Showing posts with label Pannonhalma. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pannonhalma. Show all posts

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Exhibitions of the St. Martin Memorial Year in Hungary

St. Martin and Pannonia - Poster 
A historical and archaeological exhibition titled St. Martin and Pannonia opened at two venues, in Pannonhalma and Szombathely. The exhibition is the most important scholarly element of the Saint Martin Memorial Year, held in commemoration of the 1700th anniversary of the saint's birth. The exhibition focuses on five centuries in the life of Pannonia - from the time of the Roman Empire to just before the Hungarian conquest, and provides and insight into the spread of Christianity in the region. 

Saint Martin was born in 316 in the Roman province of Pannonia near the city of Savaria, what is now Szombathely. The son of a wealthy military officer, he was required to join the cavalry when he turned fifteen. He became baptized in 339. His good deeds and his compassion and empathy for the poor became legendary and by popular demand he was appointed to bishop of Tours in 371. He was always regarded as one of the most important saints in Hungary, and now the anniversary of his birth provides a chance to have a look at the era when he lived, and also the centuries following the fall of the Roman Empire. 

This twin exhibition of international significance gathers hundreds of objects, largely stemming from Pannonia (nowadays western Hungary), coming from a number of Hungarian and foreign collections. The exhibition opened on June 3rd, and will remain on view until September at both the Iseum Savariense Museum in Szombathely and the Museum of Pannonhalma Archabbey. At Szombathely, visitors can trace the history of Pannonia and Savaria back to the Roman roots of the time when Saint Martin lived, whereas in Pannonhalma the age of Saint Martin, the Christian monk and bishop is in focus, as well as the subsequent centuries.

Fondo d'oro, 4th century (Hungarian National Museum)
The exhibition features a number of unique objects: the earliest piece is beautifully executed bronze statue of Fortuna from the 1st century. A large blue glass vase from the 4th century represents the sophistication of Roman culture in Pannonia (pieces of the Seuso Treasure could represents this as well - but none of those were available for loan). 

Blue jug, glass, 4th century (Kaposvár, Rippl Rónai Museum) 

The exhibition also presents a great selection of objects from the Migration Period: finds from a hun grave of Pannonhalma from the 5th century, or a unique Early Byzantine bronze jug with hunting scenes, found in an Avar period cemetery at Budakalász (for a 3D view, click here). Objects with Christian symbols (especially the cross) are featured from several early medieval treasure finds, such as the golden Treasure of Nagyszentmiklós (Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum). 

Jewelry of a Germanic woman, 5th century (Hungarian National Museum)
Bronze jug with hunting scenes, c. 500 (Szentendre, Ferenczy Museum) 

Dish 9 of the Nagyszentmiklós Treasure, 7th century (Wien, KHM)
The exhibition is accompanied by a richly illustrated scholarly catalogue, and English-language edition of which is in preparation.

Further information (and advance tickets): and on the website of the Via Sancti Martini European Cultural Route.

Monday, June 22, 2015

A 14th-century antependium from Dalmatia on view at Pannonhalma

In this post, I would like to call attention to a little-known medieval textile object at the Museum of Applied Arts, Budapest and also to an important exhibition in Pannonhalma, where the textile is currently on view.

The object in question is a 14th century altar frontal (antependium) with the figures of the Virgin and Child, St Benedict and St. Chrysogonus. Previously it was thought to date from the late 15th century, and it was little studied, but recent research shed light to its origins:  the object in fact dates from around 1360, and originates from the Church of the Benedictine Monastery of St Chrysogonus at Zadar. A Benedictine donor can be seen kneeling next to the throne of the Virgin - probably one of the abbots of the monastery. The antependium entered the Museum of Applied Arts along with the collection of Bishop Zsigmond Bubics at the beginning of the 20th century. Similar altar frontals - mostly made in Venice - are known from other churches in Zadar and in the region. One of these works, known as the Veglia Altar Frontal is now at the Victoria and Albert Museum, and was likely designed by Paolo Veneziano around 1330. That piece comes from the cathedral of Krk in Dalmatia (known as Veglia in Italian). 

If you would like to know more on the altar frontal in Budapest, read a recent study on it by Silvija Banić on

The Budapest altar frontal is currently on view (after a recent conservation treatment) at an exhibition organized by the Benedictine Arcabbey of Pannonhalma. Titled Saint Benedict and Benedictine Spirituality, the exhibition is on view at the new Abbey Museum until the end of September.

