Showing posts with label wall painting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label wall painting. Show all posts

Saturday, April 26, 2014

800 Years of Ják Abbey

Fresco of St. George at Ják, c. 1256 
This weekend - the weekend after Saint George's Day - mark the 800th anniversary of the foundation of the Benedictine monastery of Ják. It is known that the monastery was established by Márton "the Great" comes from the Ják kindred some time before 1223 (when its abbot was first mentioned). Circumstantial evidence puts the date of this foundation to the year 1214. The abbey church was dedicated to St. George, who was a favoured saint in Hungary during the late Árpádian period, and one particularly liked by the Ják kindred. The abbey church, built in late Romanesque style, was finally dedicated in 1256. Construction thus lasted for a few decades, and was not without interruption. The church is one of the most monumental examples of early thirteenth century monasteries erected by noble families in Hungary - other examples include Lébény or Türje. It was built as a three-aisled basilica, with a massive western part with two towers and a gallery between them. Construction started on the northern side, then continued on the southern side in the second phase. After a change of plan it was decided to vault the entire church, and it was in this phase that the western area was also built. This phase of the work - during the 1230s - is characterised by strong connections with the building workshop of Bamberg cathedral. In the end, the church was not fully finished as planned - work was interrupted either by the Mongol invasion (1241-42), or by the death of Márton comes in 1250. The central and southern aisle of the nave was not vaulted, only covered with a flat wooden ceiling - but the church was considered finished by the 1256 consecration. The western portal of the church, as well as its additional carved decoration, and also its painted decoration make the church one of the most important 13th century monuments from Hungary. The rotunda standing next to the abbey church was also built in the 13th century, around 1260.
Ják abbey church. From Wikimedia Commons

The church was restored several times, most extensively between 1896-1906. The massive stone spires of the towers, and the vault of the central aisle were added at this time. Literature on the church is extensive, especially in Hungarian and German.  You can find some photos on this website, including images taken before the late 19th century restoration.

More recently, the exterior of the church was cleaned. With the current festivities celebrating eight centuries of the Abbey, the goal of the organizers is to raise money for the restoration of the frescoes in the church, especially the fresco of St. George painted on the wall of the main apse. You can read my study on these frescoes, from a 2001 catalogue dedicated to Benedictines in medieval Hungary (the study is in Hungarian).

The western portal before 1896

Other online resources, mainly in Hungarian:
Photos in Wikimedia Commons and on the website of Pázmány Péter University.
Study and photos on the templom.hu website, data on the műemlékem.hu website.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Medieval Wall Paintings uncovered at Kövi/Kameňany

Saint Anne with the Virgin at Kövi
The village of Kövi (Kameňany, SK) lies in the vicinity of Rimaszombat (Rimavská Sobota) and Rozsnyó (Rožňava), just north of the modern border between Hungary and Slovakia. In the middle ages, the settlement had an important castle, the ruins of which can still be seen above the settlement of Gömörrákos (Rákoš). The castle was built by members of the Ákos clan in the late 13th century, and it was later owned by descendents of the family, the Bebek and Csetneki families. In 1367, it was described as a ruin, but was rebuilt by about 1400, when the Bebek family alone obtained possession of it.

The parish church of Kövi dates also from the late 13th or only 14th century, and it has been known for some time that its walls preserve important medieval wall paintings. Parts of them were uncovered in 1977, but this work stopped soon afterwards. During the last few years, starting from 2011, the uncovery of these frescoes began again, and research so far has already yielded very important results. The frescoes have been uncovered on the walls of the semi-circular apse of the church, particularly on the northern wall. Here a series of the apostles can be seen, while the insede wall of the triumphal arch is decorated with female martyrs. Higher on the arch, the Wise and Foolish Virgins can be seen. More recently, restorer Peter Koreň has uncovered additional frescoes on the north wall of the nave. Here an impressive composition the Virgin and Child with St. Anne (Mettercia) has been found, which shows the extended family of the Virgin. More frescoes are to be found in the attic of the church, above the Baroque vault built into the nave. Here details of a Last Judgement scene can be seen. Photos of the frescoes can be seen on the very useful Slovakian portal of medieval churches, Apsida.sk. However, a picture of the St. Anne can be seen first on this blog, along with other images uncovered in the nave (I thank the restorer for providing me with images).


