Labyrinth of Buda Castle

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The Labyrinth of Buda Castle was the biggest and the best-arranged part of the cave system under Buda Castle that could be visited.

It first gained international reputation in 2000, when it was ranked among the 50 most interesting places of the world, thanks to the program “Labyrinth of Lanterns”. It is among Budapest's Top 10 most famous and visited cultural attractions, and was regarded as one of the 7 underground Wonders of the World. [1]


The unique calcareous tuff caves of the Castle Hill were created as an effect of the hot water springs at the dawn of the history of the Earth. These caves then served as refuge as well as hunting ground for the prehistoric man (the “Hunter of Buda”) appearing half a million years ago. For economic and military purposes these originally smaller caves were connected and they got also connected to the cellarage of the Castle District's houses. It was used for wine-cellars, torture chambers, jails or treasury during the Middle Ages. The cellars were turned into a shelter and military hospital in the 1930s. At that time the whole cave system could accommodate about ten thousand people at a time. Reinforced – and also disfigured – with concrete, it served as a military installation during the Cold War. In the short interceptions of military utilization and especially since the end of the Cold War, there have been initiatives to turn the labyrinth to cultural uses. A cave museum opened then reopened, and in the early 1980s, the first exhibition of wax figures in Hungary was set up here. However, none of these fulfilled the expectations: the time of wax works and of history closed in vitrines was up. The widely known exhibitions and programs of the Labyrinth of Buda Castle of 1984–2011 are no longer available but they labyrinth is currently open and can be visited.

Cultural programs (1984–2011)

A significant reconstruction work took place in the Labyrinth in 1996–97. During this the Labyrinth was extended to over 4000 square meters and it regained its pre-war look as far as it was possible. From then on the word “labyrinth” determines the cultural and spiritual profile of the Labyrinth of Buda Castle. In the present context “labyrinth” is a web of paths leading to our world, our history, or ourselves, which, given sufficient resolve, can be charted here. Looking back from the middle or from the end, the area visitors cover will appear as an ordered, meaningful fabric of individual lives and historical destinies rather than a bewildering maze.

Among the cultural sites of Hungary, the Labyrinth of Buda Castle was the first one to introduce round-the-clock opening, on every day of the year in March 2011. Parallel with that the Labyrinth of Buda Castle has introduced a new night-time program: the Wanderings with The Great Ones of Europe. In the new, one-person wanderings the visitors only receive a Labyrinth lantern and the labyrinth-thread leading to ourselves is represented by the visions and impulses of influential authors from Europe. The visitors may choose a leader from such authors as Dante, Shakespeare, Goethe, Kafka; the Hungarian greats, like Attila József, Ady or Pilinszky, but composers such as Mozart, Vivaldi or Liszt may also be chosen.

The European Pantheon opened in Spring 2011, and was open to visitors in day-time. This exhibition includes everyday, useless stuff bearing names of gods – showing objects collected in 37 European countries over 25 years. The Pantheon demonstrates the loss of connection between humans and the Gods in an astonishing way, implying the position of today’s men on Earth and their relation to Heaven and those from Heaven.[2]

Besides the new programs the Labyrinth of Buda Castle invited its visitors to its well-known and famous programs of “Labyrinth with Lanterns”, “Labyrinth of Courage” and the Labyrinth Walk, as well as to all its children's programs.

The widely known exhibitions and programs of the Labyrinth of Buda Castle of 1984–2011 are no longer available.

There is not much information around what really happened when it was closed.

On 29 July 2011 the police and members of the Inspectorate for the Environment stormed the Labyrinth of Buda Castle. Large numbers of Hungarian and foreign tourists were simply forced to leave the system of cellars. Foreign tourists were at a loss to understand the reasons of the raid and many believed there had been an attempted or actual terror attack.

The staff of the Labyrinth were equally shocked. They were ordered to gather their belongings immediately, during which time they were prohibited from going anywhere without surveillance, and the female staff were not even allowed to lock the toilet door.

The headquarters and the offices of the Labyrinth of Buda Castle were force-evacuated with immediate effect, preventing in a premeditated way the Company from doing its business, building its defence in various court proceedings and even from being available.Template:Citation needed

Various individuals and organisations have since 2002 sought to snatch the rights to the area and, in actions including the recent raid, to nationalise or usurp it in a way that the Company operating the system of cellars should not have to be compensated for the thirty years of technical, intellectual, tourism and marketing investments it has put into the Labyrinth, and worse, to discredit the Company in every possible way.

After many illegal acquisition attempts were foiled in court, yet another unwarranted, forceful police action took place in 2008 on the premises of the Labyrinth. All accusations were denied and the brutal and illegal actions condemned in all proceedings and on every level of court, and the Company won the case.Template:Citation needed

The recent attack differs from the 2008 raid in that this time the interested circles are seeking to establish an irreversible situation (through judicial vacations, depriving the Company of its own offices, etc.). The director of the Middle-Danube-Valley Inspectorate for Environmental Protection lied without batting an eyelid to the cameras, as he did in press releases published in several electronic or printed media.Template:Citation needed Cited as conclusive evidence, the fact that the Supreme Court rejected the submissions of the Company is simply not true. Most of the director's statements were false or unjustified, merely serving to legitimise the atrocities that provoked a public outcry. Moreover, the Inspectorate never submitted to the appellate body the petition for the suspension of execution.Template:Citation needed

In 2008 it was the lack of a tourism permission, this time it is the lack of a land use permit and damage to the environment that is being referred to. The fact that we are looking at pretexts for nationalisation is confirmed by the fact that the exhibitions of the Labyrinth of Buda Castle—built over the past 30 years and unchanged since—have been known to the Inspectorate for decades and it has never raised any objection.Template:Citation needed

Pictures (1984–2011)