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Turul – The Hungarian “Big Bird”

Top: photo Gulyás Attila; bottom: photo Panoramio - Lóránt Orbán

Turul – The Hungarian “Big Bird”

István Arato


The turul is like a large falcon, the biggest bird in Europe, a mythological bird of prey and, in Hungarian tradition, a symbol of the ruling House of Árpád in the 9th and 10th centuries.  Nowadays it is the emblem of the Hungarian Army, the Counter Terrorism Centre and the Office of National Security.  This bird is so important for the Hungarians that the Árpád royal descendents are sometimes called the Turul Dynasty.  At the beginning of the 20th century, the bird was considered as a name for the currency, but “pengő” was chosen instead.

In Tatabánya, a city in northwest Hungary about 55 km (some 34 miles) from Budapest, a  turul memorial was erected.  It is the largest bird statue in Central Europe, located on top of Gerecse Mountain.  The flying wings of the open-beaked bird are made of bronze and are 14 meters (42 feet) across.  It holds a sword between its claws.  

The monument is the creation of sculptor Donáth Gyula, initiated in connection with the 1896 Millennium (which commemorated the Hungarians entering the Carpathian Basin under Árpád’s leadership in 896).  Due to financial difficulties, the statue was inaugurated only in 1907, one thousand years after the Battle of Bánhida (now a part of Tatabánya), in which Árpád’s forces defeated those of Szvatopluk, the Prince of Moravia.

One of the oldest tales from Hungarian history is about Emese, the ancestress of the Árpád Dynasty – which founded the Hungarian Kingdom.  “In the legend, Emese, the wife of Chief Ögyek, was impregnated by a turul bird.  The turul appeared to her in a dream and told her that in her womb a great river would begin, and flow out over strange lands.  According to dream interpreters, this meant that she would give birth to a son who would lead his people out of their home in Levedia, and that her descendants would be glorious Kings.” (Wikipedia)

During the Millennium celebration, some monuments were erected for the prestige of the country, but this turul memorial is one of the most important ones and is a symbol of the city of Tatabánya.  The location is a protected area and offers a great destination for tourists.

István Arato, son of Hungarian immigrant parents, was born in São Paolo, Brazil where he was a journalist. He came to the US in 1996 and now works in the hospitality/restaurant business.  He attends the Hungarian School sponsored by Magyar Studies of America in Fairfield, CT.





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