Showing posts with label archaeology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label archaeology. Show all posts

Thursday, October 20, 2016

New Books on Medieval Buda

In this post, I would like to announce three new books which contain a lot of information about the history of art in Buda, the medieval capital of Hungary (part of modern-day Budapest). Each of the books has a different focus, and neither of them can be considered a survey of the art of medieval Buda - but together they definitely provide significantly more up-to-date information than earlier publications. Previously, the most accessible English-language overview of medieval Buda was László Gerevich's The Art of Buda and Pest in the Middle Ages, published in 1971, while somewhat more recent information in German was provided by the exhibition catalogue of the Budapest History Museum and the Braunschweigisches Landesmuseum from 1991 (titled Budapest im Mittelalter). Now all of a sudden we have three new books which can be consulted by anyone interested in the art of Buda and its environs.


The first book will likely become the standard volume on the subject, given its well-known publisher and the wide circulation made possible through them. The book is titled Medieval Buda in Context, and it was published in Brill's Companion to European History series. Edited by Balázs Nagy, Martyn Rady, Katalin Szende and András Vadas, the book was published in the middle of 2016. Here is a description by the publisher: 

"Medieval Buda in Context discusses the character and development of Buda and its surroundings between the thirteenth and the sixteenth centuries, particularly its role as a royal center and capital city of the medieval Kingdom of Hungary. The twenty-one articles written by Hungarian and international scholars draw on a variety of primary sources: texts, both legal and literary; archaeological discoveries; architectural history; art history; and other studies of material culture. The essays also place Buda in the political, social, cultural and economic context of other contemporary central and eastern European cities. By bringing together the results of research undertaken in recent decades for an English-language readership, this volume offers new insights into urban history and the culture of Europe as a whole."


Although the book has a historical focus, it contains a number of very important art historical studies as well. There are essays about the medieval topography of Buda and its ecclesiastical institutions, and on the role of Buda as a power center in the late Middle Ages. For art historians, Szilárd Papp's study on the statues commissioned by King Sigismund and the essay by Valery Rees on Buda as a center of Renaissance are perhaps the most important.

You can take a peek at the book in Google Books or, in fact, you can go straight to the full online version, if you have access.

The second book has an archaeological and art historical focus, but it treats a geographically wider region: the central part of the medieval Kingdom of Hungary. Titled In medio regni Hungariae. Archaeological, art historical, and historical researches 'in the middle of the kingdom', the book was edited by Elek Benkő and Krisztina Orosz and published by the Institute of Archaeology of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (Budapest, 2015). The book is not in English - the bulk of the text is in Hungarian, but a long English summary of each study is included in the book. These extensive English summaries and the large number of high-quality illustrations make the book accessible even to those who do not speak Hungarian. The 764 page book contains on overview of current research about royal centers in medieval Hungary, including Esztergom, Székesfehérvár, Visegrád and of course Buda. Studies in the book are organized according to themes: thus after introductory studies by Ernő Marosi, Pál Lővei and others, material is arranged into units on ecclesiastical centers and residences, then on other castles and material remains. Given the nature of the surviving material - as well as the publisher of the book - it is no surprise that the book has a strong archaeological focus. The table of contents can be downloaded here. A review by József Laszlovszky was published in the Winter 2015 issue of Hungarian Archaeology (direct link to pdf).

Cover of the Hungarian edition

The third book is the English edition of an exhibition catalogue already discussed on this blog. It is dedicated to a comparative overview of the history and art of Budapest and Kraków in the Middle Ages. (On Common Path. Budapest and Kraków in the Middle Ages. Ed.: Judit Benda - Virág Kiss - Grazyna-Nurek Lihonczak - Károly Magyar, Budapest History Museum, Budapest, 2016.). The studies and catalogue entries in the book survey the parallel histories of Buda and Kraków from the period of their foundations to the high points of their development in the late Middle Ages.

The exhibition, shown earlier this year in Budapest, will be put on view in Kraków next year.







