of the Hungarian nation, even from the point of view of the nationalities.25

Thaly’s proposal, eventually enacted,26 yearned for the symbolic representation of the Hungarian concept of state in such a way as to serve as warning to the nationalities. Its great drawback was that he was not thinking in terms of Budapest, in terms of an altar of glory.

Once the academy took a stand, the exact date was left up the government. After considerable hesitation, legislation was adopted in 1892 setting the date for the millennium at 1895. At first, disregarding the proposal of the municipality, they planned only a major exhibition, but later decided to have a series of events. Therefore the time frame proved inadequate and, barely a year later, another piece of legislation postponed the anniversary to 1896.27

In the meantime the outlines of the celebration assumed more concrete shape, including the concept of a millennium memorial, emphasized by increasing numbers. In February of 1894 the parliament created a document, with the approval of the prime minister, giving a concrete, if not yet detailed, description of the plan:

Among the permanent creations serving to symbolize the thousandth anniversary of our existence undoubtedly the most significant would be the statue, triumphal arch or some such structure, symbolizing the creation of the state, that is the act of law to decide its erection.

As one may expect, there were numerous plans regarding the masterpiece to be created for the millennium, an esthetic symbol of the foundation of the Hungarian state. The plans came from the public in a variety of guises, and there were numerous plans from various official quarters.

Moreover, this creation had to be grandiose; it could not serve any utilitarian purpose, nor could it be a statue standing alone, or even a series of sculptures or paintings. Similar tasks had been dealt with since ancient times down to the present, in numerous instances. Each time great events, or at least events perceived to be great from the standpoint of the nation, had to be symbolized and celebrated, the solution had always been an architectural creation of purely artistic value which would provide the setting for three-dimensional art or some monumental painting. The most frequent solution, and most appropriate according to the committee, discussed in detail in the proposal submitted by the president — which included sketches — would be a triumphal arc, or something along that line. This structure would be erected at some major intersection in the capital to constantly draw the attention of the masses, preferably without snarling traffic. Moreover, its proportions would elicit feelings of permanence, in contrast to the daily activities of the bustling crowd. There would be sculptures, bas-reliefs, mosaics or murals, some of which would be allegorical and others representing outstanding individuals, or even the most outstanding features of a particular century. The very mission of the monument made it self-evident that the dominant figure could be none other than an equestrian statue of the founding father, Árpád.”28

In referring to the fact that similar assignments had been resolved in the past “down to the present” in various places, they were probably thinking in terms of the “Kaiser forums” realized in Berlin, Saint Petersburg, or even Vienna. The space was usually circumscribed by a colonnade, with sculptures in between the pillars, serving the principles of the given power in a “politics of space,” making it possible to hold ceremonies and rituals. The primary model was the Heldenplatz in Vienna.29

The proposal also specified that they expected to include in the monument the entire course of Hungarian history, as they perceived it, in the guise of “outstanding individuals.” Moreover, all this was imag- ined in the guise of an allegory that could be clearly understood, with- in the framework of European civilization. Nevertheless, although more detailed and close to what was actually executed, there remained some built-in leeway.

The question of where to locate the monument emerged as a key issue. One proposal was to place the statue of Árpád on top of Gellért Hill, at the site of the existing Citadel fortress. This proposal warrants comment, for the concept of a monument at the summit of the mountain entailed a whole symbolic historical process in itself.

The Citadel was built after the allied Austrian and Russian forces had crushed the Hungarian Revolution in 1849 — a revolution which had threatened Habsburg domination by proclaiming independence for the Hungarian state. The construction of the Citadel, ordered by General Julius von Haynau, was completed by 1854. The fort was considered obsolete already at the time of its construction, although it was never intended to provide effective defense against an armed host. Indeed, the Citadel’s artillery was pointed at Pest where the Revolution of 1848 had begun, in order to intimidate the citizens. The building came to symbolize oppression and was ironically referred to as the “Bastille of Gellért Hill.” When peace came about between the nation and the ruler in 1867, the suggestion was made to demolish the obsolete fortress, since it was a symbol of the Habsburg absolutism and out of keeping with the tenuous political accord. Hence the proposal to place the statue of Árpád, the leader of the conquering tribes, where the Citadel then stood, had obvious political implications. The idea had surely been inspired by Count Széchenyi who had, at one time, when the summit of the hill was the site of a humble astronomical observatory, suggested a national pantheon. Instead of representing Hungarian subjugation, as the Citadel had, the statue would symbolize independence and glory.

The memorial on the hill was never built. Although the government weighed the merits of the proposal, it tabled the plans to demolish the Citadel and replace it with another monument, referring to exorbitant costs. The grandiose design dovetailed into a minor enterprise: in 1897 the Citadel was symbolically destroyed. The structure above its main gate and some of the outer walls were razed. Thus it became uglier, but remained in place, to this day.

There were some who felt the best place for a triumphal arch would be at the end of Andrássy Avenue, a proposal which won the blessing of the prime minister.30  Thus, instead of building on the site of the “Bastille,” the arch would be located at the end of Budapest’s Champs-Elysées. Once known as Sugár út [Boulevard], and subsequently named after Count Gyula Andrássy, the first prime minister after the Compromise, in many ways the avenue signaled Budapest’s arrival to the status of a major metropolis. The imposing residences which line the street were modeled to a large extent on the famous Parisian boule- vard, largely completed in the 1850s and 1860s. A triumphal arch was all that was needed to make the resemblance complete. (The Parisian Arc de Triomphe was erected already under Napoleon I, and gained its final form in 1836.) The Hungarian arch was intended to symbolize grandeur et gloire, in the same manner as its Parisian model. Andrássy Avenue also represented the growing prestige of the middle class, the growing power of civil society. Furthermore, it became the location of the underground tramway line completed in time for the millennium celebration in 1896, only the second such line in Europe and the first on the Continent. The importance attached to historical continuity was enhanced by the fact that designs for the avenue had been first sug- gested by Kossuth, in 1841. Although the avenue was not situated where he had originally proposed, it nevertheless represented an amal- gam of middle-class and national interests.

At the end of Andrássy Avenue, where the monument was to be built, stood the Gloriette, a terraced fountain designed by the architect Miklós Ybl, which drew its waters from an artesian well. Drilling for the foundation had been done by the engineer Vilmos Zsigmondy around 1860–70. From a depth of over 960 meters the water gushing forth had a temperature of 75 degrees centigrade. This excellent spring also supplied water to the Széchenyi Baths in the City Grove, opened in 1913. The Gloriette was relocated in 1898 to the foot of the Széchenyi Hill, on the Buda side. A metal plaque marks the place where the well had been on the square.

In 1894 the concept which took so long to formulate finally assumed a concrete, officially endorsed and supported form. But this was just the beginning of another long story, that of the projected Millennium Monument.

Execution, Content, and Use before 1945

Now that the plans and location of the monument had been decided, the search for a designer and for the financial resources to cover the expenses began. The sculptor György Zala and the architect Albert Schickedanz were commissioned to draw up the plans. At that time, in 1894, the thirty-six year-old Zala was still considered a relatively young artist. He had been living in Budapest for ten years, having studied in Vienna and Munich, as was then the fashion. His first major commission had been the Hungarian Soldier [Honvéd] Memorial on Parade [Dísz] Square in the Castle Hill District, dedicated to the memory of the Hungarian troops who had fought in the Revolution and War of Independence of 1848–49 and recaptured Buda from the Austrians. Unassuming and devoted to a subject that was of concern to the whole nation, this statue proved to be just the right letter of recommendation to the committee.

Schickedanz was forty-eight when he received his commission. He was a conservative artist, inclined to work in the classical style, as indicated by the fact that he was a professor on the faculty of the Budapest School of Applied Arts. He had already collaborated with Zala, designing the pedestal of the Honvéd Memorial, and had considerable experience designing monuments. He had been charged with designing the statue of Count Lajos Batthyány, as well as the pedestal of Deák’s statue at the Pest bridgehead of the Chain Bridge, renamed Roosevelt Square since. Thus two artists had been chosen who could be relied on to create a monument which would please the esthetic sensibilities and notions of the committee and who were experienced in expressing national value in three dimensional form.

Opposition to the monument centered on the fact that the group of statues envisaged would have a long-term impact on the cityscape; it would be not only the biggest, but also the costliest of all monuments built to-date. Whomever the commission awarded, he would not only be assured of a place in history, but his career would also be secure. As the officially commissioned artists began to work on the design, other sculptors and architects lobbied for an open competition. Designs for the monument having been finished rather quickly, the architectural branch of the Hungarian Engineering and Architectural Association convened a fifty-two-member plenum in 1894. They objected to the Zala-Schickedanz design primarily on esthetic grounds. They felt the monument was out of place at the end of Andrássy Avenue; furthermore, it would be an eyesore and a nuisance.

Among the leaders of those opposed to the design was Frigyes Shulek, whose restoration of the Coronation (or King Matthias Corvinus) Church made him a household name. Not long after voicing his opposition, however, he participated in the improvements projected for the millennium celebration, drawing up the plans for the Fishermen’s Bastion alongside the church. Construction begun in 1895.

