Déri Múzeum

Déri Museum

1. "Inhabitants of the Starry Sky" – Archeological Exhibition

This exhibit concentrates on death, burial, and afterlife in ancient cultures. The exhibition consists of three main parts:

1. During a walk in a foggy winter forest, visitors can learn about the general human and social notion of death of the past ten thousand years. The exhibited findings were recovered from areas of Hajdú-Bihar County.

2. The ancient conception of death, burial, and afterlife and the objects associated with these are highlighted inside the Tree of Life in the middle of the room, in the Death Sanctuary.

3. The Tree of Life is connected to the unique Egyptian tomb of a noble man. The tomb itself represents the heavenly residence of the perished, the “Inhabitants of the Starry Sky”. The ancient tomb is filled with brightly-coloured murals, priceless artefacts, and sarcophagus.

The exhibits show the results of the excavations that were carried out in the past twenty years by the museum. The collection consists of unearthed pieces from the Late Stone Age (Neolithic) to the Settlement of the Hungarians (Magyars) in Hungary.


2. Samurai Courthouse

The art of fighting

The Japanese collection of the Déri Museum is regarded as one of the most significant collections of its kind in Hungary and in the world. During the process of collecting, Frigyes Déri was primarily looking for typical objects that were made in the Edo era. As a result, numerous objects of the thriving Japanese handicrafts can be viewed at the museum today. Frigyes Déri’s collection was complemented by material received from Tokyo in the early 1930s, in which everyday objects were found from the end of the 19th and the early 20th century.

The Japanese courthouse from the late Edo period stands in the middle of exhibition space and serve as a framework for displaying different artefacts that represent the era. Visitors can admire the exquisitely crafted samurai armours, swords, weapons, and different objects that illuminate the life, culture of the feared Japanese military elite.

The ultimate aim of the new exhibition is to draw visitors to the artefacts as close as possible by creating special atmosphere, conveying information, and making the exhibition enjoyable and interesting to professionals and to the general audience as well.


3. History of Weapons

Deadly beauties

One of the largest collections of Déri's bequest is the modern weapon collection. Frigyes Déri primary aim was to get more, different types of weapon into the collection. The collection is divided into three major parts. The first part consists of weapons of the Christian Europe, which are primarily from the 15-18th century Hungarian, German and Italian territories. The second, larger group is made up classic Muslim weapons from the territory of the Ottoman Empire and Persia. The third part exhibits the weapons of the Far East; it is the smallest, but the most special part of the exhibition. The unusual weapons of 17-18th century were made Persia and India.


4. Old Gallery

Fine Art Treasures

The Old Gallery showcases paintings from the 17th to 19th century. The majority of these works were part of the original donation of Frigyes Déri. 

The exhibited works display a rich period by showing baroque, neo-classical artworks, and national historical paintings. The nearly seventy artefacts are shown in thematically organized groups. The first group shows exquisite examples of the 17-19th-century portrait painting and its changes in the past two hundred years. The second group consists of still-life paintings, while the third has landscapes and genre paintings. Scenery and genre works are exhibited in a parallel exhibition to illuminate the strong relationship between the two.

In the Graphics Showcase visitors can admire graphics of the old Debrecen. The carefully preserved and beautifully illustrated graphic cards show former and present-day buildings of the city. Some of the old buildings only exist on paintings and graphic cards. The earliest piece, a contemporary aquarelle (water-colour painting) shows the building of the Debrecen Theatre (built in 1861-65).

Works of outstanding painters of the 19th century are shown in the last, the biggest exhibition space of the Old Gallery. The exhibited paintings reflect the extraordinary richness of the Déri collection.


5. Déri Memorial Hall

 “I donate my collection to Debrecen...”

In 1920 Frigyes Déri’s visit in Debrecen marked the decisive turning point in the history of the Municipal Museum of the city. On October 18, 1920, Frigyes Déri was in Debrecen for the first time, and announced that he had donated his collection to Debrecen. Déri’s primary aim was to help his collection to become public domain of the Hungarian culture. “I donate my culture-historical collection - the result of a long, busy life - as national property to Debrecen for the advancement, education of the public, and particularly the youth.”

With the help of Déri’s donation, the Municipal Museum became nationally and internationally significant. The Déri collection represents every classic culture with characteristic and valuable objects; it has works from the Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Chinese, Japanese, Iranian, Mongolian, and Indian cultures. It is extremely rich in weapons, numismatic items, and works of fine art.  Déri’s donation made the Municipal Museum of Debrecen unique among the museums of Hungary.


6. The Christ Trilogy

In the Munkácsy Hall, perhaps the most visited exhibition space of the museum, can be seen the monumentally proportioned work of Mihály Munkácsy, which elaborates the story of the Passion of Christ. “I wanted to depict God who reveals himself in human form.” - explained his intension Mihály Munkácsy, one of the most significant artists in the Hungarian history of art. His famous Christ-series consists of three monumental paintings, the Christ before Pilate, the Golgotha, and the Ecce Homo! (Behold the Man!). The paintings show the conflict between Christ and His accusers, and finally the fulfilment of the Word, Christ’s death on the Cross.

