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The Southern Part of the Great Plain and Szer

During the Middle Ages


During the period in the second half of the nineteenth century when art historical writing, archaeology and the preservation of ancient monuments developed and took root in Hungary the first task was to make the first speedy survey of the country's historical relics. The lectures Arnold Ipolyi held at the Academy were the first to review, according to discipline, the prevailing state of research in the fields of medieval architecture, sculpture and paint-ing. (Ipolyi Arnold, A középkori szobrászat Magyarországon /Medieval Sculpture in Hungary/ {M. Tud. Akadémia Évkönyvei /Hungárián Academy of Sciences Year-books Vol. X. Part XIII./} Pest 1863). Flóris Rómer fiiled dozens of notebooks with writings and sketches during his incessant travels around the country (to be found in the Library of the Ancient Monuments Preservation Office {Országos Műemlékvédelmi Hivatal}, and the wrote the first monograph on medieval wall paintings ( Rómer Flóris, Régi falképek Magyarországon /Old Wallpaintings in Hungary/ {Monumenta Hungariae Archaeologica -Magyarországi Régészeti Emlékek/Archaeological Monuments in Hungary/ III/I.} Budapest 1874). Imre Henszlmann attempted to classify the monuments ( Henszlmann Imre, Honi műemlékeink hivatalos osztályozása / The Official Classification of Monuments in Hungary/ I-VII, Archaeologiai Értesítő /Archaeological Gazette/ Ú. F. V (1885) xvi-xxiii, xxvii-xxx, xxxvi-xl.; VI (1886) 114-117,335-337,; VII (1887) 263-267,349-352.). This collection of data, which went on for a number of decades, resulted in the publication, at the beginning of the 20th century, of the immense register listing the nation's ancient monuments as assembled by Péter Gerecze. (Gerecze Péter, A műemlékek helyrajzi jegyzéke és irodalma. Magyarország Műemlékei. / The Geography of Ancient Monuments: Records and Literature. The Ancient Monuments of Hungary. Editor: Gyula Forster II/ (1906)).

By this time art historical approaches had matured, adopting a more differential attitude and mode of analysis. It was primarily due to Kornél Divald that the medieval art of the capital was first recorded, and in the case of Buda not without further implications ( Divald Kornél, A régi Buda és Pest művészete a középkorban. /Art in Old Buda and Pest during the Middle Ages/Budapest 1901.; Divald Kornél, Budapest művészete a török hódoltság előtt. / The Art of Budapest prior to the Turkish Conquest, Budapest é. n. (1903)) as was discovered when the large number of excavations which took place following the Second World War, particularly during the systematic excavation of the remains of the medieval royal palace, proved that the "radiation-theory", which Divald applied to the limited number of finds which had by then rather haphazardly come to light, was in fact correct. Kornél Divald was also the first to record ancient monuments in a number of as yet unsurveyed smaller areas, regions. During the course of his work he also turned his attention to the particular artistic characteristics of these regions. (Divald Kornél, Szepesvármegye művészeti emlékei I-III, /The Artistic Monuments of the County of Szepes I-III../ Budapest 1906). From the fourteenth century onwards, in the spheres of both architecture and the visual arts, one can, in the north and the north-east of the country, sense the emergence of what is in many respects an self-contained artistic region. It was an area covering primarily the Szepes region which had been settled by the Germans, and the neighbouring county of Sáros. (Magyarországi művészet 1300 -1470 körül I-II. /Hungarian Art 1300 - c.1470, I-II. Editor Ernő Marosi./ Budapest 1987:). From many standpoints Transylvania too can be considered to be an independent art historical unit where the architectural and artistic legacy of both the Saxon settlers and the Hungarian Szekler communities helped to enrich the history of Hungarian medieval art. The study of the ancient monuments - divided up intő the Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance periods was carried out over a period of half a century by Géza Entz and Jolán Balogh (Géza Entz: Erdély építészete a 11-13 században. /Transylvanian Architecture in the ll-13th Centuries./ Kolozsvár 1994.; Géza Entz: Erdély építészete a 14-16. században. /Transylvanian Architecture in the 14-16th Centuries./ Kolozsvár 19%.; Jolán Balogh, Az erdélyi renaissance I. /The Transylvaman Renaissance 17 Kolozsvár 1943.; Jolán Balogh, Kolozsvári kőfaragó műhelyek, XVI. század. /Kolozsvár (Guj-Napoca. Romania) Stonecarvers' Workshops. The XVI. Centnnr. Budapest 1985.).

