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Kossuth Lajos Square, Budapest, Hungary - Famous City Squares
353    Dibyendu Banerjee    17/06/2023

Located along the banks of the River Danube in the Lipótváros, a traditional neighbourhood in the city centre of Budapest and named after King Leopold II, Kossuth Lajos Square, popularly known as Kossuth Square, is one of the most famous and visited city squares in Budapest. Initially named Stadtischer Auswind Platz or Unloading Square for the Ships in 1820, it was a low-lying territory flanking the river, outside the town of Pest, which was filled with rubbish to raise the level of the ground.

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In the past, the square was also known by several other names, which include Országház tér or Parliament Square, until renamed in 1927 in honour of Lajos Kossuth, a Hungarian lawyer, politician, and governor-president of the Kingdom of Hungary during the Hungarian Civic Revolution and War of Independence of 1848. However, the square underwent huge changes in its layout in the second half of the 19th century, when great public buildings like the buildings of the Hungarian Parliament, Ministry of Agriculture and the Museum of Ethnography, originally the Palace of Justice were erected on the square to make it the symbolic centre of the city.

kossuth lajos square
kossuth lajos square

As all the city's five bridges had been blown up by retreating German troops, Kossuth híd, a temporary bridge across the Danube was built after World War II, between Lajos Kossuth Square and Batthyány Square, located on the Buda side of the Danube, directly opposite the Hungarian Parliament Building. It functioned from 15 January 1946 to 1960 and was dismantled when most of the permanent bridges were re-built.

kossuth lajos square
Parliament building from the south end of the square

Budapest, the capital and most populous city of Hungary, was formed in 1873, by the unification of the three previously separate towns of Buda, Óbuda and Pest.

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After seven years of the unification, the Diet of Hungary resolved to establish a new representative parliament building, facing the River Danube. Designed by the architect Imre Steindl and located on the Kossuth Lajos Square, the 315 feet (96 m) tall majestic building of the National Parliament Building of Hungary, covering an area of 18,000 square metres, was opened in 1902. Considered the third-largest national assembly building in the world, it has been the largest building in Budapest on completion. Interestingly, the Western facade of the Hungarian Parliament building runs parallel to the Danube and the other three faces directly on the Kossuth square.

kossuth lajos square
The Palace of Justice (Museum of Ethnography)

Located opposite the Hungarian Parliament building, the original building of the Palace of Justice was built in the neo-Renaissance style between 1893 and 1896. While the stunning façade of the majestic building is decorated with large columns and stone sculptures, the most ornate space of the building is the Lobby, equipped with majestic marble columns, an impressive staircase and magnificent frescoes created by the German-Hungarian painter Karl Anton Paul Lotz. A Latin inscription, which once proclaimed the judicial role of the building and was removed during the Soviet regime in the 1950s, has recently been restored, as part of the 2021 renovation work.

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The tympanum, decorated with sculpted figures by György Zala, is divided into three spaces, depicting an allegorical reproduction of legislation on the left, the personification of jurisprudence in the sense of science on the right and an assembled audience in a Roman trial in the centre, recreated with the accused prostrate before the judges and the president of the court holding the oversized sword of justice. The building is topped by a bronze chariot with three horses, led by the allegorical figure of the genius, holding a torch in one hand and a palm branch in the other. From its inauguration on 20 October 1896 until 1949, the dignified building was the seat of the Supreme Court of Hungary and after that, its large spaces have been used first as the seat of the Hungarian National Gallery for two decades, from 1957 to 1972 and then the Museum of Ethnography from 1973 until 2017, when the Ethnographic Museum moved to a new building in the Parque de la Ciudad.

kossuth lajos square
The Building of the Ministry of Agriculture

Located along the Kossuth Lajos Square and directly across the iconic Parliament Building of Budapest, the building of the Ministry of Agriculture, locally known as Agrarminiszterium was built between 1885 and 1887 and stretches a gallery with a number of arcades, decorated with several sculptures. The building is the backdrop for a pivotal moment in Hungary’s 1956 Revolution against Soviet control and the outer wall of the building’s arcade still bears the bullet marks of the Soviet troops, which killed an unknown number of peaceful protesters, who gathered near the Parliament Building on 25 October 1956, now widely known as Bloody Thursday.

kossuth lajos square
Kossuth Memorial, with Kossuth in the middle
kossuth lajos square
Monument of Count István Tisza

Apart from the impressive building, Kossuth Lajos Square contains several memorials and statues, which include the Kossuth Memorial, dedicated to former Hungarian Regent-President Lajos Kossuth, an equestrian statue of Francis II, as well as a memorial for the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, installed in front of the Parliament building. The building is also flanked by the reconstructed memorials of Count István Tisza and Count Gyula Andrássy. A modern statue of Attila József, one of the most famous Hungarian poets of the 20th century, is installed to the south of the Parliament, sitting on a grassy mound, a few yards from the river, as described in his poem By the Danube. The statue of Imre Nagy, leader of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 against the Soviet-backed government, which was inaugurated in 1996, was removed from the square on 28 December 2018 to make way to reconstruct the Monument to the National Martyrs that had stood on location from 1934 to 1945. The Kossuth Tér Massacre Memorial was created in the southern ventilation tunnel as part of the 2012-2014 reconstruction of the Kossuth square, dedicated to the memory of the unknown victims, who gathered near the Parliament Building on 25 October 1956, now widely known as the Bloody Thursday. To quell the mounting demonstration and disperse the crowd, Soviet troops and state secret police opened fire on the scores of spirited yet peaceful protesters, killing as few as 25 to many as thousand unarmed people.

kossuth lajos square
Kossuth Lajos tér, together with the Parliament

During the restoration and reconstruction project of the Kossuth Lajos Square between 2012 and 2014, it was made a traffic-free zone with a sustainable park, asphalt paving was replaced by natural, hard-weathering flagstones and a three-level underground parking garage was created for MPs and National Assembly staff. The square was closed off from the direction of Alkotmány Street by a reflecting pool, behind which a 102 feet (33 m) tall pole was erected with a huge national flag flying atop. A visitor’s centre was also built below the level of the square, from where the visitors could access the exhibition of the Museum of the Hungarian Parliament. While the southern section of the former ventilation tunnel is dedicated as a memorial to the victims of the shooting of 25 October 1956, the northern section houses the Lapidarium of the House of Parliament, where stone monuments and fragments of archaeological interest are exhibited. During the process of restoration, the square also regained its artistic beauty prior to the 1944 era, when the destroyed equestrian bronze statue of Count Gyula Andrássy, the monument erected to Count István Tisza and the figures of the Kossuth monument were recreated, while the equestrian statue of Francis II Rákóczi was dismantled, restored piece by piece and re-erected in a different site.

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Author Details
Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.
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