Medieval Hungary: The Age of the Árpád Dynasty

Harmony Cardenas

The calendar year 2022 marks the 800th anniversary of the issuance of the Golden Bull by King Andrew II.  Issued at the 1222 Food plan held at Fehérvár, the Golden Bull is one of the cornerstones of the medieval Hungarian constitutional method and its anniversary developed a fantastic opportunity to arrange a key exhibition devoted to Hungary’s very first ruling dwelling, the Árpád Dynasty. Such an exhibition has been prepared for at least a ten years and curators at the Hungarian Countrywide Museum have well prepared a proposal for a main exhibition with global loans. In 2017 federal government support arrived, alongside with the conclusion that the exhibition need to be held at Székesfehérvár, to mark the anniversary of the Golden Bull and to inaugurate a newly renovated museum building belonging to the King Saint Stephen Museum. Curators have been appointed from both institutions and the extensive do the job of securing loans and getting ready a catalog was started. At the beginning of 2019 a new govt-funded establishment, the Institute of Hungarian Research began its operations. The Minister of Human Resources (in charge of cultural affairs) delegated this Institute to the consortium making ready the exhibition. Do the job ongoing and the scheduled day of opening was nearing – despite the fact that the renovation of the Székesfehérvár museum creating was not but completed.

Installation view

Then late in December of 2021, Miklós Kásler, Minister of Human Methods – in agreement with the freshly appointed director of the Hungarian National Museum, László L. Simon – introduced in an e mail that the appointment of the curators (Etele Kiss, Ágnes Ritoók, and Erika Simonyi of the Hungarian National Museum) is being withdrawn, and Miklós Makoldi of the Institute of Hungarian Exploration is appointed as the new curator of the exhibition. Making these a move three months before the opening of a key exhibition is rather shocking even in Hungary and obviously, a scandal broke out. Presented the reality that Miklós Makoldi, an archeologist devoid of a doctorate and any relevant museum-similar know-how was about to get above the results of a few a long time of work by a crew of professional museum curators, a lot of scholars determined that they no for a longer time desire to participate in such a undertaking. In the end, 25 students signed an open letter, withdrawing their contributions from the catalog of the exhibition (which was currently nearing completion). In this condition, many individuals doubted that the exhibition could be opened at all. In the finish, 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. Due to the situation, having said that, the consequence quantities to a monumental missed prospect.

The Monomachos Crown (Hungarian Nationwide Museum)

Allow me describe in depth. Makoldi, the new curator of the exhibition, had no probability or time to alter the idea of the exhibition. He only modified a few rooms of the exhibition, largely to clear away references to the non-Hungarian populace of medieval Hungary (such as Carolingians and Slavs from the to start with area dealing with the Hungarian conquest and a chapter about Muslims, Jews, and numerous Eastern nomadic people today living in the Kingdom of Hungary). You can read the explanation of the Institute and see for on your own. In any circumstance, the new curator labored with the primary synopsis and object list – getting over other people’s perform, if you will. On the other hand, the original principle could not be realized. Many vital financial loans did not make it to Székesfehérvár (the Cross of Adelheid from Lavantall is one such object talked about in the press, but there are many other folks). It is hard to inform what function the scandal played in the situation of lacking loans – I consider the location in Székesfehérvár may possibly also have performed a job in this. Not the address itself, but the actuality that the museum building in Székesfehérvár was completed just a couple of months before the opening of the exhibition, so creditors could not validate that it is up to international standards wanted for sensitive objects. 

Lehel’s horn from Jászberény

Enklopion from Maastricht
The exhibition mounted with the remaining objects however contains quite a few highlights and provides a good overview of Árpád-age Hungary. In accordance to the first concept, the objects are arranged in 17 sections, ranging from the time period 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 progress at the time of creating) lists the chapters. A lot of of the highlights – the Monomachos Crown, the crown with lilies from Margaret Island, or some stone carvings – occur from the Hungarian Nationwide Museum. There are vital objects from Székesfehérvár and other Hungarian museums (these as the Lehel’s horn/olifant from Jászberény).  A amount of modern archaeological finds – these types of as a reliquary and other finds from Pétermonostora – are on view. There are several overseas loans as perfectly: the sword of Saint Stephen from Prague, stone carvings from previous monasteries now found in Serbia or Romania, essential manuscripts from several 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 as the 12th century double cross in the Dommuseum of Salzburg and in particular the very innovative 13th-century court goldsmith operates (the Zaviš-cross, the cross made from diadems in Cracow or the Bern (Königsfelden) diptych) are regrettably missing from the exhibition. Granted, such financial loans are extremely challenging to protected and not all of these objects ended up even envisioned in the primary situation of the exhibition – but this sort of an exhibition is a just one-time probability in a era and this chance was regrettably missed. 
A display screen of stone carvings

The exhibition also does not choose gain of becoming in Székesfehérvár. While there are references to the royal basilica dedicated to the Virgin – the coronation church and most critical burial location of Hungarian kings – the true web page of the church was closed at the time of my check out (though supposedly it is open each day from April 1st). The really essential Árpád-period of time stone carvings from this church continue being mainly inaccessible – a museum scheduled to come to be their new household will open only by the finish of the yr.


Finds from Pétermonostora

Moreover, it is obvious that the new curator and his staff scrambled to place the exhibition together in the 3 months at their disposal. As there is no checklist of the exhibition team, it is tricky to convey to who did what, but two weeks right after the opening working day, the exhibition appeared half-concluded. All the rooms are darkly lit (even rooms with stone carvings and goldsmith objects), the item labels are fairly difficult to read and some of them are even missing. Some key objects are positioned in darkish corners or close to the floor, or at the back of significant showcases. The more substantial exhibition graphics are pointless and poorly made in basic: a portion of the Bayeaux tapestry stands in to illustrate 11th-century battles in Hungary, the Legend of Saint Ladislas from the Hungarian Angevin Famous was tailored to a graphic of a bogus medieval stained glass window sequence, some kings lifted from the 14th-century Illuminated Chronicle are mislabeled, and so on. There is no explanation for the comprehensive deficiency of any information and facts in English in the exhibition. There are some interactive video clip screens – but no new material was produced for them, they simply just show movies recycled from other venues and exhibitions. Of system, there is no catalog in any language or any publication by any means, owing to the deficiency of authors (see over). All this tends to make it impossible to achieve any form of intercontinental impression with the exhibition All this inspite of the 506 million HUF (about 1,3 million euros) finances from governing administration support focused to the exhibition. A skipped prospect, without a doubt.

13th-century crown from Margaret Island, HNM

In spite of these important shortcomings, do pay a visit to the exhibition if you get a chance. Objects that are if not really hard to see and some highlights are unquestionably well worth a stop by. The initial thought of the exhibition can nevertheless be adopted (as very long as you read through Hungarian…) and Székesfehérvár is only about 45 minutes from Budapest by practice. The exhibition will be on watch till June 15, 2022.

Fragments from the tomb of Queen Gertrude, from Pilis Abbey

14th-century reliquary of St. Stephen from Aachen

(photographs my have, taken with authorization)

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