Showing posts with label castles. Show all posts
Showing posts with label castles. Show all posts

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, March 10, 2012

Medieval castle of Krasznahorka burned down

In a tragic event today, the medieval castle of Krasznahorka (Krásna Horka, Slovakia) completely burned out today. The roof of the castle caught fire, and the fire spread to all areas of the castle, burning all the roofs - and, presumably, everything under them. Firefighters battled the blazes for several hours, and finally managed to stop the fire, but the castle is still engulfed in smoke. There are no reports yet of damage to the artworks and other objects in the castle - but it is no doubt very serious. The cause of the fire has not yet been established.


Krasznahorka castle, before the fire

Krasznahorka, located near Rozsnyó (Rožňava) in south-eastern Slovakia, just north of the Hungarian border, was one of the most intact medieval castles of Upper Hungary, built by the Bebek family and later owned for centuries by the Andrássy family. You can read about the history of the castle on the official website. Krasznahorka managed to escape war damage both during the Turkish wars and later, in WWII. It burned down only once before, in 1817. The castle has been operated as a family museum and mausoleum since about the mid-19th century. Exhibitions inside the castle included valuable paintings, furniture and weapons. One of the large bastions has been turned into a Baroque chapel - famously holding the mummy of Zsófia Serédy, the wife of István Andrássy. Photos taken after the fire show that the roof of the chapel also burned down.

Here is a video of the fire, and a photo taken after the fire was put out - both showing the scale of devastation. Krasznahorka looms large in both Hungarian and Slovak historical consciousness - a joint effort will be needed to rebuilt what has been lost today.

 


Update on March 11th: Preliminary reports after the fire claim that most of the exhibitions and historic objects survived the disaster. Although all the roof structures of the castle burned in the fire, the vaults did not collapse - thus the historic interiors were not completely destroyed. Objects are now gathered in safe areas inside the castle. Obviously, only a detailed survey and inventory can reveal the extent of the damage in the end. So far, no photos of the interior after the blaze have been published.



Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Siklós castle

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Siklós castle, a set on Flickr.
As an addition to my most recent post, here are some photos of Siklós castle. These photos were mainly taken in 2007, thus before and during the current restoration campaign. I hope I will be able to share new photographs soon, too.

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...).

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Hungarians in the Crusader Castle of Margat

View of Margat castle, photo by Éva Galambos
The Crusader castle of Margat (Marqab) is the largest such building in the former Principality of Antioch (present-day Syria). After its capture from the Muslims in the early 12th century, the castle was incorporated into the Principality and later - in 1186 - it was sold to the Hospitallers. In 1188, Saladin was unable to capture it, and it remained in the hand of the Hospitallers for almost another century (until 1285).
King Andrew II of Hungary, leader of the Fifth Crusade (1217-1218) spent some time in the castle, and made a sizable donation to the Hospitallers.  It is interesting to note that the mother of Andrew II, Anne (Ágnes) of Chatillon stems from the Principality of Antioch, as she was the daughter of Raynald of Chatillon - the same Raynald executed by Saladin in 1187, a year before his army reached Margat.

The castle was built into a huge edifice by the Hospitallers, organized around a large circular keep (donjon). The main buildings of the castle - including the great hall, the chapel, the chapter house, the dormitories and the kitchen - survived largely intact to this day. Since 2006, the Syro-Hungarian Archaeological Mission, led by Balázs Major has been conducting research and excavations at the site.

The big breakthrough came in 2008, when frescoes were discovered inside the castle chapel. The frescoes are the remains of a large Last Judgment, likely painted at the end of the 12th century by western painters. So far large areas of the depiction of Hell have been cleaned on the wall to the left of the apse, and traces of Heaven have been uncovered on the opposite wall. Jaroslav Folda, in his book Crusader Art in the Holy Land from the Third Crusade to the Fall of Acre, 1187-1291 (Cambridge-New York, 2005) dates the construction of the chapel to 1186-87, so immediately after the Hospitallers took over the castle. He also describes the frescoes known before the current excavation campaign, located in the sacristy. The newly discovered frescoes are not only on a much larger surface than those known before, but their rare iconography makes them the most important discovery in the field of Crusader art. Their style is also different from those described by Folda as the work of a Byzantinizing locally trained painter (p. 33).

Thanks to the kindness of one of the restorers working on these frescoes, I am able to include a few illustrations here. These photos were all taken by Éva Galambos, and have never appeared before.

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.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Castles in Medieval Hungary

View of Visegrád



The territory of medieval Hungary was very rich in castles. Castles served as the centers of royal counties, and they were also the centers of noble estates. The first large wave of castle-building took place during the second half of the 13th century, after the disastrous Mongol invasion (1241). It became clear at that time that only a strongly fortified stone castle can stop invaders. A strong line of defence was also built up along the southern frontiers of the country during the 14th-15th centuries, with the intention of stopping the advancing armies of the Ottoman empire. However, the medieval kingdom of Hungary fell at the battle of Mohács (1526), and many castles of the realm became ruined during the ensuing 150 years of wars. Thus many medieval castles survived only as ruins, although there are several well-preserved structures, especially in the northern part of the former kingdom (present-day Slovakia and in Burgenland county of Austria). Transylvania is also rich in castles - there we also find a large number of fortified churches as well.

If you would like to know more about the castles of Hungary, you should visit the website dedicated to documenting these buildings. The website - Castles of Historical Hungary - presents hundreds of castles with photographs, drawings and descriptions. Unfortunately, not much else than the introduction is available in English at present - but you can still browse the list of castles and enjoy the photographs.

The enormous amount of information that appears on this website resulted in a new book, which presents castles in Transylvania (actually, all the regions of the Kingdom of Hungary ceded to Romania at the Treaty of Trianon, in 1920). The book presents a total of 600 castles and fortified churches, with photos and drawings. You can browse sample pages here and order the book here (it is actually unclear to me whether they would ship the book abroad or not).

Here is the bibliographic record for the book: