Gellert Hill is situated in Buda, right near the Danube River, and measures 140 m. The name was given after St. Gellert who had arrived in Hungary at the request of King Stephan, his purpose being to convert the Hungarian population to Christianity. But he was not welcomed with open arms. On the contrary, several heathens did not approve of his religious beliefs and his intent to change their ways so they put him into a barrel and threw him down the hill into the Danube.
In order to commemorate the death of the bishop, a statue was erected in his honor on the north-eastern side of the hill. The statuette is enormous and illustrates a man holding a cross in his right hand, a clear symbol of the bishop’s scope in Hungary: that of spreading the Christian religion in these lands.
Besides the cultural and historical significance, the Gellert Hill is also important due to its hydrologic characteristics: an important part of Budapest’s clean water reserve is located in a tank inside the hill.
Gellert Hill also bears an essential strategic position, and the Habsburgs had no trouble in noticing this truth. As a consequence, they have erected a fortress on top of the hill right after managing to suppress the revolution of 1848 and the independence war. The purpose of the citadel was obvious – the Habsburgs wanted to remind the rebels that they were in power and that nobody could overthrow their ruling. It is no wonder that at that particular time the citadel was one of the most hated places in all of Budapest.
At the end of the 19th century, the citadel was no longer in the hands of the Habsburgs, having been now administered by the local council. In order to mark this moment, several sections of the citadel have been destroyed, symbolically representing the fall of the Habsburg dynasty.
From then onward, the citadel has changed its scope several times. It has been a prison, a temporary shelter for the homeless, and the base for air defense artillery. But from the 1960’s onward, the citadel has become one of the most important tourist objectives in Budapest. It is definitely worthwhile to climb up the Gellert Hill and visit the citadel.
If you are not that into historical facts, which is definitely a shame since the place carries historical importance, you will at least appreciate the impressive scenery, and the breathtaking image you are bound to gaze upon from atop the hill. There is a museum located within the citadel, but there is a tax that you ought to pay in order to get access within. The ticket is of 300 Hungarian forints, but exchanging this amount into euros you will find out that the tax is a little over one euro.
In front of the citadel one will encounter the Statue of Liberty, a female statuette of immense proportions which can be seen almost from every part of the city. This has become the symbol of Hungary as it commemorates the moment when Hungary had free itself from under the Nazi oppression.
Apparently, the initial design of the statue was quite different. This was intended as bearing a sword in its arm but during the construction work the Nazi regime had been substituted by Communism. As a consequence, the design of the statue was changed so that the sword was transformed into a palm leaf, and an additional element was used: the statue of a Soviet soldier was placed at the base.
But when the communist regime fell, all of the statues which commemorated that period were removed – they were either destroyed or transferred at the edge of the city, in the Park of Statues. However, the Statue of Liberty was preserved in its original position. Only the Soviet soldier and the names of the soldiers from the Red Army who had perished in the Siege of Budapest were removed.
Nowadays it is impossible to think how Budapest would look without the Statue of Liberty. This goes to show that the monument is an important part of the city, which contributes to the defining of Budapest.
Gellert Hill is also home to a little church which was constructed in a natural cave in 1926. The church functioned until the 50s when the Communists had arrested the Magyar monks located here and had executed their leader. The result of this ‘intervention’ was obvious: the church was closed.
And it remained as such up until 1989 when the wall which had concealed the cave was torn down. Since then and up until the present-day the church has been opened for visitations. In the central chapel of the church, one can notice the statue representing Saint Paul with a raven on his shoulder. The reason for which this statuette exists is that the Saint is said to have lived in the cave for a number of years, with only a raven as companion.
Tourists can visit the church from 8:00 to 19:00, regardless of the day of the week and entrance within the church is toll-free.