If you are interested in the history of Buda Castle, you should also have a look at the online database of architectural and municipal history of Buda Castle, created by the Budapest History Museum and the Research Centre for the Humanities of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. This well-illustrated site gives an overview of the history and monuments of the settlement on top of the castle hill, and is available in English as well.
Figure of a man with a chaperon, from the royal palace of Buda (Budapest History Museum)

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Medieval treasure and mass grave discovered from the time of the Mongol Invasion

Photo: Újvári Sándor / MTI

A sensational archaeological find has been announced by the Katona József Museum of Kecskemét on March 31: during excavations of a medieval village near Kiskunmajsa, a buried treasure was found, along with the burned remains of the former inhabitants, among them mainly children. The treasure includes more than 250 silver coins as well as rings and other jewels. Most of the coins date from the reign of King Béla IV (1235-1270), thus the find can be convincingly dated to the time of the Mongol invasion, which struck Hungary in 1241-42. The excavations took place by chance, after signs of the remains were found during plowing a field. Work was lead by archaeologist and museum director Szabolcs Rosta, with the help of archaeologists from Kecskemét, Kiskunhalas and Baja. It was established that the finds - including the human remains - were inside two former houses.
Similar finds have been uncovered in several places in recent years. In 2005, at the site of a village near Cegléd, the remains of a family have been found inside a burned-down dwelling. In 2010, another mass grave was found at Szank (also in the Kiskunság area): the remains were found inside a house, which the Mongols burned down. Among the remains of men, women and children, a treasure was also found.


Silver coins excavated near Kiskunmajsa (Photo: Újvári Sándor / MTI)

The Mongol invasion of 1241-42 caused the sharpest interruption in the development of Hungarian ecclesiastical structures. Especially on the Great Plains and in several areas of eastern Hungary, settlements and their early parish churches were destroyed beyond repair. 

Ring from the Kiskunmajsa treasure (Photo: Újvári Sándor / MTI)
Larger abbey churches and more important centers were also destroyed during the invasion and then abandoned. Recent archaeological research has brought to life the former abbey church of Péteri near Bugac, dedicated to Sts Peter and Paul. The abbey church (which must have been Benedictine, although it is not well documented) was first mentioned in 1219, but the large, three-aisled basilica was most likely built around the middle of the 12th century. During the Mongol invasion, the church was ruined and never rebuilt. The excavations have brought to light important remains of this once thriving monastic community: a fragment of a processional cross, remains of a reliquary decorated with Limoges enamel plaques (of which the figure of a saint survives), etc. Smaller churches were similarly destroyed and often never rebuilt.


Detail from the Szank treasure, excavated in 2010

Finds from the current excavation, as well as from Szank will be displayed in a new exhibition planned for later this year at Kecskemét.

Finds from the monastery of Péteri, near Bugac (via Archaeologia.hu)





Sunday, April 03, 2016

Exhibition on Buda and Kraków in the Middle Ages

 Poster of the exhibition 

A new exhibition, titled On Common Path - Budapest and Kraków in the Middle Ages opened last week at the Budapest History Museum. It is the result of a common project of the Hungarian institution and the Historical Museum of the City Kraków, and was realized in the larger framework of the cooperation of Hungary and Poland, as the first step of the Hungarian Cultural Year in Poland.

The exhibition surveys the parallel histories of Buda and Kraków from the period of their foundations to the high points of their development in the late Middle Ages. Both towns were among the major cities of medieval Europe. The exhibition presents common events in the history of the town, as well as personalities who played an important role in the history of both towns. Among other things, it focuses on the Anjou and the Jagiellonian dynasties, as well as on Stephen Báthory, Prince of Transylvania and King of Poland. Through these historical figures, the exhibition illustrated that not only the two cities, but also the history of the two nations is closely linked. The last period surveyed is the 16th century, which represents a break, especially in the development of Buda, which came under Ottoman Turkish occupation in 1541.

Most of the objects in the exhibition give insight into the everyday life of city dwellers as well as into festive occasions. A large number of archaeological finds are presented, including many objects never before shown (expecially from Buda). The parallel histories of the two cities are installed on two sides of the exhibition rooms, while showcases placed in the center of the rooms features historical figures and institutions - such as the University of Cracow - which represented points of contact for the two towns.

View of the exhibition - Buda (Photo: BTM - Bence Tihanyi)

The exhibition will remain on view until July 24 in Budapest, and later will be presented in Kraków as well, It is accompanied by a detailed and useful exhibition catalogue, which will also be published in and English-language edition.

View of the exhibition - Kraków (Photo: BTM - Bence Tihanyi)

Exhibition: Közös úton - Budapest és Krakkó a középkorban. On Common Path - Budapest and Kraków in the Middle Ages. Castle Museum of Budapest History Museum, March 19 - July 24, 2016. The poster, seen above, features the emblem of the Krakow Rifle Association, the "Rooster Company," a work of Gian Giacopo Caraglio from 1564/65. Krakow, Museum Historyczne Miasta Krakowa.
Photo: Nol.hu

Catalogue: Közös úton. Budapest és Krakkó a középkorban. Kiállítási katalógus. Ed. Judit Benda, Virág Kiss, Grazyna Lihonczak-Nurek, Károly Magyar. Budapest, 2016, 335 pp.

