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Les Cardinaux de la Renaissance et la modernité artistique - Frédérique Lemerle, Yves Pauwels et Gennaro Toscano (dir.)

The Role of High Priests in the Dissemination
of Early Renaissance Forms in Hungary

Péter Farbaky
Traduction de Judit Pokoly
p. 263-275

Texte intégral

  • 1 Earlier publications on the theme : J. Balogh, « I mecenati ungheresi del primo Rinascimento », in (...)

1In the early phase of the Hungarian Renaissance, high priests appear to have been more perceptive to the innovations of the new style of art, the Renaissance, than the aristocrats. They were the first to file up behind King Matthias Corvinus, who introduced the Renaissance art to Hungary. The main reason certainly is the humanist education of the high priests, as well as their studies mostly at Italian universities where beside acquiring up-to-date knowledge, they gained first-hand experience of the new trends and achievements of Italian art1.

  • 2 K. Pajorin, A magyar humanizmus Zsigmond-kori alapjai [The foundations of Hungarian humanism laid i (...)
  • 3 K. Csapodiné Gárdonyi, Die Bibliothek des Johannes Vitéz. Budapest, 1984.
  • 4 T. Klaniczay, Das Contubernium des Johannes Vitéz : Die erste ungarische “Akademie”. In : Forschung (...)
  • 5 Á. Ritoók-Szalay, Der Humanismus in Ungarn zur Zeit von Matthias Corvinus, in Humanismus und Renais (...)

2It was at the Council of Constance (1414-18) that the noted humanist Pier Paolo Vergerio (1370–1444) entered the service of King Sigismund. Earlier employed by the Carrara family of Padua, he moved to Buda and lived there until his death2. He became friends with János (Zrednai) Vitéz (1408–1472)3, a member of the high clergy and chancellor, and this friendship marks the advent of the Renaissance in Hungary. Vitéz was the central figure of the beginning of Hungarian Renaissance, as the tutor of Matthias Corvinus as well. Towards the end of his life Vergerio took part in Vitéz’s scholarly sessions at Várad and Buda where an international society gathered including Polish Gregorio di Sanok (Grzegorz z Sanoka), the Cypriot Filippo Podocataro, the papal legate Giuliano Cesarini, and others4. Vitéz had only attended a single semester at the university of Vienna and, much as he would have liked, he could not get to an Italian university. However, he sponsored the education in Italy of several of his compatriots, among them his nephew, the poet Janus Pannonius, who became Matthias’ diplomat as the bishop of Pécs. The university of Pozsony (Bratislava, now Slovakia) was founded by Vitéz with a teaching staff probably from among the scholars around Greek cardinal Bessarion. It was also he who invited German Andreas Hess from Rome to establish book printing in Hungary5.

  • 6 M. Prokopp, Vitéz János esztergomi palotája [The Esztergom palace of János Vitéz], in Janus Pannoni (...)

3The court historian of Matthias, Antonio Bonfini gave an account of Vitéz’s constructions in Esztergom6. He described the dining hall of the archiepiscopal palace (adorned with pictures of the Hungarian sainted kings), the adjacent red marble passage-way, the bathing chambers, the double garden. Vitéz had the cathedral roof covered with glazed tiles and he also had a large library built close by (similarly to the Piccolomini Library next to the Duomo in Siena). As excavations reveal, however, the style in which the buildings ordered by Vitéz were constructed was late gothic.

  • 7 J. Horváth, Az irodalmi műveltség megoszlása. Magyar humanizmus [The distribution of literary cultu (...)
  • 8 “Non referam, qua magnificentia templum instauravit architectis fabrisque ex Italia accitis maximo (...)

