The Chain Bridge’s first birth, 20th November 1849, was the day of its inauguration. On 18th January 1945, the withdrawing German troops destroyed this pride of the Hungarian capital. The second birth of the Chain Bridge is therefore the day of its inauguration on 20th November 1949, exactly 70 years ago.
The first significant decorative floodlighting of the postwar period occurred on the reconstructed Chain Bridge, mostly fitted with Tungsram lamps.
The initial decorative lighting of the Chain Bridge was prepared in 1938. As the first picture shows it, garland lighting illuminated the silhouette of the chains and the portal frames.
During the reconstruction of the bridge in 1949, restorers not only tore down the custom houses and addressed traffic needs (they broadened the gates, built a pedestrian underpass on the Buda side, and constructed an underground crossing for the tramway on the Pest side). They renovated the Bridge’s illumination, as well, according to a new artistic concept, while also taking material needs into consideration.
The Public Lighting Department of the Budapest Electricity Works decided on a design – somewhat similar to that of the contemporary floodlighting of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris – that focused on the bridge piers. 832 pieces 200 W Tungsram lamps operated on the lower friezes, and 704 pieces 60 W Tungsram lamps operated on the upper friezes. Furthermore, 2000 W and 1000 W Tungsram lamps brightened the piers. For the first time in 1949, Philips Philora blended light lamps were used in the luminaries of the Chain Bridge, as well.
Instead of the ‘patching-and-mending’ type floodlighting installations of the immediate post-war period, using – often temporarily – undestroyed lamps and fittings from ruined or operating pre-war installations, and even simple wood constructions instead of standard supporting structures; the floodlighting of the Chain Bridge was the first large-scale and lasting post-war floodlighting project. At times of raw material need and production capacity shortages, the new luminaires were simple: untreated aluminum fittings with plain glass merely protecting the lamps from rainfall. The decorative lighting of the Chain Bridge had been completely renewed a few more times, utilizing installation methods and products not available for the heroic work of the reconstruction in 1949.
Nothing eclipsed, however, the spirit of hope and perseverance that was necessary to create the light of the second birthday of the Chain Bridge 70 years ago.
Horváth, József, The Floodlighting of Budapest. Hungexpo, Budapest, 1990
The Chain Bridge in 1942 Fortepan / Gyula Nagy
The Chain Bridge in 1945 Fortepan / Red Army
The Chain Bridge in 1956 Fortepan / Balázs Pálfi