Buda, “the Seat and Throne of Royalty”− the Mediaeval Royal Palace




Buda, “the Seat and Throne of Royalty”− the Mediaeval Royal Palace

The permanent exhibition of the Budapest History Museum revived


Aligned with the government program to reconstruct the Castle Garden Bazaar and part of the Castle District, a new entrance from the palace garden to the museum was opened in the Royal Cellarin 2014. It allows access to visitors coming via the moving staircase or elevator from the Bazaar, and from the Savoy terrace in front of the National Gallery through the palace garden.

After the frequented exhibitions of early modern-time and contemporary palace history, the second phase of our exhibition of the medieval palace was also opened last year with repeated support from the Ministry of Human Resources.

In the area of the palatial complex of Buda Castle the first exhibition opened in the Castle Museum of the Budapest History Museum in 1968. A large part of the exhibited material and the exhibition spaces themselves were provided by the remains of the medieval palace excavated in the 1950s and carefully restored, complemented with finds unearthed on the site. The basic layout of the suite of spaces enlarged cleverly with the basement rooms of the southern baroque palace has remained unchanged, but the exhibition has been revised several times, most recently in the entrance hall of the staircase in 2000.

Fundamental changes cannot be effected on the exhibition presenting the medieval palace in future, either, because the locations of the remains are fixed. That said, the exhibition still offers a new conception, the story narrated in a new form. The palace historical exhibition is composed of material relics unearthed during the excavations. The finest of them most closely related to the history of the palace are those displaying the coats of arms of medieval ruling and aristocratic families such as those on carved stones and stove tiles. These heraldic remains are supplemented by some architectonic finds. Special mention is deserved by two stone fragments belonging to the springer of a vault adorned with pruned branches. They were earlier only displayed in a temporary exhibition in 2005. Detailed information of each period is provided on touch-screen displays. The representation of each ruling family includes portraits, seals, coins, coasts of arms in pictures and texts. This pictorial material is complemented with genealogical tables and interesting anecdotes connected to certain monarchs or the palace.

The first phase of renovation affected the “neutral” space in terms of archeology and art history, the staircase section. This stretch acquaints the visitor with the general history and construction history of the medieval palace. The original mock-up first displayed in 1968 showing the remains explored after World War II is also renewed. Next to it there is a reconstruction drawing of the palace in the age of Sigismund, and with the help of light technology the place of the one-time rooms of different function can be viewed. The outline of the present-day palace is also indicated to suggest where the visitor is situated in comparison to the medieval ensemble and how different the contemporary building is. In addition to the contemporaneous depictions there is a new series of tableaux showing a reconstruction drawing, excavation photo and the contemporary state, clearly revealing the early and present states.

In the just completed second phase of the exhibition, visitors get acquainted with the royal libraries, Matthias Corvinus’ library, the medieval latrine, the accommodation of the guards and a stone carving workshop in the section leading toward the Royal Cellar. From Matthias’ library, a copy of the Philostratus codex can be leafed through and touch-screen information read. There is also a 3D animation of the possible variant of the medieval palace as it might have been around 1540. Another novelty is a set of relics from king Matthias’s palace. On either side of the bridge of the gate tower leading to the second courtyard of the royal palace Matthias had bronze statue of two armed male young nudes set on red marble pedestals. The sides of the plinths bore inscriptions of military victories. In 1526 Sultan Suleyman had the two statues taken to Istanbul together with the rest of the treasures, but the bases remained. The reconstructed pedestals stripped of their ornaments are on display now in the exhibition.

In the Middle Ages, astrology was regarded as an integral part of astronomy. Of all the monarch, Matthias was particularly interested in astrology. His deep reliance on astrology influenced his personality, renaissance art patronage, humanist relations and endeavours as an army commander alike. The exhibition also includes a projected painted constellation after an Italian model. The reason is that three of the most representative rooms of the royal palace next to the royal chapel, the Corvina library rooms were adorned with artistically painted constellations. On the ceiling of the room next to the library the astrological chart at Matthias’s birth was painted. The person who entered the library was welcomed by a celestial map on the opposite wall showing the constellation at the date of Matthias’s election king of Bohemia. In the third room the sky chart of Vladislaus II’s coronation as king of Hungary was shown. All this is known from contemporaneous accounts. This is to be illustrated by the projected constellation.

A new system of information is created for the visitors in Hungarian and English, broken down to each room at the level of the medieval palace.