4The bishop of Vác, a town on the east bank of the Danube not far from the capital, was Miklós Báthori (1474–1506), a relative of King Matthias. Matthias’ uncle, Mihály Szilágyi married Báthori’s sister Margit. That was probably why Matthias at first supported the bishop, but as the high priest had presumably taken too many liberties, he lost grace in 1484, though the monarch did not have him locked up. He studied in Italy, as his former teacher Galeotto Marzio of Narni, who also visited Matthias’ court, noted. He praised Báthori’s mastery of the Latin language and made a point of mentioning that amidst the sarcastic remarks of the aristocratic courtiers, he kept reading Cicero while waiting for the royal audience and later the king himself defended him. This remark sheds light on the difference in the level of enlightenment between the upper clergy of humanist erudition and the Hungarian aristocracy. Báthori was also on good terms with Ficino, with whom he corresponded. Ficino dedicated one of his philosophical works to the Hungarian bishop7. As Galeotto writes : “I won’t describe the generosity with which he rebuilt his church, with the help of masters he had invited from Italy, and at huge costs, so that the church and the episcopal palace might be the reflexion of his noble soul”. He also makes mention of the gardens and fish-ponds near the castle8.

  • 9 On Báthori’s constructions summarily : T. Koppány, A váci vár reneszánsz kőfaragványai [Renaissance (...)
  • 10 Á. MikÓ, Dolium. A váci kora reneszánsz balusztrád datálása egy Mátyás-embléma alapján [Dating an e (...)

5Though he had the chapel of his patron Saint Nicholas in the cathedral rebuilt in late gothic style (he was to be buried there, too), some fragments suggest that he had a Renaissance altarpiece or tabernacle created to decorate it9. His episcopal palace, however, appears to have been rebuilt in the Italian fashion. The row of marl dwarf pillars from a balustrade, probably the parapet of a loggia, were made in the royal palace of Buda, maybe in the early 1480s. They are perfectly identical with the balustrade of the arcade in the court of honour of the royal castle10. The excavated stone finds include doors and windows, two smaller capital fragments, an escutcheon dated 1485 and a tympan adorned with his arms. Some red marble balustrade pillars are decorated with the initial and coat of arms (with the eagle) of Vladislav II Jagiello (Wladislaw) who occupied the Hungarian throne from 1490. That suggests that the bishop went on with the constructions after Matthias’ death, perhaps right until he himself died (1506). A magnificent Renaissance escutchion with his family arms and the date 1483 was found in his castle of Nógrád, which was probably also the work of an excellent Italian stone-carver.

  • 11 On Váradi : J. Horváth, op. cit. (n. 7) p. 168-170. On his books : K. Boross, Váradi Péter könyvtár (...)
  • 12 A. Horváth, Egy magyar humanista, Váradi Péter építkezései (15. századi építészeti központ Magyaror (...)

6Péter Váradi (1455  ? – 1501) was supported by Vitéz who sent him to study in Bologna. Back home, he was employed by the chancellary. From 1479 he was secret chancellor, a year later promoted to the rank of high chancellor. From 1481 he was the archbishop of Kalocsa. He also fell out of grace with the king in 1484, but unlike Báthori, he was imprisoned in the dungeon of the castle of Árva (Oravský hrad, now Slovakia) on the northern periphery of the country from where he was not released before 1490. Ficino dedicated a work to him as well. He was in correspondence with several humanists and also collected Janus’ epigrams. He died in 150111. The venue of his major constructions was the castle of Bács (Bač, now Jugoslavia). Using earlier building sections, palatial wings presumably of two storeys were created on the north and northeast. On the north the building was arcaded on the ground floor. The junction of the wings was fortified by a bastion topped by a chapel with polygonal apse and stellar vault. During the excavations a lot of carved stones (cornice and frame fragments, pieces of banisters) were found that suggest the existence of an independent local workshop. The height of a dwarf balustrade pillar (78 cm) subsumes it in the group made in the Jagiello age. Its lateral field features a coat of arms hung on a nail, ribbons and trophy motifs12.

  • 13 Albert Vetési/László Vetési, in Vár ucca tizenhét 1998/1.
  • 14 On the chapel : K. H. Gyürky, Die St. Georg-Kapelle in Veszprém. Acta Archaeologica XV (1963), p. 3 (...)
  • 15 E. Egyed, Vetési Albert püspök velencei casulája [The Venetian chasuble of bishop Albert Vetési]. V (...)

