History of the Chain Bridge in Budapest
The Chain Bridge in Budapest is known as the first stone-bridge linking Pest and Buda that was built to stand the test of time, as well as the second lasting crossing across the river Danube. It is the most famous of all the bridges in the capital of Hungary and a very symbolic part of Budapest.
Count István Széchenyi, who is one of the prominent figures in Hungary in the 18th century, came up with the idea of constructing it. Officially, it is known as Széchenyi Chain Bridge. They began work in 1839, and the plans were designed by William Tierney Clark, a British engineer, and it was financed by a Viennese named Baron György Sina. The construction was carried out under the supervision of a Scottish engineer named Adam Clark, who married a Hungarian lady and lived in Hungary; he also has the Buda part of the bridge named for him. The Chain Bridge was inaugurated on the 20th of November 1849.
The Chain Bridge got its name from the iron chains through which the road-bed is hanged which is held together by two river piers that are 48 meters long with a classicist kind of style. The chain-links were designed with iron plates that are several meters long, linked together with large rivets that make the chain real and give room for movements. The chains were linked through the upper part of the pillars resting on big iron saddles. The chains are constructed in such a way that they hang low between the pillars, and they connect to the riverbanks outside the pillars linking underground with little or no fractures. You can find the chain-chambers deep under the ground where the chain-ends that are descending are anchored by vast blocks of iron tilting towards the chamber walls.
As at when it was being constructed, amongst all the suspension bridges in the world, it had the second largest span. The portals were designed with capstones that are shaped like lionhead and the Hungarian coat of arms as well as a crown and a fury of leaves.
János Marschalkó who is a sculptor, carved the stone lions located at the two abutments. However, they were not put in place until 1852. András Gál casted the coat of arms belonging to the families of Széchenyi and Sina into the plinth on the Buda side. Luckily for them, they were able to survive the havoc wrecked by the Second World War. A Well-known myth of the Budapest is that the chain Bridge’s lions do not possess tongues. These myths however, are not based on facts because the lions actually have tongues which can only be viewed from up.
To enable the people coming from the Pest side proceed to towards the north, they have to walk round the Castle Hill from the Buda end. On the 10th of February 1853, exactly four years after the Chain bridge was completed, they stated constructing a tunnel through the hill using the plans designed by Adam Clark. The tunnel was opened for people to come in by foot on the 6th of March 1856, and it was opened for vehicles on April 30 1857. It has a length of 350 meters and is connected through the under of the Buda Castle to the opposite end of the hill. Its length is the same as that of the Chain Bridge leading to several anecdotes about the tunnel being constructed to protect the Chain Bridge from the weather when it rains. The Chain Bridge end of the tunnel’s entrance was appropriately designed in a classicist type of style.
Towards the close of the century, the bridge started to experience more traffic which made it necessary for it to be fortified. Therefore, a decision was arrived at to have the entire iron work replaced. They started work on the conversion in 1913. It appeared that there might be need to widen the bridge, but they quickly discarded the plan because they were not ready to affect the bridge’s pillars. They had to be careful not to alter the bridge’s appearance as they embarked on the modifications, in other to come up with a structure that was similar to the original version leaving visible parts of the structures unchanged. They fortified the major pillars to prevent them from being displaced in the event of a stronger pulling force. They reopened the power bridge on November 27th 1915 and renamed it Széchenyi Chain Bridge.
In the year 1918, there was another significant variation in the story of the Chain Bridge: they completely got rid of bridge money.
As the Second World War came to an end, German troops that were fleeing blew all the Budapest bridges, including the Chain Bridge on the 18th day of January 1945. The bridge was almost completely obliterated with only the pillars left standing. In the spring of the year 1947, a decision was arrived at to rebuild the bridge. They immediately began work on the construction: they extended pillar portals, broadened abutments, brought down custom houses, built a subway for pedestrians at the Buda side and completed the tram subway on the Pest end. On the 20th of November 1949 exactly a hundred years after its first inauguration, the people of Budapest were given another opportunity to possess one of the most celebrated edifices in the city.
In 1937, they installed the bridges first festive light in preparation for a visit from Victor Emmanuel III who was an Italian king, and Schuschnigg, the Austrian Chancellor. The present lighting is made up of two parts: the top and the down parts of the pillars which are lit up through reflectors. Also, a beading of light bulbs is connected through the upper chains as well as the pavement’s edges to highlight the ironwork’s shape.
The Budapest City Protection Society, also inserted a plaque which was written in two languages in the plinth of one of the candlesticks located at the southern point of Roosevelt Square at the Pest end, and it goes like this: “To remember the only two bridges that survived and was designed by William Tierney Clark: The suspension bridge over the Thames at Marlow – England and the Széchenyi Chain Bridge over the Danube at Budapest.” You can also find a similar text at the plaque located at the Marlow Bridge. The Hungarian Science Academy building which was inaugurated on the 11th of December 1865 at the Roosevelt square is also located there. An illustrious sample of Hungary’s Art Nouveau known as Gresham Palace, can also be found right in front of the Chain Bridge at is Pest side. Right now it is used as a branch of the “Four Seasons Hotels”.
The entire bridge is 380 meters long and 14,8 meters wide. It has two traffic lanes which are both 6.45 meters wide long with pavements on both rims that affords you a beautiful view of the parliament when walking on the Pest end. The river Danube’s dark surface reflects the Chain Bridge as well as the parliament’s glittering night light merged together with the lights from the city. If you want to enjoy the front view of the parliament, walk ten minutes away from the Buda side of the bridge towards the north to Batthyány Square.
There’s a square at the Buda side of the bridge which was named for Adam Clark. Its middle is adorned with beautiful flowers from spring down to autumn. There is also a wired looking oval stone there, with the “0” milestone carved out by Miklós Borsos. It has been on the south-western area of the square for as far back as 1975, and it is used to signify the fact that all the major roads in Hungary started from there, which makes it the starting point for counting kilometers. The square also holds one of the Buda Hill Funicular termini that can carry you up to the Buda Castle within a few minute, where you can be treated to a lovely view of the Budapest and the Chain Bridge.
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