“The motherland does not have a house” – thus wrote Mihály Vörösmarty, one of the greatest poets of Hungary. Through the hundreds of years of the history of the country the diet didn’t have a regular house. But there was no need for it – over the past thousand years the Hungarian diet has held its sessions from Sopron to Szabolcs, from Besztercebánya to Szeged, from Nagyszombat to Rákos field, and since the l8th century primarily in Pozsony, today known as Bratislava. As a counterweight to the royal palace rising high on Buda Hill, the Pest side of the Danube was chosen to symbolize that Hungary’s destiny lay with popular democracy and not with royal whim.
The competition announced in 1882 was won by Imre Steindl, a professor at the Technical University. Like others of his generation he thought that problems in construction could be most easily solved by combining old style elements with modern technique in a relatively free manner. The style of the exterior recalls Gothic Revival, which developed in England in the 1830’s. A foremost example of this style is the Parliament in London. Building On 12 October 1885 ground was broken on the quay at Tömo square in the Lipót district. With an average of 1000 workers laboring at any one time, the building took 17 years to complete. It was the greatest investment of the time and the most expensive building which has ever been built in Hungary (from this sum of money a smaller town could have been built for about 30 000 people). The building is 268 m long, 123 m wide across the center, has a dome 96 m high and covers 18,000 square meters of surface area and 473,000 cubic meters of space. The building stands on a 2-5 m thick gigantic concrete foundation. 90 statues and the coats-of-arms of various cities and counties adorn the exterior while on the inner walls can be found 152 statues and motives of national fauna. Nearly 40 kg of 22-23 karat gold was used for decorations. The building has 27 gates, 29 interior staircases and 13 personal and service elevators. Around 50 five story apartment buildings could fit into the Parliament. The interior of the building has been symmetrically arranged, because the Hungarian parliament was originally composed of two houses: the rooms were built around the assembly halls of the Upper and Lower Houses – now the Congress Hall and the Assembly Hall – with the Delegation Hall in the center.
The Dome Hall
Reaching the top of the stairs, the visitor enters the Dome Hall whose 16 corners amplify the sensation of space. It is true that the inside ceiling is much lower than the outside cupola, but this ingenious structure gives the feeling that this 27 m high round room is imposingly high. This splendid hall is the structural and spiritual heart of the building, and on occasion hosted the combined sessions of both houses of Parliament.
Rooms Around the Dome Hall
Fascinating rooms surround the Dome Hall from the Danube side. Opposite the main staircase is Hunter Nall, the great dining hall of Parliament, decorated on the riverside by a colonnaded terrace. In the foreground the monks directing the fishing net represent a thousand year old tradition of Hungarian history – the silent workers underpinning civilization’s achievements.
The Deputy Council Chamber and the Lounge the Deputies
As the visitor arrives from the main stairs and stops in the middle of the Dome Hall, under the rose candelabra, she will have a magnificent view of the functional structure of the building. Since December 1944 the Hungarian legislature has been mono cameral. As there is only legislative body, the former session room of the Upper House is now used for holding international conferences. Turning first to the southern side, the visitor comes upon the Deputy Council Chamber, where the Hungarian legislature sits today.