Petty and not so petty debates took place in the shadow of the monument, still only a blueprint. How will the government decide? Will it side with the recommendation of the association, imbued by the spirit of liberalism, or will it hold a steady course? One would have expected a regime, with liberal claims, to back liberal principles, but this did not prove to be case; for if anybody were allowed to participate, in a competition, then the government might have to face, in public, solutions not in line with the historical principles of the recent past. The prime minister’s opinion remained unswayed and Zala’s commission was confirmed. A parliamentary committee was set up to examine the plan, and proposed some changes. The City Grove at the end of Andrássy Avenue was still regarded as the best site for the monument. Demands for an open competition were brushed aside on the grounds that the design was sound and, more spuriously, that time was running out. Thus it was the politicians who made the final decision, in a matter of esthetics. The ideological goal was the most important one for them, and they now had the right to expect the designated artists to live up to this goal, since everyone else had been excluded. Of course, in spite of the objections, time was not of the essence. After all, the entrance to the Millenium Exhibition, one of the main attractions of the celebration, had been established for the site of the monument.31

Since the square could only accomodate one project at a time, the construction of the monument could only begin after the gate had been taken down. In the spring of 1895, when the contract with Zala was signed, this minor complication had occurred to no one. The contract stipulated that only the clay models for the statues would have to be ready by 1896, and the architectural work could begin later that same year. The date for the final completion was set for five years after that. Some 800,000 forints were earmarked for the project, an astronomical sum in those days, and the largest amount ever invested in a work of art in Hungary. Indeed, the government spared no expense. To put this in perspective, the underground tramway, one of the engineering wonders of the contemporary world, had cost 3.7 billion forints. The parties to the contract could not have known at that time that it would take not five, but thirty-five years to finish the project and that, by the time the last bills were paid, neither the forint, nor even the korona that succeeded it, would be the official currency of the country.

But let us not get ahead of ourselves. Although no longer did anyone believe that the project would be carried out by 1896, the artists were hard at work implementing their plans. Zala reserved one of the storerooms at the Western Railway Station, since it offered ample space for assembling the massive statues. Zala’s design was given its final form only in 1929.

The design was rather ingenious: an eclectic colonnade built in a double semicircle, eighty-five meters wide and twenty-five meters deep. The structure facing the city was intended to create the impression of an open triumphal arch. The base of the main group of statues stands somewhat forward at the center of the colonnade, with Árpád in the forefront. He is flanked by the equestrian statues of the other six tribal leaders. A thirty-six-meter tall column rises from the base, capped by the bronze statue of Archangel Gabriel, twice life-size, resting on a solid globe. He bears a symbol in each hand: the Holy Crown of the Hungarian kings and the Apostolic Cross. In the distance, allegorical groups of bronze statues span the top of the colonnade. War is symbolized by the chariot galloping to the left of the semi-circle, flanked by sculptures symbolizing Labor and Prosperity. On top of the right half of the semi-circle are the majestic Chariot of Peace and the statues of Knowledge and Glory. Between the columns are the statues of leading figures from Hungarian history sculpted in the historicist style; beneath them are bas-reliefs depicting scenes from relevant periods of Hungarian history.

The symbols used in the monument — War, Peace, Labor, Prosperity, Knowledge, and Glory — are rather cliché and might have formed part of the national monument of any country. As historians are wont to say:  they were there purely as a matter of convention. (Actually, there were opinions to the effect that Knowledge paired with Glory were mere riddles, signifying something altogether different.) The symbol of Archangel Gabriel had a more direct bearing on the nation’s history. In addition to signifying victory, the Holy Crown and the Apostolic Cross represent the triumph of the concept of Hungarian nationhood within the Christian West. The choice of Gabriel is given special zest since, according to the legend, he appeared in the dream of the first Hungarian king, summoning him to adopt Christianity on behalf of his people.

The national consciousness of official Hungary had fourteen emplacements at its disposal. The statesmen represented in the monument, and the grounds on which they were selected, clearly manifest contemporary attitudes toward Hungarian history. Let us present the history of each of those figures, as originally planned and as erected at various times, albeit only some of them are still in place.

The first one, naturally, was Saint Stephen, the Hungarian ruler who delivered his people to Christendom and, with the crown obtained from the pope, turned his country into a kingdom and a state, according to the norms of contemporary Europe.  Second is the statue of King Saint Ladislas I, distinguished, according to the relief underneath, by an extremely noble deed: the slaying of a Cuman [Kun] warrior as he was abducting a Hungarian maiden. The choice of the theme, in addition to its presentation, reveals the artist’s intention to express an aspect of Hungarian national character. The enemy attacking the country recoils at nothing, not even at raping defenseless women, and the king has to deal with him personally, as a matter of justified and valiant self-defense; indeed, Hungary’s power must increase to enable it to defend herself. In another relief, King Coloman the Wise [Könyves Kálmán], is shown annexing Croatia and Dalmatia, thereby validating the nation’s territorial claims. The next scene emphasizes Hungary as part of Europe: the participation of King Andrew II in medieval Europe’s largest collective enterprise, the Crusades, symbolizing the active “defense” of the Christian faith and Christian devotion. The next relief depicts the Mongol invasion, which devastated the country. King Béla IV is shown rebuilding the medieval Hungarian state from the ruins of the invasion, embodying the ideals of unceasing heroic activity and the spirit of reconstruction.

The next item was one of the most curious. The statue represented Charles Robert (1308–42), the first Angevin king of Hungary, who contributed greatly to the organization of the economic and political structure of the Hungarian state. In the face of internal dissension and incursions by other powers, including the Habsburgs, Charles Robert defended the nation successfully. The relief below the statue depicted an unrelated scene, the August 26, 1278, battle of Morvamező [Marchfeld] at Dürnkrut, where the Hungarian king at the time, Ladislas IV the Cuman, hurried to the assistance of the Habsburg Holy Roman Emperor Rudolph. The allies proceeded to defeat the Bohemian King Ottokar, who died in the battle. Rudolph had this victory to thank for the acquisition of the Austrian princedom, eventually so central to the Habsburg dynasty. In practice, what was at stake was the rule of the Holy Roman Empire and the addition of Austria, achieved thanks to the Hungarian contribution. The scene on the relief is striking because, for one thing, unlike the others, it has no bearing on the statue, but also because it had a political message. Charles Robert was of incomparably greater historical significance than Ladislas IV, so it must be assumed that the relief was meant to convey the debt the Habsburgs owed the Hungarian people for their position of power in Austria. It must be remembered that when the memorial was conceived a Habsburg was on the throne of the Hungarian half of the empire. The reference to the battle of Morvamező was also meant to show that acceptance of the common fate of Habsburg and Hungarian provided the sole guarantee of protection against the Slavs and other would-be conquerors. Interdependence, loyalty, and national pride were ideological factors which had figured prominently in the 1867 Compromise. The continuity of Hungarian nationalism within the empire had to be demonstrated, even at the expense of the stylistic and thematic unity of the monument.

Chronologically, however, the Habsburg domination was still a long ways off, there were other periods of national greatness. First came the reign of Louis I, the Great, under whom Hungary had reached its greatest territorial expanse. The relief focuses on one stage in dynastic expansion, the king’s entry into Naples in 1348, were he was received by its ruler Johanna. (It should be added that Louis was forced to relinquish his hold over Naples, for some compensation, barely four years later.)

The series continued with the only figure who was not a king: János Hunyadi who, officially, was merely the governor of Hungary, even though power was in his hands. The event recorded on the relief was indeed of global significance. In 1456 Hunyadi’s forces halted the Ottoman Turkish advance at Nándorfehérvár [today’s Belgrade], securing Hungary and all of Europe, for the time being. The soldier pinning the Turkish banner on the parapet of the besieged castle is grabbed by one of the valiant defenders, the two of them plummeting together to their death. The inclusion of the Battle of Nándorfehérvár was meant to demonstrate that Hungary had not only defended its own territorial integrity, but had heroically defended Europe and European civilization. The next figure is that of Matthias Corvinus [Mátyás Hunyadi] who ruled as the king of the medieval Hungarian state. Renowned for his humanist learning and Renaissance court, Matthias Corvinus is depicted in the relief surrounded by scholars. By focusing on his role as a patron of arts and science, the magnitude of the nation’s cultural contribution is emphasized by the same token.

From that point on, the rulers are members of the Habsburg dynasty, beginning with Ferdinand I. He was unable, however, to defend the country against the Turks and, in fact, divided its forces in his struggle to maintain power. The relief, however, depicts the victorious battle of Eger Castle in 1552, in which the Hungarian soldiers succeeded in raising the Turkish siege; the battle is noted for the role of the women who took up arms alongside the menfolk. In other words, the episode portrays a Habsburg ruler, and Hungarian heroism that owed nothing to his support. The next figure is that of Charles III and, once again, we are confronted with ambivalence. Underneath the statue is the picture of the Battle of Zenta [Senta] in 1697, where Eugene of Savoy inflicted a decisive defeat on the Turks, marking the end of 150 years of Turkish rule in Hungary. The ruler of Hungary, however, at the time of the battle was Leopold I, against whom the Hungarians had rebelled, first under the leadership of Imre Thököly, later under Ferenc II Rákóczi. Depiction of a king who had so flagrantly disregarded national rights and who had dealt with Hungary as though it was merely a colony, ran the risk of widespread popular resentment; since Rákóczi, the leader demanding national independence, was omitted, it would have been unseemly to include Leopold. Thus they made room for Charles III, who implemented, at least partially, the compromise which ended the armed conflict following the freedom fight led by Rákóczi.

