Budapest on the Danube – Buda Castle, medieval Castle Hill

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The beginnings of the Kingdom of Hungary

Around 890, the Magyar tribes invaded the Carpathian Basin. According to the tradition, Arpad, the leader of Magyars, erected a fortress on the ruins of the amphitheater in Aquincum. The descendant of Arpad, Prince Géza, made peace with Emperor Otto I, accepted Christian missionaries and baptized his son Stephen. Within 3 years after the death of his father, Stephen became the first king of Hungary. His coronation took place on December 25, 1000 or January 1, 1001.

Buda at the site of the Roman Aquincum

In the 11th century, a royal residence existed in the Roman fort of Aquincum. At that time, the name Buda or Budavar began to function. By the way, according to the medieval chronicles, the name of the settlement derives from the name of the brother of Attila.

Buda Castle Hill

At the same time, on the left bank of the river (in the Roman fort defending the ford by the Danube), the small fishermen village existed, the future city of Pest. However, the royal coronation did not take place in either Buda or Pest, as at that time they did not play a significant role, only in Esztergom, the first capital of Hungary.

Tatar invasion

The early development of both cities was stopped in 1241 when Hungary was invaded by the Tatars. Pest was burned, and the residents who did not manage to escape were massacred. When the Danube froze during the winter, Buda met a similar fate in a short time. In 1247, King Bela IV of Hungary ordered the people to move to a hill southwest of the former Roman fort, today known as the Castle Hill.

Fisherman's Tower
Fisherman’s Tower
Obuda and Buda Castle

In a fear of another Tatar invasion, the king erected a well-fortified fortress and a royal castle on that hill, funding a new city called Buda. Over time, the new settlement grew into a city of artists and traders. Former Buda, located on the ruins of Aquincum and destroyed by the Tatars, has since gained the name Old Buda, in Hungarian Obuda. In 1405 King Sigismund of Luxembourg granted Buda the privileges of a free royal city, and in 1408 he moved his court there. Buda became the capital of Hungary.

Turkish expansion in Europe

The threat of invasion from the east returned in the 1640s. This time they were Turks. King Władysław I. Ulászló (also King of Poland known as Władysław Warneńczyk) was killed in the Battle of Varna in November 1444. As a result of a confusion after the death of the king, the Hungarian army suffered defeat. On April 2, 1453 Sultan army in the number of about 80 thousand people began the siege of Constantinople. Despite the desperate defense, much smaller Christian forces (around 7,000 people) failed to save the city. Constantinople collapsed after a two-month siege on May 29, 1453.

Buda Castle and Turkish expansion in Europe
Buda Castle
King Mátyás Corvinus

Another target of the Turkish attack was the takeover of today’s Belgrad, known as the “southern gate” of Hungary. Thanks to the relief of Hunyady, then already a hero, winning in many battles with the Turks, the Turkish army was decimated, and the Turkish expansion stopped for several decades.

The son of Hunyady, Mátyás called Corvinus, was elected King of Hungary. The reign of King Mátyás (1458-1490) brought a golden period to medieval Buda. At that time, creating in the spirit of the Renaissance, conducted, among others, expansion of a part of the palace. Wonderful baths and fountains were built. As an educated humanist, the King Mátyás Corvinus created the library (Bibliotheca Corviniana) famous all over Europe, which was second only to the Vatican Library.

Mátyás Corvinus
Main altar in the Matthias Church

After the death of King Mátyás, the Hungarian state began to decline. Subsequent weak governance, the lost Battle of Mohács in 1526, which resulted in the death of the king and finally the civil war for power and the crown in Hungary, led to the capture of Buda and most of Hungary by the Ottoman Empire. On August 29, 1541 Suleiman the Magnificent declared that he was taking over Buda. The 145-year Turkish occupation began. The capture of Buda was a shock to Europe. The Habsburgs repeatedly tried to recapture the city, but this only brought further destruction.

Battle of Vienna

In 1683, Sultan Mehmed IV undertook a military expedition to Vienna, its siege began in July that year. Polish King John III Sobieski, arriving with relief, defeated the Turkish army at the Battle of Vienna on September 12, 1683. Defeated Turks retreated to Buda. Battle of Vienna was a breakthrough in Turkey’s expansion in Europe. As a direct result of the victory the Holy League was organized, which was an alliance against the Ottoman Turkey and Crimean Tatars. First it was composed of the State of the Church, the Commonwealth of Poland, Venetian Republic, Austria, and after 2 years the Orthodox Tsardom of Russia decided to join them.

Battle of Vienna
Gellert Baths

On September 2, 1686, after a 2.5-month siege, Christian troops recaptured Buda. Burning ashes and a ruined city did not resemble one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, the pride of King Matthias Corvinus. The war with the Turks lasted until the Treaty of Karlowitz in 1699. On its basis, the Turks renounced almost all Hungarian territories, which since then belonged to the Habsburgs.

In 1703, both Buda and Pest obtained the status of free royal cities and slowly began to develop again.

Visiting the Castle Hill in Budapest

Today, Castle Hill encourages you to peaceful sightseeing. Despite the changing turn of fate, it has retained a lot of charm, and many tenements remember the Middle Ages. During the reconstruction after the destruction of World War II, earlier decorations were discovered under the baroque facades, which further encourages exploration 🙂 . The Buda Castle, although not in its original form, still towers over Budapest. 🙂


Photographs of Budapest

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Carly BB

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