History

Intriguing carvings found on the walls of Borosjenő castle

Several impressive stone carvings were found on the walls of the fortified castle of Borosjenő (Ineu, Janopol). The group of researchers working on the art historical and archaeological research of the castle published a press release pointing out how valuable and intriguing these beautiful pieces of stone masonry are. On the one hand, the carvings date back to medieval times, some of them even to the early medieval ages when Romanesque style dominated art and architecture. On the other hand, the finds are enthralling for art historians, as these carved figures were only secondarily placed into different parts of castle, meaning that they originally belonged to other, older architectural structures which had already faded into the haze of centuries.

A few years ago, the local administration of the town of Borosjenő assumed the restoration of the castle. The 20th century took a toll on the monumental building, and it ended up in quite a dingy state. The archaeological and art historical research began in 2016. That year, nine Romanesque carvings were found, which were probably integrated into the walls of the castle when it was reconstructed in the first half of the 16th century. Several of these finds were column capitals carved with exceeding finesse, especially the one with a palmette, and another one with acanthi leaves. Nevertheless, the first beautifully carved stonework was found back in 1870, during a reconstruction. It is an early medieval capital depicting a siren, which was taken to the Hungarian National Museum.

This year, two more dozens of pieces of stone masonry were found. One of these is also a capital decorated with a beautiful acanthus composition; the other is a cubic capital. A plinth of a wall column adorned with a scroll motif came to light as well, but maybe the most unique piece is a vault keystone adorned by a flower with six petals that still has the original paint used to color it.

Some of the identified pieces could not be removed though, mostly because of structural reasons. For instance, the plinth of a former gate north of the main entrance, the layer stone of a bundle pillar in the filling of the original western gate of the castle, and two stone plates still bearing their original painting in the cellar of the northwestern tower.

This is one of the most beautiful pieces of carvings found in the castle. Photo provided by the research team.

 

According to the press material signed by art historian Attila Weisz, most of the works of stone masonry probably originate from a cloister that in medieval times stood in the neighborhood of Borosjenő, called Dénesmonostora (Dienesmonostora). The cloister was dedicated to the Holy Trinity, mentioned in documents for the first time in 1199. It belonged to a large network of monasteries constructed in the 12th– 13th centuries in the southeastern edge lands of the Great Hungarian Plain, which have all disappeared by today. Only some architectural fragments have survived. The László Teleki Foundation from Hungary, which financed the 2019 research, has planned a comprehensive archaeological program with the aim of excavating many of the early medieval cloisters of Transylvania.

With the imminent danger of the Turkish military expansion, around 1630–1640 the castle needed to be enlarged. During this endeavor, all the stone material was used that could be found in the surrounding area. Some pieces of the stonework were functional architectural parts, whilst some of the carvings were beautiful ornamental pieces.

“We have a justifiable presumption that the builders used material obtained from the once-smaller castle’s own walls, the abandoned cloister of Dénesmonostora and a late-medieval building of the Franciscan order,” said Attila Weisz to transindex.ro news portal. He had also mentioned that some of the carvings were found in really surprising places. For instance, a beautiful Romanesque capital with a palmette was crushed to small pieces on the floor of a cellar; someone just tried to dispose of it with the help of a sledgehammer… Another exquisitely carved capital was placed in the vent hole of a rundown toilet, probably in the 1970s or 1980s, to keep strong winds from blowing in.

According to the art historian, the motifs that appear on the ornamental carvings are not similar to other stonework from the same period.  “We are only at the beginning of the research and the art historical interpretation of the carvings; we do not know yet the actual context of the finds, and that is what we have to do: look for analogies, similar manifestations,” emphasized the art historian. Also, somewhere there should be some trace of the craftsmen too, who worked on these carvings.

The stonework pieces were taken to the Arad museum. The researchers who worked on the project would like to present them in an exposition which could be taken to several cities. Nevertheless, they believe these pieces of stone masonry should be permanently exhibited in the castle of Borosjenő after its restoration. Art historians believe that they will be able to find more of such medieval carvings after the renovation work starts, which will hopefully happen next year.

The locality of Borosjenő became the possession of the Losonczi’s in 1387, and the castellum, the family’s castle, is mentioned for the first time in documents in 1474. Between 1530–1540, the family reconstructed it as a fortified castle in Renaissance style. In 1552, its owner, István Losonczi, gave his life heroically defending Temesvár from the Turks. His estate was inherited by his daughters who supported Ferdinand de Habsburg, but in 1565 the monumental building was occupied by Transylvanian prince John Sigismund.

Ever since then, the fortification had many other owners. It was in the possession of Prince Sigismund Báthory in 1595 and of George Rákóczi I between 1630–1640. It was occupied twice by the Turks, first in 1566 and the second time between 1658–1693 when even a mosque was built nearby; the mosque was demolished in the 1950s. Between 1870–1872, its last owner, Péter Atzél, had the ruinous castle reconstructed in historical style. In 1874, Atzél sold the fortification to the army, which soon passed it on to the state administration. In 1904, an institution for handicapped children was accommodated at the estate and functioned there until 1998. The local administration then took over the castle in 2004.

Title image:The castle of Borosjenő was reconstructed in historical style in 1870.

Photo provided by the research team

Author: Éva Zay