If the ruler respects the laws of the country, then the gallant Hungarians will show unselfish support. The relief below the queen’s statue depicts the vote in the diet in 1741 favoring military support, with the exclamation “vitam et sanguinem” [our lives and blood]! Had the Hungarians refused assistance at the crucial point in history, the Habsburg empire would certainly have collapsed, given that Maria Theresa’s right to the throne went unrecognized abroad, and both Prussians and Bavarians had launched an attack. Hungarian troops halted their onslaught, making it possible for the queen to reoccupy Austria and Bohemia, as well as win diplomatic recognition.

The reliefs refer to two historical events in which Hungary had proven itself a reliable buttress of the empire: the aiding of the Habsburgs to power in the thirteenth century and saving the empire from total collapse in the eighteenth century. The implication was that it would be only fitting if there were reciprocation, if the Hungarians were to receive help from a just ruler, in the event their rights were violated: for this reason the statue of Leopold II was also included. This is another example of the subordination of the artistic work to political considerations. Whereas Maria Theresa’s historical prominence was indisputable, Leopold II had actually ruled less than two years (1790–92). The sole reason for his inclusion in the monument was that under his rule the Hungarian feudal constitution, which had been ignored by his predecessor — Joseph II, the son of Maria Theresa — was at least formally reinstated. To avoid having to give an account of his actions to the diet, Joseph II had not permitted himself to be crowned, sending the Holy Crown to Vienna. Leopold’s II reign saw the return of the crown to Buda. This is the scene depicted on the relief, reflecting the restoration of relations between the Habsburg and Hungary. To put it another way: provided that certain rules were adhered to, good Hungarian-Habsburg relations ensure the preservation of national interests. At the same time, the relief also indicates that the nation was capable of mounting honorable and successful resistance to Joseph II in defense of its legal integrity.

The last statue was that of Francis Joseph in dress uniform, the ruler at the time. All the messages in connection with the Habsburgs had been presented in such a way as to depict his world as one of perfect harmony. The relief below it showed the coronation of Francis Joseph in 1867 by Prime Minister Gyula Andrássy and by the primate of Hungary. The graceful figure of Queen Elizabeth, much beloved by the Hungarian people, is also present, along with Ferenc Deák, the mentor of the Compromise. The Compromise which, according to its advocates, ensures the integrity of the territory of the nation, the progress of those living here, the freedom of Hungarian national feelings and aspirations.

According to contemporaries, only through allegiance to both monarch and country could true unity emerge. It is true that, in the eyes of the contemporaries, this sense of harmony must have been disturbed somewhat by the figure of the monarch in full military garb. It served as a reminder that the suppression of the revolution, and the ensuing absolutist terror were embodied in the same person. Although those days might safely be regarded as over, the disconcerting thought remained that the monarch was invested with the exclusive power to raise armed forces under the restored constitution. (Of course, it would have been rather difficult to show Francis Joseph in any other garb, since the uniform was his regular attire.) In other words, what happens if not everything is in order, and this is not the best of all possible worlds?

Thus it was necessary to create a new view of the present steeped in the glories of the past, and providing an image of unfailing continuity and fulfillment. If we summarized somewhat, in the Millennium Monument we find a unique fusion of national character and politics, interwoven with a unique history. It showed the Hungarian people as self-assured, courteous and heroic, and capable of great undertakings both on their own account and for the sake of others. They were prepared to make sacrifices in defense of their right, while open to European culture. As long as the monarch was willing to respect their customs and laws, they would accord him their unbounded loyalty. Hungary’s embracing of Christianity was not simply an expression of becoming a European state, it also reflected a commitment to defend Christian values and to fight for them when necessary. The role the Hungarian state had assumed within the empire was regarded not only as an accepted possibility, it was the only possibility. The state and nation, enhanced by its Christianity, the loyalty and attachment to the Habsburg monarchy, withstood the test of centuries successfully and gloriously. This was the Hungarian grandeur and glory.

Almost simultaneously, there was another emphasis on symbolic history. In 1897 Francis Joseph donated ten statues to the city. His worldview included, among the outstanding figures of the national past, members of the nobility, ecclesiastic dignitaries and champions of independence. The objective was probably to bring about an eclectic national and loyal consensus. The statues were explicitly intended to populate the public squares. Since they were not assembled as a group, but dispersed at various spots in the capital, they had no chance of competing for the function of national altar. The ten protagonists chosen by Francis Joseph were: Bishop Gerard (Saint Gellért), who was hurled down from Gellért Hill in a barrel by pagan Hungarians; Péter Pázmány, the emblematic figure of the counterreformation in Hungary; István Bocskay, who led the uprising to secure the rights of Protestants in Hungary; the Transylvanian ruler Gábor Bethlen, responsible for religious toloerance in that principality; János Hunyadi, the leader in the victory over the Turks at Nándorfehérvár [Belgrade]; Miklós Zrínyi, the hero of Szigetvár; János Pálffy, who signed the Peace of Szatmár in 1711, on behalf of the imperial forces with the envoy of Ferenc II Rákóczi.The treaty was the “Compromise” of the eighteenth century. The others were statues of Anonymus, the famous medieval chronicler; István Werbőczy, who codified the rights of the nobility; and Sebestyén Lantos Tinódi, an early poet in Hungarian language.

This collection of figures was developed parallel to the contents of the Millennium Memorial. It was not meant to compete, it had rather a different emphasis. Yet the donation assumed importance from the point of view of the memorial, for some of the ruler’s presents would eventually replace the statues of Habsburg rulers.

Unfortunately, history, at least as regards its political content, did not await for the memorial to become a spectacle on its own. Of course, history was not alone at fault, but rather the artists. They were a bit slow, in spite of the fast start. Realizing that he would not be able to finish the statues on his own, Zala contracted six other sculptors. He started to work on the figure of Archangel Gabriel and, indeed, by June of 1897, this job was done. The end of the year saw the establishment of the colonnade, and it finally seemed that work on the Millennium Monument would be completed by the deadline.

Perhaps because of the lingering hostility over the scrapping of the open competition, the Bureau of Engineers began to find fault with the construction. Arguing that the archangel would be swept from the 36-meter column by the first heavy storm, the bureau consented to its erection only after an iron rod had been set into the column. The contractors met the specification by April 1900. At that point tests were conducted on the initiative of the Bureau of Engineers, which were stringent far beyond the stress one could expect under any weather condition. The structure was placed under enormous hydraulic pressure, as a consequence of which two stone disks did crack. They had to start anew; instead of the stone from the quarry at Sóskut this time they resorted to harder stone from Haraszt. This entailed the erection of an entirely new column, which was finished by the autumn of 1901. Meanwhile the bronze statue of Gabriel, cast in the workshop of Gladenbeck, was sent to Paris for the World Exhibition of 1900, where it received the Grand Prix. Though it was noted by many that the elevation of the monument would put its fine detail out of range of the naked eye, the statue has occupied this remote perch above Budapest since the fall of 1910.

Archangel Gabriel was raised to its final emplacement, although no one would see it in its full glory ever again. Before that moment, however, at five in the afternoon of October 24, 1901, the end of Andrássy Avenue became the scene of a celebration for the initiated. The deadline for erecting the monument was within five years of 1896. The five years had passed, so the monument was declared done, from an architectural standpoint. The final stone, decorated with bronze, was placed on top of the pillar. It contained the brief history of the monument, written on parchment. Albert Schickedanz delivered a short speech.

The monument was ready, but empty; more exactly, only the archangel was in place. The other statues were delivered slowly, piecemeal to the National Council of Fine Arts. Matthias Corvinus, by Zala, was ready in 1905, followed by Ferdinand I by Ede Margó, Béla IV by Miklós Küllő, Charles Robert by György Kiss, and Leopold II by Richard Füredi. Work was also completed on the twin statues of Labor and Prosperity, and those of Knowledge and Glory. At this point the council, in accord with the government, asked the municipal authorities to assume custody of the monument. The transfer took place in January

1905. Fülöp Herczeg made his appearance; his name deserves mention because, next to Schickedanz, he was largely responsible for the formation of the monument and the site. Inventory was taken, and this is how we know that the royal statues that had been completed were still not in

Statues finished by 1905 included those of King Coloman the Wise by Füredi, János Hunyadi by Margó, and the Chariot of War by Zala. Zala completed the statue of Francis Joseph and the symbolic figure of Peace by 1908. The colonnade also began to assume its final form. The year 1911 saw the casting of the statues of Saint Ladislas by Ede Telcs, Saint Stephen by Károly Senyei, and Maria Theresa by Zala. The same year five of the reliefs joined the statues. Further additions in 1912 included the statues of Andrew II by Senyei, Charles III by Telcs, and the equestrian statue of Árpád by Zala. In the course of 1914–15 four new reliefs were installed.

With five reliefs and the statue of one king and six chieftains remaining, the construction of the monument was interrupted by the Great War. The country at war had more immediate concerns than the completion of its monuments. Official propaganda was stressing the themes of national greatness and glory and, as long as they were matched by victory in the field, it was effective. Eventually, what some had expected from the beginning came to pass: the Monarchy lost the war. The nationalities within Hungary felt the time had come to break away from the former state. The consequences were not fully felt in 1918 when the war ended. Nevertheless, what the critics of the Compromise of 1867 had predicted, became reality. Hungary as component of the Habsburg empire could not preserve its territorial integrity, since it was unable to offer a compromise acceptable to the minorities at the right time.

