The Madách Manor House was taken over from the Toy and Puppet Museum in Modrý Kameň by the Museum of Hungarian Culture in Slovakia on 1 January 2003 and has since been functioning as a local section of the Museum.
Several literary historians and researchers dealt with the history of the manor house and the Madách family. One of the first among them was the teacher of the Hungarian Royal State Secondary Grammar School in Lučenec Mihály Latkóczy who was the first to pay a visit to the Madách manor house after Imre Madách’s death and was offered the possibility to make a research in the archives of the family. He published the outcome of this research in his study About Imre Madách’s ascendants [original title: Madách Imre őseiről] in 1901. Menyhért Palágyi visited the Madách manor house in summer 1890 (on 21 August) and could use the still available family archives to study the Madách family tree and be engrossed in the remaining manuscripts and records from Imre Madách’s literary legacy. He published his research in his book Imre Madách’s life and poetry with pictures [original title: Madách Imre élete és költészete képekkel] (Budapest, published by Athenaeum Irodalmi és Nyomdai R.T., 1900).
After the assignment of our museum in 2004, the two-fold Madách prize winning literary historian Ferenc Kerényi, who dealt with inter alia Madách’s life and work, joined the preparatory works that tried to specify the history of the manor house on the basis of new research findings, on the one hand, and strived to help and prepare the restoration design documentation of the manor house by particularizing the already existing sources, on the other. Ferenc Kerényi checked and used his own research work and some former researchers‘ sources to summarize the history of the Madách manor house in his book on Imre Madách. 1
Among others, it was this literary-historical material as well as Latkóczy’s statements and Menyhért Palágyi’s valuable records that all helped process the history of the manor house. The documentator of the museum in Strehová Veselovská Dana and the former associate of the manor house in Strehová, now director of the Puppet and Toy Museum in Modrý Kameň Helena Ferencová both helped me make a research on the history of the Madách manor house, mainly the events after 1945. I hereby wish to thank them for their help. The summarized history of the manor house is related to the history of the Madách family, though evidently without the pursuit of completeness.
„The Madách family is one of the most ancient Hungarian families“ writes Ferenc Kerényi, and the evidence of this truth is actually the family tree compiled by Imre Madách and published in Iván Nagy’s work Families of Hungary with arms and genealogical tables [original title: Magyarország családai címerekkel és nemzedékrendi táblákkal]. Based on the data published therein, the ancestor of the family was ‘Radon comes’ mentioned between 1223 and 1250.
László Zolnay managed to trace the origin of the family back one further generation, writes Kerényi, so following from this statement Nyárád Kürtösi can be considered the first ancestor and the family name Madách also appears around this time. „The stronghold on the central estate in Dolná Strehová is a worthwhile emblem of the family’s rise and power in medieval times“ continues Kerényi, as this was their residence in as early as 1430 and the family used the forenames Sztregovai and Kelecsényi from this time on (mid 15th century).
In Turkish times the Turk raiders also devastated the manor house in Strehová and the village belonged to the Sanjak in Szécsény until 1594. From among the ancestors of the family, Péter Madách returned from his Turkish captivity in 1585 and switched over to Lutheran religion under his brother-in-law’s (János Rimay’s) influence.
The poet’s great-grandfather János Madách (Péter Madách’s grandson; father: Gáspár) sacrificed almost everything for a religious life. Since the family could not evade the conflicts related to estates and since János Madách could not refuse anything from his beloved church (given that the Protestants were gathering around him with their religious grievances), the ancient properties were pawned one after the other. Most of them “got in the hands of the Révay’s de Trebosztó who married in the family” writes Latkóczy (most of Dolná Strehová was similarly in the hands of the Révay family, as a pledged estate from 1604).
But after the death of János Madách’s first wife, the patrimony was also damaged, given that a part of the dowry had to be transferred, moreover, Strehová was destroyed in a fire in 1758.
János Madách could not help himself. What’s more, he did not help his family either by leaving his remaining property on the Lutheran church after his death on 17 May 1768, whereby he tied his nine-year-old son and widow up into knots. This is why the family members disappeared from Strehová (they moved to one of the tenant farmers’ houses in Vieska not far away) and practically this is the time that the repeated rise of the family began from.
