Thursday, August 04, 2011

Medieval seal matrix of Nagybánya stolen

After some good news reported yesterday, today I have something sad to write on. As reported by Hungarian and Romanian press alike, the seal matrix of the town of Nagybánya has gone missing some time in late July. (Nagybánya was known as Asszonypataka or  Neustadt in the Middle Ages, and was one of the most important mining towns in Szatmár county. The town is today called Baia Mare, and is the seat of Maramures county of Romania). The seal matrix was stolen from a glass showcase in the County Historical and Archaeological Museum of Maramures County. The theft was announced on August 2nd.

The octagonal silver seal matrix of Nagybánya is one of the celebrated miniature masterpieces of 14th century Hungarian goldsmith work. It can be dated to the 1360s, and was probably made in a royal workshop. King Louis the Great (1342-1382) has given several privileges to the emerging mining town, and supported construction of its great parish church, dedicated to St. Stephen. The seal shows a seated king atop a hill - likely St. Stephen, with two miners working below. The inscription on the perimeter reads: S[igilium] d[e] R[ivulo] D[ominarum], Mutuus amor civiu[m] optimu[m] e[st] civitatis firmamentu[m] (roughly: 'The mutual love of citizens is the best foundation of the city').

The original seal matrix and a modern cast on display at Baia Mare

After missing for centuries, the seal matrix was found in a vineyard in 1904. It was put on display in the history museum in 2004. Hopefully it will be recovered soon.

Read more: news report in Romanian and in Hungarian.

Most recent overview of the medieval architecture and sculpture of Nagybánya - in particular an overview of the church of St. Stephen - is available in a new volume about medieval Szatmár county, available in full text in Hungarian and Romanian. Look for the studies of Szilárd Papp and Veronika Csikós. 

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