Defeat, combined with social tensions in the aftermath of the war, created a revolutionary climate. The revolution in October 1918 promised democratic rights and land reform. The form of the state changed as well: first a republic was declared, then a people’s republic. It is perhaps understandable that the country, suddenly gaining in independence — although its borders had not yet been drawn — sought to define itself in marked contrast to the Habsburg monarchy. The anti-Habsburg feelings also became manifest in the reinterpretation of Hungarian history, and emphasized traditions that symbolized the rejection of the dynasty, first and foremost the revolution of 1848. The mood was typified by the gesture of the king’s representative in Hungary, Archduke Joseph, who owned estates in the vicinity of Alcsut; he offered the leader of the revolution, Count Mihály Károlyi, to give up the surname Habsburg, and adopt the last name Alcsúti (i.e. from Alcsút).32 This environment gathered new content with the process of political and social radicalization, as the dictatorship of the proletariat assumed power in March 1919. While the problem of the nation’s future officially became of secondary importance, for if the world revolution became victorious the issue of national boundaries would lose all relevance — the Habsburgs were now presented as agents of feudal-capitalist oppression. Statues of members of the Habsburg dynasty were duly removed from the monument, and the statue of Francis Joseph, directly associated with the regime that had lost the war, was smashed to pieces.

Still, the Soviet Republic of 1919 did commit an act indicating that the monument as the altar of the nation can serve the purpose of the new, internationalist, universal religion as well. In fact, one may even argue that the new regime was the first to use the as yet incomplete monument in a truly sacred guise. This sacred guise, however, rejected the original purpose. In order to create a “red” altar of its own, the monument had to be finished first. The opportunity came on May 1, the day of the workers’ movement. The “finishing touch” was to bedeck the construction in red drapes. The royal gallery now sported the profession of faith of the new religion: “Workers of the world, unite!” The two ends of the semicircle displayed figures representing a factory worker and a peasant. Thus the kings disappeared behind the red curtain, whereas the people became visible. The obelisk, too, was covered in red and, instead of Árpád, it displayed the founder of the new religion, Karl Marx. Marx seemed to embrace his followers, personified by a steelworker and a miner.33

The revolution was short-lived and the victory of the counterrevolution saw the reinstatement of the monarchy, deriving its legitimacy from the legacy of the Dual Monarchy. This was necessary not only for reasons of internal legitimacy but from a foreign policy standpoint. By 1920 external constraints imposed as a result of Hungary’s defeat were more clearly defined in the Peace Treaty of Trianon, the dictated peace signed at the palace of the Grand Trianon near Versailles. (Let us add, the condition for the international recognition of the counterrevolutionary government was precisely the signing of the treaty; and paradoxical as it may be, the regime owed its existence to this act, although its entire ideology was aimed at the revocation of the situation created by the peace treaty.)

Under the terms of the agreement new borders were established. Hungary lost 191,735 square kilometers of territory out of its original 282,870, and was left with less land than the area transferred to Romania alone. Eleven million people out of a population of eighteen million now found themselves citizens of neighboring countries. Particularly difficult to accept was the fact that ethnic considerations had been disregarded in drawing up the new borders, and no national plebiscite was called, in spite of the prearmistice pledges offered by the victors. Over three and a half million ethnic Hungarians now found themselves suddenly subject to foreign jurisdiction. War, revolutions, the severe economic terms of the peace accord and Hungarians relocating from other countries, exacerbated the situation. The country was plunged into a state of economic crisis. In addition, hundreds of thousands of families were mourning loved ones. Between 1914 and 1918 3.8 million troops were mobilized from Hungarian territory. The fallen amounted to 661,000, in other words, one out of every six soldier did not return to his family. There were 743,000 wounded, or one soldier out of every five suffered serious or not so serious physical harm. Another 743,000 or almost 19 percent of those mobilized were taken prisoner.

The terms dictated by the treaties signed in the suburbs of Paris left Hungary in a defenseless and vulnerable position vis-à-vis its neighbors, whose territories had increased correspondingly. For every Hungarian soldier there were five Czech, four Yugoslav and six Romanian soldiers. The disintegration of historical Hungary left its people in a state of shock. The fact that so much had been lost on such inequitable terms outraged the nation’s sense of justice. Hungarian national feeling would have found it difficult enough to adjust to the essentially inevitable disintegration of its historical borders, but the manner in which this was done proved intolerable. Neither the liberal-democratic revolution nor proletarian class solidarity had been able to forestall the tragedy; the revolutions that had failed for various reasons ultimately served only to reinforce adherence to conservative principles.

The counterrevolutionary regime pointed to Trianon as the cause, rather than the outcome, of the nation’s problems, blurring the distinction between manifestly different historical processes. The inability of other political forces and nonpolitical factors to prevent the tragedy became fertile ground for ideological manipulation. Consequently, historical rights were used, by the conservative forces, to ideologically offset the national tragedy. The root of all troubles was not sought in allegiance to the Habsburg empire. To the contrary: the implication was that independence led to the loss of land, hence the Monarchy was the only framework that could hold it together; but the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy had been too politically liberal, allowing for erosion, the advance of “destructive” revolutionary forces. Thus the myth of a Hungary content as part of the Habsburg empire was born, along with political attitudes leading to antiliberalism.34

Logically enough, in this environment the Habsburgs gained renewed ascendance. Their statues were returned to their places, that of Francis Joseph recast, though this time the king was no longer portrayed in full military regalia, but in his coronation robe. The omission of the military paraphernalia, in addition to the negative feelings they had elicited in the first place, was done also to emphasize the country’s historical claims, while tweaking the framers of the Treaty of Trianon. In the interest of avoiding a return to the old regime, the Entente had decreed that no future king of Hungary could be descended from the Habsburg line. Paradoxically, a good many members of the Hungarian national assembly wept while casting their vote for this measure in 1921. The coronation mantle thus became a political symbol of resistance and obstinate faith.

Although the statues of the Habsburgs were returned to the monument, the work as a whole was still unfinished. Schickedanz had died and, in 1921 György Zala sent a memorandum to Miklós Horthy, regent of Hungary, requesting money to complete work on the monument. The country’s resources, however, were tied up in postwar reconstruction; while the new regime would happily have appropriated the patriotic symbols embodied in the monument for its own ends, the tight national budget would not permit it. Consequently, Zala and his monument had to wait some more.

At the beginning of this same year a proposal had been made which, although apparently related, would later have a direct impact on the monument. The National Association of Hungarian War Veterans proposed that a large-scale memorial be raised to the heroism and sacrifice of Hungarians during the war.35 The suggestion won overwhelming support and, by late 1922, a movement was underway in support of the proposal, with Minister of Education and Religion Count Kunó Klebelsberg giving final approval to the project. But it was not until March 16, 1924, that the National Council of Fine Arts announced a competition to chose the design of the National Heroes Monument. Submissions were to remain anonymous until the winner was announced. This time, it seemed, a symbol intended to represent a national cause will be realized in accordance with the rules of fair play, under guaranteed wraps of secrecy.

The deadline was fast approaching, the designs had to be submitted by May 1, 1924. The first prize was one million crowns, the second half that amount. To put this in perspective, taking into account the rampant hyperinflation, the winner would have received the equivalent of about six euros or dollars. In August 1919 a gold crown was worth 9.9 paper crowns; by May 1, one gold crown was 18,400 paper crowns. By then, in about ten years, the prices had increased by a factor of 8,000 whereas wages increased by a factor of 3,500. Fiscal stability was restored in June 1924. At that time a British pound sterling was worth

346,000 crowns and a gold crown 17,000 paper crowns. A new currency, the pengő, was introduced in 1927.36 At any rate it cannot be assumed that the participants were driven by greed. We may even risk the assumption that the competition was announced before the break was put on inflation, and the rate of inflation may have had something to do with the short deadline. The requirements of the competition included the naming of the intended location and the manner of emplacement.37

In spite of the stiff rules, the short deadline, and an unattractive prize, the jury received some 190 submissions. The seven-member jury, headed by Róbert K. Kertész, awarded first prize to the submission under the slogan “We place the casket sky high, between two rock ledges.” The slogan belonged to Count Miklós Bánffy, an aristocrat from Transylvania, fifty-one years old at that time. He was known as a politician with artistic inclinations, or as an artist with political inclinations. He wrote fiction, illustrated books, was active in the theater, in fact he had been the set designer for the coronation ceremony of Charles IV in 1916. He became minister of foreign affairs in 1921–22.

Banffy imagined the monument on Gellért hill, not in lieu of the Citadella, but in the space between the Francis Joseph Bridge (now Freedom Bridge) and Elizabeth Bridge. The rocky wall would be formed by detonating explosives. In front of it would be terraces connected by stairs, and the memorial would be placed on the topmost terrace, within an alcove. He designed a casket of stone ten meters long, with winged angels on each side holding the Hungarian Holy Crown. Above them the apostolic double cross and below, on a lower terrace, an altar, not unlike the combination in the hands of Archangel Gabriel on the Millenary Monument.

The second prize was awarded to Otto Hoffmann, under the motto “Maybe you are the tears of my homeland, great river.” He imagined a white marble hexagonal base, in the middle of the Danube, with a dark iron tomb on top.

While the jury voted in favor of Bánffy’s design, in 1925 Károly Horváth introduced a motion in the art committee of the capital city. If there is a Hungarian Champs-Elysées, if at its end there is a millenary monument fulfilling the function of the triumphal arch, yet far richer in symbols (albeit still not ready), then it would be necessary to add a tomb of the unknown soldier, again on the Parisian model. Without a doubt, the most appropriate location for such a tomb would be at the foot of the statue of Árpád.

