Tar, the fortified church Photo: Szöllösi Gábor

The church, and the castle of Tar

Tar is a village in Nógrád County, Hungary. We can see there the ruins of a fortified stately home that used to belong to Tar Lőrinc, a famous adventurer of the 15th century. The small Saint Mihály (Michael) fortified church can be found next to the ruins. The history of Tar’s life is very interesting not just because he saved the life of King Zsigmond twice but he also traveled to Ireland on a pilgrimage and wrote a book about his visit to Saint Patrick’s Purgatory…

Tar, the fortified church Photo: Szöllösi Gábor

The first written record of the village of Tar is found in the Váradi Regestrum at the beginning of the 13th century. In a charter of 27 May 1254, the Esztergom Chapter mentions the sons of Tyba of Tar, whose estates were on the borders of Bárkány. The description of the boundaries dates from 1265 when the Rátót clan received the former royal estate. In the 15th century, it was granted the status of a market town and a customs post but lost it after the expulsion of the Turks. It was destroyed during the Turkish occupation.

Tar, the ruins of the fortified mansion
Photo: Szöllösi Gábor www.varlexikon.hu

Its fortified church was dedicated to St. Michael; its sanctuary dates from the 13th century and its nave from the 15th. The church interior has frescoes from the 14th and 15th centuries, but the wall surrounding the church is also medieval. You can find Tar on Google My Maps:


Tari Lőrinc, the landowner, had it enlarged between 1411 and 1426 (when the nave was given a stone-vaulted nave). The church, which was damaged during the Turkish occupation and collapsed without a roof, was restored in the 17th century, and then in the 18th century. The church was completely rebuilt at the end of the 18th century (Baroque windows were added to replace the Gothic ones, the pews and pulpit were built and the tower was raised). An exhibition on the history of the building and a stone gallery was installed in the south hall. The Gothic windows were restored, the south door was opened and the medieval frescoes were displayed. The rear two-thirds of the defensive enclosure wall, with its loopholes, dates from around 1500.

Tar, the fortified church Photo: Szöllösi Gábor

The way to the church to the tower leads through a tympanum, held up by two Tuscan-style columns, and this hall was the last addition to the church, built in 1845. There is also a square hall attached to the south wall of the nave, where the other entrance is. It has two stone-framed openings, one Gothic (with the coat of arms of the Tari family), the other Renaissance, and the other Baroque.

The sacristy is attached to the north wall of the church, with the entrance on the west wall and a window on the north. The nave is vaulted with a Bohemian vault, covered by a semi-domed ceiling. There are also Gothic pilasters and a niche. On the north and south walls of the nave, there are wall paintings (dating from around 1370), while the sanctuary frescoes date from the first quarter of the 15th century.

Tar, the fortified church Photo: Szöllösi Gábor

Tar (or Tari) Lőrinc (born: about 1370, died later than 1427)

Laurence Rathold de Pasztho (Pászthói Lőrinc of the Rátót Clan) was an educated knight who spoke several languages. He had the walls of his church decorated with scenes of Dante’s work. His residence was in Tar, the settlement can be found in Nógrád County, in the northern part of Hungary but he is also connected to the settlement of Pásztó.

The COA of Pásztó with King Zsigmond in it (Picture: Kaboldy)

He was born about 1370, and his father, Tari László was a Comes of Heves County so he grew up in a wealthy family. According to a document, he was a quite bullying youngster, he and his brother once looted some peasants, not just once… How he managed to get close to the king is not documented but King Zsigmond preferred to promote upstarts instead of the men of the oligarchs.

King Zsigmond (1387-1437)

The fate of Lőrinc is a good example of Zsigmond’s policy of seeking support in the Hungarian (lower) noble society. He conferred various official dignities on the nobles loyal to him to raise their prestige.

The COA of the Rátót Clan where Tari Lőrinc had come from

Zsigmond took the Hungarian throne based on an agreement made in 1387 with the barons who had risen in the Anjou era. In 1401, the barons, outraged at the breach of the agreement, led by the Lackfi family members, turned against the king. Tari Lőrinc happened to be there, and all we know is that he gained his merits when on 28 April 1401 the lords attacked King Zsigmond in Buda, demanding that the monarch expel the foreigners from the country who enjoyed privileges. They threatened to imprison him if he did not. Only Tari Lőrinc drew his sword in defense of the king, and he received five serious injuries from the attackers.

