Showing posts with label Pilis. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pilis. Show all posts

Thursday, August 15, 2013

New Exhibition Dedicated to Queen Gertrude

The Ferenczy Museum in Szentendre has recently moved into a new building in the center of the town, and this week an interesting temporary exhibition opened there. The focus of this exhibition is the royal Cistercian abbey of Pilis, as well as Queen Gertrude, wife of King Andrew II, who was buried there after she had been murdered 800 years ago. Stone carvings and archaeological finds from the monastery excavated at the site of the ruined monastery are preserved in the museum's collection. 

The exhibition, titled „THE QUEEN TO KILL YOU MUST NOT FEAR WILL BE GOOD...“ Commemorate Gertrude of Merania, 1213-2013 is on view at the Barcsay Room of the Ferenczy Museum until December 31, 2013.

Dr. Judit Majorossy, the curator of the exhibition and Head of Research at the Ferenczy Museum provided the following text for the Medieval Hungary blog. This guest post is illustrated by photos of the exhibition, also provided by the museum.

"In the Middle Ages queens were particularly suitable for considering them as instigators of evil, not only due to their gender but also due to their often foreign origin. If there was discontent against the government, often not the kings were blamed but the bad consultants and, in this respect, queens were believed the most influential above all. In addition, if some queens exceeded their charity role by their husbands and behaved as active, strong women, they frequently became scapegoats. Most of the accusations of tyranny and nepotism can be attributed to their usurpation of male roles."

There were very few events in the course of medieval Hungarian history before the Mongol invasion (1241/1242) that triggered such a big stir in the contemporary European historiography as the murder of Gertrude of (Andechs-) Merania, the first wife of King Andrew II (1205–1235) from the Arpad dynasty. In the light of the present state of research the story of this infamous assassination seems to be clarified, but on the other hand, it is rather still complex.

Gertrude was killed on the 28th of September 1213 in an aristocratic conspiracy, after being the Queen of Hungary for ten years. She came to Hungary as a member of an ambitious Bavarian princely family. Behind the unpopularity of this dominant royal wife in Hungary one might suppose the political headway and influence of the German courtiers in her environment (the usual entourage of a foreign royal consort) that weakened the power of the domestic dignitaries. As a consequence, some noble Hungarians – Reeve Peter the son of Turoy, Simon of the Kacsics clan, and Simon of the Bar-Kalan clan, the son-in-law of the former palatine Banc ban – taking advantage of the ruler's absence being on a campaign in Halychya (the historical Galicia on the territory of present day Ukraine and Poland) and attacked the queen and her retinue supposedly in the royal Pilis forests during a festive hunting. Gertrude was brutally murdered, while her brother Berthold, archbishop of Kalocsa (1207–1218) and a special guest, Leopold VI, Duke of Austria (1198–1230) could hardly escape.

In the light of the contemporary sources, the real motives of this cruel act are unclear and contradictory. In addition, these motives were over-explained in the later Hungarian national history writing and romantic xenophobia. The accusation against Gertrude of helping the violation of Banc ban’s wife by her brother might be a few-decade later popular explanation of the events that was then carried on, while Gertrude’s responsibility for the inner courtly conflicts or the image of a weak-handed Andrew II must be re-evaluated and shaded.

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”.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Villard de Honnecourt in Hungary

Villard's drawing of a window from Reims,
with announcement of his trip to Hungary 
The Academic doctoral defense of Imre Takács (see my previous post) made me think about Villard de Honnecourt's trip to Hungary. Takács's dissertation is about the early decades of the 13th century, when Hungary was one of the first areas outside Ile de France where French Gothic architectural and sculptural features appeared. The royal palace of Esztergom - especially the palace chapel - is a significant early Gothic building, built during the rule of King Béla III (1172-1196) next to the cathedral. The palace was not quite finished when in 1198 Béla's son, King Emeric handed it over to the archbishop of Esztergom - thus maybe the chapel was only finished after this date. Not Esztergom, but the royal abbey of Pilis is at the center of Imre Takács's dissertation. This Cistercian Abbey - located roughly between Esztergom and Buda in the Pilis hills - was founded by the king in 1184. In 1213, Queen Gertrude, the wife of Andrew II was murdered, and the queen was buried at Pilis Abbey, which - at least the eastern part - was surely completed by that time.

At this period, a renewed impact of French Gothic (High Gothic, to be precise) can be detected in Hungary - especially at Pilis and at the Benedictine Abbey of Pannonhalma. Crucial monuments include the tomb of Queen Gertrude and the famous Porta Speciosa at Pannonhalma, both dating from the 1220s. It is perhaps not coincidental that roughly at the same time, the famous Villard de Honnecourt visited Hungary. Just as we are not quite sure of his profession, it is similarly unclear what he did in Hungary or when exactly he visited. Evidence for his visit is included in his sketchbook: on fol. 10v, next to the drawing of an aisle window at Reims, Villard writes: "I had been sent into the land of Hungary when I drew it because I like it best." He also mentions on another folio the he "was once in Hungary, where [he] remained many days". Of all the things he saw there, he chose to draw a pavement, which he saw in a church - at a place he did not name.
On top, Villard's drawing of pavement
motifs he had seen in Hungary

Theories abound concerning the date and purpose of Villard's Hungarian visit. Pilis abbey emerges as a place he may have visited for several reasons:
One of the pavement motifs drawn by Villard in Hungary is known from Pilis Abbey.
The tomb of Gertrude, as well as the fragmentary tomb slab of a knight is in the same style (the characteristic Muldenfaltenstil) as Villard's drawings - leading Gerevich to believe that these were designed by Villard. 

Mentioning these and similar comparisons, Imre Takács also proposes a hypothesis for the historical context of Villard's Hungarian trip (published first in a study: “The French Connection: On the Courtenay Family and Villard de Honnecourt Apropos of a 13th-Century Incised Slab from Pilis Abbey,” Künstlerische Wechselwirkungen in Mitteleuropa, ed. Jirí Fast and Markus Hörsch, Ostfildern, 2006, pp. 11-21.). After the murder of Queen Gertrude (of Andechs-Meran), King Andrew II married Yolande de Courtenay, and Imre Takács emphasizes the role of the Courtenay family in Hungary. They were also the lords of the area where Villard was from. Takács proposed that the red marble tomb slab from Pilis was that of Robert de Courtenay, Latin emperor of Constantinople (1221-1228).

Drawing of a soldier from Villard's sketchbook
and fragments of the tomb of a knight
(Robert de Courtenay?) from Pilis

Takács also poses the following questions: “Is it possible that Villard … may have been traveling in the entourage of Emperor Robert on his way east in the winter of 1220? Could we not suppose in fact that Villard was a multi-talented individual in the Courtenay court and capable of carrying out “engineering” tasks, giving theoretical advice and making practical decisions? And finally, is it not possible that the quality of the drawing on the Pilis inscribed slab is so similar to Villard’s personal style, because he may actually have taken part in the work’s creation, if only in so much as making the sketches?”