The finds at Kövi are of great importance. Although the frescoes appear to be somewhat fragmentary, their high quality can be seen, especially in some of the faces. A full uncovery of the ensemble and a careful restoration of the frescoes would result in a spectacular monument. The locality is important, because it is in a church which is right next to the medieval castle, which was one of the administrative centers of the region. The patrons of the frescoes were most likely the lords of the castle, so members of the powerful Bebek family. In the present state of research, the frescoes can be dated to the late 14th century or to around 1400 - but it has to mentioned that the frescoes of the nave and sanctuary date from two different painting campaigns. Overall, they appear to be related not only to nearby Gömörrákos, but also to the frescoes of the somewhat more distant Torna/Turňa nad Bodvou, a settlement near Kassa/Košice, the frescoes of which have also been recently uncovered. The full restoration of the Kövi frescoes will definitely considerably alter our knowledge of medieval wall painting in the region. It has to be mentioned that the historical region of medieval Gömör County preserves the richest ensemble of medieval wall paintings from the territory of the medieval Kingdom of Hungary. Along with the countless impressive painted monuments in the region - places such as Csetnek/Štítnik, Karaszkó/Kraskovo, Gecelfalva/Kocelovce, Gömörrákos/Rákoš, Ochtina/Ochtiná and others - research during recent years uncovered even more, such as the frescoes of sanctuary of Pelsőc/Plešivec. The churches can be visited along the Gothic Route of churches. It is to be hoped that within a short time, Kövi will become an important stopping point on this route.

Here are a few pictures of the frescoes in the sanctuary, where the high quality of the apostle frescoes can be observed:








Tuesday, January 07, 2014

New books on Hungarian medieval art

As this blog  is aimed for an international audience, I  generally only write reviews of  books published in English or other western languages. However, in this post I would like to call attention to a few books published mostly in Hungarian last year.


János Eisler: Kis könyv a Szent Koronáról (Small book on the Holy Crown of Hungary). Budapest, 2013

This monograph, written by an art historian - a long-time curator of the Museum of Fine Arts - is a welcome addition to the literature on the Crown of St Stephen. Not too much in detail has been written about this unique object in recent years - a basic bibliography is available on my webpage dedicated to the Hungarian coronation insignia. Unfortunately, the subject of the crown has been hijacked by authors far removed from the framework of scholarship, putting forward one crazy theory after the other about the supposed age and power of the crown. János Eisler, however, concerns himself with the actual historical, political and theological questions of 11-12th century Hungary: the period when the crown was created. I am looking forward to reading it.
More details on the publishers website.



Középkori egyházi építészet Erdélyben - Medieval Ecclesiastical Architecture in Transylvania, vol. 5. Edited by Péter Levente Szőcs. Satu Mare, 2012.

This is the fifth volume in a series of conference proceedings, edited by Péter Levente Szőcs, and published by the County Museum of Satu Mare. As was the case with the previous volumes, the subject matter ranges from Romanesque architecture to late gothic church furnishings, in this case from four-lobed Romanesque churches to the rood screen of the parish church of Szeben/Sibiu and the wall paintings of Segesvár/Sighisoara. One study I found particularly interesting is Radu Lupescu's analysis of the western portal of the Church of St. Michael in Kolozsvár/Cluj, featured on the cover of the book. The studies are published in various languages: Hungarian, Romanian, English and French, with summaries generally in English. The list of studies can be consulted here. The book was published with the support of a EU-funded Hungarian-Romanian cross-border research project, about which you can read on the project website (Patronimium2).



A szórvány emlékei (Monuments of the diaspora). Ed. Tibor Kollár. Budapest, Teleki László Alapítvány, 2013.