The topography of the ancient monuments in Hungary, which was launched as a project during the 1930s, but whose first volume only saw the light of day after the Second World War, was, or indeed still is, not characterized by the regional approach seen in similar publications produced in other European countries: the collection and publication of material was based on administrative areas, namely those of the counties.

Interest in tourism, and indeed the way tourism was organized, had a major influence on the preservation of ancient monuments during the third quarter of the twentieth century. This helped to prompt the publication of a book about the three counties bordering on Lake Balaton as part of a series designed to inform tourists about the country's historic towns. Entz Geza - Gero Laszlo, A Balaton kornyek muemlekei /The Ancient Monuments of the Balaton Region./ Budapest 1958.) - the emphasis was very much placed on medieval churches and castle ruins. About a third of a century later the topic was brought up to date when a summary of all the most recent restoration work and archaeological research was published (Koppany Tibor: A Balaton kornyekenek műemlekei. /The Balaton Region's Ancient Monuments./ Budapest 1993.). Ilona Valter concentrated her studies on the Romanesque ecclesiastical buildings of a corridor of land in Transdanubia (the territory stretching south and west of the Danube, and west of the state capital, Budapest) from Burgenland, which is now part of Austria, across to Balaton, and then down as far as a region which is now in Slovenia. By studying the building materials and the building techniques of a similar group of buildings, and by analysing the stylistic elements and motifs used in the decorative programmes she was able to look at activities going on within a larger artistic landscape, within a larger part of the country (Ilona Valter : Romanische Sakralbauten Westpannonias. /Romanesque Ecclesiastical Buildings in Western Pannonia./ Eisenstadt 1985). For the problems relating to the choice of title and the relevence of a regional approach see Erno Marosi's critique in: Acta Historia Artium XXXII (1986) 143-145.) It was within the realm of the preservation of ancient monuments that many of the summaries of the second half of the nineteenth century, and the projects of the twentieth century took place. It was the preservation of historic sites which provided the context in which the research could took place, and in the course of the restoration work itself the quantity of material available to researchers increased.

In 1994 the Hungarian National Gallery hosted a major exhibition, organized by Imre Takács and Arpad Miko, and accompanied by a bulky catalogue (Pannonia Regia: Muveszet a Dunantulon 1000-1541. /Art in Transdanubia 1000-1541. (exhibition catalogue). Editors.: Árpád Mikó, Imre Takacs./ Budapest 1994.) which, with the relevant objects, attempted to survey the'medieval art produced in the region to the south of the Danube, in other words in western Hungary - in what had been the Roman province of Pannonia. (For a detailed analysis of the exhibition see Erno Marosi's critique in: Acta Historiae Artium XXXVII (1994-95) 328-345.) The success of this inspired the editor of this present collection of studies, Tibor Kollar, to bring together a number of experts in an attempt to concentrate on a region whose medieval architectural, archaeological and artistic monuments are still considered to be somewhat of a mystery: namely the southern part of the Great Hungarian Plain and its neighbouring regions, the medieval counties of Arad and Temes, as well as the Szerémség. Covering the medieval geography and the property relations of the time satisfactorily has required close international cooperation which has given us the opportunity to work together with our Romanian, Serb and Croatian colleagues.

The first paper, by Gyula Kristó, outlines the historical position of southern part of the Great Hungarian Plain within medieval Hungary, covering the research precidents in the sphere of geographical compartmentalization and its inherent methodological problems. The author shows that the southern part of the Great Plain, and indeed the Great Plain as a whole, were not known in these terms during the Middle Ages and that we should therefore be aware that we are dealing with a modern concept when discussing the Middle Ages within the area described. The area has one of the Carpathian Basin's least varied landscapes, which as a result of subsequent historical events has been left with a paucity of historical sources. This has contributed to an imbalance in historical research. It isn't coincidental that in Hungary that a term hasn't emerged for local or regional history, there is no special ,,Ortsgeschichte,,, or separate ,,Territorialgeschichte//. Hungarian local history amounts to the history of one or two villages or towns, or the history of one or two counties at the very most, and it is very rare indeed that one finds the history of a region and its past. "Elsewhere Hungarian historical research has tended to concentrate on a legalistic approach based on judicial areas. Whilst analysing the constitutional or juridical structures it is only very rarely that one comes across cases which go beyond the bounds of the county to be resolved at a regional level. This being the case a regional perspective has not been considered necessary. Consequently if we wish to look at the characteristic features of a wider region's historical landscape, of the Great Plain for instance, we are left floundering. Neither the methodology nor the practise of regional studies can be seen in Hungarian historical writing despite the fact that historical writing about Europe in general can offer us an example. Adopting such an example would, however, require reconsidering a constitutional mode of analysis and taking on a regional way of seeing things.

