Showing posts with label Székesfehérvár. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Székesfehérvár. Show all posts

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Romanesque stone carvings from the abbey church of Ercsi

The Benedictine monastery of Ercsi was located about 40 kilometers south of Buda (present—day Budapest), on an island of the Danube next to the much larger Csepel Island. The monastery was founded by Palatine Thomas (1185-1186), who was also buried there. The monastery ceased to exist during the Ottoman conquest of central Hungary and stones of the monastery church were used as building material for the church of Szigetújfalu during the 18th century. During the past summer, the exterior of the Szigetújfalu was restored, giving a chance to examine the Romanesque carvings used as building material there, and also providing a chance to remove some of these stones. The first report on this was written by Lilla Deklava Farbaky and Balázs Bodó, and was published in the December 2010 issue of the journal Örökség (Heritage), published by the National Office of Cultural Heritage. The issue can be read online (a least by those with some knowledge of Hungarian) – for the benefit of my other readers, I am providing an abstract of the text below.

“Topographical literature has noted before that the church of Szigetújfalu was built in 1770 using stones from the abandoned monastery of Ercsi. Géza Entz published this first in an article in 1965. During the Spring and Summer of 2010, while plaster was removed from the exterior of the church, a chance came to finally examine these stones.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Destruction of the centers of medieval Hungary

On August 29 1526, the army of Suleiman the Magnificent defeated the Hungarian army at Mohács. King Louis II died on the battlefield, and the sultan's army marched on to take the capital, Buda. At that time, the Turkish army withdrew - but in 1541, Suleiman took the capital of the divided kingdom without having to lay siege to it. Two years later, he occupied the towns of Pécs, Székesfehérvár and Esztergom, and Visegrád fell soon after that. Thus all the centrally located towns - the Medium Regni - became part of the Ottoman Empire for 150 years. Because of the prohibition of figural religious imagery, this period led to the destruction of altarpieces, paintings, statues and to the covering up of frescoes. Damage to buildings was caused by neglect, but even more during the wars waged in order to reconquer these towns, especially during the Long War ('15 years' war,' 1591-1606) and the final campaign of 1683-1687. When the towns were retaken by the Christians, it was largely ruins what they found. Remains of important medieval buildings were generally taken down as new structures were erected during the 18th century.

As a result, the most important medieval sites of Hungary only survived as ruins, their remains recovered during various archaeological campaigns. The sites include Buda, the capital of the Kingdom; Esztergom, the seat of Hungary's Primate Archbishop; Székesfehérvár, the coronation and burial place of Hungarian kings; and Visegrád, perhaps the most important royal castle complex of the land. 

The photos below illustrate what little is left of these sites. Rather than illustrating the destruction (about which many contemporary prints were made), I chose mainly photos showing moments of discovery - although the first example will be of destruction.

Buda and Óbuda



This is an image of Buda castle from 1686, at the time when the center of the Kingdom was retaken by the joint Christian armies. The print shows the castle hill, with the ruins of the medieval royal palace on top of the hill. Very little of this survived when the new, Baroque royal palace was built in the 18th century.

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.