The exhibition allows an insight into the 1500-year-long history of Benedictine mentality through assorted works of art from the collections of the Benedectine Abbey of Lavantall, the Archabbey of Pannonhalma, and other museums. The most significant works of art in the exhibition are medieval liturgical objects, including ones which were taken from the treasury of St. Blasien Monastery in Germany to Carinthia after the provisions of Joseph II: a 12th century chasuble decorated with scenes from the Old and the New Testament, and the monumental Adelheid-cross decorated with gems, which had been originally commissioned in the 11th century by the wife of Hungarian king Saint Ladislaus, and  which contains a splinter of the True Cross. 

Adelheid-cross, St. Paul im Lavanttal

I haven't seen the Pannonhalma exhibition and its catalogue yet, but I may yet write a review of it, if time permits - perhaps a comparative review with the recent Benedictine exhibition organized in Prague.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

New exhibitions at Pannonhalma

For several decades now, the Benedictine Archabbey at Pannonhalma has also served as an important exhibition venue. Perhaps most memorable for medievalists was the 2001 exhibition dedicated to Benedictines in Medieval Hungary, and titled Paradisum plantavit. For a long time, there has been a permenant exhibition space in the abbey as well, but only a very small part of the abbey's collection was on view. This year, a new abbey museum and visitor center opened at Pannonhalma, in the former manor building belonging to the abbey. This museum is the home of a new permanent exhibition of the abbey, and includes an exhibition of medieval stone carvings from Pannonhalma, as well as a good selection from the collections of the abbey. The new space created an opportunity to display some elements of the medieval building which were previously not visible, such as elements from the 13th century cloisters of the abbey (which was rebuilt in the late 15th century). The collections of the abbey include goldsmith works, important manuscripts, a good ensemble of paintings, sculptures and liturgical objects, among other artworks. The new exhibition was arranged by Imre Takács, noted medieval art historian and the curator of major exhibition at Pannonhalma in 1996 and 2001. This collection can be browsed online as well - in a database which at the moment seems to be available only in Hungarian.

Stone carvings from Pannonhalma at the new museum

Fragments of the 13th century cloister

In 2014, visitors also get a chance to visit two intertwined exhibitions. Since March 2014 the exhibition Icons and Relics: Veneration of Images between East and West (March 21 – November 11,2014) can be visited in the in the “old” exhibition hall of the monastery. Another exhibition opened in July in the newly opened Abbey Manor Visitor Centre and Museum. Titled Image and Christianity: Visual Media in the Middle Ages (July 10 – November 11, 2014), which focuses on western European liturgical art. To cite the curator, Péter Bokody: "The aim of the exhibitions is to show to the viewer the various forms and media of image-worship in medieval Christianity. The exhibition Icons and Relics presents the intertwined history of image-worship in the East and West through a comparison of the cult of images and the cult of relics, together with the genesis of the painted panel. The exhibition Image and Christianity focuses on the same development from the perspective of the visual media in the Middle Ages, where the spread of the painted panel in the West is interpreted in the context of mosaics, stained glass, murals and book illumination. The point of intersection between the two is the Latin Sack of Constantinople in 1204, since both the intensified forms of image-worship and the visual medium of the painted panel became central in Western Christianity after that."

The exhibition "Icons and relics"

Glimpse into the exhibition "Image and Christianity"
In addition to important loans from the major museums of Hungary, the exhibitions also features a number of international loans (primarily from Austria and Croatia), providing a nice overview medieval artworks in the service of liturgy. The highlights of the exhibition Icons and Relics are the 12th century head reliquary of Saint Coloman (Benedictine Abbey, Melk), and 14th century reliquaries from Zadar. In the exhibition Image and Christianity the various medieval visual media are presented by 12th century mosaics (Museo Torcello, Torcello), 15th century stained glass windows (Universalmuseum Joanneum, Graz), 14th century fresco fragments (Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest), 15th century painted panels (Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest), and 11th-15th century codices, as well as ivory carvings and other works. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Reconsecration of Pannonhalma Abbey Church

The medieval church of the Archabbey of Pannonhalma was restored over the last few months, and was solemnly reconsecrated today. The interior reconstruction of the 13th-century abbey church was carried out according to the plans of British architect, John Pawson. The reconstruction mainly focused on the main liturgical area of the church, the chancel and the monastic choir. The main goal of the alterations was to restore the simplicity of this space, and this meant the removal of the 19th century historicising decoration designed by Ferenc Storno (Storno similarly removed the earlier Baroque furnishing of the basilica, to make way for his own, 'historically correct' decorations - now his work suffered a similar fate). The Storno-reconstruction, which was completed in 1876, was the last major intervention inside the church. Storno's pulpit was moved to a chapel at Pannonhalma, while the 19th century stained glass windows - including the large rose window depicting the patron of the church, St. Martin - have been deposited at the Museum of Applied Arts in Budapest. On the other hand, the painted glass panes of the side aisle remained there, and the vault frescoes of Storno were cleaned.

