Veszprém, a current European Capital of Culture has become one of the largest restoration projects in Europe, a collaboration bridging archaeology and faith during an investigatory journey to restore the historic Castle District.
The history of Veszprém is a complex weave of destruction and rebirth through the ages. According to legend, the city was founded on seven hills near lake Balaton, located in the Veszprém administrative county 115 km’s west of Budapest, Hungary.
Evidence of human occupation first dates from the 5th millennium BC during the late Neolithic, with the Castle Hill (Várhegy) becoming a fortified seat of a tribal chieftain during the Bronze Age around 2,000 BC.
Following the migration period and the Hungarian conquest of the Carpathian Basin, a castle was constructed on Castle Hill during the 10th and 11th century. This fortress was witness to several major conflicts, with the most notable being a decisive battle fought over the Christianisation of Hungary between Stephen I of Hungary and the pagan Duke of Somogy, Koppány.
The castle would change hands several times over the centuries, ultimately being slighted in 1701 by Leopold I, Holy Roman Emperor, who had the végvár defensive line of border castles destroyed as part of the 1699 Karlóca peace treaty.
Remains of the medieval castle of Veszprém
What remains of the medieval castle can be viewed at the Great Bastion Memorial Park, and etched in white markings along Castle Street outlining the original castle plan. The interior of the castle would also see several phases of destruction and rebuilding, leaving today a footprint of baroque, medieval and gothic buildings, known today as the Castle District.
The largest of these buildings is the towering two-steeple St. Michael’s Cathedral, which according to the Legenda maior S. Stephani regis, a contemporary text written between 1077 and 1083, was first constructed by Queen Gisela (the wife of Stephen I of Hungary), between 1030 and 1040.
Queen Gisela played a fundamental role in spreading the Christian faith and Western culture in Hungary. She would eventually be beatified in 1975, with her sacred relics now placed in St. Michael’s Cathedral for visiting pilgrims.
Queen Gisela’s love for Veszprém also left a lasting legacy on the city. Following the establishment of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Veszprém, a tradition emerged entitling the bishop of Veszprém to crown the Queens of Hungary, thus Veszprém also becoming known as the “City of Queens”.
The Castle District Restoration Project
As part of an ongoing project started in 2021, the Castellum Asset Management Directorate, established as the directorate of the Archdiocese of Veszprém, has been conducting one of the largest restoration projects in Europe of the Veszprém Castle District.
The project, covering an area of 45,000 square metres, is faithfully restoring the interior and exterior of 18 listed buildings, including St Michael’s Cathedral, the Archbishop’s Palace, the Gisela Chapel, St. Stephen’s Church, and St George’s Chapel.
According to the project leaders, the restoration process has been a forensic study, meticulously piecing back the layers of history to ensure that the most appropriate and authentic fabric, colour, materials, and architectural styles are correctly applied in each building.
Archbishop’s Palace ceiling depicting the Holy Trinity – Image Credit : Flint Culture
Dr Veronika Nagy, Museum Director, Archdiocese of Veszprém, said: “The restoration will renew and reaffirm Veszprém Castle District as one of Hungary’s most important religious and cultural heritage sites, from the time of King Stephen I and Queen Gisela, one thousand years ago, to today. We invite visitors not only to discover our history, but also the fascinating process of restoring and conserving it.”
The whole project has been one of faith, giving back the people of Veszprém their restored cultural and religious centre, but also a bridge working with archaeologists to uncover the forgotten history of the majestic Castle District.
Archaeologists conducted a survey of the Castle District to determine the exact position and level of the castle remains. By mapping the walls and archaeological features, the survey results, supplemented with written and pictorial sources, have supported the decisions made by architects in planning the reconstruction and restoration works.
St George’s Chapel
This was followed by exploratory trial excavations of the buildings and their surroundings, in particular, the area around St George’s Chapel for the construction of a new protective structure. St George’s Chapel actually refers to two buildings that existed at different times. The early round chapel was probably already standing in the 10th century until a later structure with an octagonal floor plan replaced it in the 13th century.