The next two studies however study the region as a whole, but as seen from a few chosen points of view. Laszlo Blazovich, looks at the situation of the towns and the market towns (mezőváros) on the southern part of the Great Plain in 14th-16th centuries, showing their relationships with the surrounding regions whilst touching on the the development of the layout and topography of the most important settlements - Szeged, Gyula, Makó, Hodmező-vásárhely, Bekes, Szabadka (Subotica, Jugoszlavia), Csomorkany, Arad (Romania) - as well as considering the way the geographical situation influencing the formation of these characteristics, and how this may have been reflected in a previous reconstruction of the townscape in for example the sociological divisions within the urban fabric. Laszlo Koszta analyses the ecclesiastical organizations and institutions of the region in a manner that will prove invaluable when reading the monographs of buildings or groups of buildings which follow.

As the title of the volume suggests it if the group of buildings at Szer which occupies a place of particular importance. In his study of the Bar-Kalan clan's church and Benedictine foundation Otto Trogmayer identifies several building periods based on his analysis of the remains, whilst presenting the most significant carved stones and ottering his own suggested datings. Erno Marosi's article deals with one group of the carved remains, the surviving iamb figure fragments. He occasionally disagrees with Otto Trogmayer's conclusions concerning the a possible French gothic influence and his suggestion that the fragments originated from the church's portal. Marosi believes they decorated the cloister. The monastery was not the only imposing building to disappear, the nearby settlement of Szer shared a similar fate. Ferenc Horvath reports on line archaeological research which has been going on atthe originally romanesque, and later gothic, parish church.

The remains of a clan monastery built at about the same time as the one in Szer has been uncovered on Mágor Hill near Veszto. By the time the Csolt clan decided to build a monastery there in the 12th century more than one church had already stood on the site, the oldest of which can be dated to the first half of the eleventh century. Iren Juhasz's article about the site is based on the archaeological findings there and is supplemented by entries from a catalogue containing the most important finds. The finely cut, small, partlywhite, partly red marble carvings, the larger scale architectural elements and an inscribed stone tablet all bear witness to the richness of the decoration to be found at the churches which successively shared the site. One can only attempt to reconstruct Ellesmonostor, which lies close to the Tisza with the help of the remains of the groundwalls. The building, dating from the end of the 11th century or the beginning of the 12th century, can also be considered a foundation of the Bar-Kalan clan. Lajos Bozoki has written a study about Eva Pavai's archaeological finds at the site whilst using the opportunity to add his own comments about some of the carvings which came to light.

Nebojsa Stanojev focuses on two rood screens ("templon") which make up one group of the substantial carved remains of the monastery at Dombo (Novi Rakovac, Yugoslavia). According to the author, the monastery, which was dedicated to Saint George, was built to be used by Greek monks, and that similarly to buildings built in Hungary at the end of the 11th century and the beginning of the 12th century, the first rood screen in the three aisled church was built by masters arriving from the Byzantine provinces; the Benedictine order took over the monastery at the beginning of the 13th century and during the course of remodelling work replaced the original rood screen with a new one.

One of the most well-known sites known for 11th century stone carving is the carved relief at Aracs which lies near to Torokbecse (Novi Becej, now Yugoslavia). Stylistic contacts with the work form the basis of Sandor Toth's study. The most closely related carvings can be found in the Bacska region, the southernmost part of the Great Plain, in the fragments found at Bánmonostor (Banostor, Yugoslavia), Titel (Yugoslavia), Bodrogmonostorszeg (Backi Monostor, Yugoslavia) and Dombó. It is not known where the Aracs stone originally came from, and the ruin which can now be seen in Aracs is that of a 13th century monastery. The study of this building and a stylistic and typological analysis of its carvings form the basis of Endre Raffay's study.