The ideas of Pawson are summarized in the following statement he made:  ‘The goal of the architectural scheme made for the reconstruction of the Basilica of the Archabbey of Pannonhalma is to develop a space suitable for harmonic reception of the community of monks and their liturgy, meeting the needs of the local community and visitors. This goal was achieved by getting rid of several makeshift elements appearing in the use of space, and the character of “storage of historic furniture” was also eliminated. The purpose of the interventions was a uniform space in the church where each part and element of space has its own role and significance, and functionally and visually contributes to the development of the space designed for prayer and meditation, which are considered the basic function of the place. The plan attempts to redefine the space of the church structured axially, ascending within its section, orienting towards the sanctuary, and finally to the rose window in order to emphasize the meaning of the space: the way of Christians. On the one hand, the key is a complex and deliberate process of catharsis; on the other hand it is a careful equilibration of the existing historic layers.’

Pawson's scheme for the reconstruction (source:
The monks of Pannonhalma took notice of Pawson when he built the Cistercian abbey church of Novy Dvur in Bohemia, and he received the commission along with a Hungarian architectural studio. Along with the reconstruction of the church, this year also marks the completion of the rebuilding and expansion of visitor service areas at Pannonhalma. in 2010 a new visitors’ center was opened on the hilltop near the abbey. In 2011, a new entrance for visitors was opened on the bastion on top of the hill of the abbey.

The Benedictine Archabbey of Pannonhalma is one of the oldest historical monuments in Hungary, founded in 996. It is a World Heritage site. The present church of Pannonhalma was built in early Gothic style at the beginning of the 13th century during the reign of Abbot Uros, and was consecrated most likely in 1224.

You can read more about the reconstruction on the website of the Hungarian Presidency of the EU.

Photo showing the removal of the 19th century stained glass windows from the eastern wall of the church

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Reims, Naumburg - and Hungary?

This week an international art history conference is commencing in Naumburg, in conjunction with a major exhibition dedicated to the Naumburg Master. The exhibition - which is still on view until the beginning of November - is accompanied by a monumental catalogue, published in two volumes, and in over 1500 pages. Titled “The Naumburg Master - Sculptor and Architect in the Europe of Cathedrals“, the Saxony-Anhalt State Exhibition focuses on "the sculptors and stonemasons associated with the name “Naumburg Master“ [who] had an outstanding reputation throughout medieval Europe." The main topic of the catalogue is the French origin of the so-called Naumburg Master, with special emphasis on the impact of the Reims cathedral workshop on Central Europe (there is an entire chapter dedicated to the effects of Reims, with 9 studies - see the contents here). This is not a review, and the following is only based on a cursory study of the book. 

I think that a broader examination of direct connections of Central European artistic centers with the main sites of High Gothic art in France would have been necessary. In this context I definitely would have liked to see at least a few passages about medieval Hungary. Due to dynastic, personal and other, as yet untraced connections, a number of Hungarian monuments from the 1220s and 1230s are directly connected to the most fashionable monuments of French High Gothic. A few examples: in the early Gothic Cistercian Abbey church of Pilis, the tomb of Queen Gertrude (killed in 1213) was erected in the 1220s by a master hailing from Chartres or Reims. The tomb is one of the earliest examples anywhere of the combination of the Roman type sarcophagus and the medieval gisant. Another tombstone from Pilis, this time of a knight, gives the impression of being a two-dimensional, drawn version of the most fashionable High Gothic statues at Chartres. At about the same time, Villard de Honnecourt was also in Hungary (and likely at Pilis), coming directly from Reims - but it is not known what exactly he did here.

Pannonhalma, Porta Speciosa
Detail from the archivolt
Furthermore, the final section of the Benedictine Abbey church of Pannonhalma, consecrated in 1224, would have been unimaginable without the cooperation of builders and stone carvers trained in Champagne (Reims). The Porta Speciosa there (also completed by 1224) was also carved by this group of masters coming from Reims. The masters who worked on the vaulting of the nave as well as the building of the southern wall and portal must have been in residence in Hungary at the same time as their compatriots were working on the Capella Speciosa in Klosterneuburg.

Other churches of that exact period, such as the Church of St Stephen protomartyr in Esztergom or the Cathedral of Kalocsa also followed French Gothic prototypes. Now, much of this is largely destroyed (except for Pannonhalma) - but stone carvings, statue fragments survive in large number. Much of this material has been published extensively in German, English and French, in international catalogues and journals, as well as in many Hungarian publications. Authors such as Ernő Marosi, Imre Takács and Tibor Rostás wrote extensively on the “French connection”.