Showing posts with label Gyulafehérvár. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gyulafehérvár. Show all posts

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Medieval manuscripts of Batthyáneum available online

The Batthyáneum Library of Gyulafehérvár (Alba Iulia, Romania) is one of the most important historic libraries in Transylvania. It was founded in 1798 by Ignác Batthyány, the bishop of Transylvania. The library was housed in the former church of the Trinitarian order - first an observatory was created here, and later the library was established in the building (all this was modeled on the Archdiocesan Library of Eger). The library of Batthyány grew from many sources, but the most important among these was the library of Christoph Anton von Migazzi, the bishop of Vác and also the bishop of Vienna. Batthyány bought the 8000 volume library of Migazzi, which included a lot of medieval manuscripts. When established at Gyulafehérvár, the Batthyáneum held about 20.000 volumes - a number which continued to increase throughout the 19th century. In addition to simply being a library, the institution worked as a museum, holding Batthyány's collection of minerals and naturalia, as well as a collection of ecclesiastical art. Finds from the excavations of Gyulafehérvár cathedral carried out by Béla Pósta in the early 20th century are also kept here.

The 20th century history of the library was not free from controversy: some books were sold in the 1930s, but the institution continued too function as a public library even after the Trianon peace treaty awarded Transylvania to Romania. However, in 1949 the collection was nationalized, and later became part of the Romanian National Library. Access to the collections became very limited - a situation which continues to this day. Even though a government decree returned the building and collection of the library to the Roman Catholic Archbishopric of Gyulafehérvár, the Library still functions as part of the state library system, and the court cases going on have so far not clarified the situation.

The library holds today altoghether 927 manuscripts and 565 incunabula, making it the richest collection of this kind of material in all of Romania. The medieval manuscripts are of various origins: Migazzi's library included all kinds of western manuscripts, but Batthyány also bought complete medieval libraries from Hungary, including the holdings of the ecclesiastical libraries of Lőcse (Levoča / Leutschau, Slovakia, see this Hungarian language study with German summary: Eva Selecká Mârza: A középkori Lőcsei Könyvtár, Szeged, 1997.). Several Transylvanian collections were also incorporated into the library, and there are rich holdings of orthodox Romanian manuscripts in the collection. In the framework of a European digitization project, a large number of manuscript are now available in the Manuscriptorium platform. In fact, there is a special section dedicated to manuscripts from the Batthyáneum.

The library holds a large number of first class illuminated manuscripts - many of which can now be consulted online. The following is a selection of a few of the most important of these (providing direct links to pages of this dynamic website is quite complicated. I managed to make direct links to the digital facsimile pages below - but you may start to browse or search from the start page, to get to object descriptions, etc.)

Ms II 1, first part of the Lorsch Gospels (Codex Aureus of Lorsch), from the Palace workshop of Charlemagne, dating  around 810 (on the history of the whole manuscript, see also this overview)

Ms III 87, a nicely illustrated early 15th century Franco-Flemish Book of Hours

Ms II 134, A Missal from Pozsony (Bratislava / Pressburg), dating from 1377, with explicit by Henrik of Csukárd

There is a lot more there - you can start browsing from the start page, Manoscriti qui in theca batthyanyana. Furthermore, you can find some more illuminated manuscripts from the Europeana database - not all of which have been made available in the current digitization effort.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Inaugural Lecture of András Kovács at HAS

András Kovács at Szászrégen (Reghin), 2009

65 year old art historian András Kovács will deliver his inaugural lecture to the Hungarian Academy of Sciences tomorrow, on October 20th (he is an external member of the Academy). The title of his lecture, to be delivered in Hungarian, is: The Gyulafehérvár palace of the Princes of Transylvania.

András Kovács's primary field of research is the architecture of 16th-17th century Transylvania. Based on a careful reading of the sources (many not even studied before) and a detailed analysis of existing building and their ruins, he fundamentally altered our knowledge of this period - the new overview of the field is now provided by his magisterial survey of the period (Késő reneszánsz épí­tészet Erdélyben 1541-1720, which is available online, either chapter by chapter or as a full pdf-version). He also wrote on medieval architecture, in particular about the cathedral of Gyulafehérvár (Alba Iulia).

