Balassa Museum of the Hungarian National Museum
H-2500 Esztergom, Mindszenty tér 5.
tel: +36 – 33 – 500175
“The past is not dead, it affects us” — Mihály Babits
The Bálint Balassa Museum of the Hungarian National Museum is more than just an exhibition space welcoming visitors. As one of the county’s museums with the largest collection areas, its mission is the research, study, processing and preserving of the area’s traditions and heritage, besides playing a highly important role in Esztergom’s cultural life.
Its vast and complex collection includes pieces of fine art, archaeological finds, ethnographic relics, a unique ship model collection, an arms collection, fine furniture, as well as the city-owned, several-thousand-volume Helischer book collection, managed by the museum. All these exceptional pieces serve as source for the museum’s exhibitions of history, archaeology, ethnography and literary history, and for showcasing the lives and work of historical figures, poets, writers and artists who played important roles in the city’s life.
In 2014, thanks to a public contract, the institution was extended with a new exhibition space, presenting an extraordinary selection of the museum’s treasures, the Spectacle Collection, which succeeds the former permanent collection. This special new compilation incorporates exceptional pieces and finds, honouring the work of former generations.
The building is also a home to presentations, meetings of the museum’s friends, and through guided tours, school sessions and craft activities we invite visitors to actively engage in the cultural heritage, the monuments and the traditions of Esztergom.
Several pieces of the collection are regularly on loan in other cultural institutions, which also illustrates the museum’s material wealth.
Babits Memorial House of the Hungarian National Museum
H-2500 Esztergom, Babits Mihály utca 11.
tel: +36 – 33 – 500175
This holiday house of one of the greatest figures of 20th century Hungarian literature was a ource of inspiration for around fifty of Mihály Babits’s poems. The house was given historic monument protection by the National Monuments Authority, then it was placed under the management of the Bálint Balassa Museum of the Hungarian National Museum, before being opened for the public on 6 August 1961, as the first Babits memorial place.
“I caught sight of the real and lively Esztergom for the first time from a boat on the Danube, and it indeed felt like arriving at some majestic, holy royal seat. The basilica reached towards me from the highness with its cross, the twilight spread a gilded carpet on the waves up to the palace, and above it, the plateau of the Castle Hill acted as a wide, festive gallery, where wealthy and enthusiastic primates outlined a Hungarian Sion…
today a cozy view looks back at me gently, smiling, through the glass tiles of my veranda, in fresh colours, like a drawing grid. Saint Stephen’s seat languidly preserves its grandeur and its poverty among diligent mine towns smoking from afar. My sight joyfully glides on the sparkly Danube, from the honourable canons’ houses to the wilderness of the Csitri The first visit to Esztergom, as well as the royal town and the surrounding view grasped the soul of the writer-poet-translator forever. He became close friends with the Esztergomers, and, thanks to a miraculous fundraising, Babits and his wife, author Ilona Tanner gained a second home on the Előhegy of Esztergom.
“I have bought a small hovel from the price of one of my books, from which Ilonka, excited by seeing Lili’s example, wants to start an allotment, thus easing somewhat at least our summer costs of living. In the first week a wall fell, you can imagine the frenzy. Chasing money, constructions, etc… (…) It wasn’t built to stand for centuries, just as a fleeting abode, a swallow’s nest.” Budapest, 16 June 1924.
What started out as a press-house surrounded by a small vineyard, far from the world, was lovingly turned into a cozy “swallow’s nest”, then a haven for the family, what represented the idyllic, the wilderness and the Eden for them. The house was frequented by writers, poets, painters and actors. The small cottage in the middle of nowhere grew into a literary lighthouse showing the right way, and became a creative venue and a present-day place of pilgrimage, as attested to by the autograph-wall.