The COA of Zsigmond as Emperor (Picture: Heralder)

After his recovery, he became the king’s confidant for his loyalty. Understandably, his wealth and position in Pásztó also increased considerably. A few years later (1403), a baronial rebellion broke out when Tari Lőrinc was able to rescue his majesty once again. At the time, King Zsigmond was very keen to invest nobles loyal to him with various official dignities, and so Tari Lőrinc became the royal cupbearer in 1405 and 1406, then master of the tavern. Soon afterward, he was appointed Chief Comes of Nógrád, and also the Chief Comes of Hont County between 1405 and 1407.

Hungary (red) in Zsigmond’s age

Zsigmond tried to create another aristocratic grouping in opposition to the Lackfi family. To seal the alliance of this new baronial league with the Cillei and Garai families, Zsigmond married Cillei Borbála. In 1408, Tari Lőrinc became one of the heads of the new queen’s court as cupbearer, master of the table, and chief steward.

Tari’s COA from Kisnána castle (Picture: Szegedi László)

The final act of uniting the royal nobility was the foundation of the Order of the Dragon, of which Lőrinc later became a member. This can be inferred from the coat of arms of Tar Lőrinc and his wife above the southern gate of the Tari church.

Tar (Picture: Civertan)

In 1407, at his request, Zsigmond granted Pásztó town the same privileges as Buda enjoyed. These were considerable rights! There was the right to hold fairs, and then the right to transport goods. The city could grant citizenship rights to tax-paying settlers. It became a place of authentication, something like the notary’s office today. The town had a school and was free to choose its parish priest. The grateful town, according to legend, named a mountain in the Mátra after Tari Lőrinc, called Tari Hill (which cannot be found today, unless it is the same as the famous Tari White Stone Mine hill.) We must add, that the area of Pásztó was one of the favorite hunting places of Hungarian kings. 

Kompolti and Tari’s COA from Kisnána castle (Picture: Szegedi László)

Lőrinc, the king’s diplomat

The House of Luxembourg lost the Imperial crown to the Wittelsbach family in 1400. In Zsigmond’s political activities to regain the title of Holy Roman Emperor, which therefore extended throughout Europe, Lőrinc was an active participant. He was surrounded by the major political events of the day in Europe: the Anglo-French Hundred Years’ War, the struggles to obtain the title of Holy Roman Emperor, and the attempt to end the Western Schism of 1378.

King Zsigmond arrives at the Council of Constance

On 10 January 1408, Lawrence requested and received a royal charter to visit the main pilgrimage sites of Europe freely. He visited Bari, Crete and Santiago de Compostella. According to some historians, he was on a secret mission on the pretext of the pilgrimage. What is known is that he made a pilgrimage to England. This pilgrimage was necessary because at that time the main thrust of English policy was still based on an alliance with the House of Wittelsbach.

Zsigmond in the Thuróczy Chronicle

 In the age of the dynastic foreign policy, this alliance was signaled by a marriage contract: around 1412, King Henry IV of England had a marriage alliance with King Wittelsbach Ruprecht of Germany and his son, the Palatine Count of Palatinate. It was at the time of Tari’s journey that England began to move away from this alliance, and Lőrinc had not yet returned home when English envoys approached King Zsigmond. Some scholars also believe it is likely that he accompanied King Zsigmond on his journey to England in September 1416.

The English alliance did not only serve to weaken the rival Wittelsbach family but could also be a means of overcoming the greatest obstacle to Zsigmond’s coronation as Emperor. At the same time, it helped to resolve the schism in the Church, and could also contribute to strengthening Zsigmond’s domestic political position: the French, who were fighting the new phase of the Hundred Years’ War with the English, were, in fact, supporting Pope XIII of Avignon. Note, that this pope was Benedict, the friend of the Lackfi League, which was Sigismund’s opponent. Zsigmond supported the Roman, Gregory XII. It seemed obvious, therefore, to strengthen the English link.

Pope Gregory XII

 Lőrinc was present at Zsigmond’s coronation as German king in Aachen, the prelude to the imperial title, and from there he went with the king to the Council of Constance. He is also to be found in the further activities of Zsigmond. Also, he attended the synod and may have been present at the burning of John Husz, who denied the new doctrine of the Church, including the existence of purgatory. At this time he still held the dignity of the Queen’s table-master.

John Hus in Constance (Picture: Lessing 1842)

Hungary proved to be Zsigmond’s most reliable support in the realization of his international plans, and it was, therefore, vital to ensure the country’s tranquillity. Thus, in 1412, the king sent the tried and tested diplomat Lőrinc to secretly negotiate with Venice, which was at war with Hungary over the possession of Dalmatia (20-28 January 1413). He must have been successful because the Venetians signed a five-year-long truce with the Hungarians.

