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newly built monuments
History - Medvedgrad ('Bear-town`, in sources also called Medwed, Medveduar, Medve) was built by Philip, Bishop of Zagreb on the slopes of Medvednica Mountain above Zagreb from 1249 to 1254. It was surrounded by a double ring of defensive walls and flanked by two towers, northern and southern. The most noteworthy building was the octagonal Chapel of St. Philip and St. James. Medvedgrad changed hands many times, in 1590, during the reign of the Counts of Gregorijanec, the town was destroyed by an earthquake and had to be abandoned. In 1642 it is already referred to as a ruin. In 1979 the reconstruction of some parts began. In 1993 intensive restoration and reconstruction of Medvedgrad had begun in earnest, stimulated by plans to erect an Altar of the Homeland at this medieval site. Thus the time for restoration was extremely short, and this resulted in careless work.
The Altar of the Homeland, situated below the southern tower of Medvedgrad, was erected by Dr. Franjo Tudman President of the Republic of Croatia on the Day of Statehood, on May 30 1994 to commemorate Croatian heroes deceased in the war against Serbia. To lay a wreath on the altar started to be a state protocol: the high tower was meant to host the exhibition of Croatian history; the palace was turned into a presidential residence. Medvedgrad was closed to visitors and soldiers were set to guard the “Altar.” This new monument, executed by the sculptor Kuzma Kovačic aroused great scandal, partly because of the high costs (ca. 500 000 euros) but also because of its ideological background. The extremely short period of reconstruction was disastrous both in terms of monument protection and quality. In 2000 the government of Croatia decided that the Altar of the Homeland would no longer be a part of state protocol and returned the site to its owner – the city of Zagreb.
Among the works commissioned by King Matthias two red marble fountains were made for the palace of Visegrád, as described by written sources. Only a few fragments found during excavations are known from the so-called “Fountain of the Muses”. The other fountain stood in the inner courtyard of the palace. This latter fountain was pieced together from the finds of archaeological excavations. Since the original base of the fountain and numerous fragments of the fountain itself were found, it was possible to make an authentic reconstruction. The Hercules Fountain is the only surviving example of the richest quattrocento fountain type consisting of a basin and a fountain bowl. Significantly, this is the first reliably dated monumental Renaissance sculptural work of art that was produced outside Italy. On the sidewalls of the octagonal basin of the fountain, the coats of arms of Matthias appear among fruit garlands tied with ribbons. Above the round bowl of the fountain, supported by putti rose the central statue of the fountain representing the fight of Hercules against the hydra of Lerna. The stream of water sprang forth from the mouth of the animal.
During the excavation of the inner courtyard of the Royal Palace in 1941, János Schulek discovered the completely intact foundation of the fountain, as well as three sidewalls of the basin. In 1942 the broken fountain bowl and the statuette were also found. Numerous other fragments were found in further excavations. The reconstruction of the Hercules Fountain was an idea that intrigued scholars since its first discovery. The first reconstruction sketches were drawn by János Schulek, who led the excavations. Later – after Peter Meller had identified similar examples – Kálmán Lux completed the first detailed reconstruction drawing. The first historically accurate drawing based on a careful study of the fragments was made by Ernő Szakál. György Kovács also prepared a model of the fountain. The idea of the actual reconstruction was first proposed in 1990, but remained unrealised for lack of funds. Work finally began in 1998 as preparation for the Hungarian Millenium celebrations, with the support of the British Government, the Hungarian national Cultural Fund and Powergen Inc. The full size replica of the fountain was carved on the basis of plaster models from the same red sandstone as the original. After the reconstruction of the ceremonial courtyard it was erected at the original site.
In connection with the Hungarian Millennium, the new monument reconstruction and presentation of three of the important royal centers of the medieval kingdom of Hungary had taken place. Although Esztergom, Székesfehérvár and Visegrád functioned as royal sees in different periods, they share the common fate of having most of their important buildings lost or substantially damaged in the Turkish era. In all three cases it was the archaeological excavations launched decades ago – in the case of Székesfehérvár a century and half ago – which had brought to light the most relevant parts of the building complexes. In Székesfehérvár, the coronation church of the medieval kings and the burial site of most of the Hungarian rulers had been excavated, while in Esztergom and Visegrád remains of the royal palace had been found. As early as the 1930s, and after the 2nd world war, significant reconstruction and restoration had been done.
In connection with the Hungarian Millennium, a large-scale architectural reconstruction took place: in Székesfehérvár a new shape was given to the old garden of ruins, and a protective roof was built, while Esztergom and Visegrád received a new museum building, and the ruined parts were completed and reconstructed. The three large-scale projects completely differed both in their concept and realization. While the latest results connected to Esztergom and Székesfehérvár remain mostly unpublished, there is detailed communication about Visegrád. In Székesfehérvár, part of the medieval basilica was covered with a protective roof made of modern material (steel and glass). The excavated stone carvings were not inserted into reconstructed structures, but some of them are to be seen at the exhibition site of the garden of ruins. In Esztergom, the new museum building is completely modern both in its external appearance and the inner structures, and this modern building incorporates the medieval ruins. This is completely different from the works of the 1930s, when they tried to reconstruct the original spatial structure of the medieval royal chapel. The reconstructions in Visegrád approximate to this latter concept: on the visible surfaces traditional building material (stone, wood) were used, and in their shape, the modern architectural solutions (i.e. light weight cement concrete vaulting) adapt to the medieval spatial structures, their surface does not differ from the parts built of traditional material. The carved stones were built back into the original structures (vaults, opening frames), while the lacking parts were substituted with artificial stone complements which barely differed from the originals.
The three completely different reconstructions provoked heated scholarly debate and divided even the public. The protective roof of the Székesfehérvár basilica became subject to such a criticism that a couple of years after it had been built, it had to be removed. In the case of Esztergom, it was primarily the external appearance of the new building which was criticized, while others found the presentation of the remains in the inner spaces insufficient. In scholarly circles, some find the reconstruction of Visegrád overdone, however, this criticism is rejected by many of the archaeologists and monument reconstruction experts.