Sándor Palace, Budapest
Southeastern façade of the palace
|Location||Szent György tér
|Construction started||around 1803|
|Design and construction|
|Architect||Mihály Pollack and Johann Aman|
The Sándor Palace ("Alexander Palace", Hungarian: Sándor-palota) in Budapest, Hungary is the official residence of the President of Hungary and the seat of the Office of the President, both since January 22, 2003. Sándor Palace is the 37th biggest palace in present-day Hungary.
The original palace was built in about 1803, and completed in about 1806. Count Vincent Sándor commissioned it, and the palace was named after him. However, it was not Vincent Sándor, who was more of a philosopher, but his son, Móric Sándor, that was better known in Budapest and Vienna, with his fame for acrobatic jousts.
The palace belonged to Archduke Albrecht, the Imperial Governor of Hungary, until the failed Hungarian Revolution of 1848, when the palace, and its adjacent buildings facing the square, were rented as government offices. The most prestigious tenant was the Hungarian Prime Minister Gyula Andrássy, who in 1867 leased it for the Hungarian government from the Pallavicini family. He would later obtain ownership rights for the building following a property swap.
Andrassy renovated the building, which by then was badly in need of repair, with the help of the architect Miklós Ybl. He renovated the ground floor and used it as his offices, while the first floor became his residence. In all, nineteen Hungarian Prime Ministers lived in the palace, each adapting the building to his own tastes.
Destruction in the Second World War
After Hungary became independent in 1919, Sándor Palace continued as the Prime Minister's residence until World War II. In 1941, during the war, the grief-stricken Pál Teleki committed suicide in the palace. Less than four years later, Allied aircraft bombed Sándor Palace, and the building was left as a miserable heap of stones. Anything in the palace that was of value was taken as war bounty. Although the ruins did not fall victim to the bulldozer, the palace remained neglected until the Revolutions of 1989.
Following the change of the political system in Hungary in 1989, and thanks to a devoted team of restoration workers, a roof was erected over the ruins and the walls were supported. Over the years, Sándor Palace was gradually restored to its former glory and the interior renovated in 2002. Most of the furnishings and objects are replicas of the originals that had been destroyed.
The restoration was conducted on the basis of the original blueprints, recovered in 1983, and the detailed history of contemporary maps.
The southwest façade of the palace, which faces the square, features a pair of light green doors with the inscription Köztársasági Elnöki Hivatal (Hungarian: President of the Republic's Office) immediately above. On the iron balustrade above the inscription, is the modern coat of arms of Hungary, flanked by the Hungarian and European Union flags.
The southeast façade of the palace has a similar pair of light green doors with no inscription. On the iron balustrade above these doors, the Hungarian and EU flags appear alongside the former Hungarian coat of arms, which depict Hungary quartered with Dalmatia, Croatia, Slavonia, Fiume and Transylvania. Above the first floor on the southeast side is a tympanum, in imitation of Graeco-Roman architecture, with the Roman numeral MDCCCVI (1806, the year of the completion of the original palace).
Visitors can enter the building via the southern main gate and the main staircase. The staircase has a mellow glistening surface and elegant gold-plated cast iron railings.
The entrance lobby is decorated with simple striped damask tapestries, and the walls are lined with Biedermeier chairs, in accordance with function.
The Round Salon houses an identical replica of the original floor designed in 1928 by Rezső Hikisch. The walls are white and the ceiling is adorned with murals. The objects and the statues in the niches all replicate those originally housed in the palace.
The Small Empire Salon once linked the private and public parts of the palace. Today the President uses this room for informal meetings. A recently discovered series of panels featuring mythological figures by Károly Lotz line the walls as a frieze, and an octagonal picture of a goddess was added to the ceiling.
The Blue Salon, or Gobelin Hall, is the most exquisite room in the palace with its baroque-style furniture and is used for larger meetings.
The Red Salon, or Maria Theresa Salon, is the most elegant room in the palace. It previously featured a portrait of Empress Maria Theresa, which is lost. Its place is now occupied by a portrait of the Empress dressed for her coronation as Queen of Hungary. The murals in the room were designed by Miklós Ybl. The room was especially tailored in memory of the Reconciliation between the monarch and the government, thus it contains no portraits of Hungarian Presidents or Prime Ministers which are prominent in other rooms.
The lavish Hall of Mirrors is used by the President for very formal events, such as the reception of ambassadors.
The President's Conference Room is located in the southwest corner of the palace. It has views overlooking the Danube and Buda Castle and was entirely reconstructed in the 1990s after the original room was destroyed.
The President's Study, based on a 1920s design, was originally the Ministers' Waiting Room. Portraits of former Prime Ministers line the walls.
The Tea Salon overlooks the central courtyard and portraits of the jouster Móric Sándor line the walls.
The Knights' Hall, in the northeast corner of the palace, was formerly used as the stables. The red stone horse troughs still survive. The room was later used for press conferences, and is still sometimes used for this purpose today.
The palace is occasionally open to the public at weekends during the summer months, and sometimes hosts exhibitions about the Hungarian political system.