October 4, 2023


Art Is Experience

Medieval Hungary: The Age of the Árpád Dynasty

Medieval Hungary: The Age of the Árpád Dynasty

The 12 months 2022 marks the 800th anniversary of the issuance of the Golden Bull by King Andrew II.  Issued at the 1222 Diet plan held at Fehérvár, the Golden Bull is one particular of the cornerstones of the medieval Hungarian constitutional program and its anniversary developed a excellent chance to arrange a important exhibition devoted to Hungary’s first ruling property, the Árpád Dynasty. This sort of an exhibition has been planned for at the very least a 10 years and curators at the Hungarian Countrywide Museum have ready a proposal for a key exhibition with global loans. In 2017 federal government assistance arrived, together with the determination that the exhibition really should be held at Székesfehérvár, to mark the anniversary of the Golden Bull and to inaugurate a newly renovated museum making belonging to the King Saint Stephen Museum. Curators ended up appointed from equally institutions and the extended operate of securing loans and preparing a catalog was commenced. At the starting of 2019 a new federal government-funded institution, the Institute of Hungarian Investigation started out its operations. The Minister of Human Assets (in charge of cultural affairs) delegated this Institute to the consortium getting ready the exhibition. Work ongoing and the scheduled date of opening was nearing – whilst the renovation of the Székesfehérvár museum constructing was not nonetheless finished.

Installation see

Then late in December of 2021, Miklós Kásler, Minister of Human Means – in settlement with the newly appointed director of the Hungarian Nationwide Museum, László L. Simon – declared in an e mail that the appointment of the curators (Etele Kiss, Ágnes Ritoók, and Erika Simonyi of the Hungarian National Museum) is getting withdrawn, and Miklós Makoldi of the Institute of Hungarian Analysis is appointed as the new curator of the exhibition. Earning these types of a go 3 months in advance of the opening of a big exhibition is pretty surprising even in Hungary and the natural way, a scandal broke out. Provided the fact that Miklós Makoldi, an archeologist devoid of a doctorate and any related museum-related experience was about to get in excess of the final results of three decades of function by a workforce of skilled museum curators, many scholars determined that they no lengthier would like to participate in such a undertaking. In the conclude, 25 scholars signed an open up letter, withdrawing their contributions from the catalog of the exhibition (which was currently nearing completion). In this circumstance, lots of persons doubted that the exhibition could be opened at all. In the close, the exhibition – titled Kings and Saints, The Period of the Árpád Dynasty – opened on March 18, 2022, in a former monastery turned into a museum at Székesfehérvár. Thanks to the instances, even so, the end result amounts to a monumental missed possibility.

The Monomachos Crown (Hungarian National Museum)

Permit me explain in element. Makoldi, the new curator of the exhibition, had no prospect or time to alter the idea of the exhibition. He only modified three rooms of the exhibition, primarily to eliminate references to the non-Hungarian inhabitants of medieval Hungary (like Carolingians and Slavs from the initially portion dealing with the Hungarian conquest and a chapter about Muslims, Jews, and different Jap nomadic persons living in the Kingdom of Hungary). You can read through the explanation of the Institute and see for yourself. In any case, the new curator labored with the initial synopsis and object checklist – having above other people’s do the job, if you will. Nonetheless, the authentic thought could not be understood. Several vital financial loans did not make it to Székesfehérvár (the Cross of Adelheid from Lavantall is one these kinds of object mentioned in the push, but there are quite a few other people). It is challenging to explain to what purpose the scandal played in the circumstance of lacking loans – I feel the venue in Székesfehérvár may possibly also have performed a role in this. Not the address itself, but the fact that the museum setting up in Székesfehérvár was done just a few months before the opening of the exhibition, so loan providers could not confirm that it is up to international requirements needed for delicate objects. 

Lehel’s horn from Jászberény

Enklopion from Maastricht
The exhibition mounted with the remaining objects continue to is made up of a lot of highlights and presents a excellent overview of Árpád-age Hungary. According to the unique notion, 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. Quite a few of the highlights – the Monomachos Crown, the crown with lilies from Margaret Island, or some stone carvings – occur from the Hungarian National Museum. There are significant objects from Székesfehérvár and other Hungarian museums (these as the Lehel’s horn/olifant from Jászberény).  A amount of latest archaeological finds – this sort of as a reliquary and other finds from Pétermonostora – are on check out. There are numerous foreign loans as properly: the sword of Saint Stephen from Prague, stone carvings from previous monasteries now located in Serbia or Romania, crucial manuscripts from a variety of 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). True highlights, these as the 12th century double cross in the Dommuseum of Salzburg and primarily the hugely refined 13th-century court docket goldsmith performs (the Zaviš-cross, the cross produced from diadems in Cracow or the Bern (Königsfelden) diptych) are regrettably missing from the exhibition. Granted, this sort of loans are really difficult to protected and not all of these objects were being even envisioned in the original circumstance of the exhibition – but these kinds of an exhibition is a 1-time chance in a era and this possibility was unfortunately missed. 
A display of stone carvings

The exhibition also does not take benefit of becoming in Székesfehérvár. While there are references to the royal basilica focused to the Virgin – the coronation church and most crucial burial location of Hungarian kings – the real web-site of the church was shut at the time of my check out (whilst supposedly it is open every day from April 1st). The extremely significant Árpád-time period stone carvings from this church continue being mainly inaccessible – a museum scheduled to become their new household will open only by the end of the 12 months.


Finds from Pétermonostora

Moreover, it is noticeable that the new curator and his team scrambled to place the exhibition jointly in the three months at their disposal. As there is no record of the exhibition team, it is tricky to notify who did what, but two months immediately after the opening working day, the exhibition appeared 50 %-concluded. All the rooms are darkly lit (even rooms with stone carvings and goldsmith objects), the item labels are fairly difficult to browse and some of them are even lacking. Some essential objects are positioned in dim corners or shut to the flooring, or at the again of large showcases. The larger sized exhibition graphics are avoidable and terribly intended in standard: a section of the Bayeaux tapestry stands in to illustrate 11th-century battles in Hungary, the Legend of Saint Ladislas from the Hungarian Angevin Legendary was adapted to a graphic of a bogus medieval stained glass window series, some kings lifted from the 14th-century Illuminated Chronicle are mislabeled, etc. There is no rationalization for the finish lack of any information and facts in English in the exhibition. There are some interactive movie screens – but no new content material was made for them, they just show movies recycled from other venues and exhibitions. Of system, there is no catalog in any language or any publication in any respect, due to the lack of authors (see previously mentioned). All this will make it impossible to reach any variety of global affect with the exhibition All this regardless of the 506 million HUF (about 1,3 million euros) spending plan from governing administration assist devoted to the exhibition. A skipped option, indeed.

13th-century crown from Margaret Island, HNM

In spite of these significant shortcomings, do check out the exhibition if you get a probability. Objects that are or else tough to see and some highlights are absolutely well worth a stop by. The primary principle of the exhibition can continue to be adopted (as lengthy as you read Hungarian…) and Székesfehérvár is only about 45 minutes from Budapest by teach. The exhibition will be on check out until eventually June 15, 2022.

Fragments from the tomb of Queen Gertrude, from Pilis Abbey

14th-century reliquary of St. Stephen from Aachen

(photographs my very own, taken with permission)