The ruins of Tari’s mansion (Photo: Ádám Attila)

On March 1, 1416, King Zsigmond, at the invitation of Charles VI, arrived in Paris with 800 Hungarian knights, where he stayed for more than a month. On 28 May 1418, in Montbeliard, John the Fearless (Jean Sans Peur) gifted a horse to “Lőrinc of Hungary”.

According to the new fashion of the time, Tar Lőrinc made a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela and the purgatory of St Patrick. His detailed account of the latter journey and of the visions he experienced there is a treasured relic of medieval Latin-language Hungarian literature.

Tari’s destination in Ireland: the island of the Purgatory

He reported his experiences and visions here to the Royal Notary in Dublin, who put them in writing. But his memory was not only preserved in the official account, but also in folklore: around 1520, a Latin extract of 13 hexameter lines from a poem describing Tar Lőrinc’s visit to hell survived, and around 1552, Tinódi Sebestyén presumably included a few parts of Tar Lőrinc’s visions in his chronicle of King Zsigmond.

The letter of Tari Lőrinc to his relatives (Photo: Szegedi László)

Accompanied by the much-traveled King Zsigmond, he visited the West more than once, in 1415 he accompanied his monarch to the Council of Constance, but before that, he had also visited Ireland between 1409 and 1411. He was likely influenced by stories of the Inferno in Zsigmond’s entourage when he visited the purgatory of St Patrick, the sulfurous cave that medieval pilgrims considered the entrance to hell.

The Holy Island in Ireland

His visions affected the king, too. King Zsigmond was a frivolous, womanizing person, and he tried to compensate for his “sins” by building a chapel for his patron saint in Buda Castle, the construction began around 1417. According to legendary tradition – which, however, has some historical truth – his decision was inspired by a vision of Tar Lőrinc.

Tari’s mansion (Reconstructional drawing by Pazirik Kft.)

The death of Tari Lőrinc

A document of 1424 lists Tari Lőrinc and his son Rupert together. They exchanged Drégely castle’s manor with the king, for which they received two populous villages in Heves County, Jobbágyi and Szurdokpüspöki, and at the same time, the king forgave them a debt of 1600 gold Forints. The last mention of Tari Lőrinc is in a charter of 20 August 1426, in which he pledged the toll of Szajla, Nagyberek, and the Sirok to András and Demeter of Réde for 40 gold Forints. On 29 June 1427, Rupert, son of Tari Lőrincz, appeared alone before the Chapter of Csanád: his father may have died by then. 

at Tar Photo: Szöllösi Gábor www.varlexikon.hu

On this basis, researchers place the death of Lőrinc between the second half of 1426 and the first half of 1427. He was probably buried in the church of the Tari monastery. During the excavation of the church, burial traces, human skeletons, and a grave lid with the coat of arms of the Rátót Clan were found in the sanctuary. However, the hexagonal chapel of Pásztó, founded by the clan, is also a possible burial place.

Tar, the foundations of the fortified mansion
Photo: Szöllösi Gábor www.varlexikon.hu

We don’t know much about Tari’s wife, possibly she was Austrian or German. Their child, Ruppert was a courtier to King Albert’s widow, also the Comes of Heves County, a member of the Diet. Tari’s grandchildren were György, Margit, Erzsébet, and Zsófia.

The “Hell-Walking” of Tari Lőrinc

Tari Lőrinc later entered the literary world: his “hell-walking” trip to Ireland, to the sulfurous caves of St Patrick’s Island, was sung by Tinódi Lantos Sebestyén.

The COA of Tinódi Lantos Sebestyén

Basically, he saw a fiery pillar, with four fiery men standing at its four corners. He learned that the bed was waiting for Zsigmond and that the four men were “false lords”. He also saw King Zsigmond himself in a “fiery cauldron, with King Mary’s daughter”, twirling about and busying himself with maidens and virgins. Upon returning home, he reported all this to Zsigmond, who had a church built to ‘banish his bed from hell’. Perhaps it is the medieval church that is described in the chronicle, which we see behind the ruins of the castle of Tar.

Tar, the fortified church Photo: Szegedi Szabolcs

The visions of Lőrinc and other pilgrims are largely explained by modern medical scientists as the result of the exhausting pilgrimage (long fasts, sleep deprivation, monotonous rituals) and the natural conditions of some pilgrimage sites (e.g. oxygen deficiency in the case of high mountain-top pilgrimage sites, or sulfur gases in the cave of St Patrick’s Purgatory). Adherents of the religious explanation naturally attribute spiritual significance to the visions.