The unknown soldier, the figure of the nameless hero, became commonplace after the Franco-Prussian war of 1870–71. In the aftermath of the Great War, such monuments were erected practically every- where. By now there were three proposals: that of Zala who would have liked to complete the monument at long last, that of Klebesberg, who wanted a memorial to the heroism of the Hungarian soldier, and that of the municipality, which would have liked to expand the Millennium Monument by the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Early in 1926, the committee in charge of monuments of the capital held a session. They decided to ask the minister of education about the status of the monument on Gellért Hill, for it would make little sense to engage in two projects of military monuments of national significance at the same time. Kertész who, in addition to being the head of the jury was also a high-ranking civil servant, a deputy undersecretary, drafted a reply. He explained that the plaster models of the Bánffy design were already done, and accepted. The execution and the budget were in preparation. They were awaiting the opinion of geologist, for the experts were worried the meddling with the structure of the hill could have unforeseen consequences. There were also more and more esthetic issues raised. Finally the Council on the Arts dropped the Bánffy design on geological and esthetic grounds. It seems quite likely, however, that there were ulterior motives as well. It is obvious that the monument on Gellért Hill would have cost many times more than the expansion of the Millennium Monument. Moreover, there may have been personal considerations, which soon came to light.

Zala was back to work by 1926. He had received permission and funding for the completion of the monument and, indeed, the remaining five reliefs were completed in the same year.

Early in 1927, the Arts Council held another session. It was made clear that Bánffy’s design will not be realized, while the Millennium Monument was nearing completion. Therefore the proposal to place the memorial to the heroes at the foot of Árpád’s statue was revived. A simple resolution sufficed to promote the unknown soldier to the rank of hero. The resolution was endorsed by the minister of education, after all the design corresponded to the ideology of the regime. The last remaining royal statue, that of Louis the Great, was erected; all fourteen of the emplacements now had an occupant. Only Árpád remained by himself, since the six other chieftains were still missing.

Now the pace of progress quickened. In mid-1928 the Fine Arts Department of the Ministry of Education and Religion held a key meeting. The participants enunciated their expectations with regard to the monuments to the heroes. They made the grandiose recommendation that the memorial be made from a single monolith. There will be no competition this time, for there were no explicit esthetic requirements. And now came the real surprise, which sheds a different light on the omission of the Bánffy design, not too fortunate in any case. The commission of the design of the monument went to Robert K. Kertész. He did well as head of the awards jury, as deputy undersecretary, so, in all likelihood, he would do well as designer of monuments. The construction work was directed by one member of the famous Lechner family of architects, Jenő Lechner. The funds came partly from the municipality, partly from the state.

Now all the ingredients for the completion of the monument were present. In 1928 Árpád’s companions were ready: the equestrian statues of the chieftains Előd, Ond, Kond, and Tas. With the consent of Horthy, Prime Minister István Bethlen set the dedication date of the national monument for Memorial Day — that is May 26, 1929 — by which time, of course, the Millennium Monument would also have to be ready. Zala worked furiously on the equestrian statues of the chieftains Huba and Töhötöm. Eventually the statues lined up, in all their tired stiffness, their lack of imagination. Work on the memorial was also rushed.

Owing to its massive proportions, the limestone block weighing 4.7 tons had to be transported to the square by special means. Six and a half meters long, 3 meters wide, and 1.3 meters high, the monument gave the impression of a coarsely carved tombstone, surrounded by a stone parapet, within which there was a grassy area with a step leading up to the monolith. The front was inscribed with the dates 1914–1918 and the back with the words: “Dedicated to the thousand-year old national boundaries.” The top was engraved with a cross in the shape of sword hilts.

Thus it was finally decided that, instead of being dedicated to the unknown soldier of all times, the memorial placed alongside the fierce warriors of the Magyar conquest was to pay homage to heroes, in the context of a particular event, namely the Great War. And all this heroism was not senseless. It was for the sake of preserving the thousand-year old borders, the restoration of historical Hungary. It is the peculiar paradox of fate and politics that the memorial was dedicated to the soldiers in the war in which all that was commemorated had been lost.

With the inclusion of the memorial in the Millennium Monument, its original message was to some extent modified. The original intention had been to convey a kind of complacent patriotism, to assert that Hungary had achieved its manifest destiny within the framework of the Dual Monarchy — the culmination, after one thousand years, of its historical development. By the time the monument was finished, however, the Monarchy had collapsed and, along with it, the historical boundaries of Hungary. The conservative counterrevolutionary regime did not learn from these events that their former perception of historical greatness was illusory; instead it doggedly harped on the injustice of Trianon and set the restoration of the former boundaries as their unrealistic goal. And while the original monument had been established to honor the present, by 1929 the monument had become the expression of the nation’s future as envisaged by the regime. The changed outlook was openly formulated by Count István Bethlen in his dedication speech:

It is barely thirty years ago that the nation commemorated its thousand years of existence, and that the national assembly… appeared before Francis Joseph I to interpret the sentiments of the nation to its ruler. Barely a generation has passed since the people of Hungary celebrated this occasion, in unison with its ruler, in pomp and shining light — whereas now, after the dismemberment of its territory, after seeing its living body torn apart, bereft of royal leadership, the nation stands in front of the tribunal of the nations, as a thousand year-old criminal, over whom the judge has the right to pass sentence, to castigate.

The judge found it all unjust:…what, without distinction of religion, race or language so many millions have worked for a thousand years, perspired, were content or suffered, fought and shed their blood; he found unjust the glory for which the best sons, kings and statesmen, poets and writers had felt so enthusiastic.

No, honorable crowd! On this day, when we remember our fallen heroes, we must announce that every feeling of our soul, every conviction of our religious fate rebels against such a thought, and we raise a never-to-be silenced solemn warning in front of the world. It is not possible to place so much virtue in the service of an unjust cause for a thousand years. On the occasion of the apotheosis of five hundred thousand heroes, in the name of the dead and living of this nation, we appeal to the conscience of a judge more just to come in the future. For we have examined our own conscience and, as long as a Hungarian lives in this land, we can have but a single response to the sentence, that we can never, never accept it as just.

Hungarian heroes, whose memorial we are now dedicating, you have not died in vain for your country! A new Hungary will rise on the cult of your heroic virtues, your heroic and self-sacrificing example!38

Thus, by 1929 the memorial had fully become the adornment of the city and the nation, albeit with a modified content. The monument, now complete, was almost immediately “put to use.” It was used by those who argued for irredentism, for instance, the Veterans’ Association. It was also used by those whose national consciousness was based on ethnicity or race and tried to promote the cult of the pagan Hungarian.39 They attempted to co-opt the symbolic content of the national altar and the thousand years of history since the 1920s.

The function of the altar of the nation was best fulfilled by those events which attempted to harmonize religion in the traditional sense with the secular religion of nationalism. Two examples of such events were the celebration of Catholic mass the year of Saint Emeric in 1930, and at the time of the Eucharistic Congress held in Budapest in 1938.40 What is most noteworthy from our point of view in both those celebrations is that universal Catholicism and the particular national divinity met at the Millennium Monument.

The year of Saint Emeric was the occasion of an enormous procession on August 20, and the relics pertaining to the saints who were members of the House of Árpád were carried around the city: the mummified right hand of Saint Stephen (now in the Basilica of Saint Stephen), and the herma of the canonized Margaret, of King Saint Emeric, of King Saint Ladislas were taken to the memorial and placed on top of the National Memorial Stone of the National Heroes, the symbolic Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The altar had fulfilled its function.41

The change in ideological content eventually manifested itself in the name of the place: the site of the monument at the end of Andrássy Avenue was named Hősök tere [Heroes’ Square] in 1932. During 1937–38, at the time of the Eucharistic Congress, the square was paved with flagstones. The trees, the flower-beds, the fountains on either side were removed; the square lost much of its original charm and intimacy, becoming stern and imposing.

The function of the monument as complete altar manifested itself not only symbolically, but visually as well. The monument was transformed literally into an altar and mass was celebrated in front of the huge crowd. The saints of the Árpád dynasty became components of the altar, and the adornments illustrated the integration of the Hungarian and Christian creed.

Beyond these highly symbolical events, other rituals organized at the memorial or on the Heroes’ Square, merely made use of the sanctity of the place — the political gatherings, the induction into the levente movement, the Hungarian paramilitary youth organization.

But the history of the memorial is not about itself, is not limited to itself. The altar of the nation is a function of the changing predicament of the nation.

Execution, Content, and Use after 1945

In 1945 the nation suffered another lost war. The logic of the regime’s political aims had drawn Hungary into an alliance with Nazi Germany, which also sought to revoke the treaties signed in the Paris suburbs (of which Trianon was one). Hungary initially benefited from the alliance, reclaiming lost territories one after another: former northern Hungary and Ruthenia from Czechoslovakia in 1938 and 1939 respectively, part of Transylvania from Romania in 1940, and its southern territories from Yugoslavia in 1941. At the same time alliance with Germany entailed greater military involvement, Hungarian troops were soon fighting the Soviet Union, and war had been declared against the United States and the United Kingdom. By this time government policy had ceased to serve the national interest, and was turning to fascism alongside Nazi Germany. There can be no doubt about the outcome: in 1945 the war ended for Hungary in such a manner that once again it found itself on the side of the losers, led by an Arrow Cross clique driving the Hungarian soldiers and hundreds of thousand of unarmed victims into senseless perdition.