With his lawyer’s diploma received in 1780 and with Anna Rusz of non-noble origin who he married in 1778, Jun. Sándor Madách started his battle for the uprise of the family.
Based on arduous but conscious work and by restoring the old relations within the county, this process did begin in 1784 as he started the reconstruction of the destroyed old manor house. This lasted until 1799, though he was already an official Strehová resident in 1786.
Thanks to building his career and to his relations, he had the possibility in 1809 to redeem the estates in Strehová and Vieska (that had been pledged from 1604) including the “new” manor house in Strehová built by the Révays’, the baroque building of today’s museum. The renovation and classicist reconstruction of this building was completed by 1811 when Sen. Imre Madách and his young wife Anna Majthényi (the poet’s mother) could move here one year after their marriage in 1810.
(With Anna Majthényi, some new dowry estates were transferred to the family. This included Csesztve in Nógrád county, so the family estate was further expanded.)
It was in this manor house that Imre Madách was born on 21 January 1823 and wrote his famous work The Tragedy of Man [original title: Az ember tragédiája]. This is where he returned to from Csesztve after his divorce and where he also died. He sleeps the sleep that knows no waking under the gravestone in the park of the manor house.
After his father’s death the then major Aladár Madách (the poet’s son) takes over the management of the family estate on 2 January 1872.
According to a record from 1887, the owner of the Madách manor house (no. 63) is Aladár Madách. This is where he lives with his wife Mária Fekete until the end of his life (23 July 1908), and as Menyhért Palágyi wrote on the occasion of his visit in summer 1890 “As if fate wanted to make good what it had done against the poet, so it whelms his son with all the joy of homely feeling. Because heaven sent here a wife whose heart is kindliness, whose temper is poetry, whose mind is playful sweet sunshine.”.
In 1908 following Aladár Madách’s death, his daughter Flóra Madách became the owner of the manor house. She lived here with her family, with her two children from her first marriage, with her second husband Pál Lázár and their common child as long as the loss of the family property.
The ordeal of the building and its furnishing of inestimable value already began in the early 1930’s when Flóra Madách and her husband dr. Pál Lázár got so much indebted that „the debts, interests and costs altogether considerably, perhaps double exceed the value of the estate… so there is nothing left but auction” wrote the lawyer János Giller to Lajos Horánszky in 1937. (They both contributed to erecting the Madách gravestone.)
But let’s see the antecedents.
The sales contract that was found among the documents of the archives in Lučenec and was made on 6 October 1924 in Dolná Strehová (which is also approved in decision 72837/25-I/4- of the State Land Office of Prague) 2 describes the financial conditions of the family because, according to this contract, Flóra Madách is compelled to sell several lots from the family property.
Other indebtedness had to be suffered in 1932 and later, in 1936 the estate is appropriated among the residents of Dolná Strehová. All those attempts to mitigate the financial problems were to no effect as according to all indications the crediting Slovakian major bank was to auction the remaining real estates sooner or later.
The holdings of the family in Dolná Strehová come to an end on 2 March 1938. The estate is auctioned and the manor house gets in the ownership of the Bratislava-seated Bráza Agricultural Joint Share Company. 3 The ownership right was registered in Modrý Kameň District Office under No. 5480/1938.
The government commissioner delegated by the government to Dolná Strehová repurchases the Madách manor house and a part of the surrounding park for the village, to open a post office, an elementary school with three classes and a notarial office on 4 January 1943. The empty part was planned to be used as official lodgings.
World War II and its aftermaths sealed the fate of the manor house in Strehová, too, though, compared to a lot of similar memorial sites, it had a relatively fortunate history.
Practically, everything disappeared from the building of great history after 1945. The main entrance with a stairway was taken apart, its wrought-iron hand-rail was taken to the scrap iron yard. The windows were banged out, the original window frames and doors were also damaged. The ornamented inlaid floor was also torn up. A lot of trees were felled in the English park encircling the manor house.