Tar, the wall of the fortified church
Photo: Nógrádi Várak

Christian believers have always been concerned with the problems of original sin, the resulting moral imperfection, and the following divine punishment. In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, a new element in Christian doctrine emerged in this regard: purgatory, or purgatory fire. The best-known literary reference is Dante’s Divine Comedy. In the Bible, the concept of mortal sin is the only one recognized, and the possibility of deliverance from sin was accordingly limited to redemption by divine grace. For this reason, the soul of man could either go to Hell or Heaven.

Tar, the fortified church Photo: Nógrádi Várak

However, during the 12th and 13th centuries, theology came to the concept of forgivable sin, which can be atoned for on earth by atonement and in the afterlife by a definite period of suffering. The concept of Purgatory was also developed in this context. This gave a man a new opportunity to be freed from sin. The examination of the individual conscience, the responsibility of the individual for his own salvation, became more and more important in people’s interest. Religion increasingly moved away from being a series of rituals: personal religiosity was strengthened.

A sign of this process is the famous Canon XXI (Omnis utriusque sexus) of the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215, which approves the practice of annual confession. The emergence of the “devotio modern” movement is also a sign of the emergence of personalism. The fact that the Roman Catholic Church had no universally recognized leader and organization due to the schism of 1378 also contributed to the strengthening of individual religious practice.

Tar, the foundations of the fortified mansion
Photo: Lánczi Imre

The journey of Lőrinc can also be placed in the process of personal salvation. The work that gives an account of Tari’s visit to the Purgatory of Saint Patrick on the island of Ireland is entitled “A Memoir of the Visit to the Purgatory of Saint Patrick on the Island of Ireland by Rátóti Lőrinc, the Baron and Knight of Hungary”. In reality, however, there is no mention of a visit to hell, because the soldier could only see Purgatory. The work may have been inspired by Visio Wettini.

Tar, the fortified mansion Photo: Lánczi Imre

In Dublin

The Memoir tells how Tari Lőrinc arrived in Ireland. On 10 January 1408, King Zsigmond had a letter issued to his soldier, clarifying Tari’s intentions and asking the authorities that had come into contact with him to help him on his journey. The king gave this letter not only to help him on his journey to Ireland but also to facilitate his visit to the shrine of St James in Santiago de Compostela.

Tar Photo: Lánczi Imre

In possession of this document, after he arrived in Ireland, Lőrinc called on Nicholas, the Primate of Ireland, in Dublin, the capital of Ireland, and, presenting the letter, asked him to help him reach the cave of St. Patrick. The Primate then gave Lőrinc a covering letter to take him to the so-called Isle of the Saints (west of Ulster), where the so-called Purgatory was located.

Tar Photo: Lánczi Imre

The Prior warns Lőrinc that many have gone mad or died in the cave he is about to descend into, so he should only go there if he feels his faith is strong, or if he fasts for 15 days, performs acts of piety, and then confesses and takes the Holy Communion. The valiant man, fearing his physical weakness, fasts for only 5 days, but declares himself ready to descend into the cave.

The Island of Purgatory

The prior, accompanied by a canon and Lőrinc, then board a boat and row a mile south from the priory to the island of Purgatory, which is in the middle of a lake. The lake is called Lotherge in the native language, and Stagnum Rubeum (Red Lake) in Latin. The island itself is divided into two parts. The north-western part is spelt Kernagh, Latin Clamoris Insula (Clamorous Island). It is the realm of Satan.

Claude Noury, 1506: Knight Owein and Prior

The other part of the island is spelled Regles in the Irish language, Latin for Regula (Law). It is dedicated to the angels. Here stands the chapel of St Patrick. The Prior leads Lőrinc here. In the chapel, Lőrinc throws off his footwear and is dressed, in three canonical shirts and a new pair of trousers. The two clerics then sing the Litany of the Dead, together with the funeral service.

At a certain part of the prayer, the Prior leads Lőrinc to the entrance under the chapel, from where a tunnel leads to the Purgatory in an underground cave on the other side of the island. Sprinkling Lőrinc with holy water, the Prior leads the knight through the entrance and then closes the cave entrance behind him, promising to return in a day.

The entrance of Purgatory (18th century)

 Lőrinc, amply equipped with relics, a prayer book, and a candle divided into nine parts, sets off down the tunnel amidst intense

prayers. Below, you can read a few extracts from his vision.

In the Purgatory

During the journey, he sees four visions. The first vision is of two evil spirits who tear at Lőrinc’s three shirts, trying to drag him back to the cave door by his feet.

The second vision is of an old pilgrim who claims that Jesus was a common deceiver of the people, and therefore was cast into the depths of hell. He recommends following him, the pilgrim, in denying Jesus.

