The Gemer Ravenna
Franciska and Dénes Andrássy Mausoleum in Krásnohorské Podhradie
"We cannot get enough of these marble walls; were these marble mirrors dispersing sun beams, we might feel as in a palace of fairies ..." (Rozsnyói hiradó, 30 October 1904)
The "fairy palace" is Franciska and Dénes (Dionýz) Andrássy Mausoleum in Krásnohorské Podhradie - a unique Art Nouveau monument completed in autumn 1904. We, Gemerians, perceive the pricelessly decorated building surrounded by a far-spreading park as a common, ordinary fact. We hardly realize that this mausoleum is a unique object decorated with early Christian or even early oriental elements cast into Art Nouveau morphology. At the same time, it represents one of the few examples of the Munich jugendstil, rather than the Vienna-Budapest Art Nouveau style that directly influenced our territory.
How come the designers had been inspired by Ravenna, the town in northern Italy dating back to first centuries of our era? The reason may be sought in the 19th century Romanticism, when this mysterious "lagoon" town, built on sediments as a Roman port, once again won broad attention. In the Middle Ages (the decline of Ravenna) the valuable monuments of the town literally sank in mud. By its mystical atmosphere, the town attracted romantics from all across Europe - including Lord Byron. We therefore assume, that neither Count Dénes and his wife Franciska Hablawetz missed Ravenna on their innumerable journeys to Italy, documented by rich collections of the Slovak National Museum, particularly its Betliar branch. Strangely enough, no notice of Ravenna has so far been discovered in these collections.
Count Dénes Andrássy (1835-1913), who had the mausoleum built in Krásnohorské Podhradie, was the last male descendant of the younger - Hoszúret (Dlhá Lúka) branch of the House of Andrássy, one of the most significant families of historical Hungary, and of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. In early 1860s, during his studies in Vienna, the young count met his future wife - Franciska Hablawetz (1838-1902), a girl of burgher origin, the daughter of Franz Hablawetz and Barbora Dosler. Despite the disapproval of his parents, Count György (Juraj) IV and Countess Franziska Königsegg von Aulendorf, Dénes married Franciska in Pisa, Italy, on 6 April 1866. Breaking the aristocratic traditions, Dénes had been disinherited. He and his wife then lived abroad, alternatingly in Munich and in Vienna. However, they travelled extensively, oftentimes returning also to Pisa, we may therefore assume they visited Ravenna as well. It is known that in the era of the 19th century Romanticism the mysterious "lagoon" town attracted wide attention. Dénes might have been enchanted by the architecture and art of Ravenna so much that he later on decided for a monumental and radiant tomb reminding that of Theodorich, with interior decorations similar to mosaics at Galla Placidia Mausoleum or other churches of Ravenna.
In 1871 Dénes´ only brother György (Juraj) died, followed by their father one year later. There being no other male descendants (Dénes also had two sisters Mária and Erzsébet (Albeta)), the large fidei-commissioned property was reverted to Dénes according to contemporary Hungarian law. However, he had never returned to permanently live in Hungary.
This extensive inheritance probably left the peaceful life of the spouses unaffected, even despite the fact they were childless. That might have been the reason why they decided to help other children, orphans, widows, the elderly and the poor. Various contemporary documents proved that many of these donations had been initiated by Franciska. After she had died, Dénes´ charity became more intensive, though always carried out in the name of his wife. Several millions had been donated for the construction of schools, hospitals, orphanages, poor people homes, museums, etc. The Andrássys were the first in old Hungary who started paying pensions to their estate employees in 1898. Their charity was spread over the territory of present Austria, Hungary, and particularly Slovakia.
The marriage of Dénes and Franciska lasted for 36 years, until Franciska´s death in Munich on 26 October 1902. She had been temporarily buried there. Count´s sorrow and grief was deep, however, not only he mourned but the whole surroundings of Roňava. He decided to build a tomb for his wife where he would be buried by her side. Therefore, this building has to be seen as a demonstration of immense gratitude and undying love to his beloved wife from the mourning husband, who wrote:
"Filled with deep feelings of gratitude, compassion and infinite love I build this pantheon for the blessed remains of my dear wife and as a proof of my ever-lasting grief."
