12 January 2022

In the traces of Saint Sigismund


On the left bank of the Danube, between Kismaros and Nagymaros, generations of islands hide underneath the flat landscape. There is a mysterious building on one of these island generations, according to an 18th-century map, which may be linked to the monastery of St Sigismund, previously thought to be on the opposite river bank, on the Szentendre Island. 

Text and images by: 
Illés Horváth 
(Center for Ecclesiastical Studies at the University of Pécs) 
and his team. 


View to the east, the Kismarosi and the Duna-réti Islands

The fastest emergence of Danubian islands

The site of archaeological interest nearby the Hatló creek.

View to the west with the Visegrád citadel

Although aerial images of the Danube bend itself, and the young archipelago on the border of Nagymaros and Kismaros, are not rare, it is worth saying a few words about the reason for the pictures; archaeological research. The focus of our research is the monastery of the Order of Saint Paul the First Hermit, founded by the Hungarian king, Sigismund of Luxembourg (1387-1437) sometime between 1414 and 1433, and consecrated in honor of the dynastic saint of the monarch, St. Sigismund. This monastery was previously thought to be on the opposite side of the Danube, the island of Szentendre, on the outskirts of Kisoroszi. However, according to the sources, the monastery stood on the 'island of the islands' between Nagymaros and Verőce in the diocese of Vác and functioned as a branch of the Toronyalja monastery until 1453. 
"At the same time, the king told a very complicated story about the island-island (Insulam Insulatos) in the territory of the Bishopric of Vác, in the former Kingdom of Hungary, near the Danube river (flumen Danubii propter), in a deserted place (ibidem existente loco deserto) between Maros (villem regalem Marus) and Verőce (villam dicti Voachiensis episcopi Voarenzae), he erected a chapel in honour of St Sigismund (capella constructam sub vocabulo Sancti Sigismundi in Regno Ungariae). And he entrusted the church to the Paulines, so that under the supervision of the soldiers of Christ, the devotion to God would be even more fervent."

In the course of our latest research, the area of the Waterworks within the administrative boundary of Nagymaros has also come under the spotlight, as the location of this area fits perfectly with the description of the monastery's location in the description of the "Henrik copia"; the aforementioned island-island, as it is known from the documentary and modern cartographic sources that the area around the island on the Danube was divided into several small islands in the 15th century. This situation may also have been valid in the 17th and 18th centuries. 

Michael Karpe: Visegrad dominii - Nagymaros, the Hatló creek in red (source

The map of the Visegrad dominium shows how the Hatlo creek and its tributaries divided the Waterworks area into a further separate island within the island. Quite close to the river bank was a medieval building, as yet unidentified, not even recorded in archaeological topography, which disappeared without trace by the mid-18th century. During our research, we attempted to locate the building by means of aerial photography and personal fieldwork. The remains of the building were demolished after the Ottoman expulsion of the Turks, when the settlement of the area between Nagymaros and Verőce began. The island was filled in. In the middle of the 19th century, the area was divided up and separate narrow parcels of land were created for cultivation. The fact that most of the building was plowed up during this cultivation makes research very difficult. At the same time, during the construction of the waterworks in the 20th century, a large part of the site was filled with gravel sand. In addition, flooding has also significantly altered the morphology. 

Old property boundaries. Lidar image overlay on cadastral map (image by: Illés Horváth)

Although there was significant flooding overall, the survey images show that although a significant amount of water has passed through the area, the 150 years-old cultivation marks have retained their boundaries very well. As for the building on the 18th-century map, although it is now plowed up, its footprints can be seen to some extent next to the reservoir. Although not in this grassy and uncultivated area, in its wider surroundings a number of fragmented remains of exposed glazed pottery and roof tiles have been found, thanks to the so-called 'diggings' of wild animals.

Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)

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