The Archaeology of Christianisation of the Rural Countryside of Medieval Hungary with the Context of East Central Europe (11th-13th centuries)

Thesis author: 
Mária Vargha
Year of enrollment: 
Duration of thesis project: 
Sep, 2019
Thesis supervisor: 
József Laszlovszky
Thesis abstract: 

The process of Christianisation and church organisation in Hungary is well researched and has been reconstructed using mainly written sources. However, given their paucity in this period, only the emergence of the most important bishoprics and archbishoprics are known while parishes (local churches), the smallest, but in a way the most important element of the church system, are not. Although historians have made many relatively successful attempts to reconstruct this process there are still some areas needing more comprehensive examination. It has not proved possible to reconstruct the parish system from the poor written sources even though these smaller entities encompassed the commoners who made up the largest segment of the population, thus playing a significant role in the process of Christianisation and church organisation. In this PhD thesis my aim is to concentrate on this smallest organisational element from a mainly archaeological point of view. My aim is to create a picture of the local churches within the context of the parish organisation and thus, Christianisation that is not influenced by the results of historical research based on textual sources, but comes from the existing material sources: buildings, archaeological finds and features. After my analysis of these sites I will compare the results with historical reconstruction of the same processes. The Christianisation of the rural countryside was an important element in the emergence of Christian monarchies, I would like to compare similarities and differences in this context in Hungary with what has been published in the existing scholarship from neighbouring areas in the Czech and Southern Polish lands where this process took place, more or less, at the same time and explore their causes.
To summarise, it can be agreed that that the unity of church and churchyard is undeniable in later medieval understanding and therefore in this research I would like to include everything that can be understood as part of the physical, social and religious context of cemeteries: location, church building, churchyard pattern, liturgical objects, burial customs, jewellery and dress accessories. I would like to investigate the whole process surrounding the development of churchyard cemeteries from its beginnings and the irregularities of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries to investigate this phenomenon within its context. This I will have to use material from field cemeteries to contrast it with evidence from churchyards. The enumerated features all speak to different aspects of this process; location and church building address the spatial and social aspects of Christianisation, churchyard patterns reveal both local and also general customs in the way churchyards were used bringing us closer to the understanding of the topoi swirling about this issue in previous research.
After these details receive their own investigation, I would like to compile the results – features, phenomena, processes – in a joint spatial analysis, which would form the basis comparison with Czech and Polish areas. Therefore, this comparative examination will not focus on the details of each question, but rather on the spatial and chronological relationships with the observed processes and features. Hopefully, this will reveal general and/or local characteristics of the process of Christianisation.