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Castle Hill

The first royal residence on the Castle Hill was built by King Béla IV of Hungary between 1247 and 1265. It is uncertain whether it was situated on the southern tip of the hill or on the northern elevation, near the Kammerhof. The oldest part of the present-day palace was built in the 14th century by Stephen, Duke of Slavonia, who was the younger brother of King Louis I of Hungary. Only the foundations remain of the castle keep, which was known as Stephen's Tower (Hungarian: István-torony). The Gothic palace of King Louis I was arranged around a narrow courtyard next to the keep. King Sigismund significantly enlarged the palace and strengthened its fortifications.

Sigismund, as a Holy Roman Emperor, needed a magnificent royal residence to express his prominence among the rulers of Europe. He chose Buda Castle as his main residence, and during his long reign it became probably the largest Gothic palace of the late Middle Ages. Buda was an important artistic centre of the International Gothic style. Construction began in the 1410s and was largely finished in the 1420s, although some minor works continued until the death of the king in 1437.

The palace was first mentioned in 1437, under the name "fricz palotha". The most important part of Sigismund's palace was the northern wing, known as the Fresh Palace (Hun: Friss-palota). On the top floor was a large hall called the Roman Hall (70 × 20 m or 230 × 66 ft) with a carved wooden ceiling. Great windows and balconies faced toward the city of Buda. The façade of the palace was decorated with statues, a and coat-of-arms. In front stood the bronze equestrian statue of Sigismund, later repaired by King Matthias Corvinus. The southern part of the royal residency was surrounded with narrow zwingers. Two parallel walls, the so-called "cortina walls", run down from the palace to the River Danube across the steep hillside.

The most imposing structure, the Broken Tower (Hun: Csonka-torony), on the western side of the cour d'honneur, remained unfinished. The basement of the tower was used as a dungeon; the top floors were probably the treasury of the royal jewels. The last phase of large-scale building activity took place under King Matthias Corvinus. During the first decades of his reign the king finished the work on the Gothic palace. The Royal Chapel, with the surviving Lower Church, was likely built at that time.

Budapest, Castle Hill, Hungary Budapest Hungary

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