Ochtiná / Martonháza

Medieval wall paintings in Ochtina (Ochtina / Martonháza) have been the subject of the interest of art historians since the late 19th century, when they have been discovered, uncovered and published by István Gróh. He then also restored them. Later on, Hungarian, Czech and Slovak art historians paid attention to the wall paintings: Dénes Radocsay, Mária Prokopp, Vlasta Dvořáková, Milan Togner, Vladimír Wagner, Katarína Biathová, Ján Bakoš and Ivan Gerát. The paintings have also been mentioned in the General list of monuments in Slovakia as well as in the recently published monography about medieval wall paintings from Gemer by a team of authors.The attention of the researchers was directed, in particular, to style analysis of the paintings, the authorship assignation and their inclusion within the development of the medieval wall paintings at Gemeri. The extensive bibliography has a smaller representation of iconographically-oriented research.Recently, a study has been published focusing on the overlooked iconographic type of Visitation with visible fetuses of Jesus and John the Baptist in the bodies of Virgin Mary and Elizabeth.

Milan Togner described the anonymous author of paintings in Ochtiná as the Master of the Ochtiná´s presbytery and considered the paintings to be key realizations important for the further development of the Gemer medieval wall painting. The paintings were mostly dated into the sixties to the eighties of the 14th century by individual authors.To refine the dating of the paintings, the new data obtained on based on a dendrochronological analysis of the church roof truss is important: the arch and the wall paintings had to come from after the year 1377. According to Milan Togner´s research that has been based on  examination of a wide range of medieval objects with wall paintings, the time series between finishing the building and interior painting does not, in most cases, exceed thirty years.Based on these facts, we can assume the origin of the paintings in Ochtiná between 1377-1400. According to Monika Skalská who has been studying the written sources connected to Gemer’s aristocracy from the period when the wall paintings were made, we can connect the order and the funding of the paintings with Peter from Štítnik, after the year 1358. He was the one who that year most probably inherited most of the possessions after his brother from Štítnik who passed away. The iconographical programme is divided into three horizontal strips on the walls of the presbytery. 

The narration begins at the peak of the triumphal arch by the Annunciation where Archangel Gabriel is holding an incription tape with the text Ave maria gratia plena  and God the Father is releasing a white dove as a symbol of Holy Ghost towards Virgin Mary who is kneeling and reading behind a pulpit. The pictorial narration continues at the forefront of the northern wall arch with the Visitation scene. In the Visitation, the Master of the Ochtiná´s presbytery depicted Virgin Mary coming to Elizabeth standing on a slightly elevated platform in front of a throne with a baldachin whilst the future mothers lean to each other and hold each other´s hands. Both saints are accompanied by another female figures, probably servants. The one behind Elizabeth is pointing to the meeting with her right hand, a woman behind Mary is raising both hands with a gesture of joy or surprise. Ochtiná´s Visitation is less preserved than the painting in Koceľovce, especially the faces of Elizabeth and Mary, but the fetuses of Jesus and John the Baptist are still well visible here. Baby Jesus is directing his glance as well as the right hand gesture of blessing to John the Baptist who is kneeling, his hands folded to pray. His slightly raised head and his glance aiming to Mary´s face. 

Under the Visitation is a scene of Christ´s entry into Jerusalem. As Ivan Gerát pointed out, in this way, a parallel of two arrivals takes place within the Ochtiná presbytery. This point is also emphasized by the localization of the unborn blessing Jesus on the axis, which connects it with the depiction of the blessing Christ on an ass. Directly under the unborn John the Baptist, who is bowing down to Jesus, is by analogy depicted a group of the people of Jerusalem, welcoming the incoming Christ, in a deep bow. On the notional line joining the three depictions of Christ, his exposed and tortured body is shown in the bottom registry in the Whipping scene. In this scene, previous gestures of welcome and respect replaced the drastic display of mockery and humiliation. The paintings of the Visitation with the visible fetuses in churches of Ochtiná and Koceľovce date to the oldest registered examples of this iconographical type in the means of wall painting.The unusual iconographical type is in literature mostly connected with Franciscan spirituality. The Franciscan influence on the paintings in Ochtiná and Kaceľovce has already been mentioned by many authors in other contexts.The mediating role played probably the Franciscan monastery in the nearby village Kameňany, about the existence of which we are informed by the source from the second half of the 14th century. After the Visitation comes the Nativity scene: resting and lying Virgin Mary is watching the sleeping Josepf who is touching an angel showing him baby Jesus sleeping in a manger. An ass and an ox are bowing over the naked baby Jesus. A figure on the right side coming to bow before baby Jesus is probably a shepherd. 

The next scene is the Adoration of the Kings, divided into two pictures in two fronts of the arch. On the first one, two kings on their horses are watching a star with gifts in their hands. On the second picture over the eastern window of the presbytery, the oldest king is kneeling before Mary and baby Jesus. Baby Jesus os blessing the king with his right hand and reaching the gift with his left hand. The angel who had been guiding the kings is on the top of the composition.  He is pointing to baby Jesus with his right hand and pointing to the star above Mary with his left hand. 

