Prof. Eva Mester
Technical University of Budapest
Faculty of Architecture


The influences of the Florentine renaissance in Hungary

The Renaissance is a characteristically Italian style, which was brought into existence by the antique monuments and the intellectual heritage in Italy. Its beginning is attached to the building of the dome of the Cathedral of Florence (1420), but its roots run back to the works of Pisano and Giotto, who were emphasized the classical realism, the beauty of simplicity and joined the harmony of proportions to the architectural heritage of the Middle Ages in their works. The Renaissance style came directly from Italy during the Quattrocento to Hungary foremost in the Central European region. The development of the early Hungarian-Italian relationships was a reason of this infiltration, which weren't manifested only in dynastic connections, but in cultural, humanistic and commercial relations. This effect was getting stronger from the 1300s. The Italian architectural influence became stronger in the reign of Zsigmond on the basis of the church foundations of the Florentine Scolaries and the castle constructions of Ozorai Pipo. The relationship between the Hungarian an Italian Gothic was the second reason - the exaggerated breakthrough of the walls is avoided, preferring the clean and light structures. The new Italian trend with the existing national traditions created a particular local Renaissance art. Accepting the Renaissance art was furthered by the continuously arriving humanist thoughts to the country. The many Hungarian young studying at Italian universities came closer to the Florentine humanist center so a direct connection with Florence had evolved. The growing number of Italian traders moving to Hungary, specially to Buda, helped this process. The new thoughts were carried by the humanist prelates, among them Vitéz János, the archbishop of Esztergom, one of the founders of the Hungarian humanism. At these years Corvin Mátyás came to the throne, who was a cultured and enlightened, patron of artists. He understood architecture, the most modern architectural works were in his library (for example, Leon Battista Alberti's great theoretical work, and Filarate's study). In Hungary he naturalized the Renaissance, which had critical influence on the architecture of the following centuries. He not only managed the building of his palaces, but he supported the constructions of the cities and villages in the whole country. He managed the economic and cultural life of the country purposively, he had a definitive role in organising the early Renaissance workshops. Corvin Mátyás had close political, economical, relational connections in Italy. His wife, Aragóniai Beatrix was the daughter of the King of Naples. He was friend of Federico da Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino. By his Italian connections he called excellent architects, artists to Hungary, to rebuild and decorate his palaces in Buda and Visegrád. The king was interested in the technical achievements of the age. In 1467 he called Aristotile Fioravanti Italian engineer on the Sforzas' intervention to technologically modernise the Palace of Buda. Chimenti Camicia, who spent longer time in Hungary, had an important role in the Renaissance rebuilding of the Buda Castle. He was a Florentine engineer and mechanic, who was an expert in architecture and ornamental art. He was the designer of the Florentine-style building parts, the hanging gardens, the water pipes and reservoir. These parts are very similar to the technical devices of the private palace of Paul II, the Palazzo Venezia, which was built barely earlier. This indicates that Corvin Mátyás in addition to the aesthetic achievements of the Renaissance architecture, immediately adopted the constructional and technical innovations and the ideas of the Neoplatonism. The workshop established for the renovation of the Buda Castle was directed by Camicia. It is proven by archival research that he hired five Florentine legnaivlos during the time of his works at Buda. In national respects the royal stone-masonry workshop of Buda was especially significant, which was directed by Italian masters after Camicia, Giovanni

Dalmata at the end of 1480s. In this workshop among the Italians, many Hungarian masters were working, which can be considered as the home school of the Florentine Renaissance, because they acquired the Italian stone-cutting technique and became acquainted with the Renaissance motives here. The Hungarian masters went to the other parts of the country from here. This can be unambiguously ascertained from the comparation of the relics.

Beside Mátyás's constructions in Buda, the Renaissance constructional works of the royal palace in Visegrád were also very important. The Quattrocento architecture of Buda and Visegrád has singularly much Florentine ornamental element, which can be explained with Camicia's personality and the work of the collaborating Florentine masters. The two palaces have been largely destroyed.

The survived few relics are mainly fragmentary, because a few decades after King Mátyás the destructive sieges accompanying the extension of the Osmanli empire have demolished the main part of the buildings. The relics turned up during the excavations, the remained parts of the buildings, the different contemporary engravings and the written records helps the reliable comparation of the Hungarian and Italian. Comparation of a few relics from the palace of Buda:

1. A red marble capital from the arcade of the yard of the palace, which were based on the columns of the yard of the Florentine Palazzo Medici and are following the style of Michelozzo.

2. Another capital-type with hanging leaves were made after Brunelleschi, who used this first in a yard of Santa Croce. The Hungarian equivalent is more rustic.

3. A shaft remained from the upstairs arcade of the palace yard, which corresponds to the columns of the Florentine Palazzo Medici in its form and proportion.

4. The middle carving of the main gate of the palace is borrowing one of Leon Battista Alberti's works from the Florentine Capella Rucellani.

If we analyse all relics from the Renaissance buildings in the Buda Palace it can be ascertained that except a few carvings of Venetian and North-Italian character, all shows Florentine-Tuscan effect. The structural pieces can be joined with the great Florentine architect generation (Brunelleschi, Alberti, Michelozzo and Bernardino Rossellino). Other parts of them, mainly the building ornaments, were made by the influence of the newer generation of sculptors (Desidenioda Settiguano, Benedetto da Mariano and Verrocchio). The monumentally built terraces of the Visegrád palace appear in the second half of the Quattrocento. The Brunelleschi-style columns of the loggia entirely corresponds to relics of the Buda palace.

The Renaissance supported by King Mátyás extended to the leader stratum of the country. The prelates and nobility quickly adopted the new style, but it became popular among the middle classes. Using arcades spreaded in the folk architecture. The most beautiful Renaissance relic of Hungary which is a perfect work of the Tuscan architecture is the Bakócz chapel in Esztergom which was built by Bakócz Tamás in 1507. The clean harmony and solemnity of the Cinquecento stands out in its grandiose forms, noble proportions. The Capella Pazzi can be considered as its antecedents. It also shows similarities with S. Spirito. Its builder might be one from the workshop of Giuliano da Sangallo. Its speciality is that the whole chapel is made of Hungarian red marble. The Bakócz chapel had strongly affected the national architecture. Szathmári Gyorgy's tabernacle in Pécs shows similarities with the chapel. Renaissance centres had been evolved at numerous places in the country due to the constructional works of the prelates and nobility. Renaissance style is close to the Hungarian mentality it expanded to the whole country in only 50 years. Mixing with the local specialities it has created the characteristic works of the Hungarian Renaissance. The 150 years of the Ottoman occupation of Hungary put a stop to the flowering of the Renaissance, the most beautiful relics have been destroyed, but its influence has remained in the following ages of the architecture.

The Florentine renaissance tradition had an important role in the Hungarian architecture at the end of the years of 1800. The Florentine tradition influences the decoration of the interieur as well. In the technique of the decorative painting was used the Medici-blue, Medici-green and the Della-Robbia blue as well besides the original Italian nature ground-paint.