With the arrival of the Soviet troops, a new leadership was installed involving all antifascist forces, including the formerly banned Communist Party. The new political order rallied under the banner of democracy, and democratic rules of the game prevailed. The political forces which had swept the country into war were as abhorrent to the new regime as their slogans. Hungary had to be kept democratic and independent, in peaceful coexistence with its neighbors, to secure for the country’s future. The notion of an independent, democratic and popular state was at variance with the symbolism inherent in the Millennium Monument, so political forces once again sought to impose new values upon it.

Political forces are not always to blame; the war itself caused damage. The siege of Budapest involved severe street fighting, and the memorial itself was damaged, particularly where the statues of the Habsburg rulers had stood, and especially the last three.

The new regime was a multiparty system. The various parties, taking advantage of the monument as altar of the nation, were wont to hold their meetings on Heroes’ Square, at the site of the somewhat damaged monument; all were intent on coopting consecrated Hungarian history, but each viewed the “true” essence of that history differently.

Indicative of the symbolical political force of the memorial was the fact that even the Communist Party, forging ahead to secure total power structure, held some of its functions at this location. It was here that the very event signaling the takeover of power by the Communist Party, the union with the Social Democratic Party, took place on June 12, 1948.

The most useful tradition for the Communists was the tradition of independence; thus the Habsburg statues, damaged in any case, were banished, to be gradually replaced by historical figures supposedly representing national independence. I will not discuss these figures as the scholars view them today, but rather the way they were viewed by those who exchanged the statues. Ferdinand I was replaced by István Bocskai, who led a successful uprising against the dynasty at the beginning of the seventeenth century, and was elected ruler by the Hungarian estates. His statue, by Barnabás Holló, previously stood on the Circle [Körönd] (later Kodály Circle), merely had to be transferred. Underneath the statue the authorities placed a battle scene, in which the soldiers under his command were fighting against the emperor’s mercenaries. Charles III was replaced by the Transylvanian ruler Gábor Bethlen. He was the Hungarian leader who, in the 1620s and 1630s, sought to preserve Hungarian culture and the Hungarian state vis-à-vis the Turks and the emperor, and tried to reunite the Hungarian state from his base in Transylvania. He fought successfully against the Habsburgs, but made an ill-fated alliance with the Bohemian estates who were soon defeated by the emperor. Out of the wealth of choices of Bethlen’s achievements it was this accord with the Bohemians that was depicted on the relief, reflecting the new regime’s eagerness to show goodwill and friendship toward the neighbors. It can be interpreted as interdependence instead of antagonism being the only weapon small nations have to defend themselves against the great powers. The statue of Bethlen was also already available; the creation of György Vastagh Jr. It merely had to be moved from the Circle, where they stood ever since they were received as presents from Francis Joseph.

Maria Theresa was replaced by Imre Thököly, sculpted by Jenő Grantner. In the 1670s and 1680s Thököly had led another movement against the Habsburgs, known as the kuruc struggle. The relief depict-ed one stage in his short-lived campaign, the battle of Sikszó on November 3, 1679. The hajdú, or irregulars, of Bocskai and the kuruc of Thököly fit within the context of symbols of military success in the fight for national independence. After the major military defeat in World War II, these choices were also meant to show that the nation was capable of military virtues when its true interests were at stake.

In place of Leopold II it was the statue of Ferenc II Rákóczi, the leader of the greatest anti-Habsburg movement before the nineteenth century. The scene on the relief shows Tamás Esze, a serf who became a commander of troops, greeting with his army of serfs Rákóczi, on the latter’s return from his exile in Poland.

Francis Joseph was replaced by his great adversary, Lajos Kossuth. Kossuth is shown calling the people of the Alföld [Great Hungarian Plains], the Hungarian peasants, to arms. The statues of Rákoczi and Kossuth were the work of Zsigmond Kisfaludy Strobl. The latter statue was a “by-product” of the monument on Kossuth Square in 1952.

In the case of both Kossuth and Rákóczi, there appears a factor that had become one of the principal values in democratic Hungary: the people or, historically speaking, the peasantry. They are the ones who make the fatherland great and successful, exalting the leaders who lean on them.

The monument continued to undergo changes in form and meaning. In the spirit of renouncing the politics of revision of the peace treaty, the Memorial Stone of the National Heroes was removed. Furthermore, a relief depicting territorial expansion below the statue of King Coloman the Wise, portraying the annexation of Croatia and Dalmatia, was removed and replaced by a relief depicting his prohibition against the burning of witches. This was a tribute to the value of enlightened thinking, except for the minor discrepancy that the great king usually raised no objections to burning witches, he was intent on saving only one type of witch, the striga (the witch who turns into animal). In the interest of establishing friendly relations with Czechoslovakia, the relief below Charles Robert’s statue depicting the Habsburg alliance against Bohemia should also have been removed; for reasons of economy, perhaps, only the inscription underneath the relief was deleted.

Thus the content of the “new” memorial differed from the previous ones. While preserving the grandeur and glory, imbued with Christianity, pertaining to medieval Hungary, the monument’s emphasis shifted to national independence. In the upward-spiraling history of the nation an ever greater role was ascribed to ordinary people. The emphasis was no longer on the borders of the country, but on the state and the political order within the existing borders.

With the surge of Stalinism by 1947–48 the values embodied in the monument received only formal recognition; in fact, those values became a source of profound irritation. The regime, which regarded the servile imitation of the Soviet model as one of its main objectives, could resort to independence only as an empty slogan. The same applied to democracy, in a regime where so much power, other than constitutional power, was concentrated in the hands of the secret police. Historical continuity was sought in other traditions. The regime ascribed particular importance to peasant uprisings, revolutionary and other forms of class struggle. Paradoxically enough, the regime which came down hard on any manifestation of opposition, ascribed its own origins to the most radical dissenters in their period, usually outlaws. Of course, there was an internal logic to the system: the radical, tyrannical regime needed radical “ancestors,” or at least some who could be described as such. The antireligious sentiments were not merely ideological, but soon assumed institutionalized aspects, entailing a campaign against Christianity. Thus the system of symbols reflecting royalty and Christianity had little to offer to the Hungarian Stalinists.

The irritation resulting from these forces soon took concrete forms. At the beginning of 1948 the central organ of the Communist Party, the Szabad Nép, openly attacked the Millenium Monument. Regarding the monument and its planners: “These Schickedanzs and Herzogs were the agents of German intellectual imperialism here, and they deliberately acted as such. They insisted haughtily that whatever culture there was in this country had been brought by them.” Then, as if the monument itself were the speaker, the article continued: “The imperialism of Kaiser Wilhelm, proclaimed in the statues of kings in the Sieges Allee of Berlin, the Prussian ungainliness was my model. My masters wanted me to say a lot, but ended up saying nothing!”42

It seemed the Communist regime would gladly have wiped the monument from the face of the earth. They were unable to do so, for the altar function had fossilized and the regime itself used it as such. Moreover, the regime felt that if the monument were transformed in its own image, it will become usable. But no attempt was made to erect a new stone of the heroes; there could be no new stone, since according to the Hungarian version of Stalinism the nation had sinned, by holding out on Hitler’s side to the bitter end. How could sinful nations have heroes? By such a rigid standard, erecting a memorial to the unknown soldier would have been tantamount to erecting a memorial to the Hungarian army fighting on the side of the Nazis.

The peculiar relationship of Hungarian Stalinism to the monument — using, tolerating, hating it — is indicated by the fact that, until 1953, the May Day celebrations gathered here, but the décor in the background was dominated by the portraits of the Communist founders.43 After 1953 the regime tried to turn to the new Stalin statue on Stalin Square, not far from the monument, as the sacred location of the internationalist religion. Heroes’ Square, therefore was abandoned.44 In the fall of 1956 the revolutionaries toppled the Stalin statue.

Regarding the Stone of the National Heroes there was a breakthrough when the followers of Stalin lost ground internationally and in Hungary. In 1956 the new Memorial Stone of the National Heroes (the work of Béla Gebhardt) was placed which, according to the inscription on it, is dedicated to the memory of those who sacrificed their life for the independence and freedom of the Hungarian people. This act con- cluded the transformation of the content of the memorial after 1945. It posited a concept of the hero with which every patriotic, Hungarian democrat can identify, provided it is not merely an empty slogan appropriated by the regime.

After the defeat of the revolution of 1956, the Communist Party returning to power felt the need to appropriate the altar of the nation, to view itself as fulfilling Hungarian destiny. On May 1, 1957, the demonstration was held at Heroes’ Square once again, with the participation of several hundred thousand. After 1957–58 the May Day parade went back to the Felvonulási tér [Parade Square], now bereft of the Stalin statue, whereas the Millenary Monument became a tourist attraction and a place for protocol. The function of altar of the nation seemed to have vanished; albeit in reality, it was merely snoozing during the period of the authoritarian “soft dictatorship.”

The symbolical political vitality of the place is indicated by the fact that, in 1985, the Communist Youth Association, organized a historical and political show, with the memorial as its backdrop, under the title “You have to Live and Die Here” (borrowing a line from Mihály Vörösmarty’s nationalistic poem, the “Szózat”).