The next scene, Presentation in the Temple, is again divided into two pictures. On the first one, Joseph is on the head of the crowd with a walking stick in his hand, a woman figure behind him, followed by Maria Salome holding with a pair of white turtledoves, and, at the end, Virgin Mary carrying baby Jesus. The gentle gestures are impressive: Baby Jesus holding on to Mary´s chin with his right hand and onto her left thumb with his left hand. Mary´s right hand is holding baby Jesus´s bare feet. Their faces are touching similarly to the Entombment scene. On the next part of the Presentation in the Temple, there is baby Jesus standing on the altar with a blessing gesture.  An old high priest Simeon is lengthening his hands to him from the right and Virgin Mary from the left side.

In the middle strip from the northern wall, Christ´s entry into Jerusalem follows: Christ sitting on an ass, giving blessings, followed by apostles. St. Peter with a big key in his hand is dominant. A welcoming crowd of the town inhabitants is coming towards him, placing their coats and palm branches under his feet. 

Next one is the depiction of the Last Supper: Christ holding bread in his left hand and blessing with his right hand. The apostles are eating, drinking and slicing bread. It appears that only St. John resting on his chest, St. Peter at Christ´s right and an apostle at his left hand reacted to Christ´s words that one of them was going to betray him. Judas is sitting across Christ, pointing his finger on himself. He differs from the other apostles by a dark halo, just like his depiction on the picture on which he is betraying Christ with a kiss. It is very peculiar that there are only eleven apostles depicted on the Last Supper picture. 

The next scene displays Christ on the Mount of Olives: Christ is praying, there is a chalice laid on a stone in front of him and apostles St. Peter and St. John sleeping nearby. God the Father is giving blessings from the upper right corner. The Christological Cycle continues with a multi figure composition of the Arrest of Christ with scenes of Judas´s kiss, St. Peter with a sword drawn against Malchus and Peter denying Christ in the south-eastern window coping. The narration continues on the southern wall of the presbytery in the middle registerby similar scenes: the Trial of Christ before Pilate and the Trial of Christ before the High Priest Caiaphas, in which Christ is being questioned, he is standing among soldiers with his hands tied in front of him. The next scene has been damaged by the secundary window, it was probably the scene of Pilate washing his Hands. 

The scenes of the Passion of Christ cycle in the lower register on the northern wall. In the Scourging of Christ scene, almost naked Christ is tied to a pillar and is being scourged by three men. Christ's body is covered by numerous wounds. 

The Crowning with Thorns is depicted on the next picture: sitting Crist with his hands tied is surrounded by four men who are pushing a crown of thorns using sticks and their body weight. 

In the next scene of Christ carrying his Cross, there are - except from Christ and other two soldiers, one of which one is mocking Christ by a vulgar gesture of his right hand - also two thieves who are being pulled to the crucifixion with their eyes tied. 

In the Crucifixion scene, a group of Three Marys and St. John the Evangelist. The thieves of the previous scene - Gestas and Dismas - are crucified one on each side of Christ, with with brutally broken bodies and numerous wounds. The younger thief Dismas, who asked for mercy and his soul is being taken away by an angel, is on Christ´s right. The older thief Gestas is on the left and his soul is taken by devil. The narration continues on the eastern wall of the presbytery by the scene of Descent from the Cross, in which Joseph of Arimathea appears who is taking Christ from the cross from a ladder; Nicodemus with a linen cloth Christ will be wrapped in; St. John and a group of women including Mary. 

The Lamentation over dead Christi scene follows: Mary is holding Christ´s dead body covered in wounds and is surrounded by a group of four grieving women. 

Within the Laying in the Tomb scene, Mary and the group of four grieving women are placing Christ´s body into the tomb, with St. John helping at Christ´s head and Joseph of Arimathea at his feet. 

In the Ressurection scene, the tomb´s stone plate is rolled away anch Christ comes out doing a blessing gesture with his right hand. Close to the grave, there are three soldiers dressed in chain armor sleeping, wearing  helmets and armed with spears and maces. The next scene, Descent of Christ into Hell, has been only artially preserved as it had been damaged by a baroque window. Christ is opening the door into the limbo, taking Adam by his hand and pulling him out of Leviathan´s mouth. Adam is at the head of the crowd of people coming out. 

Over the baroque window in the lower register is a scene of Coronation of the Virgin. Virgin Mary and Christ are sitting on thrones, facing each other, Christ is blessing Mary with his right hand and she is wearing a crown. Angels are standing at the thrones sides, playing the string instruments.

Under the east window is a picture of the Pensive Christ, under the south one are two figures of saint bishops. There is a remarkable depiction of the Holy Trinity with three faces in the coping of the east window. Under it, on the right side – in the window jamb – There is a young man depicted in a medallion, and opposite to him is a young woman wearing a headband in a medallion. The identity of the figures or the reason for their depiction from the iconographical point of view remains unknown. In the coping of the south window is an angel figure holding two royal crowns, the iconography of which is not clear. There are half-portraits of the Old Testament prophets in the jamb of the triumphal arch, and St. Erasmus figure in the lower part. The walls of the triumphal arch from the presbytery´s side are covered by the paintings of Three Marys, couples of apostles and couples of armed men. On the wall of the triumphal arch from the nave´s side, there is a large scene of the Last Judgement scene related to fragments of saints paintings in today attic space over the more recently embedded arch. The center of the Last Judgement composition depicts Christ sitting on a throne (Maiestas Domini) surrounded by a rainbow mandorla, which is held by two angels at sides. There are visible kneeling figures behind them, most probably Virgin Mary and John the Baptist. In the middle strip of the Last Judgement composition, two trumpeting angels and crowds of saints are depicted.  Under them, in the left part of the lower register, is a group of dead rising from their graves.  


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