The Hungarian Knights of the Golden Spur
Military Orders in King Matthias` time in Hungary /The Knights of the Golden Spur
(Hungarian: “aranysarkantyús lovag”, Latin: “eques auratus” or “eques aureatus”)
Few know that King Matthias Corvinus had excellent connections with the Swiss and there were many Swiss mercenaries in his Black Army, too. Note: it was called „black” only later, allegedly because they wore a black arm-band after the death of the king.
Anyway, the presence of Swiss troops in his army explains the famous discipline of the Black Army: they were moving on the military parades and on the battlefield in total silence which was quite strange in that age.
The Swiss envoy in King Matthias` court remarked that there were only 12 people in Hungary who were members of the so famous European order of knighthood, the Knights of the Golden Spur.
In fact, the knights were persons knighted during the ceremony of Hungarian kings’ coronations. It was not a regular knight order, its membership did not result in any special privileges or duties. The knightly title was not hereditary, it was given only for personal use. However, the knights were authorized, to wear real golden spurs, attached to their boots at the ceremony, and they also wore a small golden spur on their hats.
The legend of the knights of the golden spur dates back to the Battle of the Milvian Bridge in Rome, which took place on October 28, 312, when Constantine I (306-337), co-ruler of the Roman Empire defeated Maxentius (306-312), another co-ruler who fell from the bridge to the Tiber during the battle and drowned. Subsequently, Constantine became Augustus (emperor) of the Western Roman Empire, and later on, declared Christianity as the official state religion.
Constantine and his soldiers had a vision the night before the battle, sent by the Christian God. This was interpreted as a promise of victory if the heavenly sign of the Chi-Rho, the first two letters of Christ’s name in Greek, was painted on the soldiers’ shields, to fight under the protection of the Christian God. (“Εν Τούτῳ Νίκα”, in Latin: “in hoc signo vinces”, that is, “Through this sign [you shall] conquer”.)
The medieval chroniclers believed, that the knights of the golden spur can be originated from the “Militia Aurata” (golden knighthood), created by Emperor Constantine, who fought with him in the battle. The late Middle Ages and New Age historians placed knights of the golden spur at the top of the chivalric virtues.
As a result, various societies of the knights of the golden spur were formed one after another. Maybe there was an aim to commemorate the (wrongly stated) year 265 when in Rome 265 knights of the golden spur were created after the coronation of Emperor Frederick III by Pope Nicholas V.
The knighting ceremony took place 19 March 1452 at the Bridge of Hadrian, and the new emperor granted the knights with golden spur hanging from the cross. (Earlier, in 1433 at the same place the Hungarian King and Roman Emperor Sigismund created there more than 200 knights.)
We can see creation of knights as part of the coronation ceremony in the Czech Kingdom during the rule of Wenceslaus II already in 1297 (Knights of St. Wenceslaus, repeated by John of Bohemia in 1311, and Sigismund in 1420, then by almost all Czech kings), as well as in Poland in 1311 (as a result of the Hungarian influence).
The origins of different knights of golden spur may be in some way related to various orders of St George. The Jesuit Melchior Inchofer writes in his work about Hungarian ecclesiastical history, in the year 1045, that King St Stephen created his son, Prince St Emeric as well as several domestic and foreign magnates Knights of the Holy Cross (Equestrem Crucigerorum).
In Hungary, it has been in a habit to knight people at the coronation of each new king by touching them with the sword of Saint Stephan (István).
When Emperor Henry III reinstated King Peter to his throne (1044), several foreigners were created Knights of the Cross in the name of the King, at the Church of Mary in Fehérvár. At the same time, several Hungarian magnates were created by Henry the Knights of the Golden Spur. The Order of the Holy Cross was also greatly promoted by St. Ladislaus, who made several donations for them, and all the villages, that are named after the cross (Hungarian: “kereszt”), gave their names as a result of these donations (Szentkereszt, Keresztúr, etc).
Giving the golden spur was a great sign of royal appreciation in Hungary until the Second World War. In the pictures, you can see some of the knights of the order. Perhaps the greatest of them was the legendary Lord Thury György and Lord Gyulaffy László.
Also, there is a modern reenactment association in the Castle of Diósgyőr in Hungary, they are the Diósgyőri Aranysarkantyús Lovagrend, here is their page and you can see many pictures of them below. https://www.facebook.com/aranysarkantyus/