February 3, 2023


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Medieval Hungary: The Age of the Árpád Dynasty

Medieval Hungary: The Age of the Árpád Dynasty

The yr 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 particular of the cornerstones of the medieval Hungarian constitutional program and its anniversary produced a excellent option to arrange a key exhibition devoted to Hungary’s 1st ruling home, the Árpád Dynasty. This kind of an exhibition has been prepared for at minimum a ten years and curators at the Hungarian Countrywide Museum have ready a proposal for a significant exhibition with intercontinental loans. In 2017 authorities assistance came, alongside with the selection that the exhibition ought to 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 had been appointed from both of those establishments and the long function of securing loans and getting ready a catalog was commenced. At the commencing of 2019 a new governing administration-funded establishment, the Institute of Hungarian Research started off its operations. The Minister of Human Means (in demand of cultural affairs) delegated this Institute to the consortium preparing the exhibition. Perform ongoing and the scheduled date of opening was nearing – though the renovation of the Székesfehérvár museum building was not nonetheless concluded.

Installation view

Then late in December of 2021, Miklós Kásler, Minister of Human Sources – in agreement with the freshly appointed director of the Hungarian National 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appointment of the curators (Etele Kiss, Ágnes Ritoók, and Erika Simonyi of the Hungarian Nationwide Museum) is getting withdrawn, and Miklós Makoldi of the Institute of Hungarian Research is appointed as the new curator of the exhibition. Generating these types of a transfer a few months ahead of the opening of a key exhibition is rather astonishing even in Hungary and by natural means, a scandal broke out. Presented the point that Miklós Makoldi, an archeologist with out a doctorate and any applicable museum-relevant skills was about to choose more than the success of 3 a long time of perform by a staff of expert museum curators, a lot of scholars determined that they no for a longer time would like to take part in this kind of a job. In the end, 25 scholars signed an open letter, withdrawing their contributions from the catalog of the exhibition (which was presently nearing completion). In this scenario, many people today doubted that the exhibition could be opened at all. In the conclusion, the exhibition – titled Kings and Saints, The Period of the Árpád Dynasty – opened on March 18, 2022, in a previous monastery turned into a museum at Székesfehérvár. Owing to the circumstances, even so, the result amounts to a monumental missed possibility.

The Monomachos Crown (Hungarian Countrywide Museum)

Permit me describe in element. Makoldi, the new curator of the exhibition, experienced no prospect or time to improve the principle of the exhibition. He only modified three rooms of the exhibition, generally to eliminate references to the non-Hungarian population of medieval Hungary (such as Carolingians and Slavs from the 1st portion dealing with the Hungarian conquest and a chapter about Muslims, Jews, and several Japanese nomadic people today dwelling in the Kingdom of Hungary). You can study the explanation of the Institute and see for by yourself. In any circumstance, the new curator labored with the original synopsis and item list – using above other people’s function, if you will. On the other hand, the original principle could not be recognized. Numerous vital financial loans did not make it to Székesfehérvár (the Cross of Adelheid from Lavantall is one these types of object pointed out in the press, but there are many other folks). It is challenging to notify what function the scandal played in the circumstance of lacking financial loans – I imagine the venue in Székesfehérvár may perhaps also have performed a purpose in this. Not the tackle itself, but the simple fact that the museum constructing in Székesfehérvár was concluded just a couple of weeks in advance of the opening of the exhibition, so loan providers could not confirm that it is up to global criteria necessary for sensitive objects. 

Lehel’s horn from Jászberény

Enklopion from Maastricht
The exhibition mounted with the remaining objects nonetheless is made up of lots of highlights and provides a very good overview of Árpád-age Hungary. According to the original concept, the objects are arranged 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 do the job in development at the time of writing) lists the chapters. Many of the highlights – the Monomachos Crown, the crown with lilies from Margaret Island, or some stone carvings – appear from the Hungarian Countrywide Museum. There are critical objects from Székesfehérvár and other Hungarian museums (these as the Lehel’s horn/olifant from Jászberény).  A number of modern archaeological finds – this sort of as a reliquary and other finds from Pétermonostora – are on watch. There are a lot of international financial loans as properly: the sword of Saint Stephen from Prague, stone carvings from previous monasteries now located in Serbia or Romania, vital 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). Legitimate highlights, these types of as the 12th century double cross in the Dommuseum of Salzburg and primarily the extremely sophisticated 13th-century court docket goldsmith is effective (the Zaviš-cross, the cross made from diadems in Cracow or the Bern (Königsfelden) diptych) are unfortunately missing from the exhibition. Granted, such loans are really difficult to secure and not all of these objects have been even envisioned in the initial circumstance of the exhibition – but this kind of an exhibition is a 1-time chance in a era and this probability was unfortunately skipped. 
A show of stone carvings

The exhibition also does not acquire advantage of becoming in Székesfehérvár. Even though there are references to the royal basilica devoted to the Virgin – the coronation church and most important burial area of Hungarian kings – the real website of the church was closed at the time of my take a look at (even though supposedly it is open up everyday from April 1st). The extremely vital Árpád-time period stone carvings from this church continue to be mostly inaccessible – a museum scheduled to grow to be their new dwelling will open only by the conclude of the year.


Finds from Pétermonostora

Furthermore, it is clear that the new curator and his staff scrambled to set the exhibition with each other in the a few months at their disposal. As there is no list of the exhibition group, it is hard to explain to who did what, but two months following the opening working day, the exhibition looked half-concluded. All the rooms are darkly lit (even rooms with stone carvings and goldsmith objects), the item labels are fairly extremely hard to read and some of them are even missing. Some key objects are put in dark corners or near to the flooring, or at the back of significant showcases. The greater exhibition graphics are needless and poorly developed in basic: a segment of the Bayeaux tapestry stands in to illustrate 11th-century battles in Hungary, the Legend of Saint Ladislas from the Hungarian Angevin Famous was adapted to a graphic of a bogus medieval stained glass window sequence, some kings lifted from the 14th-century Illuminated Chronicle are mislabeled, and many others. There is no clarification for the complete deficiency of any information in English in the exhibition. There are some interactive online video screens – but no new material was produced for them, they only show films recycled from other venues and exhibitions. Of system, there is no catalog in any language or any publication in anyway, due to the lack of authors (see earlier mentioned). All this would make it unachievable to get to any variety of worldwide impression with the exhibition All this irrespective of the 506 million HUF (about 1,3 million euros) budget from federal government support committed to the exhibition. A missed possibility, without a doubt.

13th-century crown from Margaret Island, HNM

Irrespective of these significant shortcomings, do go to the exhibition if you get a probability. Objects that are or else hard to see and some highlights are surely truly worth a visit. The original principle of the exhibition can even now be followed (as very long as you browse Hungarian…) and Székesfehérvár is only about 45 minutes from Budapest by prepare. The exhibition will be on watch until eventually June 15, 2022.

Fragments from the tomb of Queen Gertrude, from Pilis Abbey

14th-century reliquary of St. Stephen from Aachen

(images my very own, taken with permission)