The intersection of political aspirations and architecture in the funerary chapel of Tamás Bakócz
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The Bakócz Chapel at St. Adalbert's Cathedral in Esztergom represents the vision of the powerful politician and patron of the arts, Tamás Bakócz. Built between 1506 and 1519, the chapel was unique in Hungary at the time for its strict adherence to Italian Renaissance forms. Although it was King Matthias Corvinus (1458-1490) who first brought all'antica architecture to Hungary, its influence was not widespread. New structures continued to be built with a mix of gothic and renaissance forms into the sixteenth century. Instead of reflecting contemporary Hungarian architecture, the Bakócz Chapel is a successor to late fifteenth-century Florentine chapels. Cardinal Tamás Bakócz was Archbishop of Esztergom, head of the royal chancellery, and controlled Hungarian foreign affairs in the early sixteenth century. The king, Vladislav II (1491-1516) was heavily influenced by his advisors, and Bakócz was his principal counselor. In 1506, when Bakócz began construction on the chapel, he was at the height of his power and aspired to become pope. As his rise from outside the aristocracy to his position as the right-hand of the King demonstrates, Bakócz was politically savvy and extremely ambitious. As he hired architects and craftsmen for his chapel, he had them create a monument that would be a lasting symbol of his wealth, power, and erudition. But Bakócz very specifically did this in a manner that was entirely unlike anything else in Hungary at the time. In the building that was designed to house his remains and be his memorial, Bakócz made the conscious decision to associate himself with Italy.