This is another, much more lavishly produced book on medieval architecture in Transylvania. The book aims to publish medieval churches which had been abandonded by their original builders (Hungarians and Transylvanian Saxons) in southern Transylvania, due to historical circumstances. In addition to architecture, the book also focuses on medieval wall-painting, mainly on newly discovered monuments. The books makes available a whole new set of material for researchers of medieval art, not just in the studies but also in the large number of brand new photographs. The book was edited by Tibor Kollár, who became known as the organizer and editor of a series of books on Hungarian medieval architecture. The contents of the present volume are listed (in Hungarian) on the publishers website. My study in the book can be read here (a summary is available right here on the blog).





Közös tér - Közös örökség. Common space - Common heritage. Edited by József S. Sebestyén. Budapest, 2013.

This bilingual book documents the results of a long-term project funded by the Hungarian government, aimed at restoring monuments of mainly medieval Hungarian architecture from regions outside of the borders of modern Hungary. In ten years an amount of roughly 7,5 million dollars was spent on restoring approximately 300 architectural monuments related to Hungarian cultural history. Subsidies were mainly directed towards archeological studies, professional conservation, restauration and preservation efforts, but also included at times funding earmarked for making future use of monument buildings possible. This book, which grew out of an exhibition series, present this work, seeking to offer a glimpse into the wealth of architectural monuments bearing witness to the cultural history of centuries past.



Dániel Pócs: Didymus-corvina - Hatalmi reprezentáció Mátyás király udvarában (The Didymus Corvina - Representation of power at the court of king Matthias Corvinus). Budapest, 2013.

Dániel Pócs, one of the researchers who participated in the organization of last years Florentine exhibition dedicated to art at the court of Matthias finally published a book based on his doctoral dissertation, the subject of which is political iconography at the court of Matthias. The starting point of his analysis is one of the most splendid manuscripts commissioned by the king, the Didymus Corvina (New York, Pierpont Morgan Library, MS M.496). The book is an important addition not only to Corvina-studies, but also to art history of the Matthias period in general. An earlier study of Pócs on the manuscript is available in English as well: Pócs, Dániel: "Holy Spirit in the Library. The Frontispiece of the Didymus corvina and neoplatonic theology at the court of king Matthias Corvinus", in: Acta Historiae Artium, 41, 1999/2000, pp. 63-212.



See some of  the other books I reviewed or reported on previously:


Sunday, January 05, 2014

Medieval news from the end of 2013

There were quite a lot of things I wanted to report on at the end of 2013. I hope to come back to these subject individually in the near future - for now, I can only give a brief listing of these news.

Medieval palace chapel reopened at Esztergom

After a restoration process of about 13 years, the palace chapel of Esztergom chapel finally reopened to visitors. During this period, the chapel was completely inaccessible, as heavy scaffolding was erected inside. The chapel, which was built at the end of the 12th century, is the most important Early Gothic building in Hungary. It was decorated with a wonderful cycle of frescoes, painted in the 1330s - the best example of Italianate frescoes in Hungary. During the Turkish wars, the chapel, along with the royal (later archepiscopal) palace next to it fell to ruin, and was only uncovered between 1934-38. The restoration of the Renaissance frescoes in the adjoining room still goes on, and will probably be completed in 2015.
The website of the Castle Museum of Esztergom (a branch of the Hungarian National Museum) provides very basic information about visits to the chapel. The press kit, which can be downloaded from the website, provides a few photos of the frescoes in their restored state. The photo used here is from the press kit. A full architectural and photogrammetrical survey of the palace chapel and adjoining spaces - which was carried out in connection of the restoration - is available on the website of the company who made the survey. Reports on the reopening of the chapel were made by Hungarian press, see here and here, for example. For more photos, go to Archeologia - Altum Castrum Magazin.

