The usual framework of Romanesque studies is the province, such as Burgundy, Tuscany or Bavaria. In Hungary, however, it has no tradition. The usual framework is either a smaller unit (county, megye in Hungarian) or a larger territory: the entire medieval Hungarian Kingdom, i.e. the Carpathian Basin. This paper discusses the historiography of these two traditions starting with the first Hungarian art historian generation (Arnold Ipolyi, Flóris Rómer, Imre Henszlmann) to contemporaneous efforts of the topographical works of historic monuments and collections of medieval churches, mainly compiled by archaeologists on the level of the county. On the other hand, each generation published its own summary of Romanesque art of Hungary. The regional aspect is a new trend, started by the exhibition on Transdanubia in 1994, however, monographic studies are still missing.
The medieval architecture of the region of the Hungarian Great Plain (Alföld) is scarcely known. This paper analyses the northern part of the region, the historic Szatmár county (now part of Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg County in Hungary and Satu Mare County in Romania) where a great number of village churches has been preserved. Presenting the architectural structures, forms of sanctuaries, triumphal arches, decorative motives, portals, windows, and niches, this study concludes that forms typical of brick architecture were in use in the Northern Alföld but not so extensively as in other regions of the country. On the other hand, the forms in Szatmár county show a great variety, on occasion entirely unique versions. These forms are regarded to be characteristic for late Romanesque architecture. Because of historical reasons, the majority of these churches can be dated to the second half of the 13th century to the early 14th century. Consequently it seems that the limit of Romanesque architecture in this region can be moved to as late as to the 1330s, thus exceeding the traditional borderline of the Árpád-period (1301).
In this paper, the construction of the “corona latina”decorated with a rich filigree work is considered as a terminus ante quem for the dating of its enamels. The art historical construction of a circle of filigree-decorated objects (royal sceptre, Salzburg cross, objects found in Székesfehérvár graves) and their dating from the late 12th century are here discussed. The author expresses his doubts on the homogeneity of the group. On the basis of parallels with western goldsmiths' works of the second half of the 11th century a similar date is proposed for the filigree work of the corona latina.
The paper is a case-study discussing the role of imago and historia in the Istanbul Antiphonal, a Hungarian 14th-century illuminated manuscript recently discovered and published in a facsimile edition. On the one hand, the two types ipso facto play different roles in the codex: imagines are usually connected to saints (therefore they culminate in the sanctorale part) while historiae are to be found mainly in the temporale. On the other hand, examples of both of the image types can be found in both parts, sometimes mixing the two genres. There is a tendency to give more and more place to the narrative, still, keeping important positions for the imago(e.g. at the beginning and the end of the cycles). Finally, there are cases when both of them are used for the same feast in different size, revealing that (at least in some cases) imago is hierarchically lower than historia.
We have more than a thousand manuscripts of the great hagiographical collection, the Legenda Aurea of Jacobus de Voragine from the 13th century, but there is only one codex which not only illustrated the text but translated it into a language of images. It is related to the Hungarian Anjous, that is why the codex is titled 'Hungarian Angevin Legendary'. The pages of the codex are spread over different collections of the world. Nowadays 58 legends are known on 142 pages, altogether 549 images. Some more important legends, as that of the apostles or the Anjous' favourite saint, King Ladislas, occupy 20-24 images. The paper tries to demonstrate two examples. St. Martin and St. Gerard, of how these cycles were organised. Two pictures of the supposed eight are emphasising the role of Martin as a bishop. Five images show the miracles of the saint and only one is consecrated to the charity of St. Martin, to the event which is his most popular story. Martin is the symbolic saint who gives half his goods to the poor. This scene is the most frequently represented in medieval art. In the Hungarian Angevin Legendary his miraculous activity is much more emphasized which is correlated with the written legend. The legend of St. Gerard is preserved completely in the Legendary. The first picture represents the saint discussing with King St. Stephen. On the second image the saint is represented as a hermit at Bakonybél with a book in his hand. The third one depicts the consecration of St. Gerard to the bishop of Csanád, on the next picture he is preaching to the people. The following pictures show his martyrdom and burial. It can be supposed that the painter(s) of the Hungarian Angevin Legendary could not use any iconographical tradition working on the cycle of St. Gerard.
During the 15th and 16th centuries, a number of long inscriptions were painted on the walls of parish churches in the territory of the medieval Hungarian Kingdom. The first known example is in the St Elisabeth’s of Kassa (Kaschau, Košice, Slovakia). The earlier inscription in the north-east chapel describes the events between 1387 and 1439 while it is continued in the south transept with a political manifestation on the side of the new-born King Ladislas V, opposed by Wladislas I. Another wall-chronicle is readable in the entrance hall of the St James’ in Lőcse (Leutschau, Levoča, Slovakia). Here the inscription, dated to ca 1500, commemorates events between 1431 and 1494, including local fires and diseases, the coronation of Ladisla V and Wladislas II and the royal meeting of John Albert of Poland and Wladislas II of Hungary held at the city in 1494. On the other side of the entrance hall, a detailed Last Judgement was painted, as the final act of world history. The inscriptions of Lőcse are usually interpreted as a manifestation of the local identity of the Saxons in the Szepes (Zips, Spiš, Slovakia) region, enjoying special privileges. This is probably also true for the second group of wall-chronicles, to be found in Transylvania in the important Saxon towns. The only surviving example is in Szeben (Hermannstadt, Sibiu, Romania), in the gallery of the western hall (Ferula). Beside some national events (coronation of King Matthias, death of Louis II) it is dealing with Transylvanian affairs between 1409 and 1566. A similar chronicle has been documented in Brassó (Kronstadt, Braşov, Romania), which started the narrative with the immigration of the Saxons and ended with 1571, with a special attention to the Ottoman wars. Unfortunately the inscriptions have been covered after the fire of 1689. Other wall-chronicles are documented by secondary sources in Segesvár (Säsßburg, Sighișoara), Medgyes (Mediasch, Mediaș), Beszterce (Bistritz, Bistrița), Muzsna (Meschen, Moșna), Baráthely (Pretai, Brateiu) and Ecel (Hetzeldorf, Ațel, all in Romania). While all these were written in Latin, a Hungarian inscription has been preserved in the Calvinist church of Berekeresztúr (Bâra, Romania) in the Szeklerland from the early 17th century. Although a misunderstanding of the sources led some scholars to suppose an inscription or an images cycle with secular content in Buda, these passages refer in reality to the Franciscan friary at Chambery. In international comparison, the Gothic wall-chronicles seem to be a rarity; the best example is known from the cathedral of Genoa, where the rebuilding of the cathedral in the early 14th century is connected to the legendary origin of the city, counterbalancing the civil war between the citizens.
Decorating the walls of churches with letters instead of images is certainly aniconic, but not necessarily un-pretentious. Letters always play a decorative function whenever written on the walls. The letters, especially for the illiterate people, was a special type of ornament. Nevertheless, inscriptions, as far as their letters are readable and languages are understandable, tend to be informative. Interpreting their content depends on different levels of literacy. But they work for all as visual symbols. The longish Latin wall chronicles of Late Gothic parish churches were probably understood by the rich patricians; but the large surfaces close to the entrances might have been meaningful for all others who recognized their significance in local identity-building. The illiterate local people of the Protestant villages were unable to decipher the exact meaning of the inscriptions, even if they were in their native Hungarian language. However, these letters were necessarily eloquent for the entire community: the fact itself that there are letters decorating the walls instead of images was meaningful, reflecting the transformation of Christian culture. The letters themselves, legible or not, had a symbolic value which can be decoded taking into consideration their location, forms and context.