Martin Kober's portrait of Stephen Báthory from Kraków, 1583

Monday, November 23, 2015

Remains of Bonyhád church covered over

Virtual reconstruction of Bonyhád church 
I wanted to give an update about the situation with the excavation of the medieval church of Bonyhád. Unfortunately, the excavations could not be completed fully. Once the very short-term permit ran out, work on the excavations had to stop on October 7th. More than a month passed until the possibility of continuation was debated - a precious month with good weather, during which a lot of progress could have been made. Starting from mid-November, 2015, the excavated ruins of the medieval church were covered up and filled with concrete, so the new road could be built over them. As a results of this, unfortunately a lot of the questions surrounding the church could not be answered. I talked to the chief archaeologist, Géza Szabó, and he provided some information about the church. He explained to me that it is plain to see - even without a full excavation going down to sufficient depth, that the church had at least two phases of construction. The earlier phase can be dated to the period of King Sigismund, and is probably connected to the men found buried in front of the main altar. He was a strong, well-to-do man. Although no tombstone was found, a coin from the rule of Wladislas I. dates the burial to this period (1440-1444), and places the construction of the church to the Sigismund period. The church was later rebuilt, most likely in the early 16th century - this is the date of the late gothic net vault, the fragments of which were found during the excavations. Unfortunately, earlier phases of construction could not be adequately explored, and the area of the church also could not be excavated.



The excavation site during my visit in late October

Because of the very short period available for archaeological excavation, and the impossibility of examining the site in the future, documentation was of paramount importance. In the following, I would like to illustrate some of the techniques used during the work carried out. The site itself was documented in a 3D photogrammetric survey, recording all details by Interspect Research Group. 3D modelling company Pazirik also scanned the site, and carried out 3D scanning of the architectural fragments, which then served as the basis of a theoretical 3D reconstruction of the early 16th century phase of the building. 
Virtual reconstruction of the church at Bonyhád
Based on a keystone and several vault fragments, the intricate late Gothic net vault of the church was also reconstructed. These reconstructions, and initial results of research were published by Archeologia.hu. The articles published in this collection not only make preliminary results and wonderful illustrations available, but also reveal that there are still several questions surrounding the remains - questions, which largely could have been answered via a thorough and complete archaeological excavation. Current legislation in Hungary unfortunately makes it possible that the construction of a road could proceed, without the completion of this archaeological survey.

The site being covered over (mid-Novermber, 2015)

Sources:
A középkori templom feltárása Bonyhádon - article (pdf, in Hungarian), Archeologia - Altum Castrum Online Magazin. 


Sunday, October 11, 2015

The lost medieval church of Bonyhád

It is rare that the excavation of a simple medieval parish church makes national news in Hungary. However, this is precisely what is happening these days with the remains of the medieval church of Bonyhád in southern Transdanubia: largely because there seems to be no time and no way to fully excavate and preserve the ruins. This is because of recent changes in Hungarian heritage laws, which favor construction and development instead of heritage protection.


The remains of the church of Bonyhád were discovered during the construction of a new exit from route 6. Current legislation only gives 30 days for any archaeological investigations in such situations, with a possibility of further extension granted by the Ministry of Culture. This extension has to be given by the Minister himself within 8 days - if he does not grant it, construction can continue without delay. The remains of the church of Bonyhád were discovered in late September. Thanks to the cooperation of a team of Hungarian archaeologists, the excavation was carried out during the last two weeks - but now work is coming to an end, as the construction of the road will commence on Wednesday.
Photo: István Huszti / Index
So let's see what was found: excavations have brought to light the nave of a medieval church (the sanctuary lies under the main road built a long time ago). It seems that the edifice was the medieval parish church of Bonyhád, which in the Middle Ages was located at some distance from the current center of the settlement. The church must have been destroyed in 1542 when the Ottoman Turkish army pushed through this area. The church burnt down, its walls were torn down some time later, and the site was abandoned. The site soon filled up with mud - thus the remains were preserved in good condition. A keystone and other fragments of the late Gothic vault of the church were found, along with the remains of the bell, as well as stone carvings from the portal of the church and other structural elements. Here are some photos of the stone carvings:




The excavation was one of the first times when the new heritage laws of Hungary were applied in a real-life scenario, and it became obvious that the regulations are not sufficient to protect archaeological heritage. Despite protests from the Association of Hungarian Archaeologists and even a statement by the ombudsman, it seems that the site will have to covered over before the excavations can fully be completed, as construction will resume as early as next week. Maybe the ensuing debate and national attention will help lawmakers rethink the current regulations.