Exhibition of the Sculpture Collection reopened at the Museum of Fine Arts

Horse and rider attributed to Leonardo da Vinci.
Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest
The Collection of European Sculpture at the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest has been inaccessible for a long time, ever since the old permanent exhibition was closed some 25 years. During this period, the Gothic wooden sculptures were on display for a few years starting from 2000, and there were several temporary exhibitions organized from this material (as the Verrocchio exhibition, organized by the author of this blog). More recently, several important statues in the collection were (and remain) incorporated into the galleries of Old Master paintings. The Museum website reports on the reopening of the sculpture exhibition in detail:
"The sculptures of the Museum of Fine Arts, housed in the deposits for the past 25 years, are now presented in newly renovated rooms on the second floor of the museum. The Department of Sculpture collection includes nearly 650 European sculptures covering six centuries of artistic creation from the Middle Ages to 18th-century Classicism. The exhibition encompasses over 100 artworks, from various styles and periods, including German Late-Gothic, Italian Renaissance, and Austrian Baroque. Among the exhibited masterpieces are German sculptor Tilman Riemenschneider’s (circa 1460-1531) wooden sculpture, referred to as Madonna and Child, Italian architect and sculptor Jacopo Sansovino’s (1486−1570) unique wax sculpture entitled Madonna and Child, and the extraordinary Austrian Baroque sculptor Franz Xaver Messerschmidt’s (1736−1783) Character Heads. In addition to displaying the most celebrated sculptures, the museum’s exhibition also provides insights into the secrets and special production techniques of the workshops. Throughout the centuries, sculptors have experimented with several types of material, including wood, stone, ivory, terracotta, and various alloys of metal. Furthermore, over time artists developed numerous methods for decorating and painting their sculptures and reliefs. Conservators have applied the original methods and traditional materials and techniques to make samples, thus highlighting the important details of the displayed sculptures and enabling the viewer to observe and follow the various stages of the creative process." You can continue reading on the website of the museum.

Other news

Interesting things are happening elsewhere in the region as well. The Gallery of Medieval Art finally reopened at the National Museum in Warsaw. The exhibition of the Master of the Liechtenstein Castle remains open until February 23, at the Belvedere in Vienna. Finally, the exhibition on the Florentine connections of Hungarian Renaissance art is closing this weekend in Florence.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Once more on "Botticelli in Esztergom"


It has recently been stated by the Hungaarian government that new financial sources have been provided for the completion of the restoration of the medieval castle complex in Esztergom, in particular that of the early Gothic castle chapel and the adjoining spaces, which are decorated with frescoes. The 14th century frescoes of the chapel as well as the late 15th century frescoes of the so-called 'Studiolo' have been under restoration since 2000 - an impossibly long time. With the new funds, the end maybe is in sight - the chapel will be accessible again as early as next Spring, while the frescoes of the Studiolo will be on view again in 2015.

Recently, most attention has been given to these Renaissance frescoes, following the sensational claim made by restorer Zsuzsanna Wierdl and art historian Mária Prokopp in 2007 that the figure of Temperantia from a series of the Virtues was painted by the young Botticelli, who was in Hungary during the 1460s. Although disputed soon after the announcement, the authors keep repeating this claim, which has been published in various places - including the acts of the 2007 conference on Italy and Hungary in the Renaissance, held at Villa I Tatti in Florence. I reported on this claim and some response it received in an earlier post. According to an article published this week in Hungarian daily Népszabadság, the authors claim that their attribution of the fresco to Botticelli has gained acceptance and has not been refuted until now. In fact, they now believe that all surviving figures of the Virtues can be attributed to Botticelli. Well, Népszabadság may not be an authoritative source on questions of attribution - but it is definitely wrong on the issue of responses to the Botticelli-attribution. Let's see a few publications on the subject!

Conditions at the Esztergom 'Studiolo' during recent years
First, I would like to call attention on the publications of Mária Prokopp and Zsuzsanna Wierdl. The attribution to Botticelli was first presented at the Villa I Tatti conference held in 2007 - the conference volume has since been published, with texts by both authors on the subject. The authors have also published a Hungarian-language book on the subject, and their arguments have been summarized in a number of other publications, for example in Rivista di Studi Ungheresi in 2012. If you would like just a quick overview, read the article by Mária Prokopp, published in Hungarian Review. In addition to stylistic and historical arguments, the attribution rests on the interpretation of the letters MB incised in the frescoes, supposedly referring to  "(Alessandro di) Mariano, detto Botticelli".

