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

A new momentary exhibition opened at the Budapest History Museum, devoted to St Margaret and the Dominican monastery on Margaret Island. The story and fate of Saint Margaret, the thirteenth-century saintly princess, has always captured the creativity of people today intrigued in historical past. The exhibition delivers people a assortment of artifacts in no way in advance of exhibited any where. The situation for the exhibition is the 750th anniversary of Margaret’s death in 2020, and the truth that in the last two a long time our know-how of the religious institution that was the dwelling of the young princess of the Árpád dynasty has improved significantly. This is principally thanks to the investigation of Eszter Kovács, who passed away in 2018 and who experienced carried out a number of little-scale excavations in the location of the Dominican monastery. This is how the fragments of wall paintings, possibly dating from the 14th and 15th centuries, were observed, which are on exhibit 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 experienced been launched soon in advance of, and at the age of 10, she was transferred to the monastery on Margaret Island, which her mom and dad had built. Through her canonization process, the testimonies of her contemporaries, recorded in 1276, explain to of her committed, sacrificial, and self-sacrificing way of living, her endless faith in Christ, and the miracles that took area in her everyday living and at her tomb. Margaret’s purpose product was her aunt, the sister of Béla IV, St Elizabeth of Hungary, who was canonized as early as 1235.

In spite of all attempts and royal help, Margaret’s canonization was not attained in the Center Ages. It was her brother, Stephen V, who was the first to attempt this: but neither he, nor Ladislas IV, nor their successors from the House of Anjou had been profitable. We really don’t know just when she was elevated to the Blessed, but there are a lot of documents of this from the 15th century and we also know of numerous medieval depictions of Margaret. Her cult in Hungary produced soon right after her demise: she was buried in front of the primary sanctuary of the Dominican church, and later an ornate white marble sarcophagus was manufactured for her human body, with reliefs depicting her miraculous deeds. Based mostly on her oldest legend and the canonization data, additional variations of the legend ended up penned, and a Hungarian-language version was generated at the stop of the Center Ages. The veneration of St Margaret has been just about unbroken above the generations. Her relics and bones had been taken to Pozsony (Bratislava) by the nuns in the 16th century to escape the Ottoman threat. Most of the bones had been shed in the 18th century, but perhaps her most well known relic, her penitential belt, has survived, and its ornate reliquary box and an genuine reproduction of the medieval item 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 selection of the Hungarian National Museum, the discovery of which in 1838 marked the get started of systematic excavations of the monastery ruins.

Funerary crown of King Stephen V (Hungarian National Museum)

Many thanks to the excavations, the extent of the former monastery and its church is well-recognised, and it has been feasible to reconstruct the most important phases of its building. Between the amazing results of the recent investigate are the fragments of wall paintings, most of which can now be viewed by the public for the initially time many thanks to the restoration do the job of Eszter Harsányi. Wall paintings have been discovered in numerous elements of the monastery, including the tiny home wherever the staircase leading from the monastery to the nuns’ choir was situated in the late Center Ages. The colourful items of plaster fragments preserving halos and faces hint at the romantic relationship of St Margaret and her fellow nuns to photos: her legend describes the role of Calvary illustrations or photos and other representations in her prayer and contemplation.

Imitation marble portray from the monastery building
Ignác Roskovics: Saint Margaret (for the Royal Palace)
When the nuns were being forced to flee from the Ottoman attacks in the sixteenth century, the monastery complex became abandoned. It was only used throughout sieges, for case in point as a discipline hospital for the duration of the recapture of Buda in 1686. The best destruction, on the other hand, was not prompted by the wars, but by the landscaping of the island in the 19th century, when the proprietor of the spot, 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 picture of the Dominican monastery on Margaret Island ought to be pieced collectively from smaller fragments. The recent condition of investigate on Saint Margaret and her cult was presented at a conference arranged jointly by the Apostolic Congregation of the Dominican Sisters, the Károli Gáspár Reformed College, and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, even though the Budapest Historical past Museum has collected the content relics vital for the reconstruction. The exhibition will permit us to remember the determine of Saint Margaret and the monastery wherever she invested most of her life and which became the center of her cult.

The curator of the exhibition is Ágoston Takács. This text is centered on the speech I gave at the opening of the exhibition on November 17, 2022. The exhibition is on perspective until eventually March 19, 2023.

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