Hungarian monastic gardens in reflection of cultural changes

Fatsar, Kristof and Klagyivik, Mária (2010) Hungarian monastic gardens in reflection of cultural changes. In: Yildizci, Ahmet Cengiz , Seçkin, Yasin Çağatay and Güler, Gülşen, (eds.) Cultural landscape : conference proceedings, 27th ECLAS conference in Istanbul. Istanbul, Turkey : Istanbul Technical University. pp. 1009-1012. ISBN 9789755613819


Christian monastic orders have bequeathed a great amount of intellectual and cultural heritage that, by arcing over countries, embraces all the Christian parts of the European continent. This heritage manifests itself in intangible and material ways alike, to the latter of which a good example is their garden art. The variety of the different orders results in the diversity of landscape formation. During Hungarian history, there were three main breakpoints in the life of monastic orders, which resulted in changing cultural life and thus changing landscapes alike. The flourishing monastic life of the Middle Ages in Hungary came to an end for the first time with the Turkish occupation beginning with 1541, and revived only with the liberation from the Ottoman rule in the end of the 17th century. Whereas almost all of the monasteries had decayed during the occupation, a great change in monastic life began after that, resulting in a large-scale process of (re)construction as well, which culminated during the 18th century. This resulted in many gardens, too, since a large estate belonged to almost all of the friaries, comprising both vegetable and ornamental gardens. These latter were shaped as formal gardens containing parterres, arbours, fountains and bowling alleys. The prospering garden art of the Hungarian cloisters, however, ceased again when Joseph II, King of Hungary (1780-1790), abolished all those monastic orders which were not concerned with teaching or medication in his Decree of Secularisation of 1782. Therefore, the formal monasteries gained a completely new function, which had a great influence on the gardens. The Communist Era beginning in 1950 also had irreversible, destructive effects on these areas. The estates of the Church became the governmental properties, and their new functions and usage perished almost all of the gardens, only few of them survived the era with smaller alterations. The destructive processes lead to such extent that even the privatization after the Change of Regime in 1989, when the Church received back some estates and hence monastic orders could resettle, could not save these gardens. The monastic orders are being renewed nowadays, and therefore the need for conservation and reconstruction of their quondam estates is also increasing. Nowadays, these historic gardens reflect how ecclesiastic and secular culture have both left their mark on them, and thus the task of the conservation of these historic gardens is compound: while preserving the remained elements of the former cloister gardens or reconstructing it, one has to keep in mind their secular period as well (which may last even today), and adjust these two together to be able to demonstrate the true history of these peculiar landscapes.

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