Royal Seats in Esztergom, Visegrád with the former Royal Wood in the Pilis Mountain
Permanent Delegation of Hungary to the OECD and UNESCO
County of Pest, County of Komárom-Esztergom
The Tentative Lists of States Parties are published by the World Heritage Centre at its website and/or in working documents in order to ensure transparency, access to information and to facilitate harmonization of Tentative Lists at regional and thematic levels.
The sole responsibility for the content of each Tentative List lies with the State Party concerned. The publication of the Tentative Lists does not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever of the World Heritage Committee or of the World Heritage Centre or of the Secretariat of UNESCO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its boundaries.
Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party
At the picturesque Danube Bend, the volcanic Visegrád Mountains form one unit with the Börzsöny Mountains, located across the river, and are accompanied by the Pilis Mountains, which have the tallest peaks in the lime and dolomite Transdanubian Mountain Range. The fault line between the two mountain ranges lies along a line connecting Pomáz, Pilisszentkereszt and Pilisszentlélek. Both mountain ranges are covered by forests of the same type. Medieval sources refer to this entire area under the name Pilis.
The Pilis area is located "in the middle of" (medium regni) the former Kingdom of Hungary. It more or less coincides with Pilis County of the fromer kingdom and the part of the current Duna-Ipoly National Park that is located south of the Danube. The most important cities of medieval Hungary are located at the "perimeter" of the area: Esztergom, the earliest royal seat (up until 1249) and archsee; Visegrád, which was a royal seat from 1323 to the 1410s; Buda, the capital of the country from the 15th century on; and, somewhat further, Székesfehérvár, the city of Saint Stephen and the coronation city and burial place of Hungarian kings. The Pilis area is a historic landscape of extraordinary importance, even by European standards. Modified, but not changed in its essence, in the course of the centuries, is a uniquely preserved example of the typical use of a complex of crown lands and forests established in the Middle Ages.
It may be assumed that it was created at the time the formation of the Hungarian state: a document, issued in 1009, names Visegrád as the centre of the area (a title deed, issued in 1187 already calls it the king’s own forest). The area of the Pilis, including its man-made sites of royal centres (Esztergom, Visegrád), was characterised throughout the Middle Ages by unified, organised operation and territorial separation. Its medieval settlement and landscape history is a consequence of a peculiar royal ownership of forests, the primary purpose of which was to supply the royal court with game and also to allow the members of the royal court to hunt in person in their forests. All this had an effect on the settlement network of the area: medieval private castles, otherwise typical of mountain ranges, are entirely missing from the inner part of the territory, and in the foresty areas, too, only a few villages were built, primarily providing services related to the forest function.
According to historical data, royal houses and hunting seats were built in the forest area; the acquisition of possessions by other bodies and persons was fully excluded or limited. The only exceptions were some clerical institutions, first of all the monasteries founded by the king, which may, as economic and spiritual centres, be considered a special form of appearance of royal power. The territory of the Provost's Residence of Dömös was mentioned as a royal centre of possessions in 1063. In 1107 or 1108 at latest the church of the provost was erected at the same location, the carved capitals of which are significant works of the art of the Árpád
Era of the 11th and the 12th centuries. A royal mansion house stood also in the place of the current Cistercian Monastery of Pilisszentkereszt, founded by Béla III in 1184. The church (with its sepulchral monument of Queen Gertrudis, erected in the 1230s), which was recovered during archeological excavations and shows French influences that are also significant from the point of view of art history, paired with the farm buildings and workshops, built in the vicinity of the quadrangle of the monastery, are essential elements of medieval monastery management (agriculture, viticulture, woodcutting, brick burning, melting of metals, smithery, goldsmith’s craft, glassware making) and of a well delimitable monastery landscape as a unit of management. The abbey possessed the farm buildings and glass works found in Pomáz and Nagykovácsi-puszta, with a church and a fishpond nearby, as well as the stone quarry, the magnesite mine, and smeltery of Roman origin, found in the Holdvilág Ditch. The three monasteries (Pilisszentlélek, Kesztölc, Pilisszentlászló) of the the Pauline Order, only monastic order founded in Hungary, were also built in the territory of the royal forest and received land possessions from the second half or the end of the 13th century on; based on written documentary sources it is assumed that previously royal hunting seats and mansions had existed at these locations. The Basilite Monastery of St. Andrew at Visegrád, founded by András I and in the use of the Benedictines from 1221, was also given to the Pauline Order in 1493.