The interwoven designs and the carved palmette decoration found in the 11-12th century monasteries described above form the basis of Miklos Takács's search for common design sources which takes him to Dalmatia and northern Italy.

Zsuzsa Heitel's article marks the first part of a larger study of ll-13th century architecture along the Maros valley in Romania. Heitel presents the results of her investigations into the stone, and other, remains of the Benedictine monastery at Pankota (Pinkota). Katalin B. Nagy and Melinda Toth describe several significant stone carved finds uncovered during the rescue dig: of the wooden carvings found at Szekkutas one still remains unidentified, they appear to have come from an important early ecclesiastical building.

Maria Beres presents her research into a series of parish churches which stood on one site in the once important market town of Csomorkany which was destroyed during the Turkish period. She also analyses the cemetery which surrounded the site and the changing contours of the ditch which surrounded the cemetery.

Moving away from the edges of the southern limits of the Great Plain the next article concerns Kalocsa, Hungary's second archbishopric since its foundation during the reign of Saint Stephen. The ambulatoried French-inspired cathedral, which was one of the biggest gothic buildings in Hungary, was constructed during the second or third decades of the 13th century and survived the Turkish period, albeit in ruins. Its was a baroque reconstruction which caused its total destruction. Whilst referring to this in part, Imre Takács's turns his attention to a group of carved stones found amongst the reused building material which came to light in Paks in 1986-87.

A few of the buildings or groups of buildings which have been mentioned up until now have only survived as groundwalls, or as objects which have been found during the course of archaeological excavations. It is often the case therefore that apart from the buildings' incomplete groundplans and what one can gain from a painstaking investigation of the what could be construed as carved decorative details there is very little we can do to get an idea of a building's interior decoration. The fragmentary nature of our knowledge isn't only true of the southern part of the Great Plain., it is characteristic of the whole central part of historical Hungary which came under Turkish rule. (c. 1541 -1686). Those buildings which did survive the Turkish period were to fall victim either to later modernizations, the baroque projects of the 18th century, or later remodellings and urban renewal projects. Compared to the other buildings which have thusfar been examined the Lower Town church in Szeged and the Franciscan monastery next to it amount to extraordinary survivals. Building preservation has already taken place. Following with the detailed architectural analysis of the first gothic church, openings have been found in the medieval wall fragments which still stand in the monastic buildings. Old representations, archive photographs and the analysis of surviving stone fragments have helped Zsuzsa Lukacs in her exploration of the site's detailed architectural history.

Two studies deal with the topography of Újlak (Ilok, Croatia) and the Újlaki family's substantial market towns and country seats, with particular reference to their ecclesiastical buildings. Diana Vukicevic-Samarzija takes a general overview of the town as a whole, whilst Gergely Buzás draws our attention to the as yet unknown episodes in the history of a church which, prior to the recent archaeological investigations, was known only from 17th century ground plan measurements and some carved stones originating from the heavily restored parish church but presently in the custody of the Town Museum. The vault elements and the window frames are characteristic of the kind of late gothic found in Saxony and Silesia in about 1500, but it is a style which can also be found elsewhere in Hungary (Atyina / Vocin, Croatia; Visegrad).

Apart from ecclesiastical architecture, the significant secular buildings of the state and the propertied classes, the castles, constitute an important part of the medieval architecture of any particular region. Two studies take the form a general summaries of the catalogued castles in two particular regions: Laszlo Gere concentrates on the Szeremseg, and Adrian A. Rusu on the counties of Arad and Temes. Both studies are overdue, mainly due to the lack of published work and the sketchy state of research: in addition to the linguistic problems there is the almost insurmountable problem of getting hold of publications, making access to previous research on the topic all but impossible for Hungarian experts. The third study deals with one key building only: Istvan Feld in using the most recent architectural and archaeological findings resulting from the building's renovation, writes about the one surviving castle on the Great Plain, Gyula Castle, an aristocratic brick-built project of about 1420.
The volume will, by its very nature be mosaic-like, but even in this format it will offer an overview more comprehensive than anything previously written about the medieval architectural history of the region. It is hoped the studies to be found here will indeed provide further inspiration for future research.

Pál Lővei


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