Photo: István Huszti / Index

Monday, May 18, 2015

Conference on Medieval Esztergom

18th century painting of the Porta Speciosa
of Esztergom cathedral 

There will be a conference on May 28th 2015, at Esztergom, dedicated to medieval history and art of the city, which was Hungary's first capital. Titled "Metropolis Hungariae," the conference will feature a number of internationally known Hungarian scholars, who will speak about recent archaeological research in the town and new art historical work. The focus of the conference will be the Árpád period, perhaps the most important period in the town's history. Art historical lectures will primarily discuss the architecture and sculpture of the medieval cathedral of the town.

The conference presents a good opportunity for visiting Esztergom, where the permanent exhibition in the former royal palace has been reinstalled and the restoration of the palace chapel has been fully completed (I already reported on this last year).

The full program can be seen below.





Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Medieval news update

During the last five years, I wrote on various subjects on this blog, including the discoveries of treasure hoards and wall paintings, interesting exhibitions and new publications, museum collections and organizational changes and many others. The beginning of a new year seems like a good time to re-visit some of these topics, and to give a quick update on some of the news I reported. Here, then, is a medieval news update, focusing on some of the most popular topics on the medieval Hungary blog.

Wiener Neustadt treasure hoard published



Back in 2011, I reported on the discovery of a significant medieval treasure hoard found in Wiener Neustadt, Austria. The objects - over 200 in total - have since been cleaned and restored, and are now presented in a lavish new publication issued by the Austrian Office of Monument Preservation (Bundesdenkmalamt).

The book describes the discovery of the treasure, and provides an exhaustive survey of the objects, including a detailed techical analysis of the materials, as well as studies on the art historical and cultural significance of the treasures. A catalogue of all the objects and an extensive photographic documentation is also included in the book. On the publisher's website you can browse the beginning of the book, and there are also a number of photos available (this is the source of the image above). A smaller publication, a brief introduction to the treasure, has also been published.

Nikolaus Hofer, hrsg.: Der Schatzfund von Wiener Neustadt. Horn - Wien, Verlag Berger, 2014. 496 pp., ISBN: 978-3-85028-636-7



Goldsmith works from the Herzog collection on view at the Hungarian National Museum


Another treasure collection, goldsmith objects once in the collection of Baron Mór Lipót Herzog, surfaced at a New York auction a few years ago, as I reported also in 2011. It has now been revealed that the mysterious buyer of the objects at the sale was the State of Hungary, and the objects have been placed in the National Museum. After three years, in late 2014, the collection has been put on view in a special exhibition at the museum (which is open until January 25, 2014). No catalogue has been published, and there is no information available on the website of the museum - but a photo gallery is available on the website of the Hungarian state news agency, hirado.hu, by clicking on the image on this page. A total of 32 pieces entered the museum, all of which at one time belonged to Mór Lipót Herzog, who passed away in 1934. The pieces have been recorded earlier as wartime victims of looting, and their whereabouts were unknown until the New York sale.

Transylvanian goldsmith works from the former Herzog collection - Hungarian National Museum, on view until January 25, 2015. For more information (in Hungarian), visit Obeliscus, an online journal on the early modern period.




Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Hungarian ornaments found at the site of the Battle of Lechfeld (955)

In the Battle of Lechfeld, King Otto I defeated the Magyar troops in 955, effectively putting an end to the period of Hungarian invasions to western Europe. The battle took place near Augsburg, but its exact location was not known. According to German press reports, a sensational find may change that. An amateur archaeologist found a set of horse ornaments at a site some 15 kilometers northeast of Augsburg. The silver ornaments show traces of gilding, and their style unmistakenly ties them to 10th century Hungarians. The ornaments must have belonged to a high-ranking leader in the Hungarian army. The leaders of the army, including Bulcsú and Lehel (Lél) were executed by Otto - who himself was later crowned Emperor. The Hungarians turned towards east during the next few decades, being involved in conflicts against the Byzantine Empire. Finally, however, the period of Hungarian raids was over, and a new kingdom emerged in the Carpathian basin under the rule of King St. Stephen (1000-1038).


Photo: Archäologische Staatssammlung München 

The finds were presented last week by the Archäologische Staatssammlung München. Further excavations to be carried out at the site may shed more light on the circumstances of this decisive battle. The finds will be presented at the permanent exhibition of the State Archaeological Collection after restoration.

You can read about the discovery in Augsburger Allgemeine (in German) or in Népszabadság (in Hungarian). More information is available at the following sites: Bayerischer Rundfunk, Focus, Aichacher Zeitung, usw.

