Showing posts with label St. Ladislas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label St. Ladislas. Show all posts

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Medieval frescoes at Bögöz restored

One of my favourite medieval churches is at Bögöz (Mugeni, RO), in Transylvania. The north wall of this church is covered with a rich ensemble of 14th century mural paintings, which were discovered in 1898. Fur much of the last 100 years, these frescoes were in a very bad condition: dirty, discoloured and crumbling. Finally, by the end of last year, the frescoes were cleaned, conserved and restored. Despite their somewhat fragmentary state, they are now much more visible. 
I wrote a small book on the church and its frescoes in the middle of the 1990s. In the following, I will give a brief overview of the monument, based on my earlier text. The text is illustrated by new photographs of the frescoes, most of which I received from the restorer, Loránd Kiss.

Before we start, have a look at the pre-restoration state of the church, on the Treasures of Szeklerland website. Select 'Mugeni' from among the churches - and take a virtual tour of the exterior and interior of the church.

Bögöz, view of the church

The village of Bögöz is in the middle of Udvarhelyszék, on the left bank of the river Nagyküküllő. The village was first mentioned in the sources in 1333 and 1334, as part of the Archidiaconatus Telegdiensis. The settlement at that time was one of the larger villages of the area, and it maintained an important role in later centuries as well. During the fourteenth century, several noble families from the village were mentioned in documents. The sources between 1481 and 1505 often mention a certain John of Bögöz, later captain of Udvarhelyszék, who certainly must have played an important role in the late Gothic rebuilding of the church.

The church is now Calvinist, and its building is surrounded by a simple wall. The church consists of three main parts: a large western tower, nave and sanctuary. The simple nave and the bottom parts of the tower are still from the Romanesque period, and the foundations of the original, semicircular apse were discovered inside the present late Gothic sanctuary. Thus the original church must have been built in the 13th century. The nave had been vaulted with a net-vaulting probably at the end of the fifteenth century, but this vaulting was later destroyed, and only the corbels in the wall survived. The nave is now covered with a painted coffered ceiling from 1724. The elaborate stone-vaulting of the sanctuary and its sculpted corbels have survived up to the present day.


The wall-paintings of the church are preserved on the north wall of the nave. József Huszka discovered them in the summer of 1898, and published his results and copies in the same year. The present condition of the paintings can be compared with the two sets of Huszka’s copies - the sketches in the Ethnographic Museum, and the final versions in the collection of the OMvH.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Virtual visits to Transylvanian medieval churches

Gelence (Ghelinta)

A new website provides a number of very-well done virtual visits (360
° panoramas) to Transylvanian sites. The site, called Treasures of Szeklerland introduces monuments and sites from the eastern part of Transylvania, the territory of the Szeklers. Several of the medieval churches on the site contain important fresco cycles - including some of my favorites. 




These are all small village churches, and in most cases the 14th century decoration of the naves survives. The cycles occupy the uninterrupted north wall of these churches, painted in several rows. Generally the upper row on the north wall is dedicated to the legend of King Saint Ladislas (ruled 1077-1095), more specifically the story where he frees a Hungarian girl abducted by the invading Cuman warriors.


Other cycles generally include the Passion of Christ, and often the Last Judgment. On the Treasures of Szeklerland website, some of the most important such cycles can be studied. I cannot provide direct links to different parts of the flash-based site, but upon starting, you will land inside the church at Gelence (Ghelinta). I also recommend the virtual visit of the following churches: Bögöz (Mugeni), Székelyderzs (Dirjiu, with frescoes from 1419), and Kilyén (Chilieni). Csíkrákos (Racu) has fewer frescoes, but here the entire western tower is decorated, probably from the 16th century. The Apor-mansion at Torja (Turia) preserved interesting secular painting from the mid-17th century. Inside the (virtual) churches, be sure to look up at the 17th-18th century painted coffered ceilings! A great advantage of the website is that it provides succinct information on the sites in English (as well as in Hungarian and Romanian).

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Masolino in Hungary

Reliquary bust of Saint Ladislas from Várad cathedral and drawing after
a fresco of Masolino, inspired by the reliquary

It is a well-known fact that Florentine painter Masolino worked for some time in the Kingdom of Hungary, starting from 1425. Leaving the decoration of the Brancacci Chapel incomplete, he left in September, invited by Filippo Scolari (Pipo Spano) with a lucrative three-year contract. His employment was cut short by the death of Scolari at the end of 1426. We know that he stayed in Hungary even after the death of his patron, as Florentine tax reports filed in July of 1427, mention that he was still there. He likely did not return to Florence until May 1428 - the time when he collected part of his payment from the Scolari commission. After this, Masolino went on to work in Rome, and later in Castiglione Olona.
It is not know what commissions he had in Hungary. Filippo Scolari had a castle built at the town of Ozora, with a chapel dedicated to his patron saint. He also rebuilt the parish church and the Franciscan church of the town. In one of the centers of the Kingdom, at the royal basilica and coronation church of Székesfehérvár, he had a chapel built, intended for his burial. When in May 1426, Florentine ambassador Rinaldo degli Albizzi visited these places, he mentions all these newly built and decorated edifices - but does not mention the presence or the works of Masolino. Most people are inclined to believe that the funerary chapel at Székesfehérvár was frescoed by Masolino - the chronology allows this (he could have painted in during the summer and fall of 1426, explaining why the ambassador did not mention it), but sadly there is no clear proof of this.
Recent research (PDF of Hungarian article by Krisztina Arany) revealed that Masolino probably carried out some works for another Florentine family in Hungary, the Melanesi family. The brothers Simone and Tommaso Melanesi owed "Florentine painter Masino, who is staying in Hungary" 133 florins, according to a catasto entry of 1427. Their third brother, Giovanni, was bishop of the wealthy town of Várad, in eastern Hungary. He became bishop after the death another Florentine, Andrea Scolari. Melanesi was bishop for just a short year: from the Spring of 1426, until the beginning of the next year. I uncovered an interesting piece of evidence indicating that Masolino most likely visited the town of Várad - and thus perhaps even worked there.