1902 Encyclopedia > Pesth

(part of modern-day Budapest)

PESTH, the chief town of Hungary and the second of the Austrian-Hungarian monarchy, is situated on the left bank of the Danube, 140 miles to the south-east of Vienna, in 47° 29' 10" N. lat. and 19° 2' 56" E.long. Since 1873 it has formed one municipality with BUDA (q.v.) on the opposite bank, and the joint city, officially styled Buda-pest (Ger. Pest-Ofen), is the capital of Hungary, the second residence of the Austrian emperor, the seat of the Hungarian ministry, diet, and supreme courts, and the headquarters of the commander of the Honveds or Hun-garian landwehr.

The imposing size of the Danube, here somewhat wider than the Thames at London, and the sharp contrast of the two banks, place Budajjest among the most finely-situated of the larger towns of Europe. On the one side is a flat sandy plain in which lies Pesth, modern of aspect, regularly laid out, and presenting a long frontage of handsome white buildings to the river. On the other the ancient town of Buda straggles capriciously over a series of small and steep hills, commanded by the fortress and the Blocksberg, and backed by spurs of the vine-clad mountains beyond. The Danube is crossed by three bridges; the fine suspension bridge constructed by the brothers Clark in 1842-49, at a cost of £440,000; the iron Margarethenbriicke, a little farther up, dating from 1872-76; and a long railway bridge at the lower end of the town.

Budapest is divided into ten municipal districts, three of which are on the right bank and belong to Buda. The nucleus of the town on the left bank is formed by the inner town or old Pesth on the Danube, in a semicircle round which lie the districts of Leopoldstadt, Theresien-stadt. Elisabethstadt, Josephstadt, and Fraiizstadt, while

13. Academy of Music.
14. Exhibition. l.r». Ludoviceum.

16. Synagogue.
17. Post Office.
18. Palace.

1. New Building.
2. Academy.
3. Exchange.
4. Eedoute.
5. Carl's Barracks.
6. Parish Church.
Plan of Pesth.
7. Town House.
8. National Museum.
9. National Theatre.

10. Custom House.
11. Opera House.
12. Leopold Church.
19. Arsenal.

to the east of these is the outer district of Steinbruch. Perhaps the most attractive part of Pesth is the line of broad quays on the Danube, which extend for a distance of 2J miles, from the Margarethenbriicke to the custom-house, and are lined with imposing white buildings. The inner town, part of which is somewhat irregularly built, is separated from the other quarters by a ring of spacious boulevards on the site of the old wall, and the lines of demarcation between the different districts also consist of wide tree-shaded streets, mostly paved with asphalt. Most of the larger public buildings are in the Leopoldstadt, which shares in the fine frontage on the Danube, or in the handsome new Radial Strasse, which traverses the Theresiehstadt, with a width of 100 to 150 feet. Pesth covers more ground than most towns of a similar popula-tion on account of the large number of one-storied houses, which form 70 per cent, of its buildings (as compared with 8 per cent, in Paris, 3 per cent, in Leipsic, &c).

Though of ancient origin, Pesth has nothing to show in the shape of venerable buildings ; and the modern edifices may perhaps be described as more noticeable for the general air of prosperity they diffuse than for marked individual merit. The oldest ecclesiastical edifice is the parish church, dating from 1500, while the university church and those of the Leopoldstadt and the Franzstadt are the best of the more modern structures. The synagogue, however, is finer in many respects than any of its Christian rivals. The long range of substantial buildings fronting the Danube includes the new houses of parliament, the academy, the exchange, the redoute, a large structure in a mixed Romanesque and Moorish style, erected for balls and other tocial purposes, the Greek church, the parish church, the old town-house, the extensive custom-house at the lower end of the quays, and several fine hotels and insurance offices. In the Radial Strasse are the new opera-house, the academy of music, the exhibition build-ing, and the national drawing-school. The largest building in Pesth is the so-called New Building, in the Leopoldstadt, erected by Joseph II., and covering as much ground as an ordinary London square. It is at present used as artillery barracks ; and the Carl's Barracks in the inner town, also used for housing troops, are little inferior in size. Another large military establishment is the Ludoviceum, or officers' college, at the south-east end of the town. The remaining buildings remarkable for their size or interest are the new town-house, the post-office, the national museum, the theatres (of which there are about half a dozen), and the palaces of several of the Hungarian magnates. To the south-east of the town lie the new slaughter-houses, which are admirably fitted up, and, with the adjacent cattle-market, cover nearly 30 acres of ground.