7Albert Vetési (c.1410–1486) pursued studies at first at the university of Vienna, then Siena, and finished his studies at the universities of Rome and Padua13. He was the secretary of János Hunyadi, before he was appointed bishop of Nyitra and finally bishop of Veszprém. He had important missions to carry out on behalf of Matthias in the courts of the Pope, in Venice and Naples. The gothic pillar or bracket perhaps made for the cathedral and adorned with the first inscription in Roman type in Hungary was probably made upon his request. The inscription is his episcopal motto “In Domine facemus virtutem.” He was buried in the St George chapel next to the cathedral where the saint’s head relic was also preserved. Renaissance fragments survive from its portal and altar (prior to 1473)14. His wine-red velvet vestment was probably purchased in Venice in the 1470s. The cross on its back is embroidered. The upright shaft is adorned with the Virgin, St John the Baptist and beneath the bishop’s coat of arms St Paul, the transverse bar shows Mary Magdalene and St Stephen protomartyr15.

81471 marks a turning point in the relationship between Matthias and his high priests. The supporters of the first phase of his reign turned away from him. One reason was his neglect of an anti-Ottoman offensive which the humanists expected him to launch with justification, and his war against Bohemia. The conspiracy led by Vitéz and Janus Pannonius against the king (1471) was quickly put down, and the two leaders died in the following year. From that event onward, the king could no longer rely on his humanist supporters. He often used his right of patronage to appoint high priests of foreign origin to head the dioceses.

  • 16 R. Grieger, Johann Filipecz, Bischof von Wardein. Diplomat der Könige Matthias und Wladislaw. Münch (...)
  • 17 Á. MikÓ, Reneszánsz paloták a váradi várban [Renaissance palaces in the castle of Várad], in Váradi (...)
  • 18 E. Mályusz, A Thuróczy-krónika és forrásai [The Thuróczy chronicle and its sources], Budapest, 1967 (...)

9One of his proteges was János Filipecz ( –1509) who came from Moravia conquered by Matthias in 1469. Matthias appointed him bishop of Várad in 1476 and his tenure laster until 1491. In 1481–90 he was also the head of the chancellary16. He had the Felhévíz abbey of Óbuda rebuilt in 1472–76. He also had constructions in Moravia (Olomouc, Viskova, Uherské Hrádiště). It seems that the red marble mullion windows made in the mid-1480s for the facade of the royal palace in Buda also appeared in the episcopal palace of Várad (Oradea, now Romania), where, however, a late gothic workshop was also active17. It was Filipecz who had János Thuróczy’s Chronicle of the Hungarians published in Brünn (Brno) in 148818.

  • 19 On his art patronage  : M. Horler, Les édifices de la villa royale de Buda-Nyék, in Acta Historiae (...)

10The death of Matthias (1490) created a wholly new situation in the power relations. The aristocracy and the high clergy invited Vladislav II Jagiello (1490–1516) from the throne of Bohemia, so the Jagiello House came to rule over entire Central Europe19. Unfortunately, the countries failed to unite despite the imminent threat of the Ottoman expansion and the defeat of the successor to Vladislav, Louis II (1516–1526) at Mohács in 1526 brought an end not only to the young king’s life, but also to the medieval Hungarian state.

11Vladislav II had far less power, hence income than Matthias. While the early Renaissance emerged in Hungary as very narrow court art of an exquisite quality adopted on a limited scale by the upper clergy only, the situation changed in the Jagiellonian age. The art patronage of the ruler became overshadowed by the layer of high priests who became the actual patrons of Renaissance art in Hungary. That also implies that the central role of the capital of Buda was demoted in favour of emerging new centres in the countryside.

  • 20 Á. MikÓ, Ippolito d’Este esztergomi érseki udvara és a reneszánsz kõfaragás Magyarországon (1487–14 (...)
  • 21 J. Balogh, Magister Albertus pictor florentinus, in Annuario, Istituto Ungherese di Storia dell’Art (...)
  • 22 J. Balogh, A művészet Mátyás király udvarában [Art in the court of King Matthias], Bp., 1966. vol.  (...)

