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 Diet held at Fehérvár, the Golden Bull is one of the cornerstones of the medieval Hungarian constitutional system and its anniversary established a great prospect to manage a big exhibition committed to Hungary’s 1st ruling home, the Árpád Dynasty. This kind of an exhibition has been prepared for at least a 10 years and curators at the Hungarian Countrywide Museum have ready a proposal for a important exhibition with intercontinental loans. In 2017 authorities assistance arrived, along with the final decision that the exhibition should be held at Székesfehérvár, to mark the anniversary of the Golden Bull and to inaugurate a recently renovated museum setting up belonging to the King Saint Stephen Museum. Curators were appointed from both equally establishments and the very long perform of securing loans and making ready a catalog was commenced. At the commencing of 2019 a new governing administration-funded establishment, the Institute of Hungarian Study begun its operations. The Minister of Human Means (in cost of cultural affairs) delegated this Institute to the consortium getting ready the exhibition. Do the job continued and the scheduled date of opening was nearing – despite the fact that the renovation of the Székesfehérvár museum developing was not still concluded.

Set up check out

Then late in December of 2021, Miklós Kásler, Minister of Human Methods – in settlement with the recently appointed director of the Hungarian Countrywide Museum, László L. Simon – announced in an e mail that the appointment of the curators (Etele Kiss, Ágnes Ritoók, and Erika Simonyi of the Hungarian Nationwide Museum) is remaining withdrawn, and Miklós Makoldi of the Institute of Hungarian Investigation is appointed as the new curator of the exhibition. Generating this sort of a move 3 months right before the opening of a big exhibition is rather surprising even in Hungary and normally, a scandal broke out. Given the fact that Miklós Makoldi, an archeologist without having a doctorate and any pertinent museum-associated know-how was about to get in excess of the outcomes of 3 a long time of get the job done by a crew of seasoned museum curators, several scholars resolved that they no for a longer time desire to take part in these kinds of a challenge. In the conclude, 25 students signed an open letter, withdrawing their contributions from the catalog of the exhibition (which was now nearing completion). In this problem, a lot of individuals doubted that the exhibition could be opened at all. In the close, the exhibition – titled Kings and Saints, The Era of the Árpád Dynasty – opened on March 18, 2022, in a previous monastery turned into a museum at Székesfehérvár. Owing to the situations, nevertheless, the end result amounts to a monumental missed possibility.

The Monomachos Crown (Hungarian Countrywide Museum)

Allow me reveal in element. Makoldi, the new curator of the exhibition, experienced no chance or time to change the concept of the exhibition. He only modified 3 rooms of the exhibition, largely to eliminate references to the non-Hungarian populace of medieval Hungary (such as Carolingians and Slavs from the 1st part dealing with the Hungarian conquest and a chapter about Muslims, Jews, and a variety of Eastern nomadic people today dwelling in the Kingdom of Hungary). You can examine the explanation of the Institute and see for oneself. In any situation, the new curator worked with the unique synopsis and object checklist – getting over other people’s get the job done, if you will. Having said that, the initial strategy could not be understood. Many essential loans did not make it to Székesfehérvár (the Cross of Adelheid from Lavantall is one particular these object pointed out in the press, but there are several other people). It is tough to inform what function the scandal played in the situation of missing financial loans – I consider the location in Székesfehérvár may possibly also have performed a part in this. Not the handle by itself, but the actuality that the museum building in Székesfehérvár was done just a handful of weeks right before the opening of the exhibition, so creditors could not confirm that it is up to intercontinental benchmarks necessary for delicate objects. 

Lehel’s horn from Jászberény

Enklopion from Maastricht
The exhibition mounted with the remaining objects nonetheless is made up of numerous highlights and provides a superior overview of Árpád-age Hungary. According to the original idea, the objects are organized in 17 sections, ranging from the period of the Hungarian Conquest to an overview of saints from the Árpád Dynasty. The internet site of the exhibition (a perform in development at the time of producing) lists the chapters. Lots of of the highlights – the Monomachos Crown, the crown with lilies from Margaret Island, or some stone carvings – appear from the Hungarian National Museum. There are important objects from Székesfehérvár and other Hungarian museums (this kind of as the Lehel’s horn/olifant from Jászberény).  A number of modern archaeological finds – these as a reliquary and other finds from Pétermonostora – are on check out. There are many overseas financial loans as perfectly: the sword of Saint Stephen from Prague, stone carvings from former monasteries now situated in Serbia or Romania, important manuscripts from numerous 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, these kinds of as the 12th century double cross in the Dommuseum of Salzburg and primarily the really innovative 13th-century court goldsmith operates (the Zaviš-cross, the cross designed from diadems in Cracow or the Bern (Königsfelden) diptych) are regrettably missing from the exhibition. Granted, these financial loans are exceptionally challenging to safe and not all of these objects were being even envisioned in the first state of affairs of the exhibition – but these types of an exhibition is a 1-time prospect in a technology and this likelihood was regrettably skipped. 
A screen of stone carvings

The exhibition also does not take gain of remaining in Székesfehérvár. Although there are references to the royal basilica dedicated to the Virgin – the coronation church and most critical burial spot of Hungarian kings – the genuine web site of the church was shut at the time of my go to (although supposedly it is open up each day from April 1st). The remarkably significant Árpád-period of time stone carvings from this church continue being mainly inaccessible – a museum scheduled to grow to be their new home will open only by the close of the calendar year.


Finds from Pétermonostora

Also, it is clear that the new curator and his staff scrambled to place the exhibition together in the a few months at their disposal. As there is no record of the exhibition team, it is difficult to inform who did what, but two months after the opening working day, the exhibition seemed 50 %-concluded. All the rooms are darkly lit (even rooms with stone carvings and goldsmith objects), the item labels are very unachievable to read and some of them are even missing. Some crucial objects are positioned in dark corners or shut to the flooring, or at the again of massive showcases. The larger exhibition graphics are unwanted and poorly built in standard: a segment 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 phony medieval stained glass window series, some kings lifted from the 14th-century Illuminated Chronicle are mislabeled, and many others. There is no explanation for the full absence of any information and facts in English in the exhibition. There are some interactive movie screens – but no new content material was created for them, they merely exhibit films recycled from other venues and exhibitions. Of class, there is no catalog in any language or any publication in any way, because of to the lack of authors (see previously mentioned). All this makes it difficult to attain any sort of intercontinental impact with the exhibition All this even with the 506 million HUF (about 1,3 million euros) spending plan from government aid dedicated to the exhibition. A missed possibility, in fact.

13th-century crown from Margaret Island, HNM

Regardless of these considerable shortcomings, do go to the exhibition if you get a likelihood. Objects that are usually tough to see and some highlights are absolutely well worth a stop by. The initial notion of the exhibition can continue to be followed (as extensive as you go through Hungarian…) and Székesfehérvár is only about 45 minutes from Budapest by coach. The exhibition will be on perspective until finally June 15, 2022.

Fragments from the tomb of Queen Gertrude, from Pilis Abbey

14th-century reliquary of St. Stephen from Aachen

(shots my have, taken with authorization)


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