The third vision is of a beautiful woman, who resembles the sweetheart he left at home, calling to satisfy his desires. In all three cases, the soldier invokes the name of Christ and recalls his sufferings, thus resisting the tempter.

A pilgrim enters Purgatory (1544)

The fourth vision is of St Michael the Archangel. At first, Lőrinc thinks he is a tempter. However, Michael reminds him that it was in his honor that the church of St Michael was erected in Tar. Hearing this, Lőrinc believes that the archangel is really standing next to him. St Michael leads him to a deep valley where souls are burning in flames. This is Purgatory. Only good works and frequent recitation of the Mass will deliver the souls here from suffering.

Lőrinc is not worthy to see either Hell or Heaven, for he is not yet dead. Lőrinc asks about the whereabouts of his mysterious, unnamed friend, whether he is in Hell or Heaven. The angel cannot tell him. St Michael then leads Lőrinc back to the entrance, where the Prior finds him.

St John of Bridlington in St Patrick’s Purgatory


The Prior then issues a certificate of the pilgrimage made. The Prior mentions that there has already been a Hungarian, a certain Grisaphan, son of György, in the cave of St Patrick. Lőrinc then returns to Dublin, where he presents his certificate, which attracts many noblemen and high priests to his sight. At their request, he tells the Irish notary Jacobus Yonge, who is traveling with him, his story in pen.

St Patrick in the cave

The literary legacy of Tari Lőrinc 

The original copy of the report has been lost. The oldest medieval copy of the codex is held by the British Library. In Hungary, the Gyöngyösi Codex preserves the Record.

There was probably also a folk tradition based on Lőrince, which was incorporated by Tinódi Lantos Sebestyén in his narrative work “The Chronicle of King and Emperor Zsigmond”. The folklore and Tinódi differ from the original in that Lőrinc does not mention seeing King Zsigmond burn in Purgatory. Tinódi, on the other hand, says that Zsigmond was so horrified by seeing him suffer that he pledged the cities of Szepesség Region (Zipt Region in northern Hungary) for lots of money just to build the Zsigmond Chapel in Buda to atone for his suffering. Tinódi’s version is preserved in Heltai Gáspár’s work called “Cancionále”.

St Patrick and the Devil

Benedek Marcell’s novel was published in 1920 under the title “Tar Lőrinc the Hellwalker”. Because of its easy readability, this work can be a pearl of Hungarian youth literature even today, but it can also be a book for adult readers. To mark the 600th anniversary of Tari’s visit to Purgatory, the book has been republished in its original form, without any changes. You can also find the story of Tari Lőrinc in the books of Benedek Szabolcs and Gáspár Ferenc.

The window of the church in Tar (Photo: Szöllösi Gábor www.varlexikon.hu)

In September 2011, the municipality of Tar commemorated the 600th anniversary of the visit of Tari Lőrinc to purgatory with a week-long program of events, organized by the Friends of Tar Lőrinc and supported by the Foundation for the Municipality of Tar, with the participation of local social organizations, primary schools, and kindergartens.

The wall of the church in Tar (Photo: Szöllösi Gábor www.varlexikon.hu)

And what else was left after him? The faint traces of his immense wealth in Nógrád County. There was a small 13th-century village parish church in the village of Tar, which was rebuilt by Tari Lőrinc. The church was largely preserved when the Turks destroyed the fortress of the manor house, the castle of Tar. The ruins of the latter can still be seen today. It is a tourist attraction, with a plaque next to it commemorating Tari Lőrinc.

The foundations of the mansion in Tar (Photo: Szöllösi Gábor www.varlexikon.hu)

Here is an extract from the text of Tari’s visit: 

“A Record of the Visit made by Rátóti Lőrinc, the Baron and Knight of Hungary, to the Purgatory of St. Patrick on the island of Ireland”

(Memoriale super visitatione Domini Laurencii Ratholdi militis et baronis Ungariae factum de purgatorio sancti Patricii in insula Hiberniae) 1411

Description of the island of Purgatory. The entrance

The entrance of Purgatory

This island is surrounded by a freshwater river, which is rich in salmon, trout, and all kinds of fish. The Irish name for the river or lake is Lotherge, which translates into Latin as Stagnum Rubeum (Red Lake); a very apt name indeed. The island is one hundred and thirty paces long, and not more than twenty paces wide. It is divided into two parts. The larger, which lies to the northwest, is called Kernagh in Irish, which in Latin is Clamoris Insula (Island of Clamor). This part is shaded by a variety of fruit and other trees, conifers, som and elder bushes, and other thorny trees, and is filled with birds of prey – ravens, hawks, buzzards, eagle owls, and other birds of prey – which nest and fill it with their terrible screeching. As some books about Ireland claim, this island has been regarded as the domain of Satan and his minions since time immemorial.

