A New Museum to Check Off the List

Ron and I went to the Kiscelli Museum/Church Ruin as it is called (also known as Budapest Historical Museum and Municipal Gallery), but actually it was on Saturday, November 11th. I am just now taking a moment to write about it now. What actually drew our attention to it other than its being on my list of museums to visit was the article in The Budapest Sun. There was a review of the special exhibit, called “One of the Rare Moments”. Let me say first that getting there took more than a little motivation; we are without a car. We took the 4 tram to Erszabet Bridge, then down to the number 17 tram. Prior to this, I had no idea the 17 tram existed. After six stops, we disembarked from the tram and walked back toward the last stop one block. The sign for the museum pointed to the right. RIGHT up a small mountain, that is. When the article said this museum was off the beaten path, they were not speaking lightly. Walking up this hill to reach the museum, would have made any backpacker feel a sense of accomplishment. I on the other hand was questioning where I wanted to budget my energy, but went anyway. The hill is also steep. The incline is such that there are 3 feet deep steps to help you make the ascent, with a handrail on one side. The temptation to hitchhike up the hill was certainly persistent. Reaching the top and gasping for air, we reminded ourselves that the museum was once a Trinitarian church and monastery, built 1744-60, and filled these functions until 1784. As with many other buildings in Budapest, it was severely damaged during WWII. The present carnation occurred in 1949 as a museum. Everything above the ground floor was closed off to the public and most of the exhibits on this floor as well, were blocked off. What we were able to see was statuary that once lived on buildings around the city and reliefs that were originally part of other buildings’ décor. As we walked through these exhibits, we finally came to a grand room that had the lights out. Beamed by projection on the back wall was a clock, second hand ticking away. What was interesting was that beyond the projector, there were a series of mirrors illuminated the sidewall. While the whole clock was being projected, the sidewall contained smaller elements of the same clock. One only showing the seconds, one the minutes, and one the hour. Turning to the right, there was another dark room, but being oxygen deprived, I had not realized this was the exhibit. It is often the case that lights are not turned on until visitors actually enter a museum room, to save on electricity. This was not the case in this situation. The room in pitch darkness was the ruins of the church and the lights were out for a good reason. The artist, Gyula Várnai had created a sacred space out of an old sacred space. Hanging and swinging from the ceiling by four long chains, was a metal sculpture replica of the church with sections cut out of the metal. Within the sculpture, there was a bright light. This sculpture created light shapes on the walls of the church, creating new and life energizing space on the walls and ceiling. It took a few minutes for my brain to attempt to the lighting and the fact that the sculpture was moving. In the beginning, I had not realized there was movement and immediately became dizzy. One adaptation had set in, the dizziness returned, but this time it was with awe. The artist augmented his art with 60 speakers in a cage like construction that played the sounds recorded outside the church walls. The review has spoken of the deconstruction of space and time, but it was not until I had experienced it, did I fully understand it. The exhibit closed the next day, so it was fortunate we made it in ‘time’.