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Chain Bridge, Budapest

The Chain Bridge was built between 1840 and 1849 as the first permanent bridge in Hungary. It spans the River Danube between Buda and Pest, the western and eastern sides of Budapest. The official name of the Chain Bridge is Széchenyi Lánchíd but shortened to ‘Lanchid’.

Budapest and Széchenyi Chain Bridge, 1850.

The initial idea of building a proper stone bridge over the Danube came from Count Szechenyi who is widely considered one of the greatest statesmen in his nation’s history, within Hungary, and still known to many as “the Greatest Hungarian”. The construction started in 1840 and it took almost 10 years to build. The bridge bears the name of the count Szechenyi.

Széchenyi Chain Bridge photograph 1873 (this is when Buda and Pest were united).
Széchenyi Chain Bridge from the Buda side, photo from between 1873 and 1880.

The Chain Bridge was designed by the English engineer William Tierney Clark and built by the Scottish engineer Adam Clark. The metal structure of the Chain Bridge spans approx 380 meters (1,247 feet), and its width is 14.5 meters (48 feet). The lions at each of the abutments were carved in stone by the sculptor János Marschalkó and installed in 1852.

Széchenyi Chain Bridge, photo from Clark Ádám Square in 1902.

The opening ceremony of the Chain Bridge in Budapest was on Nov 20, 1849. The cast-iron structure was updated and strengthened in 1914.

The Chain Bridge and the Royal Palace were lit up with floodlights on the occasion of the 1938 Eucharistic Congress.

In 1918 The Chain Bridge witnessed so-called Aster Revolution. Aster Revolution or Chrysanthemum Revolution was led by Count Mihály Károlyi in the aftermath of World War I. The Revolution led to the foundation of the short-lived First Hungarian People’s Republic. Károlyi had helped establish the Hungarian National Council which demanded the secession of Hungary from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The revolution received its name because the citizens and demobilized soldiers in Budapest began placing the Aster flowers that were in bloom at the time in their hats and caps to symbolize support for the Hungarian National Council and Count Károlyi.

Military and civilian supporters of the Aster Revolution in Budapest.

On October 28, 1918, a large group of these supporters gathered in Pest and marched toward Buda Castle, where they intended to present Archduke Joseph August of Austria, the official representative of Habsburg King Charles IV, with a demand that he appoint Count Károlyi to serve as prime minister. Mounted gendarmes attempted to disperse the demonstrators as they approached the Chain Bridge, while others opened fire on those who continued to advance, killing three people and wounding more than 50. The so-called Chain Bridge Battle initiated three days of popular demonstrations and anti-government organization among soldiers in Budapest known collectively as the Aster Revolution, which compelled Archduke Joseph August to install Count Károlyi as prime minister in the name of the king on October 31. Károlyi’s provisional government proclaimed the Hungarian People’s Republic on 16 November 1918, with Károlyi named as provisional president. 

Prime Minster Károlyi proclaims the establishment of the Hungarian Republic.

In World War II, the bridge was blown up on 18 January 1945 by the retreating Germans during the Siege of Budapest, with only the towers remaining. It was rebuilt and reopened in 1949.

Chain Bridge in ruins.
Chain Bridge in ruins.
Chain Bridge in ruins.
Chain Bridge in ruins.
The renovated Chain bridge in 1949.

During the Communist era, the original Kossuth coats of arms were replaced with Communist-style coats of arms, but in 1996 the historical Kossuth versions were restored. In recent years, Lanchid was turned into a summer festival venue (Summer on the Chain Bridge / Nyar a Lanchidon Festival), at least for a while, and is also the popular venue of stunning events.

Chain Bridge by night.

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