And that there are unclean spirits in hell, on earth, and in the air after the fall of the arch-enemy, is made clear by the following verse:

“The hordes of Lucifer left the Sky, the first
descended to Hell, to Earth the other,
And in the cold air runs the third one.”

Among the many evils in that territory, there is a demon, Cornu in Irish, who, except for his wings, looks like a heron without feathers, and his eyes scrutinize everyone repeatedly. When, as usual, he makes a sound like one blowing a trumpet, he announces the death of some pilgrim. The brave Owain has seen him in the same place.

The smaller part of the island is dedicated to the angels; its name is Regles in Irish, Regula in Latin. It is thirty paces long in a south-easterly direction and five and a half paces wide. Otherwise, it abounds in oak, yew, and other beautiful species of trees, full of sweet-singing birds. In the southwest of this part of the island is a chapel dedicated to St. Patrick, four fathoms in length and a third and a half in breadth.

Here the Prior led the knight in, binding him tightly to his soul and warning him not to set foot in Purgatory. But as the knight’s resolve was firm, the Prior consented to carry out his intention. Then, after the knight had taken off his clothes and footwear, the Prior put on three canonical shirts and a new pair of trousers, as was the custom of pilgrims in Ireland, and the knight knelt down on his knees and prostrated himself on the ground.

As soon as this was done, the Prior and the Canon sang the Litany of the Dead over the soldier, together with the funeral service. When they had come so far in this funeral text to the responsory: ‘Deliver me, O Lord, from eternal death on that dreadful day when Heaven and Earth shall be judged’, the Prior lifted the soldier from the ground and led him out of the chapel while singing this responsory.

They took four steps in a north-easterly direction, and then found themselves before a cavern walled and vaulted with stone: this is the entrance to the said Purgatory, which is on the other, larger half of the island, in the middle of it. When the Prior and the Canon said, ‘A day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress’, the door of the cave, which had been closed until then, opened. Then the Prior sprinkled the hermit with holy water and bidden him farewell, he immediately entered the cave. The door was again closed tightly by the Prior, and the knight remained alone inside. When he entered, he marked himself with a cross and said to him:

– May the Lord keep my coming in, and my going out, from now on and forever.- Then he prayed, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner!

And the knight had a candle, which, the cave being very long, he cut into nine pieces, and lit only one of them. Around his neck hung the four pieces of the Holy Cross, with three fragments of the tunic of Jesus Christ, enclosed in a silver and gold beryl, with other precious relics and gems, and a little book containing the seven penitential psalms – for he would be there for a whole day or more! The main entrance to the cave was eleven palms long, three wide, and four high. The second entrance, towards Gebinum, is not more than nine and a half palms long, three and a half palms wide, and four and a half palms high.

Devils torment souls

 The knight’s first vision in the cave

When the knight reached the second entrance of the cave, he immediately threw himself on the ground, and, together with the litany, repeated the seven psalms of penance, for he remained there from about the sixth hour of St. Martin’s day, when he was in the twenty-seventh degree of the Sun and Scorpio, and the Moon in Libra, until the next day was over.

While the knight was thus praying, two evil spirits came unseen and dragged him by the feet to the door of the cave three times in succession, and the three shirts that he had put on were badly torn, and he himself was frightened in every way. But the valiant man was not afraid of these terrors; and not knowing any more sure way out of this great peril, he fled to the embrace of Jesus Christ, by thinking continually of his holy wounds; and in these, as in some secret cavern of rock, he advanced with great devotion, to hide from the attacks of the devil, and fortified himself with the sign of the Holy Cross, while he prayed thus devoutly:

– Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner!

The devils could not resist the sign of the Holy Cross, nor the heart contemplating the Lord’s passion, but were ashamed and fled away.

O glorious Cross, O Cross to be worshipped, O precious tree and wondrous sign, with which to vanquish demons so easily! O sinner, behold the wounds hanging there, the blood of the dying, the Saviour’s price, the Risen One’s scars, the head bowed in humility waiting for a kiss, the heart opened to love, the arms open to embrace, and the whole body destined for redemption! Think how much it is worth!

Engrave them on your heart, so that the One who was nailed to the cross for you may be nailed to your heart! Meditate on them today, which will always give you comfort and consolation, and be convinced that if you engrave them carefully on your heart, no temptation will enter there!

