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The Medieval Archbishopric at Kalocsa

The erstwhile home of prebend-historian Istvan Katona became the home of the Treasury of the Archbishopric at Kalocsa in 2002. The Treasury’s permanent exhibit introduces the Religious Art relics of the historic Kalocsa Archbishopric, and at the same time, it gives a glimpse into the 1000-year history of the Archdiocese. The artifact anthologies are chronologically displayed in five rooms.



Crozier-top from the end of the 12th century -- Archiepiscopal Treasury Kalocsa, Hungary

Room 1
: The Medieval Archbishopric


The Kalocsa diocese was most likely one of the first episcopates organized in 1002 by the founder of the Christian state of Hungary, Saint Steven (Szent Istvan). The first head of the diocese was Asztrik, an erudite, broad-minded prelate, who previously carried out diplomatic duties in the service of Saint Steven. It was Asztrik, who brought the holy crown from Rome, together with the document containing the papal assent for the organization of the church in Hungary. The Kalocsa diocese soon rose to the rank of archdiocese, and the archiepiscopal territory continued to grow along with the southern expansion of the Hungarian Kingdom.


The Kalocsa-Bacs archbishops usually studied at prestigious European universities, and once they returned to Hungary, they were entrusted with various responsibilities in the royal court: they served at the chancery, at the royal judiciary, and were even called to be medical doctors. At their seat, they lived in fortresses, often led armies, and many of them died on the battlefield.

Kalocsa during the Ottoman occupation
Kalocsa during the Ottoman occupation

In the 15th century, under the shadow of the invading Ottoman Empire, the archbishops were called upon to insure the defense of the country, fortify the southern borders, and strengthen the existing fortresses. In 1456, Janos Hunyadi’s army, with the help of the crusaders of Saint John Capistrano (Kapisztran Szent Janos) managed to raise the siege of Belgrade (Nandorfehervar), which was being blockaded by Mahomet II. However, in 1521, Belgrade fell to the Turks, and in 1526 Kalocsa’s archbishop, Pal Tomori lost his life while leading the Hungarian troops on the Mohacs battlefield, where forces of the Hungarian Kingdom were defeated by the Ottoman army. In 1529, Kalocsa, the seat of the archbishopric, also fell into the hands of the enemy. During the 150-year Ottoman occupation that followed, the population of Hungary was decimated. Many settlements were lost, and the earlier church organization was destroyed.

Procession cross from the beginning of the 12th century -- Kalocsa, Hungary
The small number of the objects displayed in the first room, and their fragmentary nature, reflects the hardships in the history of the archbishopric during this period. The oldest artifact—found in the display case by the window—is a Procession cross from the beginning of the 12th century. It is an excellent example of medieval Hungarian brass craftsmanship. It was most likely buried during the time of the Tartar invasion, and it surfaced in 1935, during landscaping work around the cathedral. It may have been one of the liturgical accessories of the first temple. In the 11th century, this building stood on the site of the present basilica, but with a different centerline, oriented on a north-east axis. The old church had a relatively smaller foundation, a simple structure, and it was strongly Paleochristian in style.


The mass and orientation of the three-nave second cathedral built at the beginning of the 13th century was very similar to today’s basilica. Two carved stones from this second cathedral are on view. The so-called "Royal Head from Kalocsa” (kalocsai kiralyfej), made of red compact limestone from Gecse, is an important relic of Hungary’s Roman age plastic arts. It stood as decoration of the main church entrance. Directly beneath the "Royal Head”, we see the tombstone of a stonemason who may have worked on the construction of the cathedral. The stone was found in the walls of the building at a later excavation, and its Latin inscription reads, “Martinus Ravesu lapicida iacet hic”, meaning “Here lies Martinus Ravesu, stone-cutter.”


In the display case on the table in the middle of the room, we can see episcopal tomb artifacts found in a red marble tomb chest during the 1910 excavations in the cathedral sanctuary. The pontifical findings from the end of the 12th century are remarkably complete. They contain a Mass chalice and paten, along with the symbols of the archbishops’ authority, the pallium pins, pectoral cross, a yellow topaz episcopal ring, and a crozier-top.


The wooden statues in the corner of the room were made in the 15th century, and they once stood in the Saint Anne shrine of Tompa, built as a miniature version of the Matthias Church in Buda. The noble temple-builder most likely purchased the statues abroad, at the beginning of the 20th century.


In the exhibition cabinet near the wooden statues there are several 16th century artifacts from Tompa: chalices, a missal, and a small reliquary, with the depiction of Saint Anne and the Virgin Mary on the top. Saint Anne’s reliquary was decorated with a special enamel technique.


Images and information courtesy of the Archiepiscopal Treasury, Kalocsa
Translation: Iren Bencze