The foundation of monasteries in the place of former royal mansions shows the diminution of personal royal presence in the royal forest, experienced parallel to the building of the royal seat at Visegrád. There are some data available on a royal game preserve near Esztergom, too. It was an area delimited by a wall within a hunting area known in the 15th century as the 'Forests of Visegrád'.
The royal hunting area was crossed by a road of medieval origin, which, starting from Óbuda, and passing Csobánka and Pilisszántó, reached Esztergom via the Két-Bükkfa-nyereg at Dobogókő, passing by the monasteries of Pilisszentkereszt and Pilisszentlélek.
In the modern history of royal seats, villages, and monasteries that perished in the Turkish Era, the royal forest area continued to be under special protection and was used in a special manner. Its settlement network remained unimpaired by the negative effects of modern industrialisation and mass immigration. In the Pilis, a natural landscape, such elements (flora and fauna) have been preserved which warranted the highest level of nature conservation ranking for the area (national park), thus ensuring that the historic landscape values (going back to the Middle Ages) have been fully preserved almost without exception. The ensembles of surviving fragmented ruins of former royal centres (protected as historic sites of extraordinary symbolic importance) have been exceptional documents since the beginnings in the 19th century, even in international comparison, of all significant periods of the development of the (European) protection of historic buildings and monuments and of the theory and practice of the restoration of historic buildings and monuments, as well as of archaeological research.
Visegrád is located at a strategically important spot, controlling the only strategically significant road running along the Danube, which breaks through from the Northwest between the volcanic horsts of the Visegrád Mountains and the Börzsöny. The landscape and artistic values of the region, preserved in a unique ensemble, including the remnants of the watch-tower and fortress chain of the Roman limes (Visegrád, Kőbánya, Sibrik-mound, Gizella manor, which are also part of another tentative world heritage site called „the limits of the Roman Empire”), the ruins of the Lower Fortress and the Upper Fortress of Visegrád, built from the middle of the 13th century on, and the ensemble of the buildings of the royal palace on the bank of the Danube, provide a unique presentation of a medieval European royal residence and its environment. In 1335, this ensemble was the scene of the historically significant meeting of the Czech, the Hungarian and the Polish kings at Visegrád. The earliest relics of Renaissance art outside Italy are related to the part of the construction of the royal palace that took place in the age of Matthias Hunyadi. The Renaissance white marble sacrament house, present in the palace chapel since as early as 1366, is the work of a master from the workshop of Desiderio da Settignano. One of the red marble reliefs the palace chapel, the Madonna of Visegrád, is the work of art of Tomasso Fiamberti or Giovanni Ricci. The ensemble consisting of the ambulatory with a Gothic stellar vault, located on the ground floor of the inner ornamental court of the northeastern residential palace, the Renaissance loggia, formed around 1484 with balustered and dwarf-pillared railings and columns upstairs, and the Renaissance Hercules Fountain installed in the centre of the courtyard is the work of a stone cutter group lead by Giovanni Dalmata, who had been an apprentice in the workshop of Andrea di Bregno. The restoration in the 20th and 21th centuries of the northern courtyard and several other inner spaces of the palace ensemble, which has been based on detailed research findings and used the anastylosis method of complementation and, in part, reconstruction tools, depicts effectively the extraordinary role played by the site in the history of the protection of historic sites and in the presentation of the theoretical and practical periods of the restoration of historic sites, as they followed each other.