 The second vision of the knight

The knight strengthened in the Lord and kept on psalm-singing and praying. Meanwhile another devil, in the form of a very old pilgrim with a long beard and flaming, disheveled hair, approached the soldier from the opposite direction, with a burning candle in his hand, and, it seemed, gazing at him with unceasing loving tenderness. The soldier was horrified at this, and he interspersed the psalms with even more devout prayers about the incarnation, passion, resurrection, and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ. Then the demon, with wicked envy and envious malice, threatened the soldier:

– You stupid knight! As a pilgrim myself, I must pity your stupidity, especially as I see that you are an educated man and understand various languages. Above all, I am sorry to have heard such tasteless and impermissible statements from you about Jesus, whom you have dignified with titles of the highest dignity. For Jesus, whom you have damnably followed so long with blind faith, was a common deceiver of the people, and therefore will be punished in the depths of Hell forever. Forget, therefore, my dear, your terrible error, and, denying Jesus, follow my counsels: so, no doubt, you will possess eternal life.

The knight understood from the empty lies that all this was a devilish trick, but he did not want to answer him and enter into a prolonged battle of words, but, wanting to defeat the ancient enemy, he repeated the prayer already mentioned, strengthening himself with the sign of the Holy Cross:

– Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner!

Then the devil, humiliated by shame and disrespect, spat on the knight and moved away.

O sign of the Cross to be worshipped, that brings salvation, which always overcomes the devil’s temptation, whose breadth refers to works of love, length to endurance to the end, top to heavenly faith, to which all things refer, subterranean part, to the real deadness of the body, etc.

 The third vision of the knight

As soon as the envious enemy was thus shamed, another came again, in the form of a beautiful, glowing woman, whose appearance the valiant knight found quite familiar. The woman appeared to be cunning, and, jesting, she accosted the valiant with a honeyed speech:

– My dear friend! Remember that in times past, you have always wanted to serve me above all else, and have always fuelled my desires. But we never found a suitable place to satisfy our coveted desires, and afterward, various thorns of pain tormented the depths of our hearts. But now, at last, we have found a time and a place to satisfy our desires!

The valiant man, however, gave no credence to these deceptions: he turned the secret of divine torment over in his heart, and, drawing courage from his previous victories, he beat back the demon with the following words:

– O Satan, the enemy of truth and friend of unbelief! Thy inscrutable cunning knows very well that pilgrims on their journey have no care to defile themselves with their lovers. Nor do I think that you are identical with that woman, for I left her at a considerable distance from Ireland; but I think you are an enemy to the human race, and it is my opinion that if I call upon Almighty God for help, you cannot by your false accusations and pretenses confound me!

These words irrevocably drove away the devil, who, in his great shame, had turned away. After this, the soldier was filled with joy in the Lord, who by the power of his might had completely quenched the fire of carnal lusts within him.

Dear brothers and sisters! As far as you are able, you must curb the lust of the corruptible flesh, which is called the devil’s sword, and which has submerged all but eight souls of the world. How emphatically the wisdom of Solomon warns us to avoid the lust of the flesh: “The harlot’s lips are honey of the flesh, her throat is smoother than oil, but her bottom is bitterer than wine and sharp as a two-edged sword.

Her feet go down to death, her steps go down to the underworld.” Also, “How short, frail, and fleeting is the glory of this body! Tell me, you lecher, where are the emperors, kings, princes, and others who have made love to mistresses? Where are the jewels of those who have enjoyed this abomination?

They have vanished like a shadow, they have vanished like a dream: all that is left in this world is their gold, their jewels, and their rotting carcasses, and they will suffer eternal torment, where their worms will never die and their fires will never sleep. Oh, alas, so dim, so dull, so drowsy, so dark a pit, so dark a cavern, this poor consolation! So long a prison for a little joy! The little mirth is turning into such long sorrow, into such long and tormenting flames, where father hears not his son, nor son his father, nor brother his brother, nor friend his friend!”

The mural of St. Michael in Bakabánya’s church

The Fourth Vision of the Knight

While the valiant man was absorbed in his usual prayers, a man of wolfish stature, dressed in green robes over his whole body, appeared before him, with a red shawl over his shoulders, and greeted him in Hebrew:

– Szlam alecha, Lőrinc! (Which means “peace be with you” or “peace be to you”.)

– What have you come at last? What are you doing here?

The knight, filled with divine awe, gave him this clever answer:

– I seek the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and his Mother, the Glorious Virgin. But who are you who speak thus, and though you do not know me, yet you call me by my proper name? Art thou but an image, or a true messenger of our Lord Jesus Christ, whom I seek and desire?

