The statue of a turul bird, an ancient Hungarian symbol (supposedly a falcon) has been watching the landscape below from a limestone peak near Tatabánya since 1907. It is believed to be the biggest bird statue in Europe, and indeed, its considerable size makes it visible from far. No wonder it has become the symbol of the town.
The statue (height: 8 m) guards the town from the edge of Kő-hegy (Stone Hill) on a stone platform. The bronze bird has a wingspan of nearly 15 metres, standing in a combative posture, holding Grand Prince Árpád’s sword and wearing a gilded (and stylized) Hungarian crown.
The site of the statue offers a splendid view over the town and beyond including Oroszlány, Tata, or in clear weather, even Pannonhalma and Komárom. It has always been an attractive destination for tourists but developments in the late 2010s further enhanced its popularity.
A short geological nature trail connects the statue with Szelim Cave presenting natural and geological features of Vértes and Gerecse Mountains. Another nature trail (Millennium Trail) leading to the other direction connects the statue with Gerecse Kapuja Látogatóközpont (Gate to Gerecse Visitor Centre) and further on you may reach Ranzinger Vince lookout tower.
The origin of turul bird
The origin story of Hungarians preserved two legends featuring the turul bird with a key role. Gesta Hungarorum written in the early 13th century by Anonymus (unidentified notary and chronicler) includes a legend about the origin of Árpád Dynasty. It narrates Emese's divine vision with a turul, supposedly a saker falcon impregnating her before the birth of her son, Álmos, and foretelling the rise of the royal dynasty. Later researches and linguistic interpretations claimed that the legend was aimed to strengthen the legitimacy of the Hungarian royal family by linking it to Attila the Hun and by setting a royal succession line.
The other appearance of turul bird is related to the conquest of the Hungarian homeland. The legend has it that in Levédia (temporary homeland for Magyars), the Grand Prince had a dream of eagles attacking their livestock but chased away by a turul. In the same dream Magyars set off to seek Attila’s land but didn’t know the way. Then a turul flew just above the Prince’s head to show the way. The dream soon started to unfold when plague decimated the livestock and scavenging vultures were attacked by a turul. Recognizing the dream coming true, Magyars indeed set off to follow the bird and did not settle down until the bird disappeared. This is how they got to Pannonia, formerly occupied by Attila. Interestingly, the legend may have some historical basis as Magyars for a reason on by chance did settle down in a land where saker falcons nest.
Etymological researches, historical depictions and the fact that falconry was a common way of hunting on the steppe of Inner Asia suggest that turul birds of the legend were falcons.
History of the statue
As part of celebrations in 1896 to commemorate the Millenium of the Hungarian conquest, sculpturer Gyula Donáth was assigned to make the Turul Statue. However, due to financial issues, it was finished much later, in 1907. Interestingly, that year was (believed to be) the millennial anniversary of the battle near Tatabánya where Magyar troops defeated Moravians in 907 (exact date uncertain). A similar statue but of smaller size (6 metres) was also made by Donáth, which was placed in the Castle of Buda, at the upper station of the funicular.
The career of the statue has not been free of complications, actually, it is a miracle that it still exists. First it was damaged by the communists in 1919 but it was restored in 1926 by sculpturer Hugó Keviczky upon the government’s direct order. Next it was the Rákosi regime that planned to remove the statue, however, it did not happen finally. As a result of neglect for decades, the statue needed to be extensively restored in 1992. At the same time, it has become the central element in the coat of arms of Tatabánya.