Art and architecture critic Catesby Leigh, a contributor to The American Conservative, has recently published an article in The Wall Street Journal, singing the praises of what is perhaps Budapest’s most recognizable landmark, the Parliament.
The neogothic structure was finished in 1902, and is the work of architect Imre Steindl, who was trained in Vienna and taught at the Budapest University of Technology.
As the author points out, it was designed for a bicameral legislature, as opposed to the single-chamber National Assembly that is in place for Hungary today. Also, it was inaugurated at the time of the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary. It was also designed to house the representatives of a much larger populace than today’s, almost two decades before the tragic Trianon Treaty of 1920.
‘This opulent, sprawling structure, almost as long as London’s Houses of Parliament (1870), offers a superabundance of carved, cast and painted decoration.
Superior craftsmanship in stained glass, wood, plaster, iron and bronze is generously deployed, and more than 85 pounds of gold enrich the building’s interior with gilt detail. Hungary’s history, myths and culture are portrayed in mural paintings—neo-Baroque allegories, realist historical scenes, gloomy castle landscapes—that contribute to the impressive range of decorative character encountered in halls and reception rooms.
Symphonic variations on architectural motifs, with the microcosm ubiquitously reiterating the macrocosm, endow the palace’s complex architecture with a magisterial coherence. Its symmetrical, classically informed composition has the same effect, allowing the exterior to offer impressively resolved vistas from any viewpoint without depriving it of the Gothic’s picturesque intricacy,’ Leigh wrote in his ‘ode’ to the Budapest Parliament.
The building’s signature element is the dome, of which the author writes ‘a majestic central dome is flanked by richly articulated, pinnacle-surmounted stone towers decked out with gargoyles and comic flagpole-clutching animals’.
Mr Leigh is not the only foreigner to be impressed by the beauty of our Parliament House. Back in October 2019, John Rentoul ranked it at the #1 spot on his list of the top 10 most beautiful parliament buildings in the world, published in the British paper The Independent’s website.