12Esztergom is the country’s ecclesiastical centre. In 1480–85 the younger brother of Queen Beatrix, John of Aragon was granted the archiepiscopal post, and after his death (1485) his nephew Ippolito d’Este (1479–1520), then only a child, bore the mitre20. After Matthias’ death in 1490 his widow, Beatrix moved there with her retinue, but a decade later, after unsuccessful attempts to assert her claim to the throne, she returned to Naples and lived in family castles. Ippolito also returned home in 1497, exchanging the archiepiscopacy with the head of the chancellary and leading politician Tamás Bakócz for the bishopric of Eger. The Renaissance mural of the four virtues painted under the influence of Filippino Lippi in the studiolo of the archiepiscopal palace in Esztergom was probably commissioned by Ippolito or Beatrix. It is less likely that it was ordered by János Vitéz in the 1460s. More probably it was painted by a certain Magister Albertus pictor florentinus, as he is named in the sources, sometime in 1494-9521. In a letter to Isabella d’Este the archdeacon of Gömör Taddeo Lardi wrote that a portait had been painted of Ippolito for Isabella, probably also by Master Albert (missing today)22.

13Tamás Bakócz (1442–1521) was the greatest personage of the Jagellonian age, exceeding in importance the ruler, too. He was born as the son of a wheel-maker. His brother Bálint received nobility from Matthias and he educated his younger brother in the universities of Cracow, Ferrara and Padua. Back home he was employed in the chancellary, and his reliability brought him a meteoric career. In 1486 he was appointed bishop of Győr. During Vladislav’s reign he rose steeply to the post of high chancellor, not least because he wedded Vladislav and Matthias’ widow Beatrix fictitiously.

  • 23 G. Vasari, Le vite de’ più eccelenti pittori, scultori ed architettori, Ed. Gaetano Milanesi. vol.  (...)
  • 24 J. Balogh, La Cappella Bakócz di Esztergom. Acta Historiae Artium, III (1956) p. 1–198 ; M. Horler,(...)

14Bakócz began construction on his sepulchral chapel on the southern side of St Adalbert’s cathedral in Esztergom, (just as Pope Julius II launched the building of the new St Peter’s in Rome) which was to house his sepulchral monument. The Bakócz chapel is the first centralized building outside Italy which luckily survives. Though the cathedral was destroyed during the Ottoman conquest and its ruins were demolished before the construction of the new cathedral in neo-classical style, the chapel was assessed by János Packh in 1823, dissembled stone by stone and rebuilt in a new place symmetrically along a longitudinal axis. The central space of the Greek cross groundplan is covered by a pendentive dome created of copper plates on an iron structure instead of masonry. The somewhat longer section opposite the altar probably housed Bakócz’s tomb. The architect of the chapel is unknown, but he was probably from Giuliano da Sangallo’s circle as the precedents to the chapel can be found in Florence and Naples. The white marble altar was made by Andrea Ferrucci of Fiesole who was also registered by Vasari. “Fu di sua mano ancora una sepoltura di marmo, che fuk III/em>ass="footnotecall" id="bodyftn22" href="#ftn13">(...23. The venup moseFu dfu…tltura di > III/emht be t implies at it wucci of Fthe archbisht of the chapel is uell. He wA leségythe chapel is uellnst the kingian stonrnitlsthe fihe centcture instotherrd inntn, and archbisht of le o ti s survthe defenry. Th decoleasrator">y the layem, afand ccatihe che wunivef the Hungmarble mull the throvo debrouucentee end of Centel is unnatiinot es main imth a teaportaafand ger acat ths not py motout newns, c wuin he whitding outsisependefore raan e estsof the new Ch and 1486 513ter unsuteath of MattpJulius II launcz chapived nobihigh cleand er">14 on Watf the Hungof s="v the mid-t centd floo the headorters.Veszpr in che wt onwu alonGiovanni piùMated Fthe ted">frPope JuliLardXspaThapel is ureervedto thigh cleand l of enlibisht of of ttorip insthighshop was nlih was probably alsoby Vitnnes VitFitinus,ass="footnotecall" id="bodyftn22" href="#ftn14">(...24.

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