Drawing of Hungarian conquest-period horse ornaments.
Reconstruction by László Révész

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Virtual reconstruction of Simontornya castle

The virtual reconstruction of the castle of Simontornya - a project, which has been in the making for several years - has now been presented with a series of innovative solutions. The castle, which was originally built in the late 13th century, was extensively rebuilt at the beginning of the 16th century, and survived in fragmentary form. The virtual reconstruction was carried out by Pazirik company.  They made virtual reconstruction of the exterior and the interior of the castle, where it is possible to change the timeline and explore the reconstruction of various periods. There is also a virtual time-travel feature, where you can enter a virtual panorama of the present building, going back and forth from the present to the medieval period.

You can reach the reconstructions here:

Reconstruction of the interior courtyard of the castle (various periods)
Simontornya in the early 16th century (with interior reconstructions)
Virtual tour of Simontornya castle, with time-travel feature (click on the clocks to go back in time)

Most recently, a video was presented about the history of Simontornya castle, utilizing the results of all these reconstructions.


You can read more about the castle and the virtual reconstruction on the Sírásók naplója blog and in Altum Castrum Online Magazin (both in Hungarian). More information is available on the website of the museum working in the castle today.


Saturday, August 24, 2013

Hungarian Archaeological Journals Online

I would like to call attention to two (actually, three) Hungarian online journals, dedicated to archaeology. The first one is directly relevant to the topic of my blog, as it generally deals with medieval archaeology. Titled Archaeologia - Altum Castrum Online, the magazine is published by the King Matthias Museum at Visegrád, a branch of the Hungarian National Museum. The magazin is edited by Olivér Kovács, and it is coordinated by the director of the museum, Gergely Buzás. The articles report on interesting new discoveries in the field of medieval archaeology, and there is section where longer studies are also published - generally in nicely formatted PDF-files. The only problem is that content is only available in Hungarian. The magazine works together with another online portal, the Hungarian-language műemlékem.hu. This site is a one-stop starting point for getting information on historic monuments in Hungary, complete with user-submitted information, and informative magazine-section and a project focusing built monuments in the Carpathian basin, outside the borders of modern Hungary. The editor of this portal is also Olivér Kovács, who must be quite busy, I imagine. The two websites mentioned so far are important sources of information for the Medieval Hungary blog as well.



The other new e-journal is titled Hungarian Archaeology, and is published by Archaeolingua Foundation, the premier Hungarian publishing house in the field of archaeology. This quarterly journal is published both in Hungarian and English editions, and contains a wide range of studies dedicated to all periods. It is a forum to spread information not only on archaeological research in Hungary, but also on the work of Hungarian researchers working at excavations in various parts of the world. Naturally, there are articles in almost all issues dedicated to medieval subjects. The e-journal is currently in its second year: so far 6 issues have been published online. You can read more about the goals of the publishers and editors here. Go ahead, and browse the journal - you will surely find something interesting!





Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Buried Medieval Synagogue of Buda

View of the remains in 1964
Hungarian daily Népszabadság reported this weekend on the Schulhof Foundation for the Restoration of the Medieval Synagogue of Buda. The aim of the foundation is to uncover and reconstruct the medieval great Synagogue of Buda, which was found in 1964. This late Gothic Synagogue was built in 1461, and was destoyed in 1686, when the castle of Buda was taken back by the Christian army from the Turks. Although the medieval Jewish community of Buda had to leave the town in 1526 (when the army of Suleiman the Great first took the Hungarian capital), they were allowed to return during the period of Ottoman Turkish rule (1541-1686). In September 1686, when the Christian army broke through the Vienna Gate in the process of taking back the town, they started slaughtering everyone they encountered - Turks and Jews alike. The chronicle of rabbi Isaac Schulhof describes how the people of the town ran into the synagogue and tried to barricade themselves inside - but the Christians stormed the synagogue and slaughtered everyone inside. The building burned down, and was later covered over, becoming the tomb of those trapped inside for several centuries.



Remains of the building were found by László Zolnay in 1964. The Synagogue was a square building, which was divided into two aisles by a row of piers. The remains are about 4 meters below the present-day street level, so tall walls, as well as much of the piers once dividing the space survive. The vault supported by these piers already collapsed in the 16th century, but one keystone survives. After the removal of the bodies, the great synagoge had to be covered over again, in hopes of a future reconstruction. Stones from the piers were taken across the street, where a smaller and earlier synagogue was also found in the 1960s. This smaller prayer house was rebuilt from its ruins at the beginning of the 18th century as a residential house, and now it operates as a small museum, as part of the Budapest History Museum.

