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Saint Benedict and Benedictine spirituality
14th May 2015 – 30th September 2015
The Adelheid-cross is exhibited in Pannonhalma until 3 August 2015 then it will be transported back to Lavanttal Benedectine Abbey in Austria.
In the Abbey Museum, which was opened in 2014, the next large-scale temporary exhibition between 14th May 2015 and 30th September 2015 relates to the Year of Consecrated Life, focusing on Christian monasticism, as announced by Pope Francis. The exhibition Saint Benedict and the Benedictine spirituality allows an insight in the almost 1500-year-long history of Benedictine mentality through the assorted works of art from the collection of the Lavanttal Benedectine Abbey, the Archabbey of Pannonhalma, and other museums. The art exhibition displays the figure of Saint Benedict, the specific aspects of monastic life, the cult of the saint and the spreading of the Benedictine mentality in Hungary relying on the dialogue of medieval and baroque works of art. The most significant objective of the curator’s intention behind the exhibition is to embrace the essence of the Benedictine community in its variegation.
In the first part of the art exhibition the personality and mentality of Saint Benedict is displayed in the reading of the legend-writer Saint Gregory the Great, and through the own writing of the abbot, the Rule. We can sense the chaos in founding an orderly state; the crisis of the late antiquity tousled by barbaric intrusions, which dedicated Benedict from the disillusioned patrician youth converted to a lonely hermit to the prominent abbot of the monks in Montecassino. The exhibited works of art – as the goldsmith works of Jakob Frings or the painting by Francesco Solimera – represent almost every chapter of the biography of the abbot, in the middle of the section is the gilded statue of Saint Benedict holding the Rule in his hands, in the company of two of his disciplines, Saint Maurus and Saint Placidus, sculptured by Philipp Jakob Straub.
The timeliness of the patron saint of Europe at the same time can be most grasped though the scale of values created by himself – still authoritative in the 21st century: the second unit of the art exhibition displays the ideas of the Benedictine Rule. In his book of rules Benedict laid down the foundations of European monasticism, his precepts still determine the everyday life of monasteries. The traditional summary of the Rule: pray, work and read (Ora et labora et lege) unifies and balances the values of the contemplative and active life; Benedictine monks strive to lead a steady and active life day by day on the grounds of these three viewpoints.
The next part of the art exhibition wishes to present how the sanctity of Saint Benedict’s life radiates to the history of the order. In the centre of the monastic life led according to the rules of Benedict is the liturgy. The most significant works of art of the exhibition are those medieval liturgical objects, which were taken from the treasury of St. Blasien Monastery in Germany to Carinthia after the provisions of Joseph II: a 12th century chasuble decorated with scenes from the Old and the New Testament, and the Adelheid-cross decorated with gems, which had been ordered by Saint Ladislaus’ wife, and contains a splinter of the Cross. Besides the ornamental goldsmith works evoking the ceremonial circumstances of the liturgy the assorted treasures of the unique codex collection of the St. Paul Monastery in Lavanttal can be seen as well. Outstanding examples of the medieval book paintings are the Sacramentary made in the 10t century in the scriptorium in Reichenau, and the gothic illuminated psaltery originating from the monastery of Ramsey in England. The Carolingian-age ivory relief of the Reichenau-codex and the gilded, gothic framed cover of a volume originating from Strasbourg are instances of the precious bindings of liturgical documents.
Due to the spread of Benedictine monasticism in the early Middle Ages and the privileges it was given during the Carolingian-age it became one of the most significant depositories of European culture. Monasteries became the centre of education, healing and science, so besides the theological and liturgical codexes of the exhibition, natural-scientific and musical theory works emphasize the efficient role of Benedictine communities in the preservation and dissemination of ancient knowledge and in the development of European civilization.
In the centre of the last unit of the exhibition is the cult of the settling of Benedictine monasticism in Hungary and the domestic cult of the Saint Abbot. We can learn through the founding of the monastery at Mount Márton by Saint Stephen, the conversion mission of Saint Adalbert and the person of other Benedictine monks and saints working in our country, how the heritage of Saint Benedict was disseminated in Christian-turned Hungary.
The assorted works of art come to the exhibition from the St. Paul Monastery in Lavanttal, the Benedictine Monastery in Kremsmünster, the collection of the Archabbey in Pannonhalma, the Museum of Fine Arts – Hungarian National Gallery and the Museum of Applied Arts. In the bilingual (Hungarian-English) catalogue and in the essay tome the writings of Hungarian and German experts tinge and deepen the knowledge given by the works of art displayed at the exhibition.
Curator: Kusler Ágnes art historian