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 műemlé 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.

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