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First exhibition about Miklós Bánffy, the Transylvanian Grand Seigneur

Hungary Today 2023.05.30.

“Posterity has not treated Count Miklós Bánffy with dignity, even though he was the conscience of the nation in Transylvania, which was torn away from the motherland, and a loyal son of his country and his church,” said Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén at the opening of the exhibition “Miklós Bánffy’s Fortresses” in Bonchida, the former foreign minister’s home in Transylvania, on Sunday.

At the event attended by Hunor Kelemen, Deputy Prime Minister of Romania, several members of the Bánffy family, and Csilla Hegedüs, President of the Transylvania Trust Foundation, the deputy prime minister recalled in his speech that the great figure of Hungarian culture, art, and politics started his journey from the village of Bonchida and returned here later to take care of his family heritage.
He said that the Bánffy manor house in Bonchida, “the Versailles of Transylvania,” had been the ancestral nest of the Bánffy family of Losonczi for centuries, and is today considered one of the most important monuments in Transylvania, not only because of its size and complexity and architectural and sculptural qualities, but also because it is inextricably linked to the history of the Bánffy family of Losonczi, ‘known for its political service and its highly esteemed culture, as well as for its artistic patronage.’

Foto: MTI/Kiss Gábor

He added that the Bánffys ‘lived, built, farmed, and created here,’ ‘shaping tastes and attitudes,’ until October 1944, when the last owner, Miklós Bánffy, was forced to leave his home. The retreating German troops looted and burned the building, destroying its furnishings, library, and famous portrait gallery, and leaving it to deteriorate after five decades of inappropriate use. By the end of the 1990s, it had fallen into a state of complete disrepair,” he added.
The Transylvania Trust Foundation had been monitoring the fate of the castle complex since 1996, and then undertook its restoration. In 1999, the monument was included in the list of the 100 most endangered buildings in the world, and its restoration began with Hungarian and Romanian state support until 2001. Since 2001, the building has been under the care of the Foundation, and since 2008 it has once again been owned by the Bánffy family.
He added that during the summer, grants from tenders are awarded to university students, skilled workers, and volunteers to help renovate the castle. The International Vocational Training Program for the Restoration of the Built Heritage won the European Commission’s Europa Nostra Grand Prize in 2008, he said, adding that so far almost 3,000 students from 32 countries have taken part in the program. The foundation organizes creative camps and cultural events to “save and revitalize Transylvania’s largest aristocratic residence.”
According to Zsolt Semjén, the Hungarian government has followed this work with great attention because it is the home of Count Miklós Bánffy, Hungary’s former foreign minister, and because it is an outstanding, universal Hungarian architectural heritage, and thirdly because the renovation “created a school in itself,” as more than 3,000 students have studied within the walls of the complex.


Miklós Bánffy was born in Cluj-Napoca in 1873, studied law, directed the Budapest Opera and National Theater from 1912 to 1918, and was Hungarian Foreign Minister in 1921/22. Throughout his life he worked for a Hungarian-Romanian rapprochement, opting for Romanian citizenship in 1926. The former chief administrator of the Transylvanian Reformed Church District died impoverished in Budapest in 1950. In the German-speaking world, the translation of his Transylvanian Trilogy was a great success.

In the renovated spaces, there are workshops for carpenters, stonemasons, and furniture restorers, and students are also trained in vaulting and restoration, masonry restoration and plastering, decorative plasterwork, and carpentry, he said. The Hungarian Government wants to help young people from the Carpathian Basin and Transylvania to learn a trade here, to learn the honor of manual work, and to prosper and start a family in Transylvania, said the deputy prime minister, adding that the spirit of the castle creates an excellent environment for this.
He said that in December 2018, Hungary provided 400 million forints (EUR 950.000) for the restoration of the main building and the renovation of the romantic wing. This year, another grant will help the foundation to start the restoration of the last crumbling part of the building, the rocking stage, and its use as an educational workshop.

Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén. Foto: MTI/Kiss Gábor

Semjén said that an exhibition on the ground floor of the renovated neo-Gothic wing will pay tribute to Miklós Bánffy, the last inhabitant of the castle, on the 150th anniversary of his birth. The exhibition entitled “Miklós Bánffy’s Fortresses” is the first exhibition dedicated to the former owner, his multifaceted personality and legacy, and the deputy prime minister thanked the Hungarian National Museum and the Petőfi Literary Museum for their professional assistance in the development of the exhibition.

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Via MTI. Photo: Pápai Sándor Facebook

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