2018.08.24 - Gellért bath is 100 years old!
Gellért bath is 100 years old!
All the significant events in Hungarian history left their mark on Gellért bath. The present bath building opened its gates exactly one hundred years ago, but even before that it had had a rich history and the last hundred years were not uneventful either.
Gellért Mountain lies on a geological breakline, so multiple hot springs come above the surface at its bottom. Three baths were built on these: Rácz, Rudas and Gellért. On the place of Gellért bath Andrew ll established a hospital and a bath already back in the 13th century. During the Turkish times there was a bath in its place called Acsik Ilidzse, about which Evlija Cselebi wrote in his notes that “sick people come from far far away, because its water is useful for curing the French disease (syphilis) and seven other illnesses.”
In the 17th century - after the recapturing of Buda - the bath became the property of the doctor of the emperor Leopold I. The son of the doctor, Károly Illmer of Wartenberg sold the bath to the city of Buda in 1718. At that time the bath was called “Sárosfürdő” (mud bath) because of the valuable mud that came to the surface with the water and settled down on the bottom of the pools. Unfortunately this natural treasure has disappeared by now. In 1894 during the building of the Franz Joseph bridge (today called Szabadság bridge) the bath was deconstructed, then in 1901 the capital city’s general assembly expropriated its source and site. The construction plans of the present hotel and bath were realised during World War I, between 1914 and 1918. Even Russian prisoners of war worked on building it in the last year of World War I.
The building of the bath was constructed in late Art Nouveau style, based on the plans of Artúr Sebestyén, Ármin Hegedűs and Izidor Sterk At that time Gellért bath was not only the first luxury category building of the Hungarian capital, but it was one of the most modern baths in Europe. When it opened it offered inhaling, pneumatic and infra chambers to the ones who wanted to cure, which were almost impossible to find anywhere else. In its healthcare department there were many medical laboratories and constant medical supervision. Gellért bath’s kitchen was operated by the famous Gundel restaurant up until 1945.
The wave bath, which was a curiosity in Europe at that time, was built between 1926 and 1927 on the site of the bath’s former park. A bubble bath was added in 1934 which had coloured lights that gave the whole pool a mysterious atmosphere. In this year (in 1934) Budapest won the title “bath city”, and the first balneological conference was organized here, so the Gellért thermal bath became the seat of the International Balneological Society.
The building was built in Art Nouveau style which means it has a lot of decoration and organic patterns on the walls and windows, moreover several famous sculptors’ masterpieces make it more breathtaking. These statues didn’t arrive to the building at once, new ones came even during the 1960s.
Similar to the Széchenyi bath, Gellért bath is mirror-structured, the left and right wing are similar. One is for women, the other is for men, this system only changed after the millennium: on weekdays it remained the same, but at weekends it operated coed. From 1 January 2013 it is operated coed every day. How much less damage a change like this involves in comparison with the other “revolutions” of the 20th century! Not too long after the grand opening of the Gellért bath and hotel, on 31 October 1918 the Aster Revolution broke out, and until the end of 1919 the bath was used for military purposes. If this is not counted, the bath was closed only once since it opened because of a huge pipe break. It worked even during World War II, although the women’s part was almost completely destroyed. After the war it was renovated and a lot of masterpieces were replaced. The constant little renovations were in process even in the 1990s and the big renovation of the bath occurred between January 2007 and April 2008. They kept the original style, preserving the Zsolnay mosaics, the marble stanchions, the glasses and the sculptures.
The healing water of Gellért bath is recommended for treating joint diseases and inflammations, spine pain and circulatory disturbances. Its water comes from the mysterious tunnel system under Gellért Mountain. In the old days these sources sprang to the surface, but nowadays it needs to be brought up from 18 meters underground.