The history behind the building
The stunning historic building of the old City Hall of Buda in Úri street is located in an impressive site. Szentháromság square surrounding Mattias Church (in Hungarian Mátyás-templom) is one of Budapest’s oldest and most beautiful squares and it’s also the centre of the Castle District.
On the same area of land where we find the square today, in the medieval times there was a complex of buildings with a network of narrows streets and alleys. Following the battle of 1686 most of the buildings in the square were demolished and the ruins of the houses were never reconstructed again, creating the area where the square is located today. In the centre of the square the city council erected a votive Holy Trinity Column to remind the population of Buda of the plague and to protect them from the disease. Later a fifteen meter high statue with rich decoration was erected in its place.
Today the square is still the heart and centre of the Castle District, and it houses the old City Hall of Buda, with its breath-taking view over Matthias Church, Fisherman’s Bastion and the scenic view of Pest.
The historical relevance of the building located at Úri street 21 goes back to 1686, when the castle was reconquered, but a large part of its buildings were destroyed and most if its houses lay in ruins. The construction of the building that was intended to be the City Hall of Buda began in 1702 under the supervision of Italian master builder Venerio Ceresola, on the ruins of smaller medieval houses. Shortly thereafter it was further extended and the magistrate of Buda held its first meeting on 6 June 1710. In 1723 the city was destroyed by a fire in which the City Hall was damaged, but fortunately it was reconstructed within two years.
A few decades later the building was extended once again based on the plans and under the direction of Máté Nepauer, the decorative staircase we can still see today was added at this time, while from 1770 to 1774 the construction of the Western wing in Úri street was finalised.
The corner balcony is a duplicate of the one on the Eastern side, the only difference lies in the sculpted decoration. Essentially this extension was the final phase in the construction of the City Hall, when the building was given its final form. The upstairs chapel was closed in 1785 by Emperor Joseph II. It was reopened in 1824, and although it definitively ceased to function in 1851, the small bell tower of the former chapel is still in its original place today. Following the 1944–1945 siege of Budapest the historical City Hall was severely damaged, its roof collapsed and it western wing came down completely.
During a complete renovation in 1950–1952 new gates were made among other things, and the demolished Western balcony was restored, with its sculptural elements and the stone frames of the windows partially replaced. The building that functioned for more than 160 years as the City Hall of Buda, and for another 70 years as the administrative centre of the Ist District of Budapest, in the 20th century housed exhibitions of several museums, and later functioned as the Research Institute for Linguistics of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and as an international research centre in the first decade of the 21st century.
The building with nearly 800 years of history has become one of the most thoroughly explored and documented historic monuments of the civilian quarter of Buda, owing to the extensive archaeological research and art and architectural history research of the past two years. The purpose of Pallas Athéné Domus Sapientiae Foundation was to create modern spaces that would meet the functional requirements of the 21st century while revere and respect the historical heritage.