The Irredenta Sculptures

Észak, Kelet; Dél, Nyugat. (Source: Metropolitan Szabó Ervin Library, Budapest. Used by permission.)

The Irredenta Sculptures

Éva Wajda

Four statues of the Irredenta sculpture group, also known as the Hungarian Resurrection Sculpture Group, stood on Freedom Square (Szabadság tér) in Budapest between the two world wars, symbolizing the four torn parts of the country and reflecting the belief that the Trianon injustice could not be accepted.  The idea for the allegorical sculptures came from renowned architect K. Kertész Róbert, adviser to the Ministry of Religion and Education.  At his suggestion, members of the Védőligák Szövetsége, a social organization (Association of Defensive Leagues) commissioned four renowned sculptors of the era to design and create four statues.  His ally in the implementation of this project was Urmánczy Nándor, president of the Regional Protection League.

NORTH by Kisfaludy Stróbl Zsigmond

The main figure of the monument was the three meter high, crucified Hungária.  The cuddly boy symbolized the Slovak nation’s attachment to the motherland.  The unity of the two was protected by the figure of a valiant kuruc fighter advancing with a drawn sword as a reminder that the Slovaks fought for Hungarian freedom in Rákóczi’s army in the early 18th century.

WEST by Sidló Ferenc

The youth symbolized the torn western counties, falling on his knees on the Hungarian Holy Crown and while his right hand embraced the coat of arms of the western counties, preparing to break away from the rest of the country, he clung to the large Hungarian shield with his left.  Above him stood Warlord (Hadak ura, a supposed pagan Hungarian deity),  resting his hand on the young man’s arm who clutched the coat of arms, and held the nation’s sword protectively in his right, with defiance, faith and self-confidence on his face.  Its wings spread, the Turul, the legendary Hungarian eagle was about to take off.

EAST by Pásztor János

The helmeted strong male figure of Csaba, the legendary leader of the Székelys, rose defensively above the fallen figure of the suffering young man symbolizing Transylvania, the torn part of the country, releasing the stripped and chained figure.

SOUTH by Szentgyörgyi István

The main figure of the statue stood with a sword and a shield, decorated with the Hungarian coat of arms, to protect the Swabian girl who symbolized the South.  The sheaf of wheat symbolized Bácska and Bánát, called the food basket of Greater Hungary.

Unveiling of the statues took place on January 16th, 1921.  About 70,000 people were present at the ceremony in Freedom Square.  The inaugural speech was given by Urmáncy Nándor.  Bishop Zadravecz István consecrated the irredenta flag which was later placed in the sanctuary of St. Stephen’s Basilica and every year hence it was carried during the Easter Resurrection procession.

Since their dedication in 1921, the largest revisionist and national rallies took place in the vicinity of the irredenta monuments in Szabadság tér.  This may be the reason that, after World War II on August 14, 1945, the Communist mayor of Budapest, Vas Zoltán, ordered the demolition of the statues.  They were barbarically pulled off their pedestals, possibly by Russian soldiers.

The statues were reportedly kept for years in the basement of St. Stephen’s Basilica and were probably destroyed.

Not far from the U.S. Embassy in Szabadság tér stands the statue of the 40th President of the United States, Ronald Reagan, by Máté István, dedicated on June 29, 2011, 100 years after his birth.  Another sculpture of interest is that of American General Harry Hill Bandholz, by Ligeti Miklós, set up in 1936.  The General is famous for preventing Romanian soldiers from looting and removing artistic treasures from the Hungarian National Museum during the Romanian occupation of the city in 1919 (described in the article on Károlyi Mihály in the May issue of Magyar News Online.)

Source:  Pest-Buda, Alfahír, Wikipedia

Eva Wajda is a member of the Magyar News Online Editorial Board.