The Heroes’ Square is part of an extensive World Heritage site, situated at the end of the Andrássy Avenue, next to the City Park. The construction of its iconic statue complex, the Millennium Memorial (also known as the Millennium Monument), was started on the thousandth anniversary of establishing the Hungarian state.
At the front of the Millennium Monument is a large stone cenotaph surrounded by an ornamental iron chain. The cenotaph is dedicated “To the memory of the heroes who gave their lives for the freedom of our people and our national independence.” While some guide books refer to this as a “tomb”, it is not a burial place.
Behind the cenotaph, but within the decorative chain is a flat bronze plate which marks the site of an artesian well whose drilling was completed in 1878. This well provides water for the Széchenyi Baths behind the monument and the Dagály Baths in the Népfürdő utca. The well reached the depth of 971 metres and produces 831 litres of hot water per minute.
The Millennium Memorial, a central point of the Heroes Square, includes statues of the leaders of the seven tribes that founded Hungary in the 9th century, and those of other outstanding figures of Hungarian history.
Directly behind the cenotaph is a column topped by a statue of the archangel Gabriel. In his right hand the archangel holds the Holy Crown of St Stephen, the first king of Hungary. In his left hand he holds a two-barred apostolic cross, a symbol awarded to St Stephen by the Pope in recognition of his efforts to convert Hungary to Christianity. In Hungarian it is referred to as the double cross, or the apostolic double cross.
At the base of the column is a group of seven mounted figures representing the Magyar chieftains who led the Hungarian people into the Carpathian basin. In the front is Árpád, considered the founder of the Hungarian nation. Behind him are the chieftains Előd, Ond, Kond, Tas, Huba and Töhötöm (Tétény). Little survives in the historical record about these individuals and both their costumes and their horses are considered to be more fanciful than historically accurate.
The back of the monument consists of two matched colonnades, each with seven statues representing great figures of Hungarian history. Topping the outer edge of the left colonnade is a statue of a man with a scythe and a woman sowing seed, representing Labour and Wealth. In the corresponding position on the right colonnade is a statue of a man holding a statue and a woman with a palm frond representing Knowledge and Glory. At the inner top edge of the left colonnade is a male figure driving a chariot and using a snake as a whip representing War, while on the facing end of the right colonnade is a female figure in a chariot holding a palm frond representing Peace.
When the monument was originally constructed, Hungary was a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and thus the last five spaces for statues on the left of the colonnade were reserved for members of the ruling Habsburg dynasty.
From left to right these were: Ferdinand I, Leopold I, Charles III, Maria Theresa and Franz Joseph. The monument was damaged during World War II and when it was rebuilt, the Habsburgs were replaced by figures from current history.
On June 16th 1989 a crowd of 250,000 gathered at the Heroes’ Square for the historic reburial of Imre Nagy, who had been executed in June 1958.