A crypt beneath a museum

Not many people know, not even the locals, that while visiting the Hungarian National Gallery, one can also take a tour of the Palatinal Crypt. Access to the Crypt is through the main entrance hall of the museum. It is one of the extremely few parts of the former Royal Palace (the foundations of which date back to medieval times) that survived through time. The palace was rebuilt and extended several times between the XVth and the XXth century, but today it can only show its ancient magnificence through the exterior design which was reconstructed after the war; however, the interior – housing the National Gallery, the Budapest History Museum and the National  Széchényi Library – preserves only very little of the historical building.

The Palatinal Crypt was the burial-place of the Habsburg palatines (viceroys), who governed Hungary from the late XVIIth century till 1848 (during this period the Kingdom of Hungary was part of the Habsburg Monarchy). It is worth visiting even for those who are not familiar with the history of Hungary or that of the Habsburg dynasty, because the three vaults of the crypt exhibit valuable works of art. The ceiling is decorated with frescoes depicting the starry sky and angels in the corners and the statues and sarcophagi of those buried here are indeed splendid masterpieces of Hungarian art.

Interior of the Palatinal Cript; (fotó: http://muellermarianne.wordpress.com/)
Interior of the Palatinal Cript; (photo: http://muellermarianne.wordpress.com/)

One of the most imposing statues is that of the founder of the crypt, Palatine Joseph. This double life-sized white marble statue is the work of the Hungarian sculptor György Zala and it shows the palatine kneeling, with his arm stretched above the Crown of Saint Stephen.

György Zala: Sarcophage sculpture of Palatine Joseph; (photo: http://muellermarianne.wordpress.com/)
György Zala: Sarcophagus sculpture of Palatine Joseph; (photo: http://muellermarianne.wordpress.com/)

Right in front of this, at the entrance of the main vault, there is the sarcophagus which has the remains of Archduchess Elisabeth Clementine. It is decorated with the charming marble statue of the child archduchess, praying to God. This statue was made by Alajos Stróbl, one of the most renowned sculptors of memorials in Hungary at the turn of the 20th century.

Alajos Stróbl: Sarcophagus sculpture of Archduchess Elisabeth Clementine (photo: http://muellermarianne.wordpress.com/)
Alajos Stróbl: Sarcophagus sculpture of Archduchess Elisabeth Clementine (photo: http://muellermarianne.wordpress.com/)

Near the southern wall of the crypt there is a large double sarcophagus which contains the bodies of Archduke Joseph Charles (1833-1905) and his wife, Klotild (1846-1927). Their marble statues were also made by György Zala and modelled after their death masks. A bronze Angel of the Peace is standing above them with outstretched wings.

György Zala: Sarcophagus sculpture of  Archduke Joseph Charles and his wife, Klotild; photo: http://muellermarianne.wordpress.com/
György Zala: Sarcophagus sculpture of Archduke Joseph Charles and his wife, Klotild (photo: http://muellermarianne.wordpress.com/)

 

Visiting information: being a memorial place you can only visit the crypt by requesting a prior appointment. (Information and booking: +36 20 4397 408 E-mail: info@mng.hu). A guide will accompany you during the visit. The ticket cost is 600 HUF (aprox. 2 EUR) and can be purchased at any of the cashier desks of the Hungarian National Gallery.

Enjoy your visit and send me a feedback! 🙂

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