The uniqueness of the exhibition is that Munkácsy could not see his three biblical paintings together. The three pieces of The Christ Trilogy were exhibited for the first time together on 25 August, 1995 in the Déri Museum. Visitors have been able to admire the Ecce Homo in the famous Munkácsy Hall since 1930. The Christ before Pilate has been exhibited in the museum since May 2015.  The Golgotha is currently veiled from public view.


7. The Great Forest

Thesaurus of nature

Visitors can get an in-depth glimpse into the present and past of the Great Forest of Debrecen in the permanent natural history exhibition of the museum. The exhibit is packed full of plants, mounted animals, and collecting tools of the present and the past. The unusual life of hunters, beekeepers, faggot collectors, forest workers come to life through their unique items. 


8. Debrecen Underneath

Tools, treasures, memories, and an archaeological sensation!

The “Debrecen underneath” exhibition shows everyday objects that were excavated from more than twenty premises in Debrecen in the past twelve years. The unearthed items help experts to get more, previously unknown information about the age. One of the main attractions of the local archaeology is a house that was dug into the ground. The house itself is from the tenth century and possesses huge archaeological importance. According to the findings, experts claim that history of Debrecen began 100-150 years earlier.


9. Dobozi Cemetery

Cemetery of the noble 

One of the oldest and the biggest cemetery in Debrecen was at Cegléd Street (today Kossuth Street). The cemetery had three main parts, the eastern was named Rakovszky, the northern was located at Csapó Street, and the biggest was called Dobozi. The Dobozi cemetery was the burying place of the noble Dobozi family, and other people of high rank. The noble Dobozi family was from Kisszántó, and moved to Debrecen in the middle of the 17th century. István Dobozi was a chief judge for thirteen times, while his son, István Dobozi junior was ten times.

In the collection visitors can view unique golden jewellery from the 16-17th century, Sára Dobozi’s bodice with silver fastener, her pearl-decorated tiara, István Dobozi’s pelisse, and dolman.


10. Courthouse of Debrecen

“The truth is not counterfeited, the false is not adjusted”

In Debrecen law was represented by the Chief Judge and the deliberative assembly, the senate, with a total of twelve members. Citizens of the city could only be judged by the Debrecen jury. Citizens of Debrecen were required to lead moderate and simple lives. The most common crimes were theft, fighting, and swearing. Crimes were punished harshly with torture and whipping. As a form of capital punishment, hanging, beheading was used. For the gravest sins, the city could practice jus gladii (The right of the sword). Criminals were executed by the executioner of the city. In the “Courthouse of Debrecen” exhibition visitors can admire valuable objects, such as Chief Judge Ferenc Juhos’s seal ring, armchair, chest, coat of arm of the Free Royal City of Debrecen, executioner's sword, stocks, and handcuffs.


11. The Golden Unicorn Pharmacy 

“Blessed shall you be when you come in, and when you go out.”

The instruments, equipment and furnishings of the pharmacy were donated by Dr. Emil Rotschnek pharmacist to the museum of the Free Royal City of Debrecen. The pharmacy was originally located at the old Czegléd Street (3 Czegléd Street), and was managed by Antal Zeininger in 1772. In 1852 the pharmacy moved to the corner of Sas and Kossuth Street.  The furnishing of the pharmacy is one of the most exquisite one in Hungary. The beautifully-painted walls, the handcrafted hardwood furniture, the extensive collection of old apothecary jars, medicine bottles, various medication containers, scales create an atmosphere of nostalgia of days gone by. The round-arched, wreath-shaped trade sign contains 1772 and the golden unicorn. The furnishing of the pharmacy was exhibited in the Municipal Museum, and was part of the permanent exhibition of the Déri Museum in 1930.


12. Handcraft of Debrecen

God-fearing craftsmen

Throughout the centuries, the craft guilds were formal associations of specialized artisans formed for mutual aid and protection. In the 14th century guilds flourished in Debrecen and played an important role in the economic life of the city.  Different craftsmen provided various products for the citizens. Goldsmiths and binders of Debrecen were especially famous in the country. Craft guilds of cobblers, tailors, skinners, tawers, butchers, soap makers had several hundred members at that time. Members were expected to be God-fearing, law-abiding, and hard-working. The Déri Museum has extensive collection of chests, seals, bowls, records, and other unique objects and documents of craft guilds.


13. Wool Making Shop

The exhibition shows typical Hungarian wool clothing, the guba, and suba, and manufacturing tools that were used by craftsmen. The guba was the Hungarian pheasants’ long sleeveless frieze cape; suba was the shepherds’ cloak (wide sheepskin coat reaching down to the heels). The traditional items of clothing were made of the fur of the Hungarian long wool sheep. During the manufacturing process of guba, wool locks were put into the woven fabric to make it look furrier. The finished guba was brayed (soaked in fast running water) to make the textile more durable and thick. Finally it was dyed black by using bark of alder.


