Medieval Hungary: The Age of the Árpád Dynasty


The calendar year 2022 marks the 800th anniversary of the issuance of the Golden Bull by King Andrew II.  Issued at the 1222 Eating plan held at Fehérvár, the Golden Bull is just one of the cornerstones of the medieval Hungarian constitutional program and its anniversary created a excellent prospect to organize a major exhibition committed to Hungary’s to start with ruling residence, the Árpád Dynasty. Such an exhibition has been planned for at minimum a decade and curators at the Hungarian Countrywide Museum have geared up a proposal for a key exhibition with worldwide loans. In 2017 federal government guidance arrived, alongside with the decision that the exhibition should really be held at Székesfehérvár, to mark the anniversary of the Golden Bull and to inaugurate a recently renovated museum making belonging to the King Saint Stephen Museum. Curators were being appointed from equally institutions and the long perform of securing financial loans and preparing a catalog was started. At the starting of 2019 a new federal government-funded institution, the Institute of Hungarian Investigation commenced its functions. The Minister of Human Sources (in cost of cultural affairs) delegated this Institute to the consortium making ready the exhibition. Operate continued and the scheduled day of opening was nearing – whilst the renovation of the Székesfehérvár museum developing was not but done.

Installation check out

Then late in December of 2021, Miklós Kásler, Minister of Human Resources – in arrangement with the freshly appointed director of the Hungarian National Museum, László L. Simon – introduced in an email that the appointment of the curators (Etele Kiss, Ágnes Ritoók, and Erika Simonyi of the Hungarian Nationwide Museum) is getting withdrawn, and Miklós Makoldi of the Institute of Hungarian Study is appointed as the new curator of the exhibition. Building these types of a shift 3 months in advance of the opening of a big exhibition is pretty surprising even in Hungary and by natural means, a scandal broke out. Supplied the reality that Miklós Makoldi, an archeologist without having a doctorate and any relevant museum-associated know-how was about to acquire above the final results of three decades of function by a workforce of expert museum curators, several students resolved that they no lengthier desire to take part in this sort of a venture. In the end, 25 students signed an open up letter, withdrawing their contributions from the catalog of the exhibition (which was previously nearing completion). In this condition, several folks doubted that the exhibition could be opened at all. In the conclude, the exhibition – titled Kings and Saints, The Era of the Árpád Dynasty – opened on March 18, 2022, in a former monastery turned into a museum at Székesfehérvár. Owing to the circumstances, nonetheless, the final result quantities to a monumental skipped prospect.

The Monomachos Crown (Hungarian Nationwide Museum)

Enable me describe in element. Makoldi, the new curator of the exhibition, experienced no possibility or time to improve the concept of the exhibition. He only modified three rooms of the exhibition, largely to get rid of references to the non-Hungarian population of medieval Hungary (including Carolingians and Slavs from the to start with segment working with the Hungarian conquest and a chapter about Muslims, Jews, and numerous Japanese nomadic folks residing in the Kingdom of Hungary). You can study the clarification of the Institute and see for by yourself. In any situation, the new curator worked with the primary synopsis and object list – getting above other people’s get the job done, if you will. Even so, the initial concept could not be understood. Many crucial financial loans did not make it to Székesfehérvár (the Cross of Adelheid from Lavantall is a person these item stated in the press, but there are lots of many others). It is challenging to tell what function the scandal played in the case of missing loans – I think the venue in Székesfehérvár may well also have performed a part in this. Not the tackle itself, but the fact that the museum setting up in Székesfehérvár was accomplished just a couple months right before the opening of the exhibition, so loan companies could not confirm that it is up to worldwide standards essential for sensitive objects. 

Lehel’s horn from Jászberény

Enklopion from Maastricht
The exhibition mounted with the remaining objects continue to has numerous highlights and presents a good overview of Árpád-age Hungary. According to the unique notion, the objects are arranged in 17 sections, ranging from the interval of the Hungarian Conquest to an overview of saints from the Árpád Dynasty. The web-site of the exhibition (a get the job done in development at the time of producing) lists the chapters. Numerous of the highlights – the Monomachos Crown, the crown with lilies from Margaret Island, or some stone carvings – arrive from the Hungarian Nationwide Museum. There are critical objects from Székesfehérvár and other Hungarian museums (these kinds of as the Lehel’s horn/olifant from Jászberény).  A selection of the latest archaeological finds – these as a reliquary and other finds from Pétermonostora – are on view. There are quite a few overseas loans as nicely: the sword of Saint Stephen from Prague, stone carvings from former monasteries now found in Serbia or Romania, significant manuscripts from many libraries, a flag with the double-cross of the Árpád Dynasty from Bern, or even the tombstone of the Blessed Elisabeth of Töss, daughter of King Andrew III (from the Landesmuseum in Zürich). Correct highlights, such as the 12th century double cross in the Dommuseum of Salzburg and specifically the really complex 13th-century court goldsmith performs (the Zaviš-cross, the cross created from diadems in Cracow or the Bern (Königsfelden) diptych) are sadly lacking from the exhibition. Granted, these types of loans are incredibly tricky to safe and not all of these objects had been even envisioned in the primary situation of the exhibition – but these types of an exhibition is a one-time chance in a generation and this opportunity was regrettably missed. 
A exhibit of stone carvings

The exhibition also does not choose advantage of getting in Székesfehérvár. Although there are references to the royal basilica devoted to the Virgin – the coronation church and most important burial position of Hungarian kings – the true website of the church was closed at the time of my visit (despite the fact that supposedly it is open day-to-day from April 1st). The highly vital Árpád-period stone carvings from this church stay largely inaccessible – a museum scheduled to turn out to be their new home will open only by the stop of the calendar year.


Finds from Pétermonostora

Furthermore, it is clear that the new curator and his group scrambled to place the exhibition together in the a few months at their disposal. As there is no record of the exhibition staff, it is difficult to notify who did what, but two months soon after the opening day, the exhibition appeared half-finished. All the rooms are darkly lit (even rooms with stone carvings and goldsmith objects), the item labels are really impossible to go through and some of them are even missing. Some important objects are positioned in darkish corners or close to the ground, or at the again of large showcases. The greater exhibition graphics are unneeded and terribly created in typical: a area of the Bayeaux tapestry stands in to illustrate 11th-century battles in Hungary, the Legend of Saint Ladislas from the Hungarian Angevin Legendary was tailored to a graphic of a bogus medieval stained glass window series, some kings lifted from the 14th-century Illuminated Chronicle are mislabeled, and so on. There is no clarification for the complete absence of any data in English in the exhibition. There are some interactive video clip screens – but no new material was made for them, they simply just show films recycled from other venues and exhibitions. Of class, there is no catalog in any language or any publication in any way, owing to the absence of authors (see previously mentioned). All this can make it unattainable to reach any sort of worldwide effect with the exhibition All this regardless of the 506 million HUF (about 1,3 million euros) finances from govt assistance dedicated to the exhibition. A missed option, indeed.

13th-century crown from Margaret Island, HNM

In spite of these important shortcomings, do go to the exhibition if you get a possibility. Objects that are or else difficult to see and some highlights are surely really worth a go to. The authentic thought of the exhibition can continue to be adopted (as lengthy as you read Hungarian…) and Székesfehérvár is only about 45 minutes from Budapest by coach. The exhibition will be on view till June 15, 2022.

Fragments from the tomb of Queen Gertrude, from Pilis Abbey

14th-century reliquary of St. Stephen from Aachen

(photos my very own, taken with permission)


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