The first reconstructed historic area of Buda Palace, St. Stephen’s Hall, will open on August 20. One of the main attractions of the room will be the Zsolnay ceramic fireplace, which was destroyed together with the hall in World War II.
The original Zsolnay fireplace was an international success at the 1900 Paris World’s Fair, where outstanding artists and craftsmen including Endre Thék, Rudolf Kissling, Gyula Jungfer and Alajos Strobl participated. Vilmos Zsolnay played a major role in its creation, as both the pyrogranite fireplace and the bust of St. Stephen were made in his factory in Pécs.
Now, experts of the Zsolnay Porcelain Manufactory in Pécs have made a faithful copy of the original work based on archive photos. The fireplace, measuring 4.7 meters high and 2.8 meters wide and weighing nearly one and a half tons, consists of 120 elements and a total of 611 pieces. Each part of the fireplace took eight to ten phases of painting, decorating, and firing before gilding.
After the trial construction in Pécs, the specialists started assembling the fireplace in its final location, in St. Stephen’s Hall, now being fully renovated in the southern connecting wing of Buda Castle. Each element will be joined together with a special adhesive mortar, and a durable frame structure has been created for proper weight distribution. The hall will also feature parquet flooring made of oak, mahogany and American walnut, originally made in the Neuschloss brothers’ factory.
The authentic reconstruction of St. Stephen’s Hall has required the work of craftsmen in areas that are now disappearing. Representatives of seven professions from Pécs to Pápa, hundreds of specialists in total, are working on various elements of the renovation in about 21 workshops across the country.
The project is being implemented within the National Hauszmann Program.