Drawing of one of the walls of the Synagogue


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Danube Bend in the Middle Ages - Exhibition

12th century stone carving from Vác cathedral
A new temporary exhibition opened last Saturday at Vác, dedicated to the medieval history of the region known as the Danube Bend. Stretching from Esztergom through Visegrád down to Szentendre, the area includes some of the most important medieval settlements of Hungary (towns located in the Medium regni, as the central part of the kingdom was known). The exhibition was organized by the Pest County Museum, centred in Szentendre, with the cooperation of other major museums of the region: the Balassa Bálint Museum of Esztergom and the King Matthias Museum of Visegrád. The exhibition is on view at Ignác Tragor Museum of Vác (in the former Greek Orthodox church), the museum of another major city in the region, located on the other side of the Danube. As the well-established system of Hungarian county museums is currently being completely shaken up and reorganized, the exhibition can be seen as an attempt to demonstrate the power of the old system - capable of cooperation, joint organization and the like. (Hungarian-speaking readers can read about the changes for example here - I could not find any English-language reports on this major reorganization).

Of the towns mentioned above, Esztergom was and is the seat of Hungary's primate archbishop and a former royal seat, Visegrád boasts a royal castle and a royal palace at the bottom of the hill, and Vác was (is) an important bishopric, while Szentendre was a small market-town along the Danube. Thus there is plenty of material to show in an exhibition dedicated to the region - the exhbition instead is adapted to the small exhibition space, and focuses mainly of recent archaeological finds. This include - among others - a Romanesque baptismal font recovered at Vác, as well as a fragment of the 15th century terracotta relief showing the Battle of Amazons, and attributed to Gregorio di Lorenzo (formerly known as the Master of the Marble Madonnas).

Relief fragment by Gregorio di Lorenzo, Vác
The exhibition will later also be shown at Szentendre, Visegrád and Esztergom. As the Esztergom Museum and of course the royal palace at Visegrád both have their significant medieval exhibitions, the present exhibition will clearly appear in a different light at future venues. I have not yet seen the exhibition, and I could find no information on the websites of any of the museums involved. (The invitation to the opening ceremony can be seen here).

The curator of the exhibition was Tibor Ákos Rácz, and was opened by Imre Takács, director of the Museum of Applied Arts, and a noted medieval art historian himself.

While we are on the subject of the Danube bend, I would like to mention related news as well. At the King Matthias Museum in Visegrád, visitors can see a temporary museum in addition to the permanent displays. Titled "Not without a trace...," the exhibition displays finds from the period of the Magyar Conquest, from the collection of the Pest County Museum. Star attractions of the show are recent finds from the vicinity of Bugyi - about which I reported earlier. The traveling exhibition is on view at Visegrád until October 28th.

Archaeologists of the Pest County Museum also had luck late this summer - the very low water level of the Danube enabled them to recover a medieval shipwreck in the Danube Bend. Discovery News reports on the find. Maybe objects from this boat can be incorporated in the next incarnation of the "Danube Bend in the Middle Ages" exhibition.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

The Medieval University of Pécs

General view of the site north of the cathedral
Photo: muemlekem.hu 
Hungary's first university was founded in 1367 at Pécs, with faculties of philosophy, law and medicine (no theology). The university was created by the bishop of Pécs, Vilmos (William), with royal support and by a decree of Pope Urban V. The university was short-lived: already in 1395, King Sigismund created a new insitution at Óbuda, and the school at Pécs stopped working some time in the early 15th century (the University of Óbuda was unsuccessful, too). It is believed that the buildings of the University were located on the north side of cathedral, where in the 12-13th centuries the bishop's palace was erected. Indeed, excavations carried out there in 1980s unearthed a large Gothic building, built on the remains of an earlier, Romanesque structure. The topography of this area, however is rather complicated: among other structures the remains of a 14th-century chapel: the so-called Gilded Chapel of Our Lady (mentioned as such in a charter of Pope Boniface IX in 1401: capella deaurata beate Marie Virginis), founded by Bishop Nicholas (1346-1360). Remains of the chapel and the university dissapeared during the Ottoman Turkish conquest and the wars ensuing (Pécs was occupied in 1543).

The chapel and other remains on the north side of the cathedral were unearthed by Mária Sándor between 1978-1987). Among the most important finds on the site were the extraordinarily fine statues stemming from the former chapel. After this for many decades, the remains of the buildings stood under temporary roofs, while the sculptural fragments from the chapel languished in storage at the local county museum. There were many attempts to make the site accessible, but there was never any money for it - not even during preparations for 2010, when Pécs was European Capital of Culture (when a new visitor center was built for the Early Christian ruins, also located near the cathedral).