András Kovács is professor of Art History at the Babeș-Bolyai University at Cluj-Napoca (Kolozsvár), and during the last twenty years he has raised a new generation of Hungarian art historians in Transylvania. His pupils have just dedicated a volume of studies to him: the 23 studies represent that high level of scholarship and keen attention to detail that he always required of himself and of his students. (Liber discipulorum: Tanulmányok Kovács András 65. születésnapjára. Edited by Zsolt Kovács, Emese Sarkadi Nagy, Attila Weisz. Kolozsvár, 2011.) This in itself shows the success of his work, not to mention everything that he did in order to preserve historic monuments and to organize the field of Hungarian-language art historical research in Romania. An (incomplete) list of the publications of András Kovács can be consulted on the University's website as well as in the Transindex database (with some further works available online), and also on the website of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences

With this brief post, I, too would like to congratulate András Kovács, and look forward to hearing his lecture tomorrow!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Earliest Christian church of Transylvania found at Gyulafehérvár

Traces of the oldest church of Transylvania
Photo from 

New archaeological research near the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Gyulafehérvár (Alba Iulia, Romania, the seat of the bishopric of Transylvania) led to the discovery of the remains of the semicircular apse of a medieval church. Archaeologists believe this is Transylvania’s oldest church, built around the year 1000 - thus before the foundation of the diocese in 1009 (see my previous post on the history of the cathedral). The remains were found at a depth of only one meter, 24 meters away from the Catholic Cathedral of St. Michael. Daniela Marcu Istrate, well-known archaeologist announced in a press conference on April 18 that the newly discovered church might have been built either by prince Gyula or by Saint King Stephen. Around 952, Gyula was baptized in Constantinople, and upon his return was given a bishop named Hierotheos who accompanied him back to Hungary - so if the church dates to the period of prince Gyula, it was built for the Byzantine rite (of course we are before the Great Schism of 1054 at this time). Besides the apse, archaeologists have also discovered several tombs dating back to the 12th century. However, experts believe that the church was already destroyed at that time. For the moment, work at the archaeological site has been suspended for lack of funds. The remains of the apse will be preserved provisionally.

Most interesting about this find is that it is not connected to the present 13th century cathedral - or its 11th century predecessor - in any way. The archaeologist proposes that this feature means that the new Roman Catholic cathedral was deliberately distanced from the earlier structure built for the Greek rite.

You can read more about the discovery in Hungarian or in Romanian.

It is worth noting that the town - Roman Apulum - has an even older history: lately, more and more Roman remains have also come to light, see here.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

1000 years of Gyulafehérvár Cathedral

Western facade of Gyulafehérvár cathedral
Survey by Márton Sarkadi and Tamás Emődi, 1996 
In 1009, King Stephen I decided to create a new bishopric, with jurisdiction over the territory of Transylvania. The seat of the bishopric was established at Gyulafehérvár (Karlsburg, Alba Iulia) and the first cathedral, dedicated to Saint Michael, was erected during the 11th century. The first cathedral was replaced with a much larger Romanesque cathedral, construction of which started at the end of the 12th century, and was for the most part completed before the Mongol invasion of 1241. At that time the town and the church was sacked and burned. Just as soon as repairs were made, the Saxons of nearby Szeben (Hermannstadt, Sibiu) sacked the town again in 1277. Two very important contracts dating from 1287 an 1291 detail the repairs undertaken at this time, with the latter date indicating completion of the entire edifice. These dates at the same time also underline the significance of this building: apart from smaller expansion and the addition of chapels, the building as it stands today originates from the 13th century. This makes Gyulafehérvár the only cathedral building to have survived from the Árpád-period - well, in fact, from the Middle Ages at all. (Other cathedral cities - including Esztergom, Kalocsa, Pécs, Veszpém, Győr, Vác, Eger, Várad - were in the territories occupied by the Ottoman Turks. To get an idea of their fate, see my previous post on the destruction of the centers of medieval Hungary).

The main body of the church is that of the Romanesque building, although the western part of the nave was vaulted in the 14th century. The two side apses, opening from the transept, are also from this period, while the original main apse has been replaced with a much longer early Gothic apse, built during the 1270s. Chapels on the north side (Lázói and Várdai chapels) originate from the early 16th century, and the monumental south tower also dates from the Gothic period. The building has suffered more during the last few centuries than it could be summarized here (significant dates of damage include 1438, 1565, 1601, 1603, 1658, 1849) - yet it still stands today and serves as the center of the Hungarian catholic church in Romania.

The building underwent major renovation at the beginning of the 20th century. The work, which was led by István Möller, was not fully completed by 1918, when Gyulafehérvár became part of Romania. More recently, several campaigns of restoration have been carried out during the last fifteen years, in preparation for the millennial celebrations of the bishopric. During this period, a large amount of archaeological and art historical research was carried out, the results of which are now largely published.
In this post, I would like to call attention to these publications.