The chapel is not only important for the religious significance as one of the earliest Christian monuments in Hungary, but also for the historical aspect of the Hungarian kingship. According to the Vita Sancti Emerici ducis, the canonised legend of Saint Emerich from around 1110, St. George’s Chapel was where Prince Emerich, son and heir of King Stephen I of Hungary, pledged his vow of chastity.
In a paper published in the Hungarian Archaeology e-journal, excavations of the chapel by the National Archaeological Institute of the Hungarian National Museum, identified a dolomite surface level revealing a humus layer containing numerous Neolithic, Copper Age, and Bronze Age finds.
Image Credit : Flint Culture
According to the paper authors: “Following the removal of the modern layers, the curved contour of the early round chapel (rotunda) became visible right west of the later chapel’s walls. We have also uncovered a thick mortary layer southwest of the chapel, above the rocky ground, which was most probably placed down to level the terrain and serve as the base level for the rotunda.”
Archaeologists also found three burials associated to the chapel that precede the construction of the 11th century Cathedral. They are aligned on a southwest/northeast orientation, however, the burials were heavily disturbed when the area became a medieval cemetery associated to the Cathedral.
Work In Progress
WIP – Work In Progress, is an exhibition currently running in the Castle District that enables the public to observe the buildings and artefacts uncovered at various stages of renovation. The exhibition takes visitors through areas of construction where the works are temporarily halted or still in progress, providing a unique insight into the stages of their preservation in a unique way.
Oldest prehistoric fortress found in remote Siberia
An international team, led by archaeologists from Freie Universität Berlin has uncovered an ancient prehistoric fortress in a remote region of Siberia known as Amnya.
According to a study, published in the scientific journal “Antiquity”, the fortress is a complex system of defensive structures around an ancient settlement, dating from 8,000 years ago.
The fortress is spread across two settlement clusters, Amnya I and Amnya II. Amnya I consists of extant surface features such as banks and ditches, which enclose the tip of a promontory, and 10 house pit depressions. Ten further house pits, located approximately 50m to the east, comprise the open settlement of Amnya II.
Excavations have uncovered approximately 45 pottery vessels within the wider complex, including pointed and flat-based forms that reflect two distinct typological traditions.
The Amnya settlement complex signifies the start of a distinctive, enduring trend of defensive sites among hunter-gatherers in northern Eurasia—an almost continuous tradition that persisted for nearly eight millennia until the Early Modern period.
Tanja Schreiber, archaeologist at the Institute of Prehistoric Archaeology in Berlin and co-author of the study, explains, “Through detailed archaeological examinations at Amnya, we collected samples for radiocarbon dating, confirming the prehistoric age of the site and establishing it as the world’s oldest-known fort.
“Our new palaeobotanical and stratigraphical examinations reveal that inhabitants of Western Siberia led a sophisticated lifestyle based on the abundant resources of the taiga environment,” added Schrieber.
The construction of fortifications by foraging groups has been observed in different parts of the world, primarily in coastal regions during later prehistoric periods. However, the early in inland western Siberia is unparalleled.
According to the researchers, the discovery transforms how we perceive ancient human communities, questioning the notion that the establishment of permanent settlements with grand architecture and intricate social systems began solely with the rise of agriculture.
Header Image Credit: Nikita Golovanov
This content was originally published on www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily
Top 10 archaeological discoveries of 2023
The field of archaeology has been continuously evolving in 2023, making significant strides in uncovering new historical findings, preserving cultural heritage, and employing innovative technologies to study the past.
