From the Calvinist church of Nyírbátor (dedicated to St George in the Middle Ages) the Hungarian National Museum purchased the monumental stalls of a total of 48 seats in 1933. The two parts – both defective – were set up along the northern and southern walls of the church. The dissembled elements of the first rows of the seats were stored in the sanctuary. From the two incomplete stall wings one complete set of choir-stalls was assembled by transferring the marquetry dorsal panels from the southern wing to the northern wing and the original two-row stalls was thus reconstructed. The northern choir-stalls are still part of the permanent historical exhibition of the National Museum, while the incomplete southern stalls are on display in the Báthory István Museum in Nyírbátor. Following the reconstruction work with attention in the Museum, Magda Oberschall Bárány wrote a monograph of the stalls (1938), describing their ideal state, without discussing the structural questions. Important points in the history of the stalls are still unknown. It is not known since when they had been in the Calvinist church, and a more puzzling question is what the function of such a monumental construction was in the parish church of a small country town. The first mention of the stalls dates from the early 18th century. They were repaired a few times over the 19th century at the end of which nascent art historiography also discovered them. The idea of transferring them to a museum was raised several times.
The inscription says the stalls were commission in 1511 by three Báthory brothers: István, György and András, all three actors in the political elite of the late medieval Hungarian kingdom. (Their father András I [†1497] was the brother of the voivode of Transylvania and lord chief justice István II [†1493] and of Miklós I, the humanist bishop of Vác [†1506].) Nearly all elements of the canopied stalls are covered with ornamental carvings, the dorsal panels of the back row being adorned with inlaid designs. The latter include ornamental compositions, allegorical scenes, and illusionistic depictions of half-open cabinets with books and ritual objects on the shelves. Among the marquetry designs are the panels with the Báthory coats of arms and the inscription about the origin of the stalls. On account of the all’antica motifs, the perspectivic trompe l’oeil compositions and the high quality of the whole work the choir-stalls of Nyírbátor are on a par with the finest Italian stalls of the period. They were probably made by Italian masters working in Buda. The – presumed – Hungarian specimens of the kind have perished; the only stalls whose stylistic elements are in kinship with the stalls at issue are the early 16th century stalls in Zagreb cathedral. There is written evidence that a set of the stalls in Zagreb cathedral (1507) was made by Johannes Nicze Florentinus, who also worked in Pest. Despite several attempts, so far no name can be associated with the stalls of Nyírbátor.