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Route of Medieval Churches

Baktalórántháza
Fresco of Christ
Two years ago, I already reported on the Route of Medieval Churches project, which focuses on medieval monuments in North-Eastern Hungary, and neighbouring regions of the medieval Kingdom of Hungary, which now lie in Romania and the Ukraine. The project has been going ahead during that time, and by now reached another important milestone. This means first of all the publication of an all-new volume, which focuses on medieval churches in the north-eastern region of medieval Hungary, much of which now lies in the Ukraine (the region of Carpatho-Ukraine). The book, titled Medieval Churches from the Tisza valley to the Carpathians has been published both in Hungarian and Ukrainian versions. It treats several well-known monuments, such as the 13th century rotunda of Gerény with its 14th century fresco cycle, as well as a number of newly discovered medieval monuments, including a large number of medieval wall paintings. All of this is the result of research carried out during the last three years, coordinated by the editor of the book, Tibor Kollár. The publication joins the earlier volume, which focused on medieval monuments of historic Szatmár county. PDF-versions of both publications can be downloaded - in Hungarian. It is worth to do so simply for the all-new illustration material contained in these volumes.


Another new result of the project is a completely rewamped new website, which is available in several languages. The website outlines the goals and results of the entire EU-funded touristic and research project, and gives detailed information about the medieval churches of the region. Start browsing in English - it is definitely worth it. Check out such famous gems as the church of Csaroda, long thought to be the most characteristic medieval church from the Arpadian period (before 1301), but now dated to the early 14th century. Have a look at it twin edifice in Transcarpathia, the church of Palágykomoróc - where last year frescoes painted by a workshop known from Csaroda were found. Explore the church of Ákos, the most significant Romanesque monastery church in Eastern Hungary, or the little-known church of Nagybégány.
But most of all, go an explore the region in person - thanks to this EU-project, there is plenty of information available to organize such a trip. As an inspiration, I am including here a few photos taken during my most recent trip in the region.

Ákos, late 12th century church

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.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Late 14th century frescoes discovered at Nitra cathedral


The cathedral of Nyitra (Nitra, Slovakia) is one of the oldest, most complex, and - until quite recently - least known cathedral building of medieval Hungary. Located north-east of Pozsony/Pressburg/Bratislava, the bishopric of Nyitra was founded before the Magyar Conquest, at 880. The bishopric was established at the seat of the Principality of Nyitra, on the eastern fringes of the Carolingian Empire. After the Conquest, the settlement became a ducal residence, and king Koloman I reestablished the bishopric some time before 1113. The cathedral was dedicated to St. Emmeram, as well as to the canonized local hermits, St. Zoerard and Benedict. The cathedral has a dual church: one dating from the Romanesque period, while the other Gothic, from the middle of the 14th century. However, the entire ensemble was rebuilt in Baroque style. The restoration and research of the buildings have been going on since 2007. Already, this research has yielded spectacular results: especially with the uncovering of a large Renaissance red marble tabernacle (with a frame of white marl from Buda), similar to the ones known from the parish church of Pest and from the cathedral of Pécs. Dated 1497, the Renaissance tabernacle at Nyitra is earlier than these, being a very significant example of Florentine-style early Renaissance carving in Hungary.

Tabernacle from 1497 at Nyitra (Photo: Roznava24)
As restoration of the church continued this summer, work progressed in the southern church building of the cathedral. This is the building with a Romanesque apse, which has been extended/rebuilt towards the west in the 14th century. This construction likely dates to 1378, when such work carried out by bishop  Dominic was recorded. Already at the beginninf of the year, parts of a Late Gothic fresco have been spotted behind a Baroque stone altar dating from 1662. Now, however, the entire altarpiece has been temporarily dismantled, and the entire fresco can be seen and studied. The find is of major importance: it comes from a cathedral church, and the centuries behind the altarpiece saved the fresco from any repainting or earlier restorations. The condition of the painted surface is thus fully intact - and this surface is of a considerable size. The quality of the paintings is also very high - along with the recently uncovered frescoes of Torna (Turňa nad Bodvou, near Košice) they are defitinely among the finest wall paintings from the decades around 1400 from Upper Hungary. The theme of the frescoes is a Marian cycle, with the Last Prayer and the Coronation of the Virgin.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Medieval wall paintings discovered at Magyarlóna