The role of the Millennium Memorial as national altar resumed at the time of the collapse of the Communist regime in 1989 with elemental force. The memorial was the starting point of the march protesting the destruction of ethnic Hungarian villages in Romania. The most noteworthy event, however, was the reinterment of Imre Nagy and his martyred companions on June 16 of that year. The square was transformed into a monumental funeral parlor, with several hundreds of thousands in attendance, and further millions watching the scene on television, empathizing with the sacred aura of Hungarian history.45 The event signaled the symbolic death moment of the Communist regime, and the symbolic moment of the coming of democracy to Hungary.46

The monument and the square continue to fulfill those functions. In 1991 it became the setting for an open air mass celebrated by John Paul II. It is the setting for political events and grandiose cultural events. It was restored completely in 1996 and 2000. Its silhouette became the logo of the Ministry of Education—thus it now represents the whole of Hungarian culture.47


In summary, the Millennium Monument is the symbol of Hungarian greatness and glory, the altar of the nation. Its history is the equivalent of Hungarian political history in symbols, the changing content of the Hungarian religion of the nation. It is an open-air, secular temple, the permanent scene of the practice of the nation-religion, the preferred setting for particularistic political manifestations seeking to claim the sole right to shape the nation-religion.



1. Regarding the birth of the idea of Budapest, see Vera Bácskai, “Széchenyi tervei Pest-Buda felemelésére és szépítésére” [Széchenyi’s plans for the enhancement and beautification of Pest-Buda], and László Csorba, “Budapest-gondolat és városegyesítés” [The Budapest idea and unification of the city], Budapesti Negyed

1, no. 2 (1993): 5–13, and 13–50. The realization of the idea is discussed in Gábor Gyáni, Az egyesített  főváros—Pest, Buda, Óbuda [The Unified Capital City—Pest, Buda, Old Buda] (Budapest: Városháza, 1998).

2. Regarding the role of Pozsony and the coronation of kings, see Štefan Holčik, Pozsonyi koronázási ünnepségek 1563–1830 (Budapest: Európa Kiadó,

1986). The diet of 1807 was held at Buda.

3. For the history of urbanization in Europe, see Paul. M. Hohenberg and Lynn Hollen Lees, The Making of Urban Europe 1000–1950 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995); and Andrew Lees, Cities Perceived: Urban Society in European and American Thought 1820–1940 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1983).

4. This phenomenon was also present in Hungary. The National Museum was built during the Age of Reform, in the 1840s, the Opera House was inaugurated in

1884 and the Parliament building was completed, after many years, by 1902. Regarding the latter, see Eszter Gábor and Mária Verő, eds., The House of the Nation. Parliament  Plans  for Buda-Pest. 1784–1884 (Budapest: Szépművészeti

Múzeum, 2000).

5. For the imperial features of the Habsburg dynasty see Imre Gonda and Emil Niederhauser, A Habsburgok. Egy európai jelenség [The Habsburgs, a European Phenomenon] (Budapest: Gondolat, 1977); and Brigitte Hamann, Die Habsburger Verlag (Vienna: Carl Neberreuter, 1988).

6. Regarding the “peregrinations” of the dynasty in 1848 and their family relations see Steven Beller, Francis Joseph (London: Longman, 1996); and Gerő, Emperor Francis

7. For the Hungarian aspects of the history of urbanization, see György Granasztói, A középkori magyar város [The City in Medieval Hungary] (Budapest: Gondolat, 1980); and Vera Bácskai, Városok Magyarországon az iparosodás előtt [Cities in Hungary before Industrialization] (Budapest: Osiris, 2002). For Budapest in particular see Károly Vörös, , Budapest története [History of Budapest]. (Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó, 1978), vol. 4; Gerő and Poór, eds. Budapest: A History; and Bácskai, Gyáni, and Kubinyi, Budapest története.

8. István Széchenyi, Világ vagy is felvilágosító történetek némi hiba s elő-ítélet eligazítására [Light, that is Enlightening Stories to Rectify Some Mistakes and Prejudices] (1831; repr. Budapest: Közgadasági és Jogi Könyvkiadó, 1984), p.

9. Lajos Kossuth, Kossuth Lajos iratai. 1837. május–1840. december. Hűtlenségi per, fogság, útkeresés. [The Papers of Lajos Kossuth, May 1837 to December 1840. The Lèse Majesté Process, Imprisonment, Search for a Way], ed. Gábor Pajkossy, (Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó, 1989), pp. 393, and

10. László Siklóssy, Hogyan épült Budapest? (1870–1930). A Fővárosi Közmunkák Tanácsa története [How Was Budapest Built? The History of the Council of Public Works of the Capital] (Budapest: FKT, 1931); “Koncepció és vizió” [Concept and vision], ed. András Gerő, special issue, Budapesti Negyed 1, no. 2 (Fall-Winter 1993).

11. Kalmán Varga, A gödöllői kastély évszázadai [The Centuries of the Palace of Gödöllő] (Budapest: Műemlékek Állami Gondnoksága, 2000).

12. Alfred Ableitinger et , Das Zeitalter Kaiser Franz Joseph I, vol. 1, Von der Revolution zur Grunderzeit 1848–1880, and vol. 2, 1880–1916 (Vienna: Niederösterreichischen Landesregierung, 1984 and 1987).

13. The change in emphasis in the cultural political discourse applies to Vienna as well. See John W. Boyer, Political Radicalism in Late Imperial Vienna. Origins of the Christian Social Movement 1848–1897 (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1981); and Boyer, Culture and political Crisis in Vienna. Christian Socialism in Power, 1897–1918 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995). Regarding the extreme right origins of the critique of culture, see Brigitte Hamann, Hitler’s Vienna: A Dictator’s Apprenticeship (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999). For an interesting if often debatable interpretation, see William M. Johnston, The Austrian Mind. An Intellectual and Social History 1848–1938 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973).

With regard to Hungary it was the Catholic People’s Party which endorsed and spread the negative side of the critique of culture, as can be seen in the writings of Daniel Szabó, especially his doctoral dissertation. More recently the problem has been analyzed by János Gyurgyák, A zsidókérdés Magyarországon. Politikai eszmetörténet [The Jewish Question in Hungary. Political Intellectual History] (Budapest: Osiris, 2001), pp. 289–300, and 554–580; and Tamás Ungvári, The “Jewish Question” in Europe: The Case of Hungary (Boulder, CO: Social Science Monographs, 2000). Regarding the literary aspect of the perception of Budapest, see Gábor Sánta “Minden nemzetnek van egy szent városa.” Fejezetek a dualizmus korának Budapest irodalmából [Every Nation Has a Holy City. Chapters from the Literature of Budapest during the Dual Monarchy] (Pécs: Pro Pannónia, 2001).

14. This transformation is analyzed by Carl E. Schorske, Fin-de-Siècle Vienna (New York: Vintage, 1981), and Péter Hanák, Garden and Workshop (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998), in the case of

15. A thorough survey of the Bárczy period can be found in András Sipos, Várospolitika és városigazgatás Budapesten 1890–1914 [Municipal Politics and Administration in Budapest] (Budapest: Budapest Főváros Levéltára, 1997).

16. The discourse has become part of the anti-Semitic mode of thought in Hungary. See Mihály Kolosváry-Borcsa, A zsidókérdés magyarországi irodalma. A zsidóság szerepe a magyar szellemi életben. A zsidó származású írók névsorával [Literature of the Jewish Question in Hungary. The Role of the Jews in Hungarian Intellectual Life. With the List of Writers of Jewish Origin] (Budapest: Stádium Kiadó, 1943), pp. 7–14. The anti-Semitic perspective is evident even nowadays. On the other hand, there is the positive, although conceptually problematic evaluation of Jewish Budapest. See Géza Komoróczy, , Jewish Budapest: Monuments, Rites, History (New York: Central European University Press, 1999). A discussion of this interpretation can be found in András Gerő, Új zsidó múlt [The New Jewish Past]; Gerő, Utódok kora, pp. 116–126.

17. There are several typologies of memorials. According to Raoul Girardet there are four kinds of historical political myths, namely “conspiracy theories,” golden age notions, heroic apologetics, and community solidarity myths. See Mythes et mythologies politiques (Paris: Seuil, 1986). Memorial monuments usually fall under the latter two categories. I have adopted the typology offered by Thomas Nipperdey, “Nationalidee und Nationaldenkmal in Deutschland im 19. Jahrhundert,” Historische Zeitschrift 206, no. 3 (1968): 529–585. The reason for my choice is that the Germans have done thorough work researching the circumstances of their memorials, for instance in Hans-Ernst Mitting and Volker Plagemann, , Denkmäler im 19. Jahrhunderts: Deutung und Kritik (Munich: Oldenburg Verlag, 1972). The same typology is used by other Hungarian authors, Katalin Simkó, “A nemzeti emlékmű és a nemzeti tudat változásai” [National memorials and changes in national consciousness], in Monumentumok az első világháborúból [Monuments from World War I], ed. Ákos Kovács (Budapest: Corvina, 1991), pp. 9–45; and Simkó, “A megsértett  Hungária”  [Hungaria  hurt],  in  Magyarok  Kelet es  Nyugat közt. A nemzettudat változó jelképei. Tanulmányok [Hungarians between East and West. The Changing Symbols of National Consciousness. Studies], ed. Tamás Hofer (Budapest: Balassi, 1996), pp. 267–281. See also Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Renger, eds., The Invention of Tradition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984); and Sanford Levinson, Written in Stone; Public Monuments in Changing Society (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1998).