After the war, in 1949 the manor house hosted a secondary school 4 with eight classes which met the demands of the nearby settlements within a 24 km distance. In 1955 the same school applies to the Educational Section of the Modrý Kameň District Council of the National Committee to grant funds for wholly renovating the building, fencing off the park and reconditioning the gravestone. The design of a Madách memorial room was also on the agenda but finally funds were enough to renovate two thirds of the building only and everything else remained a mere plan.
The teacher of the school in the manor house Zoltán Batel said the following to the reporter of the paper A Hét [The Week] Béla Balázs in 1955: “The room where Imre Madách used to live and write his masterpiece is a lumber-room at present but later on I will arrange a museum here. I would like to get the former publications of the Tragedy, the photos of Madách and his family and articles about the poet and his work.”.
Unfortunately, he could not bring his plan to fruition because he was relocated in the meanwhile. But, to say the least, he handed over the materials that he had saved and collected to the representatives of the later-to-open Madách museum.
In the meanwhile, the rooms of the manor house were used as teachers’ lodgings, storerooms, kindergarten and school classes. The development plan of the village preindicated the construction of a new elementary school beside the manor house, which is also recorded in a protocol from 1959. Although the plan does not meet with unanimous success, still, absolutely disregarding the historical milieu, the school is nevertheless built at the northern side of the park to the manor house and is officially delivered on 1 November 1961. Although the manor house is declared a monument on 9 November 1963, one-storey teachers’ lodgings of four units each are delivered in the southern part of the park to the manor house in 1976.
The village council laid down the decision of the Planning Panel of the then Lučenec District National Committee in 1963 when it applied for the complete renovation of the manor house, as stipulated in point 5 of the seven-year development plan of the village, for the development of a district health-care centre, by the term of 1970.
The village turned to the Lučenec District National Committee on 12 March 1964, asking for the latter’s permission to house the yet non-available services in the manor house.
But 1964, the one hundredth anniversary of Imre Madách’s death brought about some twists, and the internationalist spirit of the age radically changed the development plan of the village, given that UNESCO and even the World Peace Council recommended to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the poet’s death and ranked the year among the “momentous anniversaries” of mankind. The high-raking representatives of the neighbouring People’s Republic of Hungary invited their neighbours to a joint memorial event on this occasion.
Afterwards, the Slovak National Council also attached importance to commemorating, in the spirit of Czechoslovakian socialist cultural policy, the writer of the Tragedy who was born in Dolná Strehová, with reference to the by then internationally recognized anniversary, especially because this was included in the cultural treaty between the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic and the People’s Republic of Hungary. The signed document commissioned the following institutions with the organization of the centennial: Slovak National Council, Central Slovakian District-level National Committee, Educational and Cultural Section of the Lučenec District National Committee, Local National Committee in Dolná Strehová, Slovak Authors’ Society, Csemadok Central Committee, Slovakian Committee of Peace Defenders and, naturally, all these under the management of the party organizations.
The manor house was still in very bad condition. Only 3 rooms were planned to be restored and a memorial room opened, due to the shortage of time. But works did not yet begin by spring 1964.
This is when the committed monument protection expert, an associate of the Central Slovakian Monument Protection Centre Géza Balassa entered the scene and made a proposal to organize a cultural program and an exhibition, to complete the commemoration beside the grave, and he put a complete scenario on the table.
Then all was getting eventful, restoration works began in summer 1964 and the entire manor house excluding some insignificant rooms was regenerated in one and a half months. The entire village joined the preparatory works before the ceremony: the residents helped improve the area and the park, they reconditioned the area in front of their own estates. The Lučenec-based Educational and Cultural Section financed the repair works. Thanks to Géza Balassa’s efforts, the Central Slovakian Monument Protection Centre in Banská Bystrica also offered a financial contribution to purchase the contemporary furniture, moreover, some Hungarian institutions and private individuals also rendered professional and material help. The exhibition was arranged in 6 rooms, showing the poet’s life and works.
Decision No. 61 passed at the meeting on 25 September 1964 of the Lučenec District Council of the National Committee approved the future of the manor house. The decision set the target of founding a museum of national competence that can safeguard and present Slovak and Hungarian traditions. However, due to the dual interpretation of the common historical past, this plan failed.
