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The Coronation regalia

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Chief medieval sites of Hungary

Many of present-day Hungary's most important medieval buildings were reduced to ruins during the Turkish wars between 1541-1689. New churches and castles were built where the old ones once stood, and the ruins of many other buildings were slowly forgotten. Starting in the mid-19th century, archaeological research and other methods have slowly started to reveal the fragments of these buildings. A summary catalogue of Hungary's architectural fragments, published in 1988 (Lapidarium Hungaricum - Magyarország építészeti töredékeinek gyüjteménye 1. Általános helyzetkép, ed. by Miklós Horler et al, Budapest: 1988) listed 400 locations where altogether more than 60,000 fragments are kept, and the number has kept growing since then. A great number of these fragments are uncatalogued, and virtually unknown for the public, although these fragments form the foundation on which the history of Hungarian medieval architecture and sculpture can be built. With the Millecentenary and Millenial Years (1996, 2000), a lot more attention has been paid to this material, and many colections will be soon exhibited and catalogued. On this page, I give a brief description of the most important such collections.

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Former capital of Hungary (up to 1198) and the seat of Hungary's primary archbishop, Esztergom played a central role in Hungary's life. When the new cathedral church was built at the beginning of the 19th century, the ruins of the old one were completely torn down, and not much has remained of the adjacent palace either. Remains of the palace were excavated in the 1930s, and excavations on the Castle Hill and elswehere in town have continued since then. Today at least 5000 carved stones are kept in various temporary storage facilities in Esztergom. About 100 pieces are exhibited in the Castle Museum, and about two dozen tombstones are in the crypt of the Cathedral. Several more stone carvings have recently been displayed in a new Lapidarium, opened inside the castle museum. The Museum is housed in the former royal/archiepiscopal palace, which has been rebuilt in 2000. The collection and the museum is officially part of the Hungarian National Museum.

Detail of the palace chapel at Esztergom, with 14th century frescoes.



With more than 20% of the countrywide material, the Budapest History Museum manages the largest collection of stone fragments in Hungary, most of them coming from various exhibitions in the territory of Budapest, including the Buda Royal Palace. The material includes the fragments of the Buda Royal Palace, the church of Our Lady in Buda, the Óbuda royal castle and churches, as well as material from various other medieval churches in the territory of Budapest. While some of the most important pieces are exhibited in the museum, most are kept in various storage facilities scattered throughout the city, and ongoing excavations keep enlarging the corpus. The most important current excavations are the ones on Szent György Square in the Buda Castle.

Figure of an angel from the Church of Our Lady in Buda



Székesfehérvár is the site of the ruins of the former royal basilica, Hungary's coronation church, and the burial place of many kings. Essentially only the foundations survived, along with countless fragments of architectural and sculptural material. Excavations here have been going on since the middle of the nineteenth century. Currently a new museum exhibition is being planned. Most of the fragments are catalogued, but not yet published in detail.

Aerial view of the site of the royal basilica


The Visegrád Palace Museum, a unit of the Hungarian National Museum has a large and ever-growing collection of stones as well. Excavations in the Royal Palace are still going on, revealing further material. Exhibitions inside the palace and in the nearby Salamon tower provide adequate circumstances for viewing the most important pieces of the collection. Much of the material has been catalogued in the first Lapidarium Hungaricum volume, and continuous publications ensure that this monument is one of the better known ones in Hungary. The Royal Palace itself has been reconstructed on a scale unimagined before.

View of the Royal Palace before the recent reconstruction


All of the medieval stone scultpure from the cathedral of Pécs has been removed at the time of the nineteenth century reconstruction. The material, Hungary's most important group of Romanesque statuary has not been on view for decades. The Cathedral Museum is now open, providing much-needed access to the material. A new catalogue will make the material even more accessible. Meanwhile it is not certain how the results of new excavations, which revealed chapels by the cathedral and the remains of a building, identified as the University of Pécs, will be shown.

Resurrected figures from the Cathedral of Pécs


Remains of the Cistercian Abbey of Pilis, an important royal foundation, were excavated during the 1970s. Most of the material is kept in various storage facilities at or near the site, and the stones have recently been catalogued (not published). The most important sculptural work - including the tomb of Queen Gerturdis and the reconstructed choir screen - is exhibited at the Hungarian National Gallery.

Head from the sculptural decoration of the Pilis choir screen


The Benedictine Abbey Church of Ják is regarded as the country's finest Romanesque building. The statues of the western portal have deteriorated so much over the last century that it became necessary to take them of, and replace them with replicas. The original statues, as well as other material from the church will soon be exhibited in a new museum built on the site.


The central figures from the western portal of Ják Abbey Church

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Medieval artists known by name

A handful of medieval artists working in Hungary are known by name. Images of their works can be seen on the Fine Arts in Hungary website, Created by Emil Krén and Dániel Marx. The following links will take you directly to the relevant sections of their site.

bulletThe 14th-century sculptors, Martin and George of Kolozsvár
bulletThe late 14th-century painter Johannes Aquila from Radkersburg - Frescoes at Velemér (scroll down)
bulletThe painter Thomas of Kolozsvár (1420s)
bulletThe painter Master MS (active around 1500). On this master, see the new Guided tour: High Altar by Master MS at Selmecbánya
bullet The sculptor Paul of Lőcse (Levoca) - The high altar of St James' church at Lőcse (scroll down)

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Other chief works

The names of most medieval artists are not known. The following list provides links to some of the most important artworks from Hungary, and will continuously be updated.

bullet The treasure hoard of Nagyszentmiklós, at Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum- jug and and a cup.

The hoard of gold most likely belonged to an Avar chieftan, and was hidden before the Conquest by the Magyars.

bullet Sabertache-plates - A selection from the collection of the Hungarian National Museum, select the "Medieval department"
bulletThe Holy Crown of Hungary
bulletA selection of medieval Wall paintings (Fine Arts in Hungary)
bulletA selection of Hungarian Sculptures and carvings (Fine Arts in Hungary)
bulletA selection of Miniatures (Fine Arts in Hungary)
bulletA selection of Winged Altarpieces (Fine Arts in Hungary)
bulletCastles in Hungary - a trully excellent and exhaustive site about castles (mainly medieval) in historic Hungary. Information in Hungarian.

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Medieval churches

In this section I would like to introduce a few medieval churches from the territory of medieval Hungary, churches which are well-documented on the web. Focus is on churches with medieval wall-paintings.


Gelence, a small frescoed church in Transylvania

-Photos of the church, with Quicktime virtual reality view of the interior

-A complete overview of the church, with photos, a video and the complete documentation of the painted coffered cealing from 1628  (site in Hungarian. Select "Templomok" on the left, then "Gelence" from the scroll-down menu)


Velemér, a frescoes church in western Hungary. painted by the workshop of Johannes Aquila

-Photos of the church, with Quicktime virtual reality views of the interior


Photos and quicktime spherical panoramas of churches and other monuments from the Carpathian basin, including several churches with medieval frescoes
Check out the following:

and many others


Transylvanian churches - photos and descriptions (In Hungarian)


Painted ceilings and frescoes, photos descriptions and videos



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