Medieval Hungary: The Island – Saint Margaret and the Dominicans (new exhibition in Budapest)

A new short term exhibition opened at the Budapest Background Museum, focused to St Margaret and the Dominican monastery on Margaret Island. The story and fate of Saint Margaret, the thirteenth-century saintly princess, has constantly captured the imagination of persons intrigued in historical past. The exhibition presents people a collection of artifacts by no means in advance of exhibited any where. The situation for the exhibition is the 750th anniversary of Margaret’s dying in 2020, and the point that in the final two a long time our understanding of the spiritual institution that was the home of the young princess of the Árpád dynasty has elevated substantially. This is mostly thanks to the research of Eszter Kovács, who passed absent in 2018 and who experienced carried out several compact-scale excavations in the spot of the Dominican monastery. This is how the fragments of wall paintings, almost certainly courting from the 14th and 15th centuries, were located, which are on display screen for the 1st time in this exhibition.

Margaret, the daughter of King Béla IV, was born in 1242 at the time of the Mongol invasion.  We know that she was brought up as a youngster in the Dominican monastery in Veszprém, which had been launched soon right before, and at the age of 10, she was transferred to the monastery on Margaret Island, which her mothers and fathers experienced designed. Throughout her canonization method, the testimonies of her contemporaries, recorded in 1276, tell of her devoted, sacrificial, and self-sacrificing way of living, her never-ending religion in Christ, and the miracles that took put in her life and at her tomb. Margaret’s position product was her aunt, the sister of Béla IV, St Elizabeth of Hungary, who was canonized as early as 1235.

Despite all makes an attempt and royal assist, Margaret’s canonization was not attained in the Center Ages. It was her brother, Stephen V, who was the to start with to endeavor this: but neither he, nor Ladislas IV, nor their successors from the Household of Anjou have been successful. We do not know just when she was elevated to the Blessed, but there are several information of this from the 15th century and we also know of many medieval depictions of Margaret. Her cult in Hungary formulated before long right after her death: she was buried in front of the key sanctuary of the Dominican church, and later an ornate white marble sarcophagus was manufactured for her body, with reliefs depicting her miraculous deeds. Based on her oldest legend and the canonization data, further more versions of the legend were composed, and a Hungarian-language version was produced at the finish of the Center Ages. The veneration of St Margaret has been virtually unbroken around the generations. Her relics and bones have been taken to Pozsony (Bratislava) by the nuns in the 16th century to escape the Ottoman danger. Most of the bones had been missing in the 18th century, but possibly her most popular relic, her penitential belt, has survived, and its ornate reliquary box and an genuine replica of the medieval object can also be admired in the exhibition. Also on screen is the funerary crown of King Stephen V (Margaret’s brother), also buried on Margaret Island, from the assortment of the Hungarian Countrywide Museum, the discovery of which in 1838 marked the start out of systematic excavations of the monastery ruins.

Funerary crown of King Stephen V (Hungarian Nationwide Museum)

Many thanks to the excavations, the extent of the former monastery and its church is effectively-known, and it has been doable to reconstruct the most significant phases of its design. Between the stunning results of the modern investigate are the fragments of wall paintings, most of which can now be witnessed by the community for the 1st time thanks to the restoration do the job of Eszter Harsányi. Wall paintings have been uncovered in many pieces of the monastery, like the smaller area exactly where the staircase foremost from the monastery to the nuns’ choir was positioned in the late Center Ages. The colourful items of plaster fragments preserving halos and faces trace at the relationship of St Margaret and her fellow nuns to pictures: her legend describes the role of Calvary pictures and other representations in her prayer and contemplation. 

Imitation marble portray from the monastery developing

Ignác Roskovics: Saint Margaret (for the Royal Palace)

When the nuns have been pressured to flee from the Ottoman attacks in the sixteenth century, the monastery intricate became deserted. It was only made use of through sieges, for example as a discipline medical center throughout the recapture of Buda in 1686. The greatest destruction, nevertheless, was not brought about by the wars, but by the landscaping of the island in the 19th century, when the proprietor of the space, Archduke Joseph of Austria, had it turned into an English back garden. Like so a lot of other monuments of the Hungarian Center Ages, our graphic of the Dominican monastery on Margaret Island will have to be pieced alongside one another from smaller fragments. The present condition of exploration on Saint Margaret and her cult was offered at a conference organized jointly by the Apostolic Congregation of the Dominican Sisters, the Károli Gáspár Reformed University, and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, whilst the Budapest Record Museum has collected the materials relics necessary for the reconstruction. The exhibition will make it possible for us to remember the figure of Saint Margaret and the monastery wherever she expended most of her life and which became the centre of her cult.

The curator of the exhibition is Ágoston Takács. This textual content is based on the speech I gave at the opening of the exhibition on November 17, 2022. The exhibition is on look at right up until March 19, 2023.

Zsombor Jékely talking at the opening ceremony – Photo by Magyar Kurír

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