To connect the two cities in the capital of Hungary, Budapest the first permanent suspension bridge constructed was The Chain Bridge which is officially known as Széchenyi lánchíd. This suspension bridge connects the western city Buda and the eastern city Pest over the river Danube and is the most widely known Bridge in Budapest.
Till the year 1836, the only way to cross the Danube River and reach the other city was by taking a temporary bridge which was available only in summers. During winters it had to be disassembled to protect the bridge from drift ice. At that time of the year one would have to take a ferry in order to travel between Buda and Pest. In 1836 a prominent statesman in Europe, count István Széchenyi couldn’t attend his father’s funeral due to a halt in ferry service and decided to build a permanent bridge over the river. The work of its construction was given to an English civil engineer William Tierney under the supervision of Scottish engineer Adam Clark. When the construction was to be started William Tierney had already designed two suspension bridges over Thames in London that’s why he had the right kind of experience for this project. After the count’s name Chain bridge was named as Széchenyi and it was opened in November 20, 1849. At the Buda end of the bridge, a square is named after Adam Clark which is decorated with flowers and has milestone “0” in form of an oval shaped stone carving. This carving was done by Miklós Borsos.
The Chain Bridge is 375 meter (1230ft) long and 16 meter wide. It contains two traffic lanes which are 6.45 meter wide each along with pavements at the rims. One can walk over these pavements and explore the magnificent view of the cities. The decorations over the bridge are made of cast iron and the bridge stands on just two towers. These support the span with huge iron chains. Thus the name lánchid, Hungarian for chain, was given to the bridge. Other than these chains, there are large lion shaped capstones made with stone which decorate the sides of the bridge over its portals. These were made by the sculptor János Marschalkó and give the Chain Bridge its characteristic style. There is an urban legend widespread in Budapest that these lions do not have any tongues, however that’s not the fact and these lions do have tongues but they are very small and can be seen only from above. All of this has made the Chain bridge an engineering and architectural marvel in itself.
In 1913, looking at the increased traffic over the bridge, it was decided to forfeit the bridge and reconstruct certain parts by replacing the existing ironwork. The work of broadening of the bridge and other slight modifications were done without changing the original design and appearance of the bridge. The bridge again opened on 27 November, 1915 for traffic and was rechristened as Széchenyi Chain Bridge.
During the War of Independence, the bridge risked the wrath of Austrians who tried to destroy it but could not be successful at doing so. But later on, near the end of the Second World War, in order to stop the Red Army from progressing, the Chain Bridge was blown up by Germans. Except the pillars, the bridge was almost completely destroyed. However it was reconstructed and was one of the first structures to be rebuilt after the Second World War. After its reconstruction it was made open to the public on 20 November, 1929 which was exactly 100 years after its original inauguration.
The construction of Chain Bridge has helped Budapest with its economy and has evolved the two cities Buda and Pest into fast growing metropolitan cities. It has a special significance as a symbol of Independence in Hungary and the bridge radiates calmness, dignity and balance which has provided it with a reputation of a high stature in Europe. The Chain Bridge also symbolizes national awakening and advancement.
Along with being a modern world’s engineering wonder, the Chain Bridge also has gained immense popularity through various entertainment industries. The Chain Bridge appeared in the 2002 movie Spy and also it features in the beginning of a popular Katy Perry song, Fireworks. The film fraternity of Indian Cinema, Bollywood has also showcased this Hungarian bridge in the climax of a blockbuster movie Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam.
The Chain Bridge of Budapest is undoubtedly a wonderful piece of architecture and holds a peculiar significance for the citizens of Budapest. But it is also a visual delight that makes many tourists want to visit and explore the beauty captivated in here. While walking over the pavements of the bridge one can see the Parliament at the Pest side which gives an astounding view especially at the night. The dark water of the River Danube reflects the lights of the Parliament and the city giving the passer-by a visual delight. If one takes a walk from the Buda end towards the Batthyány Square, they can also view the front of the Parliament and admire its exceptional beauty.