Győző Czigler, a professor of architecture from Budapest, was engaged to design the building in 1902. He suggested to build the tomb in one of the bastions of medieval castle Krásna Hôrka or as a separate building at Count´s estate. However, Dénes favoured the designs of a group of Munich architects. The construction had commenced in March 1903 and the tomb with the surrounding park was built within a year and a half. Exactly two years after Franciska had died, the so-called great funeral of Krásna Hôrka took place and the Countess´remains were brought from Munich and laid in the Mausoleum. Dénes lived 11 years longer than his wife, died in Palermo, Sicilly, in 1913, and was also buried in the Mausoleum.
The Mausoleum was designed by then only 28-year-old Richard Berndl (1875-1955), professor at the school of applied arts in Munich. The construction process was supervised by Eduard Schmucker, both exterior and interior sculptural decoration was created by Max Frick, painting and mosaic design was made by Karl Throll, altar decorations and other gilding works were carried out by Adolf Mayrhofer. A great role in mausoleum construction as well as in the administration of Dénes´estates was played by István Sulyovszky. It was he who handed out funds, distributed Count´s donations, and created the "cult of Franciska" in the region that she had hardly known, together with grateful inhabitants of the Gemer, Zemplin and Abov counties, who found out about their benefactress only from the gloriously written newspaper articles.
Let us now have a look at the specific examples of Ravenna inspiration. The outside look of the mausoleum strongly reminds of Theodorich Mausoleum in Ravenna. The monumentality of these two tombs with central polygonal shape is enhanced by simplistic relief decoration and the outside hue. The details of external sculptural decoration used to be polychromous, nowadays the buiding is almost completely white (polychromy being preserved only fragmentarily). The 6th century Theodorich´s tomb is also shiningly white.
Early Christianity is best evoked by the interior, where the twilight is both interfered and complemented with the gloss of colourful marble walls and glittering mosaics. Transcendentality and closeness to God in this space is enhanced by a dim light penetrating through agate-panelled windows placed over the portal, in the tambour and the lantern. The mosaic decoration of conch and cupola is most impressive. The conch is covered with a gilded mosaic and a green and yellow mosaic stripe almost identical to arch decoration in Galla Placidia Mausoleun in Ravenna. As far as ornamental decoration is concerned, the window reveals in tambour are particularly remarkable. Interestingly enough, these ornaments (especially the spirals and floral patterns) reflect the oriental influence on the Byzantine mosaic. The gilded backgroud is also a typical Byzantine element, upon which the figures of twelve angels had been placed. Their stance and clothes remind of the saints depicted between the windows of Sant Apollinare Nuovo basilica. Analogous may also be the angels from the mosaic of San Vitale church in Ravenna, who lead St Vital and Bishop Eclesius to Christ sitting on a blue globe. Even the green grassland and vegetation upon which the figures stand is identical in these scenes. Great attention goes to the white Carrara marble sarcophagi, shaped as their predecessors of the 4th or 5th centuries. However, here the Old and New Testament scenes had been replaced by reliefs reflecting the life of the deceased combined with Christian symbolism.
Outstanding sculptures may also be found in the park surrounding the Mausoleum. Facing the apse, Franciska´s temporarily tombstone from Munich (currently damaged) had been placed in the wall, which is most likely a Frick´s work. Behind the stone wall, in the outside park, an epoxide replica of spouses faithful dog´s red marble sculpture may be found. The life-size dachshund figure had been created by H. Bauer from Munich. The sculpture inscribed Unser Tascherl (Our Tascherl) stands on a stone pedestal with epigraph TREUE UM TREUE 1890 - 1910 (Devotion for devotion). Pedestal´s upper part is decorated with festoons and owls.
Š Július Barczi