Art and Architecture in the Medieval Kingdom of Hungary
- LAST REVIEWED: 18 August 2021
- LAST MODIFIED: 15 January 2019
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199920105-0136
- LAST REVIEWED: 18 August 2021
- LAST MODIFIED: 15 January 2019
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199920105-0136
The Kingdom of Hungary was established in 1000 with the coronation of Stephen as the first king of the realm. In 1102, King Coloman of the House of Árpád assumed the throne, bringing Croatia under the rule of Hungarian kings in a personal union. The Árpádian dynasty continued to rule Hungary until 1301, after which the Neapolitan Angevins rose to power. Following the reign of King Sigismund of Luxemburg (1387–1437), the first Habsburg ruler of Hungary, Albert, ascended the throne. The second half of the 15th century saw the golden age of King Matthias Corvinus, which was followed by a period of Jagiellonian rule. The end of the medieval kingdom was marked by the Battle of Mohacs in 1526, when the advancing Ottoman army defeated the Hungarians, killing young King Louis II as well. The Ottoman conquest resulted in the disintegration of the kingdom into three parts (Royal Hungary, the Ottoman territory, and the Principality of Transylvania). It was only reunited at the end of the 17th century under Habsburg rule. This history explains why the study of art in medieval Hungary is complicated. First of all, major sites in the center of the kingdom, in towns such as Esztergom, Buda, Visegrád, and Szekesfehervar, were destroyed. In the more peripheral areas of the kingdom, especially in Transylvania and the former Upper Hungary (present-day Slovakia), the artistic heritage of the Middle Ages has survived to a greater degree—however, Hungary lost these areas in the 1920 Trianon Peace Treaty. The territory of the medieval kingdom is now located in eight countries in addition to Hungary: Austria, Slovakia, Poland, Ukraine, Romania, Serbia, Croatia, and Slovenia. The study of medieval art in this region has often been carried out within the framework of individual modern states. This presents a historiographical and linguistic challenge and makes it quite difficult to survey the entire scholarship on the topic. For an accurate picture of medieval art in the Kingdom of Hungary, the overall geographical framework of research needs to cover the entire historic territory of the medieval kingdom. The present article looks at medieval art from the entire territory of the historic Kingdom of Hungary. The present overview concentrates on recent art historical scholarship, with a strong focus on publications in more accessible Western languages. Thanks to a renewed interest in medieval Hungary in the late 20th and early 21st centuries—which can be measured by the number of exhibitions, international conferences, monographs, and study collections published by Western publishing houses—a large body of scholarship is now available on most topics in the field of medieval art in Hungary. The early Renaissance art that played a major role at the court of King Matthias and his direct successors is not treated in the article, as that topic is the subject of a separate article.
History and General Overviews
The most useful overview of the history of medieval Hungary is Engel 2001. Kristó 2000 and Engel, et al. 2008 provide a two-volume, multiauthor survey of Hungarian medieval history in French. These overviews are now supplemented by a new study collection of medieval economic history (Laszlovszky, et al. 2018). Fügedi 1986 provides a more in-depth analysis of the aristocracy and the role of castles. For a survey of Hungarian cultural history, Kósa 1999 is a good starting point, while Kőszeghy 2003–2014 provides a more detailed, encyclopedic treatment. Well-illustrated overviews of Hungarian history and artistic achievements are provided in Zombori, et al. 2001 and in Marosi 2009.
Engel, Pál. The Realm of St Stephen: A History of Medieval Hungary, 895–1526. London: I. B. Tauris, 2001.
This book remains the most useful and accessible overview of the history of medieval Hungary. Written by one of the leading historians of his generation—an expert on the period of the Hungarian Angevins and King Sigismund—the book discusses Hungarian history in the context of European connections, outlining the economic, political, and intellectual development of the country. The book was also published in Hungarian.
Engel, Pál, Gyula Kristó, and András Kubinyi. Histoire de la Hongrie médiévale. Vol. 2, Des Angevins aux Habsbourgs. Rennes, France: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2008.
The second volume of a two-volume overview that provides a chronological overview from the Hungarian conquest to the fall of the medieval Kingdom of Hungary.
Fügedi, Erik. Castle and Society in Medieval Hungary (1000–1437). Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó, 1986.
Fügedi’s study focuses on the role of castles as centers of estates and symbols of power. His findings are essential for understanding the political and economic background of aristocratic patronage.
Kósa, László, ed. A Cultural History of Hungary, from the Beginnings to the Eighteenth Century. Budapest: Corvina-Osiris, 1999.
Concise overview of cultural and intellectual history of Hungary—the translation of a multiauthor Hungarian volume, which was intended as a university textbook.
Kőszeghy, Péter, ed. Magyar Művelődéstörténeti Lexikon. 14 vols. Lexicon of Hungarian Cultural History. Budapest: Balassi, 2003–2014.
One of the great ventures of recent Hungarian humanistic scholarship was the creation a fourteen-volume encyclopedia of Hungarian cultural history of the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period (covering developments until the year 1800). The articles encompass history, philosophy, literary history, art history, and other related fields. The entries are well illustrated, and each of them comes with a concise bibliography. Starting from 2016, the entire material of the encyclopedia is also available online.
Kristó, Gyula. Histoire de la Hongrie médiévale. Vol. 1, Le temps des Arpads. Rennes, France: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2000.
First of a two-volume overview of the history of medieval Hungary was written by some of Hungary’s most notable historians. Available online.
Laszlovszky, József, Balázs Nagy, Péter Szabó, and András Vadas, eds. The Economy of Medieval Hungary. Leiden, The Netherlands, and Boston: Brill, 2018.
This new collection of studies provides an overview of economic history in the medieval Kingdom of Hungary. Available online for purchase.
Marosi, Ernő, ed. On the Stage of Europe: The Millennial Contribution of Hungary to the Idea of European Community. Budapest: Balassi Kiadó, 2009.
The book provides a selection of defining artworks from Hungary, with expert descriptions by scholars of the Art History Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (medieval entries were largely written by Ernő Marosi). Also published in German.
Zombori, István, Pál Cséfalvay, and Maria A. de Angelis, eds. A Thousand Years of Christianity in Hungary: Hungariae Christianae Millennium. Budapest: Hungarian Catholic Episcopal Conference, 2001.
This volume was prepared in connection with an exhibition held at the Vatican Museums, to commemorate the 1000th anniversary of the conversion of Hungarians to Christianity. A series of studies detail Hungarian ecclesiastical history and the development of religious art in Hungary. Concise entries describe and illustrate some of the key monuments of Hungarian medieval art.
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