The stone castle built on the Castle Hill of Esztergom in the 10th and 11th centuries was the seat of Grand Chieftain Géza, who integrated Hungary into Christian Europe and his son, (Saint) Stephen I. Esztergom has been the symbol of Hungarian Christianity ever since the foundation of the archsee in 1001, a millennium ago. The royal castle, enlarged in early Gothic style under the reign of Béla III, was handed over to the archsee by Béla IV in 1249, after the destruction caused in the country by the Tatars in 1241/1242. This ensemble is an impressive regional (Central European) scene of the reception and spreading of medieval and, later, Renaissance art. The 14th-century paintings of the castle chapel, indicating Bizantine artistic ties (with the circle of Ambrogio Lorenzetti), the fresco seccos of the Renaissance study of Archbishop János Vitéz (an Italian painter belonging to the circle of Filippo Lippi) are proof of three-century-long artistic influences, radiating way beyond the limits of the diocese.
Esztergom is home to one of the earliest Renaissance ecclesiastic works of art outside Italy: the carved red marble family sepulchral chapel of Archbishop Tamás Bakócz of Erdőd (1506–1507); its architect presumably came from the circle of Giuliano Sangallo. Its Renaissance altar (1519) was made of white Carrara marble by Andrea Ferrucci, a sculptor from Fiesola.
The castle system of Visegrád and its palace with the Franciscan Monastery, built in 1425, the royal and archiepiscopal castle at Esztergom with the basilica and the hunting area of the royal forest of Pilis with the monastery farms rebuilt from mansions together with the royal road connecting these seats are a unique ensemble of medieval and early modern landscape use, in which all elements of the medieval royal seats may be found. Visegrád stands apart from other European royal seats (Cracow, Prague, Buda, London, etc.) in that no other such seat has a royal hunting area, manifest with all its historic connections, in the immediate vicinity of a royal centre. In the area of Visegrád and Esztergom, closely related to the historic Pilis, archaeological research work has been carried out for a century and a half, followed by restoration and conservation of the historic sites. Archaeological excavations have been carried out in the territory of the Cistercian Monastery of Pilisszentkereszt, too, as well as in the territory of the Pauline monasteries. This area, a historic landscape with extraordinarily important symbolic content due to its historical significance combined with its natural conditions (the Danube River with its rather varied morphology) and its architectural works of art, spectacular even in a ruined state, has been the subject of many works of art and literature.
This area has been given a similarly important role regarding the efforts for the preservation of historic sites and cultural heritage values. The man-made heritage of Visegrád and Esztergom have played a prominent role in the development of the protection of historic sites in Hungary. Protection, going back more than a century, and the layer-by-layer restorations constitute, even in international compatison, an outstanding storehouse of trends, concepts, and reconstructions in the field of the protection of historic sites. As a result of the Archeological Topography of Hungary programme, the area of the Pilis is one of the best researched areas of Hungary from the perspective of architecture. The analysis of medieval archaeological sites and the written sources related to them have provided very detailed information regarding the history of settlements and landscape use. The "status" of medieval royal forest area resulted in special protection with regard to certain natural values. The area of the Pilis had an important role to play in the development of the Hungarian hikers' movement, too (Dobogókő, Loránd Eötvös Shelter), which makes it an early and important example of nature protection. The Pilis, with the beauty of its mountains and valleys and the richness of its flora and fauna have earned to receive the highest-level nature protection as part of the Duna-Ipoly National Park (1997).
Justification of Outstanding Universal Value
Criterion (ii): The royal forest and hunting area of the Pilis, the monastery farms created in the former territories of hunting seats (mansions), the royal and archepiscopal centre of Esztergom, and the ensemble of historic sites, created in consecutive ages, of the medieval castles, the City, and the Royal Palace of Visegrád are a historical scene of outstanding importance and a spiritual centre of great impact. The ideology of Humanism and Renaissance art were the main inspirations for late medieval regional cultural efforts towards "modernisation". The murals of the Castle of Esztergom and the sculptural relics of the Royal Palace of Visegrád played a decisive role in spreading Italian mural painting and Renaissance plastic art in the Central European region.