The common commemoration on the 100th anniversary of the poet’s death on 5 October 1964 met with success. A gala was held in Lučenec on the eve of the celebration. The next day the ceremony was held and the new exhibition was opened in the renovated manor house in Dolná Strehová with the participation of renowned Slovak and Hungarian guests, in the presence of journalists and the Czechoslovakian television. After the remembrance speeches, numberless organizations laid the wreaths of commemoration at the poet’s grave.
The memorial room was named Imre Madách Literary Museum and organizationally it was affiliated to the Municipal Museum in Fil’akovo. There was an inspector superintending the exhibition and receiving the visitors. According to some records that were found in the Castle Museum in Fil’akovo, the 1965 2nd half-year museum plan approved by the district party committee and the district national committee sets a task whereby the associates of the museum are to help search and get hold of furnishings and documents for Madách Literary Museum and the museum is to lend some objects to enrich the exhibition. This was the first and only museum-type institution in the area of current Vel’ký Krtíą district. The 1966 reports of the Municipal Museum in Fil’akovo have no mention of Strehová.
When the government underwent some regional reorganization in 1968, Vel’ký Krtíą district was created from the borderline settlements in Lučenec, Zvolen and Levice districts. The inauguration meeting was held on 31 July 1968 in Vel’ký Krtíą. This is when the museum in Dolná Strehová got its new name. From 1 September 1968 it functioned as the District Literary Museum in Dolná Strehová, under the supervision of the Educational and Cultural Section in Vel’ký Krtíą district.
The expansion in content of the literary museum began in the same year with an exhibition in honour of another major writer of the region Kálmán Mikszáth born in Sklabiná.
Based on decision No. 10 by the plenum of the District National Committee, the name and content-based message of the museum is changed on 27 September 1968. It is named District Local Historical Museum, for the reason that in the future it is to be built on the rich literary and cultural traditions of the district. Apart from offering a home to the museum, the building also houses health-care services at this time: it offers, among others, a consulting room and a health centre for mothers and their small children. Nevertheless, the “district people” would like to discontinue this in the building in the future, partly due to the deteriorated conditions of the building and partly owing to the expanded objectives of the museum.
The 120th anniversary of the 1848 revolutionary events promised to be an excellent opportunity to expand the museum in content. This anniversary obliged and commissioned the museum to present the rich revolutionary traditions of the region and introduce its famous personalities (Janko Kráµ, Ján Rotarides, A. H. ©kultéty).
Further, the plans also included the establishment of an ethnographic and scientific collection. But this needed room. The literary role of the museum was shrinking, the institution fulfilled the role of an exhibition centre with 3000-4000 visitors a year and an inspector.
The above statements are confirmed in decision No. 148/1977 approved by the Central Slovakian District Council of the National Committee on 6 July 1977, which envisages a concept for the future development of museums in the 1980-1985 period. This includes the renovation of the manor house in Dolná Strehová, the establishment of a local historical and ethnographic section (beside the literary historical part) which is planned to be established and shown in as early as 1980. But the renovation of the building must be commenced in the meanwhile, so the visitors were permitted to enter certain parts of the building only. The exhibitions are removed in 1985-86 as one of the towers of the manor house falls. Some parts of the exhibits are presented to schools or are delivered to temporary arts warehouses. This uncertain period lasts until 1991 when the rooms of the baroque manor house in Modrý Kameň, built in 1730, are emptied. According to Decree No. 349/1996-1 of the Ministry of Culture dated 15 February 1996, the Puppet and Toy Museum is established in Modrý Kameň, and the materials collected so far as well as the exhibitions on show in the manor house in Dolná Strehová are moved here.
The fate and affiliation of the manor house in Dolná Strehová (as an affiliated section to the museum in Modrý Kameň) is frequently changed in the 1996-2002 period.
