The Battle of Mogyoród, 14 March, 1074

The beginning of a new era: the Battle of Mogyoród

The history of the Árpád dynasty is full of twists and turns, fierce battles, and bloody confrontations. The primogeniture, or the new order of succession, which Prince Géza and Saint István wanted to establish, according to which the first-born son inherits the rank of his parents, could only be consolidated in the Kingdom of Hungary after a long process.

The Battle of Mogyoród (in the Illuminated Chronicle)

According to this, while in the past the leadership of the House of Árpád was given to the most capable person, since the reign of Saint István the royal supremacy passed from father to son, at least in principle. However, the centuries-long struggle between the heirs of the House of Árpád reveals a consistent path followed by all the members of the dynasty. This is the path set by Saint István, a Christian monarchy and a new power structure organized on a territorial basis. Ironically, it is the descendants of the branch of Vazul, blinded by King István, who will be the ones to continue and complete his work.

The disputes for the throne, known since the 11th century, were started precisely to expropriate the power among the family members of the dynasty. To prevent hostilities, the duchy was created as a temporary solution, whose symbol was the sword, as it was a symbolic title of the supreme leader. In the past, the heir to the throne was called “dux,” meaning “prince,” and later “lord,” (“úr”) from which the name “lordship,” (“uruszág”) meaning “kingdom,” (“ország”) was derived.

The territories of the dukedom were not located in a single block within the kingdom but were scattered (e.g. the territories of Nyitra, Bihar, Nyírség), independent of the dukedom system, thus eliminating the possibility of it providing a basis for possible rebellion. The ducal title was intended to prepare the heir to the throne for rule, it could hold a smaller court, and it also allowed the holder of the title to have narrower political connections. However, in the absence of a male heir, cousins held the office, which sometimes led to complications.

The onlY contemporary portrey of St. István is on his coronation cloak

Soon after St. István’s death, Vazul’s sons, András and Béla, took over and continued to build the Christian kingdom. The last of the supposedly pagan rebellions was crushed with a heavy hand. After Béla’s death, András’ son Salamon became king. Béla’s sons László and Géza initially supported their cousin King Salamon and fought together against invading enemies (the Pechenegs, Byzantines, Bulgarians). The deterioration of their relationship came just after a successful campaign, after the capture of Nándorfehérvár (Belgrade). According to the Illuminated Chronicle, it was not only the distribution of the spoils of war but also the surrendering enemy’s respect for Prince Géza that angered the young king. As usual, there was an instigating nobleman in the background in the person of Comes Vid, who constantly poisoned the king’s mind and incited the belligerent and ambitious Salamon against the princes.

Vid incites Salamon against Géza I (Chronicon Pictum)

The tense relationship soon escalated into actual military events. The first battle took place in the Kemej region, northeast of Szolnok. Even though his brother and the promised auxiliary troops had not yet joined him, Prince Géza bravely undertook the battle. Moreover, a part of his army, led by Petrőd and Bikács, had committed treason against their master. At the prearranged signal they pretended to flee, raised their shields, and joined the ranks of King Salamon. The king’s commanders, however, took no notice and the traitors were slaughtered before they could defect. After the lost battle, Prince Géza retreated to Vác, where he met his brother, Prince László. According to legends and chronicles, Prince László had a vision in which an angel brought down a crown from heaven and placed it on his brother Géza’s head. This heavenly sign encouraged the princes to continue their struggle.

Exactly 950 years ago, near Mogyoród in the county of Pest, the decisive battle between the Turul dynasty, i.e. the princes of the Árpád dynasty, took place. On one side was King Salamon with his German and Italian (Walloon) supporters, on the other side were the princes Géza and László with their brother-in-law, Prince Otto of Bohemia. The course of the battle is vividly described in the Illuminated Chronicle, which contains many interesting facts. Both armies prepared for the battle on March 13, but the thick and dark (?) fog prevented the battle from taking place that day. Both armies resorted to deception. King Salamon ordered the carters and servants accompanying his army to take the nearby heights and hills as if they were warriors. The royal army was thus in a better position than its opponent.

St. László’s statue in Mogyoród (Photo: Szent László Öröksége)

The next day, after the morning prayer, Prince László was giving an encouraging speech when a strange thing happened: “Prince László was riding in front of his army to exhort and inspire his men. And when he came to a thorn bush – strange! – a snow-white weasel climbed onto his spear and took shelter on his lap”. Surely the comment of the chroniclers was not accidental, we can consider this moment as a good omen. Could this have something to do with Sarolt, King István’s mother? We don’t know, but in any case, the meaning of this beautiful female name of ours is “White Weasel”. Sarolt was the daughter of the Transylvanian Gyula who did a lot for her son, and István should come to power over the rebelling Koppány…

The princes divided their army into three parts, forming wings in addition to the center, but also forming a reserve. Each of the three army corps was joined by three or four reserve troops, arranged in rows of four. This meant a more deeply structured and mobile army that could be mobilized in case of emergency or need. László and Géza exchanged their flags, expecting that the army led by Prince Géza, who had been defeated at Kemej, would be an easy opponent for the king. The ruse worked, and László found himself facing Salamon with his fresh troops and excellent commander. The battle was decided on the side of the princes, and the battlefield was found dead the troublesome Comes Vid, was to be buried as the princes had wished.

St. László’s statue in Mogyoród (Photo: Szent László Öröksége)

However, thanks to the chronicler’s quill, we may be witnesses to a pagan ritual: “But the soldiers of Géza and László, overcome with bitterness at the death of their brothers or sons who had fallen in the war that had broken out on Vid’s advice, immediately dismounted, slashed his chest with a knife, fell on his eyes, and threw earth into his eyes, saying: “Your eyes have never been well nourished with wealth and dignity, now let your eyes and bosom be well nourished with earth.” Connected with this symbolic thought is the speech a few lines above, put into the mouth of László: “…your heart, which longed for the princedom, lies pierced with a spear, and your head, which desired the crown, is split in two by the sword”.

Salamon retreated to Moson and Pozsony, from where he tried to ask the German Emperor for help. However, his allies were discouraged by his excellent policy and he was forced to take refuge in the castle of Pozsony. He was deprived of his royal power, but the princes gave him a respectable allowance. The new king was first Géza, who was given the name of Magnus or ‘Great’, and who was succeeded on the throne by László after his early death.

St. László’s statue in Mogyoród (Photo: Szent László Öröksége)

These battles marked the end of an era, and the Holy Roman Empire stopped trying to increase its influence at the expense of our country for a long time. The reign of Saint László finally established the Christian monarchy and the new order of succession. Although tensions arose between the later Árpáds and their successors, the right of primogeniture was no longer in question. The great law-giving king, Saint László, was a true model of the age, for his wisdom and piety made him famous. He was the embodiment of knightly ideals and was called Athleta Patriae, or Champion of God.

King Saint László

Source: Sashalmi-Fekete Tamás, Hungarian Research Institute, Acting Expert of the Centre for Historical Research

Here is a video (in Hungarian language) about the fight:

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