18. Regarding the number and composition of the statues, see János Potó, “Rendszerváltások és emlékművek 1945–1990” [Changes in regime and memorial monuments] (PhD , Eötvös Loránd University, 2001), p. 13.

19. Count István Széchenyi, Üdvlelde [Place of Salvation] (Pest, 1845). The idea is already mentioned earlier in his Kelet Népe [People of the East] (Pest, 1841).

20. Péter Rózsa, A millennium és  a  honalapítás  emléke megörökítésének kérdése kapcsolatban Széchenyi Üdvleldéjével [The Issue of Commemorating the Millennium and the Foundation of Hungary, as Pertaining to Széchenyi’s Place of Salvation] (Budapest, 1880)

21. Emlékirat egy Szt. Gellérthegyen építendő országos Pantheon tárgyában [Memorandum Regarding the Erection of a National Pantheon to Be Erected on Saint Gellért Hill] (Budapest, 1897). The notion of an altar of the nation is mentioned several times in the Építészeti Szemle [Review of Architecture], for instance, on pages19–29 in the 1892

22. István Medgyaszai, “A Szt. Gellérthegy kiképzése és a Nemzeti Pantheon” [The elaboration of St. Gellért Hill and the national Pantheon], Városi Szemle, (1908): 540–547.

23. I used the works listed below for the history of the Millennium Monument. The most detailed information for events up to 1929 may be found in Endre Liber, Budapest szobrai és emléktáblái [Statues and memorial plaques of Budapest] (Budapest: Budapest Székesfővárosi Házinyomda, 1934). From a history of art perspective the most useful is Károly Lyka, Szobrászatunk a századfordulón, 1896–1914 [Hungarian Sculpture at the Turn of the Century] (Budapest: Képzőművészeti Alap, 1954), and Eszter Gábor “Az Ezredévi Emlék…” [The millenary memorial…], Művészettörténeti Értesítő, no. 4 (1983): 202–217. For its cultural history, see Katalin Sinkó, “A millenniumi emlékmű mint kultuszhely” [The millennium monument as a place of worship], Medvetánc, no. 2, (1987): 29–50. See also my own “Az Ezredévi Emlékmű” [The Millennium Monument], Medvetánc, no. 2 (1987): 3–28. Most works that discuss the monument incidentally are based on the sources above. The changes after 1945 are related in László Berza et , eds., Budapest lexicon (Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó, 1973), or the Endréné Tóth, ed., Budapest enciklopédia (Budapest: Corvina, 1970). Béla Borsos, Alajos Sódor, and Mihály Zádor, Budapest építészettörténete, városképei és műemlékei [The Architectural History, Panoramas and Monuments of Budapest] (Budapest: Műszaki Kiadó, 1959) deals with Heroes’ Square and the Exhibit Hall. The Museum of Fine Arts itself is discussed in Gábor Ö. Pogány, István Petrás, and Béla Bacher, A Szépművészeti Múzeum (1906–1956)  [The  Museum  of  Fine  Arts]  (Budapest: Képzőművészeti Alap, 1956); and József Korek, ed., Budapest múzeumai [The Museums of Budapest] (Budapest, Corvina, 1969). Deserving of special mention is the thorough work of Eszter Gábor and Mária Vero, eds., Albert Schickedanz (1846–1915). Millennial Monuments for the Past and the Future (Budapest: Szépművészeti Múzeum, 1996), especially pp. 142–52.

24. Magyar Tudományos Akadémia, Történelmi Bizottság, “A Millenárium az Akadémiában. A Történelmi Bizottság Jelentése” [Millenarium in the Academy. The Report of the History Committee], Századok 17, no. 2 (1893) annex: 185–216.

25. Az 1887–1892 évi országgyűlés képviselőházának naplója [The Diary of the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of 1887–92], vol. 27,


26. Kálmán Thaly, Az ezredévi országos hét emlékoszlop története [The History of the Seven Memorial Columns of the National Millennium] (Pozsony, p.,

1898). See also Potó, “Rendszerváltások,” pp. 157–59. The seven pillars refer to the seven chieftains. The locations were Munkács [Mukachevo], Zimony [Zemun], Devény [Devín], the Cenk Mountain near Brassó [Brașov], the Zobor [Zombor] Mountain of Nyitra [Nitra], Pusztaszer and Pannonhalma.

27. Discussed in the chapter on the Millennium celebration.

28. The report of the parliamentary committee is quoted in Gerő, Ezredévi emlékmű, pp. 4–5.

29. Sinkó, “A milleniumi emlékmű,” p. 32. Other examples are cited as Analogous solutions were found in Paris, Nuremberg, Munich, St. Petersburg, Berlin and Prague.

30. The cabinet proposal regarding the Millennium Monument is found in the

1892–1897 évi országgyűlés képviselőházának irományai [Documents from the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of the Years 1892–97], vol. 17, no. 585, p. 363. See also the records of the administrative committee of the capital city of Budapest and the records of the municipal committee of the capital city for the  millennium  exhibitions  in  the  Archives  of  Budapest.  IV,  1403/m  54. 1892–1896. The part of the exhibit representing Budapest itself is under BFL IV. 1403/p. An excellent guide to the materials pertaining to the history of the city is

Siklóssy, Hogyan épült Budapest?

31. Liber, Budapest szobrai, pp. 223–225.

32. Some days later the Archduke, after taking the oath to the National Council, asked me if it would be wiser for him to change the name of Habsburg to that of Alcsúti his property in Hungary was [in] Alcsút. I advised him against it. “I think,” I said, “your Highness has a pretty well-sounding name and, if I were you, I would keep ” In Mihály Károlyi, Memoirs of Michael Karolyi. Faith Without Illusion (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1957), p. 129.

33.  For a context of the phenomenon see, Boldizsár Vörös, “Történelmi idők, hősök, új rendszerek. Emlékszobrok a Szovjet-Oroszországban és a Magyarországi Tanácsköztársaságban” [Historical times, heroes, new regimes. Memorial monuments in Soviet-Russia and the Hungarian Soviet Republic], Mozgó Világ 24, 5 (1998), pp. 85–105. There is a survey by the same author, “A múltat végkép eltörölni?”  Történelmi személyiségek a magyarországi szociáldemokrata és kommunista propagandában  1890–1919 [“Erase the Past Forever?” Historical Personalities in the Propaganda of the Social Democratic and Communist Parties of Hungary] (Budapest: Akademiai Kiadó, 2004). Regarding the self-image projected by the Hungarian Soviet Republic, see pp. 88–92 in particular.

The person responsible for planning the transformation is not clearly identified in historiography. The names of Mihály Bíró, Móric Pogány, and Elek Falus are mentioned in Sinkó, “A millenniumi emlékmű,” p. 48.

34. See chapter on “What Is Hungarian?”

35. The first monument commemorating itself, that is the Great War, was erected already in 1915. See the study by Dániel Szabó, “A nemzeti áldozatkészség szobra. Avagy fából vaskatona” [The statue to the nation’s readiness to sacrifice, or the iron soldier made of wood], Budapesti Negyed 2, no. 3 (1994): 59–84. Regarding sculptures pertaining to the World War, see Ákos Kovács, “Emeljünk emlék-szobrot hőseinknek” [Let us erect statues to the memory of our heroes], in Monumentumok, ed. Ákos Kovács; and Ildikó Nagy,”Első világháborús emlékművek. Esemény és ideológiatörténet” [Memorials from the First World War. History of events and ideology], in Monumentumok, ed. Ákos Kovács, pp. 104–140.

36. Regarding economic conditions, see Jenő Gergely and Lajos Izsák, A huszadik század története [History of the Twentieth Century] (Budapest: Pannonica, 2000), pp. 138–140, or György Ránki, , Magyarország története [History of Hungary] (Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó, 1976), vol. 8, pp. 495–96.

37. Information about the competition and the submissions is based on Liber, Budapest szobrai.

38. Bethlen’s speech was reproduced in the press with some delay, because of the press holiday, on Tuesday, May 28. The account included the speech by Mayor Jenő Sipőcz, and a description of the entire celebration.

39. Among the few cultural analyses in Hungary is the comprehensive work by Miklós Zeidler, Magyar irredenta kultusz a két világháború között [Irredentist Cult in Hungary between the World Wars] (Budapest: Teleki László Alapítvány, 2002).

40. See Miklós Szabó, “Politikai évfordulók a Horthy-rendszerben” [Political anniversaries under the Horthy regime], Világosság 19, no. 10 (1978).

41. The photographic collection of the Hungarian National Museum has extensive materials on celebrations, facilitating our

42. Imre Keszi, “‘Miért vagyok olyan csúnya?’ Budapesti szobrok nyilatkozata megszületésük szomorú és jellemző körülményeiről” [“Why am I that ugly?” The declaration of the statues of Budapest about the sad and typical situation of their birth], Szabad Nép, January 11,

43. Based on ample photographic materials in the collection of the Ervin Szabó Library. These pictures can be viewed via the Internet:

44. Regarding the history of the Stalin statue, see Potó, “Rendszerváltások,” pp. 113–140.

45. The complete recording of the event may be found in the archives of Hungarian Television, and in the Fekete Doboz [Black Box]

46. This symbolical moment of death, providing concrete evidence of the power of symbolic politics, is considered very important. Contemporary historians think of this moment as having an importance similar to the moment of multiparty elections in

47. The Maria Theresa statue removed from the monument was restored in

2003, and, on December 7, was placed at the entrance to the Museum of Fine Arts, on the landing at the top of the stairs.