Glittering Devotional Objects in the Shadow of the Red Star

Egyházi gyűjtemények a Kádár-rendszerben

In the 1980s when, with state support and the cooperation of different churches, new ecclesiastical art exhibitions were continuously being opened, no one brought up the past – the former liquidation of institutional networks, the nationalisation of schools, the dissolution of religious orders, the seizure and sometimes destruction of the collections they held, the persecution of priests and believers, and the restriction of their religious life. The arts, the monuments and the notion of cultural values became a key which opened the door to cooperation between the Church and the party-state, including the allocation of financial sources. The churches were able to retain their treasures and unlike in other socialist countries ecclesiastical collections were displayed as public treasures. The state was able to show how tolerant it was in relation to the churches. The Christian Museum in Esztergom opened in 1953 and was modernised in 1973. At that time it was regarded as one of Hungary’s richest fine and applied arts museums. 1966 saw the beginnings of the Ecclesiastical Collection in Buda Castle’s Matthias Church, then the following year the Ministry of Culture gave the green light to the church history and ecclesiastical art collection in Sárospatak, along with related museum, library, archive and documentation activities. In 1972 a Calvinist museum opened in Pápa, and in 1973 organisation began for the National Lutheran Museum. In Sopron in 1970 there was the idea of establishing a permanent ecclesiastical art exhibition with works held in the museum storeroom and treasures from local churches. The plan was realised in 1983 with the Sopron Collection of Catholic Ecclesiastical Art. In the same year a Calvinist museum opened in Kecskemét and in Nyíregyháza the Greek Catholic Ecclesiastical Art Collection was established. In 1984 the permanent exhibition of the Hungarian Jewish Museum opened in Budapest, and in 1986 the Hungarian Orthodox Church Museum was established in Miskolc. 1988 saw the opening of the Treasury in Saint Stephen’s Basilica, and the ecclesiastical art objects in Kalocsa held in the Archbishop’s Treasury opened to the public. The Diocesan Treasury and Library in Győr was established in 1989. In 1969 the Roman Catholic Church established the still functioning National Catholic Collecting Centre. Its founding statutes speak about the protection of ‘treasures’ in general, which have to be carefully looked after, whichever branch of the arts they belong to. The Calvinist Collecting Council and the Lutheran Collecting Council were set up with similar aims. The museums thus created have proved to be both unique and long-lasting. In recent decades their new exhibitions and new museum spaces have sometimes received Exhibition of the Year and Museum of the Year awards. Yet even today they cannot exist without state and professional support.