Buda Castle watch

Ottoman “graveyard” on the slopes of Buda Castle, or rather a memorial place, actually. Though the headstones are indeed from the period of the Ottoman conquest of Hungary, they were excavated at other parts of the Castle Hill and its surroundings, and they have stood at their current place only from around the 1960s; at least the April 1967 issue of the review Budapest mentions the memorial site as new and displays it on its cover. Moreover, based on photographs from that time, they were more in number and there wasn’t a fence around them – this latter is probably a result of the renovation in 2000.

The Ottoman graveyard/memorial place on the slopes of the Castle Hill in 1966 and 1968 / source: Fortepan, from here and here

The location isn’t imaginary, though. A popular etching from 1686, labeled in Italian – made by Ludwig Nikolaus von Hallart, adjutant general of Maximilian II Emanuel, Elector of Bavaria at that time, later a general of the Russian army in the Great Northern War, and the Bavarian engraver Michael Wening – shows an Ottoman cemetery here, on the southern slopes of the Castle Hill, which is somehow unusual, so close to the fortifications, perhaps an ad hoc cemetery for military personnel.

The Hallart-Wening etching, Il Castello di Buda oppugnato dalle genti del Serenissimo Elettore di Baviera. The cemetery is marked by the letter “Z”: le sepolture dei Turchi.

This very etching is shown on the stone right in front of the memorial place. Or at least it seems to be so, as the whole stone is so much worn out by the weather: “Turkish cemetery / based on the etching of Hallart-Wening (1686) / ترك مزارلق türk mezârliq”. There is a small candle at the foot of one of the headstones. I’m photographing those parts of the stone which still can be read when a Russian couple arrives. Пожалуйста, I tell to them, приходите, have a closer look. The women is encouraged a bit by the greetings in Russian, and she answers after a short pause: I speak a bit of Hungarian. We start to talk, and she asks about the cemetery: is it Turkish? how old is it? I tell her what I know of the place, she listens with interest, she thanks it, and then we part wishing each other a Happy New Year. They walk away while I stay a bit longer. At least some locals are interested, once there are no foreign tourists to be guided in the city.

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Further on, beyond the Southern Roundel, going towards the Castle, there is a Baroque gate in the northern face of the so-called Cortina Wall. It almost seems like quailing or stepped aside. It’s the former main gate of the Arsenal (Zeughaus) of Buda Castle. Armouries were typical buildings of the Kingdom of Hungary in the first half of 18th century when the period of Ottoman conquest lasting more than a century and a half ended and the country was mostly reconquered by the Habsburgs. At this time armouries were built in strategically important settlements, from Bratislava and Székesfehérvár through Slavonski Brod and Belgrade to Timişoara and Orşova.

Matthey’s plan of the main façade, from here

A Zeughaus épülete (l’Arcenal [sic!]) François Langer térképén (Plan de la Forteresse de Bude, 1749) / Budapest Főváros Levéltára, innen

The building of the Zeughaus (l’Arcenal [sic!]) on the map of François Langer (Plan de la Forteresse de Bude, 1749) / Budapest City Archives, from here

One of the most important was that of Buda, reasonably. Its importance – and generally the significance of armouries – is indicated by the fact that while during the fifty years after the reconquest in 1686 the Royal Palace wasn’t completely rebuilt, even two armouries were built on the Castle Hill. After the first one, built on the place of the arsenal used by the Ottomans, burnt down in the fire of Easter Sunday in 1723 it took only two years to begin the building of the second arsenal on the ruins of the first one, based on the plans of the military engineer Johann Matthey and Donato Felice Aglio/d’Allio. Being a functional building, the Arsenal itself was simpler than the main gate, not really dominating the townscape in the etchings and later the photographs of the time. However, based on the travelogues of the time it seems to be a more significant one as almost every traveler mentioned it writing about the Buda Castle.

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So the gate left without an entrance belonged to the second Arsenal of Buda Castle. Fortunately, its inscription isn’t Dantesque: Carolus Sextus me fundo elevabat, Charles VI built me from the very foundations. The text can be read as a chronogram, but if we begin to calculate, it turns out to be an anachronistic one. The large letters add as 1680 which is six years before the reconquest of Buda etched by Hallart-Wening, and thirty-one before Charles VI ascending the throne of the Kingdom of Hungary and the Holy Roman Empire. Only if we ass the small L of “elevabat”, the time out of joint is set right: by 1730, after five years of building the Arsenal was finally finished indeed, though it could begin to function only in 1731–1732.

On the two sides stand the allegorical figures of Perseverance and Bravery, each of them holding a cartouche in their hands which reveals their identity and reading the words altogether they not just match the other inscription but we end up with the motto of Charles VI himself: Constantia et fortitudine, with perseverance and bravery. Their sculptor’s identity remains unknown, but they were perhaps influenced by a similar pair of statues which can be found in Melk Abbey. They were made in 1717 by the Vicenza-born Lorenzo Mattielli, court sculptor to Charles VI, and they represent the same allegorical figures, the only difference being that they hold one cartouche instead of two.

Mattielli’s statues of Perseverance and Bravery in Melk Abbey, from here

The motto turned out to be a good omen. Only the main gate survived the great rebulding of the end of the 19th century. Though some parts of the Arsenal was used as a kitchen and offices of the Royal palace since 1850, its fate was concluded by the rebuilding of the royal palace led first by Miklós Ybl then Alajos Hauszmann. By 1901 the entire building of the Arsenal was demolished. At the beginning of 1898 when the demolish began, Hauszmann – whose architectural legacy of the Buda Castle is being rebuilt nowadays – moved the Arsenal’s main gate to its present place. He also placed the statue of Hercules in the vault which was originally at the tympanum above the gate. The statue disappeared since then, maybe destroyed during World War II, as a paper written by the archivist György Bánrévy in 1933 (in Hungarian) mentions it as still standing. On the other hand the enlarged L of “elevabat” in the inscription can be seen on a couple of photographs from the ʻ30s, though the whole inscription is strongly damaged by then and completely undecipherable by 1982 as attested by an other photograph. Therefore the mistake in the chronogram isn’t a 18th-century typo, but rather made during the recent renovation.

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