Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Buda Side Sights (2)

This elaborate "Lamb of God" fresco inside Coronation Church (also known Matthias Church (Hung: Mátyás-templom) - caught my eye for a variety of reasons, not least of which is the asymmetric construction of the window frame, made up of a diminishing series of off-center circles. On closer inspection, I found the allegorical composition and decorative details fascinating. The Hungarian inscription reads something like, "As the deer long for running streams, so my soul longs for God." A little research showed that the passage is a quote from the beginning of Psalm 42 (the King James version uses the word “panteth”, rather than “longs” or “yearns”, to my modern sensibilities a somewhat unfortunate choice, evoking an image of dogs – or humans – in heat).
Fresco with Stained Glass Window, Coronation Church, Castle Hill
(29 December 2008)
The central image in the stained glass window, the Agnus Dei (Jesus Christ) sitting on a book with seven seals, is a clear reference to the Apocalypse of John as described in the Book of Revelation.
Closeup of "Lamb of God" Stained Glass Window, Coronation Church, Castle Hill
(29 December 2008)
The overall composition naturally reflects the Christian transference of the object of longing, the source of soul-sustaining hope for salvation, from the Abrahamic God of the original Psalms to the New Testament Jesus that “takest away the sins of the world” through his sacrifice, and grants mercy and peace. However, the apocalyptic vision of the book with seven seals is not one of forgiveness, mercy, and peace, but of terror, judgment, damnation, and millennial warfare. Which is not incompatible with the God of much of the Old Testament, who is repeatedly characterized as an instrument of righteous (and violent) judgment, not to mention a facilitator of military triumphs to secure territory in Canaan for his Chosen People. In the Imprecatory Psalms, God is an agent of victory over both the physical and spiritual enemies of the developing Israelite nation-state.

The composition was designed by Frigyes Shulek (1841–1919), who undertook a major reconstruction of the Church in the last quarter of the 19th century (1874-1896). Other major frescoes and window compositions in the Church were created during this period by Károly Lotz and Bertalan Székely, designed either independently or in collaboration with Shulek. Shulek was also responsible for the construction of nearby Fisherman’s Bastion. (Bios and selected works for Lotz and Székely - but not Shulek - can be found by searching the artist index at "Fine Arts in Hungary").
Note that the church is currently undergoing another round of reconstruction, which fortunately doesn't hinder access to the interior. Unfortunately, however, there was a lot of scaffolding around the exterior when we visited, which prevented me from getting picturesque photos of the magnificent structure from the outside (don't worry, there are lots of good photos accessible on the net - an excellent series by a photographer named "Susan" can be found on her gallery at pbase). Further information on Matthias Church can be found at the official web-site (once past the welcome page, it might take a couple of seconds to figure out how the index page works). Another good source can be found at http://www.szakinfo.hu/matyas-templom/eng/index.htm.

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