The artistic and scientific culture of Pesth, and indeed of Hungary, finds its most conspicuous outward expression in the academy of sciences and the national museum, two large and handsome modern buildings. The academy, founded for the encouragement of the study of the Hungarian language and the various sciences, possesses a library of 100,000 volumes, and harbours the national picture gallery, a good collection of 700 to 800 works, formed by Prince Eszterh&zy, and purchased for £130,000. The national museum contains extensive collections of antiquities, natural history, and ethnology, a gallery of mediocre paintings, and a library of 150,000 printed volumes and 12,000 documents. Pesth also possesses numerous societies for the cultivation of science and art, most of which, however, limit their usefulness by publish-ing their proceedings in the Magyar tongue alone. The university of Pesth, the only one in Hungary proper, was established at Tyrnau in 1635, removed to Buda in 1777, and transferred to Pesth in 1783. It is attended by up-wards of 2000 students, and possesses the usual medical and scientific collections, an admirable chemical labora-tory, a botanic garden, and a library of 120,000 volumes. Pesth also contains a Protestant theological college and a rabbinical institute. The second place among the educa-tional establishments of the town is taken by the Poly-technic Institute, with its three faculties of applied chemistry, engineering and architecture, and mechanics; it is attended by about 1000 students. The other schools comprise six gymnasia, six normal seminaries, and a large number of special and elementary schools, in spite of which 32 per cent, of the adult population were unable to read or write in 1880. The charitable institutions of the city are on a liberal scale. Characteristic of Budapest is the large number of its public baths, the most interest-ing of which are at Buda.

In commerce and industry Budapest is by far the most important town in Hungary, and in the former, if not also in the latter, it is second to Vienna alone in the Austrian-Hungarian monarchy. The chief articles of manufacture are machinery, railway plant, carriages, gold and silver wares, chemicals, cutlery, starch, tobacco, and the usual articles produced in large towns for home consumption. The great staple of trade is grain, of which about 4|- million bushels are brought into the town annually. One-fourth of this amount merely passes through Pesth, while most of the remainder is ground into flour and exported in this form. Other important articles of commerce are wine, wool, cattle, timber, hides, honey, Wax, and "siivovitza,'* an in-ferior spirit made from plums. The imports, so far as they do not belong to the transit trade, consist chiefly of manu-factured articles and colonial produce. The four annual fairs, formerly attended by many thousand customers, have now lost much of their importance. The swine market of Steinbruch is the largest in Hungary, about half a million animals being annually disposed of. The trade of Pesth is in great part carried on by the Danube, the navigation of which has increased enormously since the introduction of steamboats in 1830; but the town is also connected by railway with all the chief places of Austria and Hungary.

The largest and most popular of the public gardens and promenades in Pesth itself is the Stadtwaldchen on the north-east side, with its pleasant lake and trees. A still more delightful resort, however, is the Margaret Island, a long narrow island in the Danube, laid out in the style of an English park, with fine trees, velvety turf, and a group of villas and bath-houses.

Few European towns have grown so rapidly as Pesth during the present century, and probably none has witnessed such a thorough transformation in the last twenty years. In 1780 Pesth was still a badly-built town of the third rank, with only 13,500 inhabitants, and it was not till 1799 that its population (29,000) surpassed that of Buda (24,000). By 1840, however, Buda had added but 14,000 souls to its population, while that of Pesth had more than doubled ; and of the joint population of 270,000 in 1869 fully 200,000 fell to the share of Pesth. In 1880 the population of Budapest was 370,767 souls, including a garrison of 10,000 men, showing an increase since 1869 of 32 per cent., and since 1800 of an average of 6 per cent, per annum. Of this total 198,746 were returned as having Hungarian for their mother-tongue, 119,902 as Germans, and 21,581 as Slovaks. Divided according to religious sects, we find 242,981 Roman Catholics, 70,879 Jews, 42,254 Protestants, and 3014 members of the Greek Church. Of these the Jews show the greatest relative increase since 1869 (56 per cent.) and the Roman Catholics the least. Of the gross increase of population in Hungary between 1869 and 1880 no less than two-thirds are due to Budapest alone, which in the same interval rose from the twenty-third to the fifteenth place among the towns of Europe. About 25 per cent, of the population are supported by trade and industry, 20 per cent, are engaged in service, and 4 per cent, belong to the professional and official classes. Nearly 50 per cent., including women and children, are returned as belonging to the non-working classes, but less than 1 per cent, are described as living on their capital or property. In spite of the large proportion of one-storied houses, the ratio of inhabitants to each dwelling-house is somewhat high (33, as compared with 8 in London, 35 in Paris, and 59 in Vienna).