Following an order of the cultural portfolio, the centralization of cultural institutions is commenced in 1996. Later, based on Decree No. 2368/1996-1 issued by the cultural portfolio on 28 June 1996, the manor house in Dolná Strehová is also listed among the institutions of Senohrad Cultural Centre, under the name Senohradské Museum. Its founder is the District Office in Banská Bystrica which also operates the museum. The new name is not yet taken in when the Hont-Nógrád Cultural Centre in Vel’ký Krtíą attaches a new name to the institution in 1997: Hontiansko-novohradské múzeum bábkarských kultúr a hračiek. Still, this does not last long either, because according to Decree 98/03573 of the Banská Bystrica District Office dated 5 June 1998 the museum repeatedly gets back its name Puppet and Toy Museum, Modrý Kameň - Modrý Kameň Fortress. The Slovakian Ministry of Culture does not change the name of the Museum but makes a noteworthy change in its affiliation. In 1998, integrated in the new process driven by the cultural portfolio for decentralization (re-arrangement) and for settling the legal personality status of cultural institutions, the museum in Modrý Kameň becomes one of the special museums of the Slovak National Museum, based on Resolution 1062/2002-1 of the portfolio on 1 July 2002. Still in the same year, the portfolio establishes the Museum of Hungarian Culture in Slovakia as a nationality museum of the Slovak National Museum on 1 July 2002, and negotiations with the Banská Bystrica district representatives concerning the affiliation of the Madách Manor House in Dolná Strehová and the Mikszáth Memorial House in Sklabiná already start in autumn. The department of the cultural portfolio responsible for minority cultures and the department of cultural heritage were both of the opinion that the Hungarian museum should be the new owner of the two literary memorial sites, to emphasize their literary historical character. The decision was made in as early as 2002, so the two literary memorial sites continued their activities as affiliates to SZNM – Museum of Hungarian Culture in Slovakia from 1 January 2003.
Renovation works were completed on the memorial house in Sklabiná in 2006, and new exhibitions, several programs have since been awaiting the visitors.
The other literary memorial site was not in perfect condition either in 2003, so efforts were immediately made to survey the condition of the Madách Manor House, the attached park and the gravestone.
The park could be weeded, the pedestal of the gravestone was repaired and some renovation works in its direct environment were done in 2003. Some minor repair works could be afforded in the manor house, supplemented with the design of a new exhibition room showing János Kass’s graphics to The Tragedy of Man. The necessary funds were granted by the then Deputy Prime Minister Pál Csáky and his office.
Starting from 2004 we cooperated with the Hungarian organizers and began to jointly organize the Madách Literary Days, wherein one day was held in Madách Manor House and the other in Madách mansion in Csesztve. This is when the literary historian Ferenc Kerényi joined this common work and became a member of the small team of experts trying to envisage the future of the manor house. The architect Zsolt Papp and his team (PROART Ltd.) from Levice, and experts from the Lučenec agency of the Banská Bystrica-seated Monument Protection Office (who we have since been working together with) joined the work.
The first surveys (exterior wall survey, measuring humidity in the walls, assessing the condition of the roofing) were completed in 2005. The internal wall survey and the tests in the bottom of the flooring were all supposed to map and assess the volume of cement and concrete after the quick renovation works. The first sketch design for the renovation of the manor house was made in the knowledge of the findings after the survey.
Since money was inevitable for making the design documentation, we first focused on renovating the study (called the Den of Lions), which we managed to get funds for from the Slovakian Ministry of Culture. However, after the internal wall survey in 2006, we understood that it would be impossible to do the necessary works for the renovation of the study from the 1 million crowns received instead of the 3 million applied for, so we asked for a re-appropriation of the sum to complete the design documentation for the renovation of the manor house, which was in fact done by the staff in PROART company.
We have been trying to improve the quality and quantity of equipment and to make some technical refurbishment in the interior spaces of the manor house from as early as 2003, and steadily on year after year ever since, so that we could have new exhibitions on show. We had the possibility to show the second duplicate of Mihály Zichy’s graphics series to the Tragedy in the manor house, thanks to Zichy Society and Mihály Zichy’s great-grandson István Csicseri-Rónay. The graphics later remained in the manor house, as a gift, just as the Kass graphics shown in 2003.
The design documentation and the utilization plan underlying the renovation of the manor house were completed in 2008 and were presented and communicated to the general public on the Madách Literary Days in October.
