January 31, 2023

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

A new short-term exhibition opened at the Budapest Background Museum, devoted to St Margaret and the Dominican monastery on Margaret Island. The story and destiny of Saint Margaret, the thirteenth-century saintly princess, has constantly captured the imagination of folks fascinated in record. The exhibition features readers a range of artifacts never right before exhibited anywhere. The situation for the exhibition is the 750th anniversary of Margaret’s dying in 2020, and the simple fact that in the final two a long time our awareness of the religious institution that was the house of the youthful princess of the Árpád dynasty has enhanced substantially. This is mostly many thanks to the study of Eszter Kovács, who passed away in 2018 and who had carried out quite a few modest-scale excavations in the space of the Dominican monastery. This is how the fragments of wall paintings, probably dating from the 14th and 15th centuries, had been found, which are on show for the initially 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 introduced up as a child in the Dominican monastery in Veszprém, which experienced been launched soon just before, and at the age of 10, she was transferred to the monastery on Margaret Island, which her parents experienced constructed. Through her canonization method, the testimonies of her contemporaries, recorded in 1276, convey to of her committed, sacrificial, and self-sacrificing lifestyle, her endless religion in Christ, and the miracles that took position in her daily life and at her tomb. Margaret’s job product was her aunt, the sister of Béla IV, St Elizabeth of Hungary, who was canonized as early as 1235.

Despite all attempts and royal help, Margaret’s canonization was not reached in the Middle 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 were prosperous. We you should not know accurately when she was elevated to the Blessed, but there are several information of this from the 15th century and we also know of lots of medieval depictions of Margaret. Her cult in Hungary produced soon immediately after her loss of life: she was buried in front of the main sanctuary of the Dominican church, and later on an ornate white marble sarcophagus was designed for her system, with reliefs depicting her miraculous deeds. Centered on her oldest legend and the canonization records, additional variations of the legend were being published, and a Hungarian-language model was created at the end of the Center Ages. The veneration of St Margaret has been almost unbroken around the centuries. Her relics and bones ended up taken to Pozsony (Bratislava) by the nuns in the 16th century to escape the Ottoman threat. Most of the bones were being shed in the 18th century, but possibly her most renowned 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 display screen is the funerary crown of King Stephen V (Margaret’s brother), also buried on Margaret Island, from the collection of the Hungarian Nationwide Museum, the discovery of which in 1838 marked the start off 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 previous monastery and its church is effectively-regarded, and it has been doable to reconstruct the most significant phases of its construction. Between the amazing effects of the new investigation are the fragments of wall paintings, most of which can now be witnessed by the general public for the initially time many thanks to the restoration do the job of Eszter Harsányi. Wall paintings have been identified in a number of components of the monastery, which include the smaller home the place the staircase top from the monastery to the nuns’ choir was located in the late Middle Ages. The colourful parts of plaster fragments preserving halos and faces hint at the connection of St Margaret and her fellow nuns to photos: her legend describes the purpose of Calvary visuals and other representations in her prayer and contemplation. 

Imitation marble portray from the monastery setting up

Ignác Roskovics: Saint Margaret (for the Royal Palace)

When the nuns ended up pressured to flee from the Ottoman assaults in the sixteenth century, the monastery advanced turned deserted. It was only used for the duration of sieges, for case in point as a discipline hospital for the duration of the recapture of Buda in 1686. The best destruction, nevertheless, was not induced by the wars, but by the landscaping of the island in the 19th century, when the operator of the region, Archduke Joseph of Austria, experienced it turned into an English backyard. Like so many other monuments of the Hungarian Center Ages, our image of the Dominican monastery on Margaret Island ought to be pieced alongside one another from compact fragments. The present-day point out of research on Saint Margaret and her cult was presented at a convention structured jointly by the Apostolic Congregation of the Dominican Sisters, the Károli Gáspár Reformed University, and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, although the Budapest Background Museum has collected the substance relics vital for the reconstruction. The exhibition will make it possible for us to recall the figure of Saint Margaret and the monastery where she spent most of her daily life and which became the center of her cult.

The curator of the exhibition is Ágoston Takács. This text is primarily based on the speech I gave at the opening of the exhibition on November 17, 2022. The exhibition is on look at till March 19, 2023.

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