Cover of the book on Magyarlóna
 

The village of Magyarlóna (formerly known as Szászlóna, now Luna de Sus, Romania) is a characteristic village of the Kalotaszeg region of Transylvania, near Kolozsvár (Cluj). The village was first mentioned in 1332 as Lona, and has a medieval church dating from roughly this period. This Calvinist church has always been noted for its rich set of painted wooden furniture, including an 18th century painted coffered ceiling by Lőrinc Umling (1752). However, its medieval origin was also plain to see: even if its vaults did not survive, the Gothic south portal and the medieval windows of the sanctuary survived. However, until 2009, no real research has been carried out in order to find more of the medieval features of the building. As soon as this work started, significant medieval frescoes have been found on the walls of the nave.







Last year, a book was published about the church and the cemetery around it. Edited by Gergely Nagy (President of the Hungarian National Committee of ICOMOS) and his wife, Klára Szatmári, the book summarizes the history of the village and its church (Klára Szatmári - Gergely Nagy: Magyarlóna református temploma és temetője. Veszprém-Budapest, 2010) . The book was written at the same time as research on the building started - and the first results of this are already reflected there. This research was carried out by art historian Attila Weisz, who first identified traces of the wall paintings. At this point a restorer, Loránd Kiss was brought in to uncover and conserve these paintings. 

Magyarlóna, interior view towards East 

Work continued this year, and so far the following has been revealed: There are frescoes in the nave of the church, on either side of the triumphal arch. The scenes on these walls have been arranged in three rows. On the northern side, the upper two rows, while on the southern side, the lower two rows have been uncovered so far. The top row contains scenes from the legend of a Virgin Martyr, perhaps St. Margaret of Antiochia.  As only one scene has been uncovered so far from what must have been an extensive cycle, identification at this point is not yet possible. The second row appears to contain one large composition of the Annunciation, with the figures of archangel Gabriel and the Virgin Mary arranged on either side of the triumphal arch (similar to the arrangement found at Disznajó). The lower row holds images of saints, one of whom is definitely a bishop. Further images are being uncovered on the intrados of the triumphal arch, and it has also been established that likely the entire north wall is painted.

Wall paintings on the south side of the triumphal arch 

Magyarlóna thus joins a number of other churches in the immediate region where significant fresco decoration has been uncovered. The neighboring village of Szászfenes (Floreşti) has a large set of badly-preserved frescoes, while better-preserved frescoes have been partially uncovered at Magyarvista (Viştea), and the frescoes of Magyarfenes (Vlaha) have been known since the 1930s. The date of these frescoes varies, although most were painted around 1400 (you can read my Hungarian-language study on this group of frescoes at academia.edu). The frescoes of Magyarlóna are definitely earlier, and were likely painted during the first half of the 14th century - thus at the same time as the earlier of two sets of frescoes at Magyarvista. All these villages belonged to the estate of the bishopric of Transylvania, the center of which was at the nearby castle of Gyalu (Gilău). This factor perhaps accounts for the rich painted decoration of these small village churches - although the role of nearby Kolozsvár cannot be underestimated, either. More research needs to be carried out partly in order to uncover more of the painted cycles, and partly to better understand their iconography and internal connections. For starters, a new edition of the book on the church is being prepared, which will include a preliminary report on these frescoes.

Wall paintings on the south side of the triumphal arch 

This post could not have been written without the help of my friends, Attila Weisz and Loránd Kiss, as well as Gergely Nagy, who were kind enough to share information on these discoveries and to provide photographs. You can read more about the book (in Hungarian) here. To get to know other aspects of the the heritage of the village, chack out traditional Hungarian folk music recorded there by Zoltán Kallós in the 1960s - just search here for Magyarlóna.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

First publications on the murals of the parish church of Pest

The 14th century fresco of the Virgin of Child, discovered last year in the sanctuary of the Inner City Parish Church of Pest (in downtown Budapest) created quite a stir. I suppose it always creates some stir when a a fresco appears older than the wall it is painted on. The sanctuary of the parish church of Pest has always been dated to around 1400, while the fresco clearly dates from  some time in the 14th century. This then of course calls for a re-evaluation of the construction history of the church, something which is quite hard to do without more extensive on-site research. Already, debate is raging on concerning the date of the newly discovered frescoes (also, some questions have been raised about the restoration as well). A detailed examination of the building and all its fresco decoration, however, is yet to be carried out.

