This room presents the first three centuries (1000–1301) of the Kingdom of Hungary, namely the period during which the country was ruled by monarchs drawn from the House of Árpád. Many of the objects displayed here can be linked to rulers of significance, e.g. King St. Stephen (r. 1000–1038), the founder of the state; King St. Ladislaus (r. 1077–1095); and King Béla IV (r. 1235–1270). From the historical standpoint, the most important artefacts on show are the funerary insignia of King Béla III (r. 1172–1196), although these are, perhaps, not the most spectacular. The room also presents artefacts connected with the different layers of the feudal society then under consolidation, namely the secular and ecclesiastical aristocracy, the soldiers, and the peasantry. In addition, visitors can see objects from towns which developed during this period, as well as artefacts linked with the Cumans, a people who settled in Hungary after the Tatar invasion of 1241–42.
The ‘Latini’ (‘Latins’), i.e. traders and artisans from Italy, France, Flanders, and Wallonia who settled in the country, played a great role in the development of Hungary’s towns during the Arpadian age.
Known as aquamaniles, water vessels cast from bronze in human shape (head of a woman or man, hunter, centaur) or animal shape (horse, lion, griffin) were initially used by clergy for the washing of hands during Holy Mass. Later on, however, they also became popular among the secular aristocracy.
Made at the imperial court in Byzantium and discovered accidentally, the Monomachos crown is a unique artefact. Buried in the earth during the power struggles of the second half of the 11th century, it came to light during ploughing work in the fields around Nyitraivánka (Ivanka pri Nitre, Slovakia) in 1860.
BYZANTINE VESSEL FOR HOLY WATER, FROM BESZTEREC
Second half of the 10th century
This Byzantine silver-gilt holy water vessel inscribed in Greek rests on three – in part reconstructed – lion-griffin feet. On a hexagonal base, the broader lower part of its body is connected to the narrower upper part by a stepped element. On the top, there is a handle, which moves. This is connected to the vessel by means of busts of two youths, and, at the level of the chests of the youths, a damaged inscription in Greek can be seen. The present teading of this is ‘Christ, the living fount of healing’. The vessel is covered by trailer with palmettes on a ground decorated with circles consisting of punched dots. In a lower, oval-shaped space, three palmettes alternate with three mythological beasts. The palmettes are early relics of the so-called flower-and-leaf decoration renewed at the imperial court at Byzantium in the mid-10th century on the basis of Chinese examples.
Perhaps depicting Chiron and Achilles, the centaur with a boy figure standing on its back is a product of an outstanding bronze-casting workshop in Hildesheim from the 1220s. It may have reached Hungary on account of the close links between the Holy Roman Empire and the court of King Andrew II of Hungary.
CROWN FROM MARGARET ISLAND
Silver-gilt crown with gemstones
Margaret Island, Budapest, 13th century
Decorated with lilies and rosettes, this crown was recovered in 1838 from one of the royal burials (perhaps that of King Stephen V of Hungary) at the Dominican nunnery on Margaret Island. Influenced by the classic French Gothic style, it may been made in the second half of the 13th century.
BELT BUCKLE, FROM KÍGYÓSPUSZTA
On a gold belt buckle recovered from the burial of a Cuman dignitary, we encounter a niello-decorated battle scene with knights, while on the circular mountings, likewise decorated with, niello, there are supplications addressed to saints: James, Bartholomew, Stephen, and Margaret can be read. Showing French influence but probably from Italy, the belt buckle, which is from the 1260s–1270s, may attest to links between Angevin rulers in Naples and Cuman dignitaries in Hungary.