Fragment of a stone retable from the Gilded Chapel of Our Lady
 Last year, however, something finally happened - there was a brief new archaeological campaing to clarify some questions, and it was announced that the site will be opened to the public by this year. Along this process a lot of additional medieval architectural fragments have been recovered in the area, especially inside the later walls encircling the complex.

The area is now managed by the Hungarian State Holding Company, and a significant amount was set aside for the erection of a new protective building for the remains of the university and the chapel. In June it was announced that that the university building is ready for visitors, apart from some minor internal restoration tasks. The walls of the medieval fortress structure surrounding the cathedral complex have also been strengthened and a new walkway is being created around them. The opening of this area is scheduled for September, 2012. With this step finally the whole cathedral complex will be accessible to visitors, together with the very rich holdings of medieval sculpture and other remains. I wrote briefly before about the cathedral and the adjacent Cathedral Museum, which holds the Romanesque sculptures from the cathedral. The new area will make accessible the equally significant Gothic remains of Pécs.

Glimpse inside the new museum building at the site
Photo: muemlekem.hu 



Additional reading:
Reports on a research project coordinated by Mária Sándor in 2001-2006, dedicated to the remains of the university and the chapel (with bilbiography).
The MA Thesis of Veronika Csikós, submitted at CEU Budapest in 2008, can be downloaded from the website of the University. The thesis deals with the statues of the Gilded Chapel of Our Lady.


More information is available in Hungarian at the following sites:

Report on the discovery of carved stones last year, in the online heritage magazine, Műemlékem.hu.
Report on the new excavations at the chapel, on the online journal for medieval archaeology (Archeologia - Altum Castrum Online Magazin), maintained by the Visegrád Palace Museum (with a more detailed report by Gergely Buzás, a PDF-file with lots of images).


Friday, August 26, 2011

Remains of Carolingian palace found at Zalavár

The church of St. Hadrianus at Mosaburg/Zalavár (from Wikipedia)

The area of Zalavár in western Hungary has long been one of the most interesting archaeological sites of medieval Hungary, especially for the Carolingian period. The area has been idetified with Mosaburg, where the Slavic prince Pribina established himself around 840, after he was expelled from Nyitra (Nitra, Slovakia). Lands in the area were granted to him by Louis the German. The first church there was dedicated by Liutprand, archishop of Salzburg in 850. Several other churches have also been documented there. In the late 9th century, Arnulf of Carinthia had his seat there, before he became Holy Roman Emperor at the end of his life. This late Carolingian flourished until the time of the Hungarian (Magyar) conquest of the Carpathian basin, including the area of Pannonia. Later, in 1019, King St. Stephen established a Benedictine abbey at Zalavár, and by the 12th century, a new castle was established there. The settlement - including the castle and the churches - became largely abandoned during the Ottoman Turkish occupation of Hungary, and after the reconquest, in 1702, the remaining buildings were torn down.

Carolingian glass fragments from Zalavár

Archaeological excavations of the past decades, however, have brought many interesting remains to light. The sensation of the previous decade was the excavation of the third church of Mosaburg, the pilgrimage church dedicated to Saint Hadrianus, established in 855 (the conserved foundations walls of the church can be seen above). Several interesting finds, including fragments of stained glass windows were found here.






Reports from this summer's archaeological season indicate that the remains of a Carolingian stone palace have been found at the site of Mosaburg. As the online magazine műemlékem.hu reports, archaeologists have found the corner of a large, rectangular stone building. Béla Miklós Szőke and Ágnes Ritoók, archaeologist in charge of the excavations identified the remains with the foundations of the palace of Arnulf, and thus date it to the last quarter of the 9th century (Arnulf died in 899, after becoming Holy Roman Emperor in 896. These are also the years of the Hungarian Conquest). Research still has to continue - it is hoped that by next summer, the full area of the Carolingian palace can be excavated.