Criterion (iii): The medieval castle of Esztergom, the Royal Palace of Visegrád and its vicinity, fragmentary as they might be, present the elements of medieval French and Italian art in a unique and exceptional manner. In the murals of the Renaissance palace of Archbishop János Vitéz, the sepulchral chapel of Archbishop Tamás Bakócz and in the ornamental courtyard of the northwestern wing (built in the era of King Matthias) of the Royal Castle of Visegrád feature works of art that played an important role in the Central European unfolding of Italian Renaissance trends and influences and are the earliest examples, outside Italy, of the simultaneous and harmonious application of the artistic elements of the Late Gothic style and the unfolding Renaissance.
Criterion (iv): In the economic exploitation of the topographically delimited royal forest area and the medium-high mountain range, the permanence of individual topographical elements (e.g. the royal road crossing the forest) has been accompanied with functional changes reflecting a continuous medieval economico-political and spiritual development. Near Esztergom, a royal seat until 1249 (and a seat of the Church to date) "more modern" model farms appeared between the end of the 12th century and the end of the 13th century around monasteries founded by kings as independent economic units at the location of former royal mansions (which had formed a network in the Pilis). Simultaneously, Visegrád – at the northern edge of the area – which has been developed consciously from the middle of the 13th centuries, become an impressive royal seat of European standard by the 14th and 15th centuries. The ruins of the medieval ensemble located on the Castle Hill of Esztergom, paired with the functionally sectioned historical city belonging to it and the basilica and archiepiscopal centre, which were built on the basis of a monumental 19th century urban study concept, constitute a site that documents the general characteristics of Central European historical urban development while having a unique, millennial spiritual charge. A similarly outstanding value is carried by the monasteries of the Pilis (surviving in ruins), i.e. the spiritual centres of a landscape that reflects the historical functionality of the entire period of the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Age: the royal forest. Now they were not permanently inhabited royal residences any more. But they were still more than living spaces solely satisfying the spontaneous ascetic aspirations of monks turning away form the world. They were "hotels" able to service shorter stays of the king and even to be scenes of diplomatic conferences [e.g. Pilisszentlászló in 1308]. The forest, which remained in royal ownership in its undivided entirety in the middle of the country, was an area symbolising royal power all the way until the 18th century.
Criterion (v): The Pilis Mountains are a nature sanctuary of outstanding value: a UNESCO biosphere reserve. At the same time the Pilis landscape is a unique example of a near millennial harmonic influence of nature and man on each other (royal hunting, monastery farms, communication networks, royal roads). The two royal palaces (both secular and ecclesiastic administrative centres) and the royal forest belonging to them form such a complex historical ensemble that is topographically and functionally integrated and provides proof of a century-long area use. Some of its individual elements are found separately elsewhere but not in an ensemble (with the exception of an 8th century Japanese imperial centre and hunting area at Naga).
Statements of authenticity and/or integrity
In spite of the continuous deterioration, starting in the Turkish Era (1543), of the castles of Visegrád and Esztergom and the monasteries located in the area, the former "royal forest" of the Pilis, functioning as a royal hunting area, has been preserved practically in an intact condition, as have with the centres belonging to it. The protection of its values is ensured by it having been declared a nature conservation area (Pilis Landscape Protection District, then Duna-Ipoly National Park and UNESCO biosphere reserve). Its special characteristic is that it has been an undivided piece of land from the Middle Ages on, i.e. it has almost always been in the possession of a single owner (king, state). Thanks to this it has not been fragmented and even its settlement network has remained largely unchanged in the inner area, thus, the unique ensemble of medieval and early Renaissance relics and their natural environment has been preserved.
