It was a sensation in its own time; no similar bridge like this was built for 23 years, reports.

The building of the Elizabeth Bridge over the Danube was the outstanding performance of Hungarian structural engineers and that of the industry: after its handover, it was a world record-holder for almost a quarter-century, a Danube-recorder for seventy years, and the only bridge crossing the river without a river pier.

It was named after Empress Elizabeth, but sadly, she could not see the inauguration as she was murdered in Geneva, in 1898. Almost 70 years passed since it has been blown up by the retreating German troops in January, 1945. Nearly 20 years had to pass until it was rebuilt in 1964.

Its construction (along with Franz Joseph Bridge) was regulated by Act XIV. of 1893. 74 plans arrived to the international design tender of the two bridges, 15 of which were Hungarian, but there were some American, Italian, Austrian, German, and French plans, as well.

The international tender (held in 1894) was won by Julus Kübler, the chief engineer of Maschinenfabrik Esslingen, alongside with Eisenlohr and Weigle (architects from Stuttgart); yet, the plan of a cable bridge could not make it to production. There were practical reasons for choosing the plan of a chain bridge: instead of cables manufactured abroad, the ironwork could be produced from domestic materials through domestic work. The resolution of the ministry caused heated debates among professionals which finally restrained when the Elizabeth Bridge was finished and achieved a worldwide recognition.

erzsebet bridge-budapest

The bridge was a true technical sensation in its own time: it crosses the Danube 290 m long without a river pier. The implementation plans were made by the Ministry of Trade Affairs, led by Aurél Czekelius. Its aesthetic appearance praises the work of architect Virgil Nagy. During the design, the latest structures of the turn of the century were used.

Construction started only years after the tendering, in the spring of 1898. The main reason for the delay was the chaos around the urban planning of the downtown of Pest. Since the axis of the bridge necessarily had to be connected to Hatvani Street (Kossuth Lajos Street today), the breakdown of certain buildings was inevitable. Two valuable and fascinating buildings stood in the way: the old City Hall of Pest and the Inner City Parish Church.

The construction was completed in the fall of 1903; the bridge was opened to traffic on 16 October, 1903. Ten years later, trams transported people on the bridge, too. It weighs 11.170 tons, the total cost was more than 12 and a half million crowns.

Elizabeth Bridge in its original form could be the Queen of the Danube for hardly 40 years: the German forces blew up the bridge on 18 January, 1945. Only one of the four charges exploded; the bridgehead on Pest remained standing, reminding everyone of the devastation of war until the beginning of the construction of the new bridge.

It was the last Danube bridge in Budapest to be renovated. It was controversial whether it is worth to repair the old bridge at its old place, or a completely new bridge should be built. Finally, based on the plans of Pál Sávoly, the reconstruction took place between 1961 and 1964.

The renewed bridge (nearly 10 m wider than the old one) was opened to traffic on 21 November, 1964. However, due to the dynamic effect of the trams, the bridge started to crack; the tram transport was terminated on the bridge after the completion of Metro Line 2 mainly for this reason.

The illumination of the rebuilt bridge was designed and implemented by György Vitéz Csákány between 1963 and ’64. Today’s floodlight got ready in October, 2009, and was officially inaugurated on 17 November, 1964. As a gift, Japan bore half of the costs.

based on article of 
translated by Vivien Pásztai

Photo: MTI – Zsolt Szigetvary


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