The Diocese Museum

The Diocese Museum

The Diocese Museum of the Nitra Bishopric is located in the middle of the courtyard of the Nitra Castle. It was the first diocese museum in Slovakia. On July 5, 2007, on Sts. Cyril and Methodius Day, after a period of difficult preparations, the first part of the museum was opened. This was a permanent exposition of literary relics connected with the early days of Christianity in this area. The exposition had a very telling name – The Script Tells Its Story. Since 2008, when a treasury exposition was introduced, the museum consists of two parts. The second part was named The Riches of the St. Emeram Cathedral. It is an exhibition of liturgical objects from the cathedral, namely ancient chalices and monstrances.

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The Chalice of Udalric de Buda, the Canon of Alba Julia, manufactured in 1504 – 1523

The chalice found its way to the treasury by the courtesy of Paul Abstemia Bornemis who bequeathed it to the cathedral. Due to exceptional artistic form, the rich history of the chalice is well documented. The stem, divided by ceramic cutwork, filigree and fine little chains into six sections, is wrought with carved grapevine leaf ornament. The ornament can also be found on the convexities of the knop and on the base of the cup. Alternating twisted wire, filigree, and wrought appliqués in the form of round, winged cherub heads are only some of the embellishment techniques used. However, the most impressive part of the decoration is the set of 18 golden coins arranged in three rows of six. Within the set there are 15 Roman aurei and solidi from C1st – C5th AD, 2 Byzantine coins from the C6th AD, and a Dacian coin from the C1st BC. Taking into consideration the last three coins, experts say that the chalice must have been made in Transylvania. The chalice bears the monogram of V(dalricus) C(ustos) by which the person who commissioned it can be identified. Udalric de Buda (precisely Udalrico Custos de Buda) was a canon of the Alba Iulia chapter from 1504 to his death in 1523. It was in Alba Iulia that the chalice appeared for the first time (in 1531) with all other references since being from Nitra. To be protected from the plundering Protestant armies of Stephen Bocskai, the chalice was moved to Vienna, but it was returned to Nitra in 1606 when Francis Forgac led the bishopric. The coins used for the decoration of the chalice have been identified exactly since they are positioned obversely, and the minted rulers’ heads are distinguishable. We find aurei from the times of Emperors Hadrian (Rome, 118), Vespasian (Lugdunum, 70/71), Faustinus (Rome, 141 – 161), and two from Nero’s reign (54 – 68). The solidi can be traced back to the times of Honorius (395 – 423) and Theodosius II (408 – 450).

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The Nitra Evangelistary, circa 1083

Evidence of documents written in Latin is the oldest manuscript found not only in Slovakia but in the former Kingdom of Hungary as a whole – the Nitra Evangelistary. This beautifully illuminated codex contains 50 parchment folios with excerpts from the Gospels in Caroline minuscule. The folios were stacked together into thick wooden boards. In the first half of the 14th century. the front cover was decorated with a gilded relief which is considered as one of the most valuable Gothic metal embossments in Slovakia. It depicts the Crucifixion and the figures of Virgin Mary and John the Apostle. In the lower part of relief, there is a reliquary in the form of the double cross, evidence of the Byzantine liturgical influence. The scriptorium of the Benedictine monastery of Hronský Beňadik was probably the place where this literary relict came into existence in circa 1083.