The dimensions of the former royal forest can be inferred from the medieval settlement structure of the area, which is essentially identical with the area of the current National Park. The continuity of function and of the organisation of possessions is an indisputable foundation of the integrity of this historic landscape. The traces of mainly conscious landscaping activities by the Cistercian and Pauline monks, who once lived in the Pilis, make it obvious that the monasteries of the royal forest form an ensemble of relics that carries special historic peculiarity, has extraordinary importance due to its integrity and continuity, and has a complex heritage value on account of its archaeological relics and its relics in the field of the history of architecture. The integral preservation of the special monasterical landscapes formed by these two monastic orders has been greatly promoted by the fact that they were established in royal lands connected to forest (hunting) areas, where – because of the mountainous and foresty environment – modern age changes would not destroy the most important landscape elements, albeit the monastery buildings themselves suffered significant ruination. The area of the Pilis also represents a historic value: it is one of the medieval monastery landscapes easiest to identify.
The Slovak and German settlers settling here after the Turkish wars created a settlement structure similar to the original and the villages which arose in the inner area of the Pilis Mountains now and later were all connected to the ruins of the medieval royal monasteries. They adjusted their boundary use, too, to the medieval use of the area.
There was no significant change in this regard in the Contemporary Age either. The sylvicultural, agricultural nature of the villages, accompanied with traditional lime-burning, has remained unchanged until this very day, no significant industrialisation has been effected in the medieval forest area. The management of the former royal forest was guided by the state treasury organisation for a long time. Thanks to this, the territorial unity of the area has been preserved and the Pilis Landscape Protection District, currently the Pilis region of the Duna-Ipoly National Park and a UNESCO biosphere reserve, ensures the preservation of integrity.
The Pilis may be considered an example of European significance of human landscape use since it has all of the economic and political functional elements of the medieval royal forest (the built elements are in ruins): the royal centres of the 11th to 13th centuries (Esztergom) and the 14th to 15th centuries (Visegrád), the hunting area (the forests of the Pilis), the game (the deer, roe, and wild boar, hunted in the Middle Ages with greyhounds and falcons). All this is accompanied with the religious facilities linked to the royal house, which also constitute forest "model farms" (the ruins of the Cistercian and Pauline monasteries and topographically identifiable land possessions), the communication network connecting these, i.e. the system of medieval roads crossing the Pilis (above all the royal road connecting Buda with Esztergom). A combination of royal power, hunting, forest, and religion has been seen in certain cultural regions of the world in various ages and at various geographical locations. Such a complex ensemble is the historic site of the Ancient Naga, the 8th century capital of Japan, included in the UNESCO World Heritage List, which encompasses the Kasuga Mountains as well as a species of deer (Cervus nippon) considered to be holy and a Buddhist monastery linked to the imperial dynasty. The royal forest of Pilis, matching the criteria for historic landscapes, is one of the last royal forest lands that has been preserved in a practically intact condition after being the exclusive property of the ruler in the Middle Ages. It had its own public administration and, similarly to the settlements, its own territory. It was led by the Pilis Bailiff whike the landscape was managed by special service-providing people (forest guards, hunters, smiths etc.).
This medieval royal possession and hunting area has been preserved, on account of its special physical location and its morphological and topographical characteristics, in an almost exceptional manner in global comparison, without any essential changes to the former boundaries of the area. The use of the area remains to be predominantly determined by the forest. The castles and palaces of the royal centres, conserved as ensembles of ruins, are historic sites open to visitors. The historic network of settlements, the settlement structure and the historical core of the surrounding settlements have all been preserved. Apart from the ruins – conserved after archaeological excavation – of the monastic ensembles founded by the king, the use by their former communities of predominantly "intact" areas may also be reconstructed. The sylviculture carried out in the area of the royal forest of the Pilis lays special stress on the protection of the forest area, which, in turn, promotes the protection of settlement structure, archaeological and historic sites and their environments as well as their preservation in an authentic condition.