In 2008, when we were already in possession of the building permit for the renovation works, we made immense efforts to try and find out where funds could be received from for the entire renovation of the manor house building. Our research work on the history of the manor house was attuned to the utilization plan, moreover, specific rooms of the manor house were also identified. Accordingly, the furnishing could be mapped and we began to buy some, too, with the involvement (at our request) of the archaeologist-historian dr. ©tefan Holčík.
Associates from Petőfi Literary Museum, headed by the Director General Csilla E. Csorba rendered considerable help and advice and contributed to the development of cooperative partnerships. The Salgótarján-seated Nógrád Museological Organization and its then Director General Dr. Anna Kovács, as well as their affiliate, the Palóc Museum in Balassagyarmat, headed by its agile Director Ildikó Molnár (who were planning to renovate Madách’s mansion in Csesztve) joined the common planning work.
The last impulse urging the preparation of an EU application came from the then Head of Office of Kassa County Local Government Office Rozália Múdra who had herself efficiently managed several “EU” projects and who encouraged and helped the team in the museum with her advice in project preparation. We received the approval of the Directorate General of the Slovak National Museum for the preparation of the joint project, and the Local Government of Nógrád county headed by its President Zsolt Becsó also agreed to our plans. We must note here that the mayors of both settlements supported the designs of the renovation works and they have since been promoting this common work as much as possible.
It was only at this time that the preparation of the joint project could be commenced, supplemented (at our request) by the Regional Development Office of Fórum Institute and Lajos Tuba who accepted his role as a project writer and co-organizer. His efficient work helped the museum prepare a joint project for the renovation of the two literary memorial sites (in Dolná Strehová and Csesztve). The joint project, completed by 2009, was submitted for assessment to the technical committee supervised by the Joint Technical Office of the European Union in Budapest, an office established for the applications invited in the 2007-2013 period in Hungarian-Slovakian Crossborder Cooperation. Unfortunately, the application did not meet with the satisfaction of the technical committee in 2009. But the Slovak and Hungarian parties did not give up. The work was continued, the complained parts were supervised, the missing parts supplemented, and we submitted another application in the second round in 2010.
Both sites (Dolná Strehová and Csesztve) were immensely happy when we learnt that our application met with success.
The complete renovation of the Madách Manor House in Dolná Strehová began from 1 October 2010, based on crossborder cooperation project HUSK/0901/1.3.1./0007 “Our common heritage: Madách – Spoločné dedičstvo: Madách”. This implies the revival of not only the manor house in Dolná Strehová but also the Madách mansion in Csesztve, on the other side of the border, which will both have new exhibitions on show. Completion of renovation works and project closing date: 31 January 2013.
The history of the manor house finishes here, though we must not say it comes to an end here. In the future, once the new exhibition is compiled, the manor house could also function as a cultural centre in the region: completing its programs with temporary exhibitions, various cultural events and conferences, it could receive a professional audience on the one hand and contribute to the cultural recreation of all tourists taking a rest in Dolná Strehová, on the other. Until then, let us live with Madách’s message “… strive on, strive on, have faith…”.
References and sources:
Ferenc Kerényi: Madách Imre, Kalligram, Bratislava 2006.
Mihály Latkóczy: Madách Imre őseiről [About Imre Madách’s ancestors], Budapest, 1901, Fritz Ármin’s Book Printing House.
Menyhért Palágyi: Madách Imre élete és költészete képekkel [Imre Madách’s life and poetry with pictures], Budapest 1900, published by Athenaeum Printing House Co. Ltd.
István Böszörményi: Sztregova 1964 [Strehová 1964] (study), in Acta Museologica Hungarica III, Bratislava 2009, pp 149−162.
Béla Balázs: A Madách-múzeum – a barátság emlékműve [Madách Museum – the monument of friendship], in Hét, year 9, issue 45, p 9.
Mgr. Helena Ferencová: Múzeum bábkarských kultúr a hračiek Hrad Modrý Kameň – vývoj múzea, manuscript.
Materials of the State Archives in Vel’ký Krtíą and Lučenec /©tátny archív Banská Bystrica, pobočka Lučenec, pobočka Veµký Krtíą/.