The Hungarian journal Műemlékvédelem published several articles on the building, summarizing the results of previous art historical and architectural research, also publishing restorer Éva Derdák's overview of the uncovering and restoration of the mural (Műemlékvédelem, vol. LIV, 2010/6). The journal is not available online, but you can see the contents of the issue here. Tünde Wehli wrote an article for the journal on the newly discovered frescoes. After briefly describing the frescoes, she proceeds to bring analogies to the image of the Madonna. Most of these come from the north of the Alps, from France and Central Europe (esp. Bohemia), although Wehli acknowledges the Italian origins of several motifs of the fresco (such as the shape of the throne). In the conclusion of her article, Tünde Wehli dates the fresco to the last quarter of the 14th century - a date which requires a relatively modest modification in the building's chronology.

More recently, Mária Prokopp also wrote on the frescoes. She is a noted expert of the Italian connections of Hungarian medieval painting (I wrote on her theory of Botticelli in Esztergom). Her article was published in Múzeumcafé, which is a flashy magazine about museums, and is not really known for serious studies on medieval art. Prokopp's article can be read in the online version of Múzeumcafé vol. 5, 23 (2011 június/július), and also here. A somewhat more detailed version of Prokopp's article is available in the journal Magyar Sion (2010/2, full text available here). Prokopp's study also appeared in the journal of the Budapest History Museum (Tanulmányok Budapest Múltjából 36, 2010),  in what can be considered as its definitive version to this date. A pdf-version of the Hungarian-language article is available here; there is a brief German summary at the end. Prokopp cites mainly Italian analogies from the beginning of the Trecento, and thus dates the fresco of the Virgin and child to around 1320-1340 (the fresco of the bishop she considers even earlier, from the end of the 13th century). In explaining the significance of the frescoes, she analyses the historical importance of the church as well.

I've had no time to write anything more than some blog-length pieces on the fresco so far. My brief report on the find (essentially the same as my first two blog entries - see part I and part II) was summarized for the newsletter of the International Center of Medieval Art (April 2011 issue), while my report on Hungarian azurite was picked up by National Geographic Hungary (May 2011). Hopefully I'll get to write more about it soon!

Saturday, June 04, 2011

The Route of Medieval Churches in Szatmár county

Csengersima,  parish church 
A major research project, aimed at surveying and documenting the churches of medieval Szatmár country, was completed last week, and its results are now largely available on the web. As the territory of medieval Szatmár country is today divided between Romania and Hungary, the research project was a joint Hungarian-Romanian one, funded by the EU. The project documented a large number of medieval churches, including some only known from excavations. The area preserved some important medieval buildings, such as the Romanesque basilica of Ákos (Acâş), but most surviving buildings are small medieval parish churches.

The project consists of the following main elements: Mapping out a thematic route of medieval churches in the Hungarian-Romanian border area (in historic Szatmár county), which is the first common thematic route of Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg and Satu Mare counties. This route is supported by very useful and informative material: maps, brochures and on-site information. The route includes 30 medieval churches - 20 of them located in the Hungarian county of Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg, while another 10 in the Romanian country of Satu Mare. 


A brand new website was also developed, which contains all the necessary information about the route and the churches. This website is available in Hungarian, Romanian and English versions. English readers should maybe start on this page. The website - even though the English-language texts are only summaries of the Hungarian versions - provides ample information in English on the medieval buildings of the region, and is thus highly recommended.
Csenger, parish church 

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Siklós castle

Siklós, castle chapelSiklós castleSiklós castleSiklós castleSiklós castleSiklós, castle chapel
Siklós, castle chapelSiklós, castle chapelSiklós, castle chapelSiklós, frescoes in the castle chapelSiklós, frescoes in the castle chapelSiklós, frescoes in the castle chapel
Siklós, late Gothic balconySiklós, late Gothic balcony

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.