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The History of Buda Castle after 1686

The Liturgical Centre of the Nation

The Holy Right, King St Stephen's hand relicsAlthough Buda Castle and Palace did not become a royal residence during the 18th century, in addition to being the venue for governmental functions it became the sacral centre of the Hungarian Kingdom because of the relics stored there: the Holy Right Hand and the Crown Jewels.

First, the Holy Right Hand - the preserved right hand of St Stephen, the founder of the state -, the most important Hungarian relic, was placed in St Sigismund Chapel in the Palace, in a spectacular ceremony on the 20th of July, 1771. Saved from the Turks, this relic was kept in Raguza, in Dalmatia (today Dubrovnik, Croatia) and Maria Theresa regained possession of it from there. She appointed the provost of Buda to take care of it and a separate elliptic building - St Stephen's chapel or the chapel of the Holy Right - was attached to St Sigismund chapel in the enclosed court of the northern wing. From then on Buda became the centre of the first Hungarian saint, St Stephen's cult. The highlight of this was the procession held on the name day of Stephen, the 20th of August, between the Sigismund Chapel and the Church of Our Lady. This day, officially first commemorated in 1818, was the most important Hungarian state holiday until 1944.

János Fülöp Binder: Memorial on the occasion of the arrival of the Holy Right to Buda, 1771The Holy Right Hand was removed from this location before the siege of Buda in 1944. Since the chapel, which was damaged in World War II, was not reconstructed, the relic was placed in Saint Stephen's Basilica in Pest.

From 1790 the second most important national treasure, the Holy Crown and the Crown Jewels were kept in the chapel of the Palace. Joseph II did not have himself crowned as king of Hungary because taking the coronation oath would have limited his power. He had these highly respected national symbols taken to Vienna as museum pieces. With the collapse of the absolutistic system of the "hatted king" the crown was brought back to Hungary in a triumphal march. It arrived in Buda on 24th of February 1790 - coinciding with the announcement of Joseph II's death. His descendant, Leopold II issued a decree, according to which the Crown had to be kept together with the sceptre, the orb, the sword, the cloak, the gloves, the stockings and the sandals.

From that time on the Crown Jewels were removed from the palace only for short periods of time: for the coronation in the autumn of 1790 and in 1830 when they were taken to Pozsony, and in times when war threatened. At the beginning of 1849 - during the Hungarian War of Independence - the Hungarian government took the jewels with them to Joseph Hillebrandt: The drawing of the chapel of the Holy Right, around 1778Debrecen, and after the defeat of the war of independence the fleeing Hungarian Prime Minister, Bertalan Szemere had them buried in Orsova, near the border of the Turkish Empire. The jewels, which were found four years later, were again ceremoniously returned to Buda. In the following decades they were displayed to the public on the occasion of the coronation of Francis Joseph in 1867 and on that of Charles IV in 1916, as well as on some special occasions (for example, at the celebration of the 1000th anniversary of the Hungarian Conquest of the Carpathian Basin in 1896).

The Holy CrownThe Crown Jewels were kept in the "Crown Chamber" above the chapel until 1900, at which time they were placed in a special safe-room made for this purpose in the western wing. The main symbol of the Hungarian state finally left the Castle in November 1944. They were removed in fear of the approaching Soviet troops, and initially taken to western Hungary, and then on to the territory of the Third Reich, from where the Americans took them. In 1978 - as a sign of international détente - the government of the United States of America gave the relics back to Hungary. From 2000 the Crown has been kept in the Houses of Parliament, and the rest of the Crown Jewels are displayed in the National Museum.

Transporting the Crown to Buda, 1790 - coloured engraving