Remains of a Carolingian building at Zalavár
You can find more aerial photos of the area on the website of Civertan.
More information about the history of Zalavár and its churches is available on the website of the Zalavár Historical Memorial Park.
For more of the historical and ecclesiastical context, you may want to read the following studies:

Szőke Béla Miklós: Mosaburg / Zalavár a Karoling-korban. In: Paradisum Plantavit. Bencés monostorok a középkori Magyarországon. Ed. Imre Takács, Pannonhalma, 2001 (in Hungarian)

Szőke, B.M.: Karolingische Kirchenorganisation in Pannonien, in: U. von Freeden – H. Friesinger – E. Wamers (hrsg.): Glaube, Kult und Herrschaft. Phänomene des Religiösen im 1. Jahrtausend n. Chr. in Mittel- und Nordeuropa. Akten des 59. Internationalen Sachsensymposions und der Grudprobleme der frühgeschichtlichen Entwicklung im Mitteldonauraum. Römisch-Germanische Kommission, Frankfurt a.M. Eurasien-Abteilung, Berlin des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts, Kolloquien zur Vor- und Frühgeschichte Bd. 12. Bonn 2009. 395–416.



Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Medieval news in the Hungarian press

I'm back from my vacation, and I am returning to blogging with a brief overview of news about medieval art and archaeology in the Hungarian press. Summer is naturally the chief season for archaeologists, so there are reports about various interesting finds. The links are all to Hungarian-language news sources - generally with images, so perhaps worth clicking, even if you don't know the language.
Remains of early Christian chapel found at Pécs photo from pécsma.hu 
The historical portal Múlt-kor reports on an early Christian chapel found at Pécs. More and more of the early Christian necropolis there is coming to light. This particular chapel was found in March - current reports are about the decision to re-bury the find, as there is no money to properly conserve and restore the architectural remains. Local newspapers reported first on the discovery - Múlt-kor now reports about the decision to protect the walls by covering them again.
 
In a post one year ago, I wrote briefly about the world heritage site of Pécs, linking to some 3D reconstructions of the early Christian building.

Photo of Siklós castle - by Népszabadság
South of Pécs, the castle of Siklós is in the news again - Hungary's largest daily, Népszabadság reports about the small late-medieval prayer niche found inside the castle wall there. I wrote about the research and reconstruction of Siklós castle in a previous post - and plan to report in more detail about this interesting painted niche as well.

As a further addition for now, I am providing this link to three 360 degree panorama photos of Siklós castle - one of them showing the interior of the famous chapel.


Reconstruction of Szeged in the second half of the 18th c.
Múlt-kor and other sources are also reporting on the excavations at the site of the former castle of Szeged. This year, remains of the southern gate tower were found, in the same area where remains of the southern wall of the castle were identified last year. Excavations in the area have been going on for several years. The castle of Szeged was originally built in the 13th century, and was significantly modified after the town was captured by the Ottoman Turks in 1543. During the 18th century, the fortress fell into disrepair, and was completely dismantled by local citizens after the flood of 1879.
Therefore, excavations are bringing to life only the remains of foundations, thereby helping to reconstruct exactly the former extent of the castle. The online magazine műemlékem.hu reported on finds from previous years, with a photo gallery.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Research and renovation at Siklós castle

The medieval castle of Siklós reopened after years of research and renovation. The castle lies in southern Hungary (just south of Pécs). For much of the 15th century (until 1481), the castle and the large estate was in the property of the mighty Garai family - even king Sigismund was held captive here at the beginning of his Hungarian rule, in 1401. The general layout of the castle stems from this period, but it was enlarged and rebuilt in several later phases. Most significant of these campaigns was the addition of a large late Gothic sanctuary to the castle chapel, built in the second decade of the 16th century, at the time of the Perényi family. Although the castle was occupied by the Turks for almost 150 years, and was rebuilt after that in Baroque style, it still preserves a lot of significant medieval and Renaissance details (see these photos). A large new exhibition hall was created during this most recent reconstruction, which enable the display of these fragments.

The reconstruction was preceded by several years of archaeological and architectural research, which brought to light many interesting finds, including a previously unknown small and painted wall niche. I hope to report on these finds in more detail soon - I am planning a trip to Siklós some time soon, and maybe a guest post can be organized with one of the archaeologists. For now, here is a photo of one of the frescoes in the castle chapel, discovered during a previous restorations campaign in the 1950s.

St. Ladislas and St. Leonard - Fresco c. 1420, in the castle chapel of Siklós
Photo by Attila Mudrák 
Siklós of course preserves many other treasures. I would only like to mention the former Augustinian church standing in the vicinity of the castle, which was decorated with an extensive fresco cycle at the beginning of the 15th century, commissioned by the Garai family. I have written extensively on these frescoes elsewhere - you may want to look at this Hungarian-language article with and English summary. For even more information, you can have a look at my dissertation (especially if you are based at any American institution with UMI/Proquest access...).

Monday, April 18, 2011

Earliest Christian church of Transylvania found at Gyulafehérvár

Traces of the oldest church of Transylvania
Photo from www.kronika.ro 

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.