The Fisherman’s Bastion, located on the base of a stretch of the Buda Castle walls in Budapest, the capital city of Hungary, is mostly famous to provide the beautiful panoramic view of the city from its Neo-Romanesque lookout terraces, from the Buda side, over the River Danube.
Built during the middle ages, the Fisherman’s Bastion is known as Halaszbastya in the Hungarian language, and the word Halasz stands for fishermen. It is said that during those early days, the walls were protected by the fishermen who lived in a small town below the walls, named Vizivaros, meaning Watertown or Fishtown. According to some historians, the Bastion was named after the fishermen as the walls were protected by them. However, it is also said that the castle’s fish market next to the Matthias Church is responsible for naming it as the Fisherman’s Bastion.
Gradually with time, the Buda Castle lost its importance as its character as a fortress was abolished in 1874 when the Ministry of War declared that as a fortress the castle did not meet the modern requirements. However, before that, a call was launched in 1871 by the Pest Committee on Beauty for the development of regulatory plans for the newly merged capital, along with the issue of the settlement of the Castle Hill, with special emphasis on the Fishermen's Bastion. There were two reasons for the materialization of the plan.
Firstly, to restore the former glory of the much neglected Matthias Church for emphasizing the beauty of the coronation cathedral, and secondly, to use the Bastion for viewing the fascinating beauty of the city over the Danube, which could not be enjoyed leisurely from the hill. However, the construction of the Fisherman’s Bastion was interlaced with the restoration of the church. Therefore, Frigyes Schulek started the project with the rebuilding and restoration of the Matthias Church in 1873 which was completed by 1896.
The Bastion was shaped like the English letter T to embrace the church with its enhanced beauty and also to connect the Castle hilltop with the Danube side settlement, Watertown, or the Fishtown. Equipped with lots of windows, stone benches, arches, and arcades, the Fisherman’s Bastion was built between 1895 and 1902 as a part of the series of developments to celebrate the 100th birthday of the state of Hungary.
The architect of the project, Frigyas Schulek, was obviously inspired by the architectural style of the early medieval period, around the year 1000, when the first Hungarian king started his rule in 895. However, he intended to construct the Bastion as a beautiful panoramic view terrace to serve as a perfect viewpoint suitable in any weather, along with the beautification of the adjacent Matthias Church. Another key aspect of the Fisherman’s Bastion is its seven towers topped with spires, which are intended to represent the seven founding Hungarian chieftains of the Magyar tribes that entered the Carpathian Basin in the late 9th century, controlled the land, and founded current Hungary in 895.
Thinking about the hundreds of viewers on the terraces of the Fisherman’s Bastion, Frigyes Schulek felt the need to transfer the narrow and outworn steps of the Jesuit stairs, connecting the Castle hilltop with the Danube waterfront into a spectacular entrance to the Buda Castle quarter. However, instead of renovating the old Jesuit stairs, he constructed a new stairway at another location. The new wide and majestic stairs leading up to the Bastion provides a dramatic entrance to the Castle Hill. The gorgeous ceremonial stairway is decorated from top to bottom with the statues of historical figures which included the leading Hungarian military and political figure John Hunyadi, a replica of the 15th century statue named St George Piercing the Dragon, created by the medieval Hungarian masters, the Kolozsvari Brothers, and the 10th century soldiers guarding the gate standing under the arch at the top. Later, a few years after the completion of the building, a tall statue of St Stephen aka Szent István, in royal robes on his richly decorated horse and holding a double cross, was installed between the Bastion and the Matthias Church in 1906.
During World War II, the Fishermen’s Bastion suffered severe damage, along with the neighbouring buildings. However, after the end of the Great War the restoration of the Neo-Romanesque tower was successfully carried out by Janos Schulek, the son of the original architect Frigyes Schulek. Unfortunately, the end of the Great War did not bring any respite as the country was occupied by Soviet Russia. During that Communistic regime, a giant Soviet Red Star used to hang from the arches of the Fisher’s Bastion that looked out over the Danube, much to the displeasure of the inhabitants on the Pest side of the city, and bitterly reminded them that their country was under the rule of Soviet Russia.
The Fisherman’s Bastion, resembling the castle of Sleeping Beauty of the fairyland, is one of the most visited attractions in Budapest. With its turrets, parapets, and climbing stairways, it offers a breathtaking view of the city. As one of the best viewing platforms in Europe, it has been included in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 1987.