Ranked among the top 15 landmarks in 2017 Traveler's Choice Awards, the architectural marvel of the National Parliament Building Budapest in Hungary proved more popular than London's Big Ben, Athens' ancient Acropolis, and the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris. Located on the eastern bank of the River Danube and situated on Kossuth Square in the Pest side of the city, the 315 feet (96 m) tall majestic building, one of the two tallest buildings in Budapest, was designed by the architect Imre Steindl and is one of the finest examples of Gothic Revival and Renaissance Revival architecture in the world today. Opened in 1902, it has been the largest building in Budapest on completion and the third-largest national assembly building in the world. Unfortunately, its creator Imre Steindl went blind before its completion, leaving him unable to appreciate his finished masterpiece.
In 1873 Budapest, the capital city of Hungary was created by the unification of three cities, Buda, Obuda, and Pest, and seven years later the Diet, the supreme legislative institution in the medieval kingdom of Hungary, resolved to establish a new, representative parliament building, indicating the sovereignty of the nation. Accordingly, an international competition was held to select the design of the proposed building, in which the design submitted by Imre Steindl was chosen.
Construction according to the winning plan began in 1885, during which 1000,000 were engaged, and 40 million bricks, half a million precious stones, and 40 kilograms of gold were used. However, although the building was inaugurated in 1896, on the presumed 1,0000th anniversary of the country, it was not fully completed until 1904.
Covering an area of 18,000 square metres, the massive Parliament Building has a symmetrical façade and a Renaissance Revival central dome. The symmetrical form is also maintained in the inside of the building as two identical parliament halls stand on the opposite sides of the building. Its interior includes 10 courtyards, 28 gates, 29 staircases, 13 elevators, and 691 rooms.
Though it may seem ridiculous, the main façade of the building overlooks the River Danube, while the official main entrance is from the square on the east side of the building, which is effectively the back of the building. While the façade displays statues of rulers, political leaders, and military figures, the coats of arms of kings and dukes are depicted over the windows. Flanked by two lions, the eastern gate with its ceiling decorated with frescoes, has a statue of the architect, Imre Steindl, in a wall niche.
Apart from that, it is richly decorated with assorted statues, along with stained glass and glass mosaics, aptly created by Miksa Roth. The sixteen-sided central hall, adjoining the Lower House and the Upper House, is one of the important and famous parts of the building. The invaluable Holy Crown of Hungary, or the Crown of St. Stephen, which more than 50 kings have been crowned with, has been displayed in the central Dome Hall from the year 2000 and protected by two rotating guards at all times.
While designing the huge building, Steindl cleverly incorporated key numerical facts within its structure. He gave priority to the number 96, as it refers to the nation's millennium in 1896 and the conquest of the Kingdom of Hungary in 896.
The dome of the main Parliament building is mounted at 96 m high, symbolizing the year of the settlement of Hungary in 896, and at the same time, the 96 steps of the main staircase take visitors up to a magnificent hallway. Added to that, there are 365 towers throughout the building, signifying one for each day of the year.
Until 2013, the magnificent Parliament building was littered with bullet holes from two World Wars and the subsequent nationwide revolution of 1956, against the Hungarian People’s Republic and its Soviet-imposed rigid policies, the first major spontaneous protest and an open threat to the Soviet control since the Red Army drove out Nazi Germany from the country at the end of World War II in Europe.
During the days of the People’s Republic, a red star, signifying the communist rule, perched on the top of the dome, much to the displeasure of the common people. However, that was removed after the fall of communism, and the formation of the new Hungarian Republic was declared from the balcony of the Parliament building facing the Kossuth Lajos Square on 23 October 1989.