14. Honey Bread Shop

Honey bread, or mézeskalács has a long tradition in Hungary. These beautifully decorated pastries were made from honey dough, and were shaped with wooden moulds by hand. In the past honey bread plates, dolls, hearts were precious souvenirs, and were often sold at festivals and markets. Heart-shaped honey bread was especially popular among the young; it was given as a token of love. Debrecen has been always the centre of producing of honey bread in Hungary. Visitors can admire various honey plates, hearts, dolls, cradles, slippers, wooden moulds, and tools in the honey bread shop of the new permanent exhibition. The spectacular exhibition shows selected works of Sándor Kerékgyártó, a former honey bread craftsman of the city.


15. Craftsmen’s Shop

Traditional craftsmanship is an important part of the Hungarian cultural heritage. The goal of the museum was to create a public space in the exhibition to allow visitors to get more information about the handicrafts of Debrecen. The museum is inviting modern craftsmen to tell about their professions, show traditional techniques, and pass on skills and knowledge onto others. Films will be shown to preserve traditions of local craftsmanship for future generations.


16. The Garden

“Oh, will I have/a quiet, friendly garden one day...”

The literary saloon depicts the changes of the cityscape through the life and cult of the symbolic figure of the Hungarian poet, Mihály Csokonai Vitéz. The exhibition space consists of three interconnected locations related to Csokonai - the Botanical Garden, the Memorial Garden and the Graveyard - these are displayed as imaginary gardens, which serve as places of contemplation.


17. Rise of Middle Class in Debrecen

Changes in cityscape

By the end of the 18th century, merchant families obtained leading positions in commercial life and played a determinant role in the management of the city; the new social elite was forming. With the help of foreign master builders the cityscape was reshaped; the Great Church, the Calvinist College, and the City Hall were erected at the first half of the 19th century.

The Bathhouse of the Great Forest - The scene of social life

Debrecen has one of the most beautiful thermal spas in Eastern Europe. The city considered the option of building a bathhouse in 1820. The classicist building was raised in the heart of the famous Great Forest almost two hundred years ago, in 1826. The Old Bathhouse has represented simplicity and continuity. Today Old Vigadó Restaurant can be found in the building.

Middle Class Saloon

In this part of the exhibition valuable objects bring back the atmosphere of the middle-class Debrecen. Visitors can admire empire style tile stove with porcelain inset, writing cabinets, parchment-framed or leather-framed mirrors, floor standing clocks, Hungarian parade sword with nacre handle, and glasses jewelled by string of pearls.


18. Memory of 1848

The exhibition commemorates the Hungarian Revolution and War of Independence, 1848-49, and highlights momentous events of the revolution in Debrecen. 

In 1948 numerous revolts broke out against European monarchies, in Sicily, France, Germany, Italy, and the Austrian Empire. Following the Revolution of 1848 in Paris, a revolt caused the breakdown of central authority in Vienna. On March 15, 1848 a bloodless revolution abolished censorship in the capital of Hungary (Pest) and formulated a series of demands. The March Laws enacted important internal reforms. After the news of the revolution in Vienna and Pest had arrived, the Chief Judge of the city called the general assembly together in Debrecen on March 19. First, thousands of people gathered at the City Hall, and then representatives of the crowd entered the assembly room to discuss the reforms. Finally the municipal press was declared free, National Guard was set up, and Lajos Kossuth (famous Hungarian politician) was elected as an honorary citizen of the city of Debrecen.

Visitors can admire this glorious period of the Hungarian history through clothes, relics, personal items, and pictures.


19. Cult of the Historian

Life and work of Kálmán Thaly

Kálmán Thaly was one of the most influential figures of late 19th century. He spent most of his life in Pozsony (Bratislava) and Budapest. He was among the founders of The Hungarian Historical Society, and also the periodical Centuries. As early as the 1860s, he was interested in the history of the Rákóczi War. His dedication is marked by the birth of more than fifty works. The politician, historian, poet, was also a member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences from 1881 for 27 years, until his death. The city honoured him with honorary citizenship in 1903. 


20. Museum in the Museum

The Treasure of Knowledge

In Debrecen the first museal public collection, the Municipal Museum was opened quite late, in 1902. The original collection of the museum consisted of 2500 valuable items; all of them were the donation of a local jeweller, Arthur Löfkovits. On 22 May, 1905 on the hundredth anniversary of the death of Mihály Vitéz Csokonai (famous Hungarian poet), the Municipal Museum was opened on the first floor of the school in Füvészkert Street. The collections were rich and complex, consisting of books, manuscripts, and works of fine art. The last section of the new local history exhibition at Déri Museum recalls the early twentieth century atmosphere of the museum.


21. Chambers of Wonder

Wunderkammer (also known as Cabinets of curiosities, Cabinets of Wonder, and wonder-rooms) emerged in the Renaissance Europe in the sixteenth century. The Wunderkammer consisted of collections of rare and exotic objects, such as minerals, unique plants, animals and valuable works of fine art, technological wonders, ethnic, religious and historical relics, as well. The intention of the collector was to unite works of man and nature in its own way by assembling a universal collection, showing a microcosm of the world, a miniature model of the universe. The Wunderkammer of the Déri Museum hosts a fine collection of precious glasses and minerals.