As Paris is sometimes said to be France, so may Pesth with almost greater truth be said to be Hungary. Its composite population is a faithful reflexion of the heterogeneous elements in the empire of the Hapsburgs, and the trade and industry of Hungary are centralized at Pesth in a way that can scarcely be affirmed of any other Euro-pean capital. In virtue of its museum and academy it is also the scientific centre of Hungary, and nine-tenths of all books in the Magyar tongue are published here. The average rate per head of imperial taxation is five or six times as great in Pesth as in the rest of Hungary. The recent patriotic movement in favour of Magyarizing all institutions has found its strongest development in Pesth, where the German names have all been removed from the streets and buildings. It is found, too, that the children of German parents born in Pesth easily become Magyarized, while a survey of Hungary at large during the last sixty years shows a relative increase of barely 1 per cent, in the Hungarian as opposed to the German tongue. The inhabitants are good-natured, hos-pitable, and fond of luxury and display. The upper classes are much addicted to sports of all kinds, and cultivate horse-racing, fox-hunting, and rowing with energy and success. Almost the only popular festival of importance is that of St Stephen on the 20th August, when thousands of people flock to inspect the relics of that saint in the palace-church of Buda.

History.—The origin of Pesth proper is obscure, but the name, apparently derived from the old Slavonic "pestj," a stove (like Ofen, the German name of Buda), seems to point to an early Slavonic settlement. The Romans never gained a foothold on this side of the river, though Aquincum, on the site of old Buda, is believed, from the extant remains, to have contained about 80,000 inhabit-ants. When it first appears in history Pesth was essentially a German settlement, and a chronicler of the 13th century describes it as "Villa Teutonica ditissima." Christianity was introduced early in the 11th century. In 1241 Pesth was destroyed by the Tatars, after whose departure in 1244 it was created a royal free city by Bela IV., and repeopled with colonists of various national-ities. The succeeding period seems to have been one of consider-able prosperity, though Pesth was completely eclipsed by the sister-town of Buda with its fortress and palace. In 1526 Pesth was taken and pillaged by the Turks, and from 1541 to 1686 Buda was the seat of a Turkish pasha. Pesth in the meantime entirely lost its importance, and on the departure of the Turks was left little more than a heap of rains. Its favourable situation and the renewal of former privileges helped it to revive, and in 1723 it became the seat of the highest Hungarian officials. Maria Theresa and Joseph II. did much to increase its importance, but the rapid growth wdiich enabled it completely to outstrip Buda belongs entirely to the 19th century. A signal proof of its vitality was given in 1838 by the speed and ease with which it recovered from a disastrous inundation that destroyed 3000 houses. In 1848 Pesth became the seat of the revolutionary diet, but in the following year the insurgents had to retire before the Austrians under Windischgràtz. A little later the Austrians had to retire in their turn, leaving a garrison in the fortress of Buda, and, while the Hungarians en-deavoured to capture this position, General Hentzi retaliated by bombarding Pesth, doing great damage to the town. The inhabit-ants to the number of 80,000 took refuge in the Stadtwaldchen. Between 1867 and 1873 Pesth is said to have doubled in size, and during the last four or five years the building activity has been little if at all inferior.

See Haeufler, " Budapest," Historische Skizzen, I. Abth. (1854) ; Hevesi, Budapest und seine Umgebungen (1873) ; Sturm, Kult.urbild.er aus Budapest (Leipsic, 1876); Heksch, Illustrierter Fiilirer durch Budapest (1882); Korosi, Die Haupstadt Budapest ini Jahre 1881 ; publications of the Statistical Bureau in Budapest. (J. F. M.)

The above article was written by: J. F. Muirhead.

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