"This breviary and Mass Book was written by order of the venerable Father Domonkos, the provost of the church in Fehérvár, during the reign of the majestic ruler, Matthias, by the grace of God king of Hungary and Bohemia, in 1481. In the 49th year of the birth of the same Dominican provost. With my own hands."
Domonkos Kálmáncsehi's entry in the Kálmáncsehi-Lichtenstein Codex
The Kálmáncsehi-Lichtenstein Codex is the greatest memories of the Hungarian Middle Ages. The ornamental pages come from the codex of the provost of the coronation church in Székesfehérvár, Domonkos Kálmáncsehi, which is now preserved in New York, far away from its place of origin. This richly decorated manuscript, written on parchment, helped the prelate fulfill his liturgical and devotional duties, the first half being a breviary - a priestly prayer book - and the second half a mass book. At the beginning of the codex was placed a calendar in which the order and feasts of the church year could be followed. The small size and the placement of these two works with different functions in one volume suggest that Domonkos Kálmáncsehi might have used this codex primarily during his travels.
The manuscript carries the message of a great era. The 1480s were an extraordinary decade in the late 15th century in Hungary, in the 1480s, when the past and the future met. Centuries of influences and the aspirations of generations have matured by this time, and they have sounded the great overture of the Hungarian Renaissance at full volume. King Matthias Hunyadi (1458-1490) occupies Vienna, the construction of the royal residences begins, and the world-famous royal library, the Bibliotheca Corvina, is established - just to name a few moments. The model to follow was the leading cultural trend of the era, the Italian Renaissance. Architects, sculptors, carpenters, book painters, bookbinders and other craftsmen, musicians, astronomers, jurists, historians and other humanists came to Hungary at that time. Everything that happened or started then - and this is already the future - had a fundamental effect on the following centuries of Hungarian culture.
The book-producing workshop in Buda not only served the needs of the royal library, but also worked for high-ranking prelates. The codex of Domonkos Kálmáncsehi was also made in the royal workshop. Its decoration is also extremely valuable because his motifs are largely derived from manuscripts of the Royal Library, which at that time already praised the handiwork of Italian bookpainters. Yet, if we take a closer look at the ornamental pages, in addition to the Renaissance decoration, we can also discover the elements of Central European Gothic book painting: elongated, pointed leaves with elegant tendrils and the main initials of the breviary, which are uniformly Gothic. We can witness a natural fusion of the Italian Renaissance and the local art tradition in these pages.
The codex was very fortunate to survive the destruction of medieval Hungary and the centuries that followed. In 1782 it was known in the Cistercian abbey of Viktring near Klagenfurt, and then it went to the library of the Princes of Lichtenstein, Vienna. By 1948, however, it was already appearing in New York. He finally found his current home in 1963 in the collection of The Morgan Library & Museum. The facsimile selection made from it is also significant because it makes this important but almost inaccessible manuscript available to the public.
The handwritten entry of the owner-prelate, in which he gives the date of copying the codex and the number of his own years, resonates with us, even today's readers, with unexpected personality.