The royal seats of Visegrád and Esztergom underwent several phases of ruination and reconstruction from the 16th century on. Partly due to the symbolic significance of this area, from the 19th century onward these seats became emblematic scenes (in terms of research history) of historic site reconstructions based on intensive archaeological research in almost all periods in which such reconstruction work was carried out. The earliest secular relics (Royal Palace, Visegrád) and the earliest ecclesiastic relics (Palace Chapel, Visegrád; Bakócz Chapel, Esztergom) of the Renaissance outside Italy are good examples themselves of the performance of Hungarian historic site reconstruction over the past century
The current condition of the buildings of the royal centres of Visegrád and Esztergom, dating from the Middle Ages, is the result of historic site restoration, partly including complementations for a reconstructive purpose, which have in all cases been based on detailed research results and documentation. The reconstruction of the garden of the Royal Palace of Visegrád, for instance, was carried out on the basis of detailed paleobotanical research. The ensemble of historic sites of the Castle Hill of Esztergom exemplifies the manner how the remnants of works from former historical eras fit in buildings and ensembles partly serving modern purposes and in a 18th to 20th century city structure.
Comparison with other similar properties
At the Danube Bend in the central region of Hungary, the volcanic Visegrád Mountains form one a unit with the Börzsöny Mountains, located across the river, and are accompanied by the Pilis Mountains, which have the tallest peaks in the lime and dolomite Transdanubian Mountain Range. Both mountain ranges are covered by forests of the same type. Medieval sources refer to this entire area under the name Pilis.
The Pilis area is located "in the middle of" (medium regni) the former Kingdom of Hungary. It more or less coincides with Pilis County of the fromer kingdom and the part of the current Duna-Ipoly National Park that is located south of the Danube. The most important cities of medieval Hungary are located at the "perimeter" of the area: Esztergom, the earliest royal seat (up until 1249) and archsee; Visegrád, which was a royal seat from 1323 to the 1410s. The Pilis area is a historic landscape of extraordinary importance, even by European standards. Modified, but not changed in its essence, in the course of the centuries, is a uniquely preserved example of the typical use of a complex of crown lands and forests established in the Middle Ages.
In the Pilis, a natural landscape, such elements (flora and fauna) have been preserved which warranted the highest level of nature conservation ranking for the area (national park), thus ensuring that the historic landscape values (going back to the Middle Ages) have been fully preserved almost without exception. The ensembles of surviving fragmented ruins of former royal centres (protected as historic sites of extraordinary symbolic importance) have been exceptional documents since the beginnings in the 19th century, even in international comparison, of all significant periods of the development of the (European) protection of historic buildings and monuments and of the theory and practice of the restoration of historic buildings and monuments, as well as of archaeological research. From this perspective these ensembles present similarities with the church of the Order of the Teutonic Knights in Malbork. This area, a historic landscape with extraordinarily important symbolic content due to its historical significance combined with its natural conditions (the Danube River with its rather varied morphology) and its architectural works of art, spectacular even in a ruined state, has been the subject of many works of art and literature – similarly to the English Lake District. The royal forest and hunting area of the Pilis, the monastery farms created in the former territories of hunting seats (mansions), the royal and archepiscopal centre of Esztergom, and the ensemble of historic sites, created in consecutive ages, of the medieval castles, the City, and the Royal Palace of Visegrád are a historical scene of outstanding importance and a spiritual centre of great impact.
At World Heritage sites and sites on the tentative lists, there are similar areas, where the preserved historic landscape and the built heritage form a unique value together. Such areas include, for instance the Loire Valley between Sully-sur-Loire and Chalonnes in France and the Upper Rhine region with its medieval castles and historic cities. These sites, however, are systems of protected buildings of a somewhat different type as regards their content, history, and appearance. As regards sacred relics, the Monastic Island of Reichenau in Germany or the Catalan churches of Vall de Boi of the Romanesque Era should be mentioned: these are somewhat similar with the historic landscape and medieval relics forming an organic whole.