THE HABSBURG PALATINE CRYPT

 

The family crypt in Buda Castle holding the earthly remains of Archduke Joseph, Palatine of Hungary, his family members and descendants, is the only part of the Hungarian National Gallery that still preserves something of the palace’s original, 19th-century beauty. The crypt was part of and located under the Saint Sigismund chapel, which was demolished in 1961. From the 1790s the palace became the residence of the palatine, i.e. the prevailing Hungarian representative of the king. Archduke Joseph, a brother of King Francis I, held the title of palatine between 1795 and 1847 and, with royal consent, was the first to have the crypts of the castle chapel converted into a family burial place. After the death of the palatine and his widow their son, Joseph Karl, commissioned two architects, first Miklós Ybl and later Alajos Hausmann, to reconstruct the crypt, while the sculptor, György Zala, was entrusted with making the palatine’s sepulchre.

The crypt’s most spectacular ornamentation is a twice life-size marble sculpture of the palatine and another five figural monuments. György Zalai’s sculpture shows Archduke Joseph kneeling before the holy crown, evoking the impression that he is not only guarding the nation by extending his right arm over the crown but also the visitors who walk below this self-same arm as if they were partaking of the blessing itself. At the southern end of the north-south oriented crypt is a huge bronze angel extending its wings over the deceased, namely over the recumbent figures of the tombs of the Archduke Joseph Karl, who was the youngest son of the palatine, and his wife, Clotilde. These two sculptures are also the work of György Zala. To their right stands a tomb sculpted by Alajos Stróbl erecting a monument to the young Archduke Ladislaus, who died in a hunting accident in 1895.      

During the siege of Budapest the Buda Castle was damaged extensively but nothing disturbed the peace of the deceased in the palatinal crypt. However, during the construction work that began in the early 1950s the demolition of numerous old buildings that could have been saved, including the castle chapel, posed a grave threat to the crypt too. At the beginning of 1973 the completely unguarded crypt was broken into and ransacked. The coffins were prized open and the palatine’s head was severed from his mummified body. 

Following this, the director-general of the Hungarian National Gallery had the crypt walled up, and it was only reopened in October 1977 with the firm intention of a scholarly foundation to present it to the public restored to its original beauty. Renovation work was completed by spring 1987, and the crypt was consecrated on 3 October of the same year at a ceremony attended by eleven descendants of the palatine and some other invited guests. Since the re-consecration in 1987 the earthly remains of another nine family members have been placed in the crypt; thus, twenty-four members of the family are now at rest here, hopefully in everlasting peace.

 

Please note that a vitis is possible only with our tourguide and it is necessary to make prior arrangements at least one week before your planned visit ! Register here ››

 

Fee: HUF 600 / person entrance fee to the crypt (no concession), plus the fee of the guided tour: HUF 8000  / group (in foreing language) 

Maximum number of participants per group: 15 people

Duration of the visit: 30 minutes

Meeting point: Building C, information desk