Sealed “Tomb of Cerberus” discovered in Giugliano
Archaeologists have discovered an exceptionally well-preserved tomb containing frescoes in the municipality of Giugliano in Campania, Italy. The most notable fresco depicts Cerberus (thus the tomb being designated “Tomb of Cerburus”), the three-headed dog from Ancient Greek mythology. Cerberus, also referred to as the “hound of Hades”, guarded the gates of the Underworld to prevent the dead from leaving. The scene represents the last of Heracles’ twelve labors, in which Cerberus is captured by Heracles. Find out more
Well-preserved 3,000-year-old sword found in Germany
The sword was found among a deposit of grave goods and weaponry, alongside the remains of a man, woman and child. The discovery is extremely rare for this part of Germany, as most burial mounds have long been looted during antiquity or opened during the 19th century. The sword is similar to the Bronze D type Rixheim swords, in that it uses a solid hilt made by overlay casting of the handle over the blade. Find out more
Researchers find oldest known Neanderthal engravings
A study published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE has provided evidence to date the age and origin of engravings discovered on a cave wall in France. Conducted by a team of researchers led by Jean-Claude Marquet from the University of Tours, France, the study confirms that these engravings were undeniably crafted by Neanderthals, making them the oldest known examples of such artistic expressions attributed to this ancient human species. Find out more
Celestial reliefs depicting the heavens uncovered in the Temple of Esna
A team of researchers from the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, and the Universitaet Tübingen, have uncovered a collection of ceiling reliefs during restoration works in the Temple of Esna. The reliefs are a representation of the heavens that depicts the signs of the zodiac, several planets such as Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars, in addition to a number of stars and constellations used to measure time. Find out more
Lost Roman forts discovered using Cold War spy satellites
A study of declassified imagery taken by Cold War era satellites during the 1960s and 70s has led to the discovery of 396 previously undiscovered Roman forts. The forts are spread across the Syrian Steppe in what is now Syria and Iraq to protect the eastern provinces from Arab and Persian incursions. Find out more
Archaeologists uncover the first human representations of the ancient Tartessos people
A press release issued by the Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) has announced the discovery of figured reliefs depicting human representations during excavations at Casas del Turuñuelo, a Tartessian site in the Province of Badajoz. Two of the reliefs appear to be female figures, which the researchers suggest could be representations from the Tartessian pantheon of gods. The three other reliefs are fragmented and in a poorer state of preservation, however, one of them has been identified as a Tartessian warrior. Find out more
Cache of Roman swords found in desert cave
According to a press announcement by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), the discovery was made while researchers were inspecting a known Hebrew script inscription written on the walls of a small cave in the En Gedi Nature Reserve, Israel. While on the upper level of the cave, Asaf Gayer from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, spotted an extremely well-preserved Roman pilum in a deep narrow crevice. Upon notifying IAA, archaeologists have recovered four well-preserved swords that date from the Roman period around 1,900-years-ago. Find out more
Remains of the Theatrum Neroni used by Nero found in Rome
Excavations conducted by the Superintendence of Rome have uncovered the remains of the Theatrum Neroni, a private theatre erected by Emperor Nero in Rome, Italy. Until now, evidence of the Theatrum Neroni were only known from literary sources such as text written by Pliny the Elder, Suetonius and Tacitus. Nero used the private theatre for rehearsals of his singing performances in the Theatre of Pompey, and may have been where he was witness to the great Fire of Rome in AD 64. Find out more
Lost Maya city discovered in Mexican jungle
Archaeologists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) have announced the discovery of a previously unknown Maya city in the forests of the Balamkú ecological reserve, Mexico. The city has been named Ocomtún (meaning “stone column”) due to numerous cylindrical stone columns that have been uncovered throughout the interior. Archaeologists made the discovery as part of a project to document and map unexplored areas of central Campache using high resolution photography and Light Detection and Ranging (LiDar). Find out more
Giant 2.3 metre-long dakoken sword among unprecedented discoveries in burial mound
Archaeologists from the Nara Municipal Buried Cultural Properties Research Centre, working in collaboration with the Nara Prefectural Archaeological Institute of Kashihara, have uncovered a giant 2.3 metre-long dakoken sword during excavations at the Tomiomaruyama burial mound in Nara City, Japan. The sword has a slightly bent blade like a snake, a typical example of a “dakoken” sword related to the worship of the snake god. The sword is the largest discovered intact in Japan, with experts suggesting served a ceremonial purpose to ward off evil. Find out more
A paper, published in the journal Archaeological Prospection in October 2023, claims that a pyramid lying beneath the prehistoric site of Gunung Padang in West Java, Indonesia, might have been constructed as far back as 27,000 years ago. However, many scientists have raised doubts about the researchers findings and the journal and its publisher, Wiley, have since launched an investigation into the paper. Find out more
This content was originally published on www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily
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