The angel said to him:

– It is just and fair that you should seek and desire. Some things you can find now, and some things you cannot find yet. I am Michael, your patron, in whose honor the church was built in the village, in which you were born.

But the knight did not believe the angel’s words, but spoke to him doubtfully:

– ‘I rather believe that you are a fallen angel than an ambassador of God sent to me, for I have often heard that the wicked sometimes assume the image of God, and sometimes that of angels.

When the angel heard this, he said:

– In the name of the crucified Lord Jesus Christ, whose mother was a virgin before childbirth, during childbirth, and after childbirth, and of whom I confess that he is truly God and truly man, tell me truly what you are doing in this place.

From these words, the knight was convinced that he was not dealing with a dream image, but with a real manifestation of divine piety. He was encouraged by the Lord and said to the angel:

– ‘I seek the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and of his mother, the Glorious Virgin. And if you are my advocate, tell me your name.

 The angel replied:

– I am Michael, the guardian of the Garden of Eden, whom you have always venerated and through whom you have come. Tell me what you seek and what you wish to know in this place.

With great humility, the knight fell to the ground and said to him:

– Sir! My father! My brother! Guardian of both my humanity! I beseech thee, Father, by the dignity which is thine, have the grace to show me the souls of all my deceased benefactors, whom I have long desired to see, that I may know whether they are in hell, purgatory, or paradise!

The angel answered him:

– The Lord has commanded me that all that you are worthy to see by his grace, you may see in the flesh, but not in its reality. Well, in the name of Iot, He, Vau, in the name of Hakadosh, in the name of Adonai, in the name of Alpha and Omega, in the name of Ab, Ben, Ruah Kodes, follow me!

Then the knight followed the angel to the entrance of the cave, where they saw a large stone with a square face. The angel lifted them up, and then another dark opening opened before them, into which the angel led the knight by a winding staircase, a good mile of the way. At the end of the stairway, a divine brightness appeared before the knight, a cloudy sky and a greenish plain, the edge nor the length of which he could see.

Seeing this, the knight again asked the angel to show him the vision he longed for. The angel, wishing to grant the wish, showed him an incredible valley of fire, which emitted huge tongues of flame. In this fire, innumerable souls were tormented, resembling living men, under the torture of the most hideous fangs. Among them, the brave discovered all his dead, both men and women: parents, relatives, friends, benefactors, and children – all but one. As soon as he saw them, he felt great compassion and said:

 – What kind of fire is this, sir, and what is its name? For I see that all the souls that I have seen, save one, are in this fire in terrible torment.

The angel gave him this answer:

– “The name of this fire, my son, is Purgatorium. In it the souls of those who seek salvation are purified; there is no other place of purification. But you see neither me, nor the fire, nor Purgatory in its reality, but only as the Lord has seen fit and just to give it to you.

The knight continued to ask the angel:

– My Lord and my father! Who are these abominable figures who torment these unfortunate souls and torment them so hideously?

The angel said:

– These are demons, with whom I had my first war in the kingdom of heaven, and whom I cast down into the abyss with their prince Lucifer. But you cannot see them as they are, but only as the higher order has given them to you.

The knight wished he could see the soul of his beloved friend, the sight of which had been strangely hidden from him until now. So he asked the angel to show him his soul, and also Hell and Paradise. But the angel, following his former words, answered him this time also:

– ‘You cannot see his soul, since the Lord is denying it to you at present. Neither must you see Hell and Paradise now, because you have not come here with sufficient humility to have such a vision.

Then the knight asked him with a frightened look:

– Sir! Have I not come here in full confession and in the faith which the Mother Church teaches?

The angel replied:

– Although you have come here after a perfect confession, and having been baptized with faith, as you said, you cannot see them at present, because you did not want to leave the transitory world.

– “You have judged correctly, sir,” said the knight. Then he questioned the angel further:

– Is it possible that those I see here are condemned to eternal punishment?

– “They shall not be punished,” replied the angel, “for there is no hopelessness in this place, as in hell, where the hope of salvation is utterly extinguished. These souls feel from time to time the help of God.

St. Michael and the Dragon, Florence

The knight continued:

– “If you will, and the Lord will let me, I would like to know what this help is that you mentioned.

The angel answered:

– Twice a week, on Sunday, when the Son of God, the God-man, was born, and again on Friday, when the Lord was worthy to die for sinners, I come to strengthen them, and say to them, “God will soon have mercy on you.” Then they cry out with one heart and soul, “Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on us! Have mercy on us as you will and as you are able, for your mercy is greater than our wickedness, however great it may be! Blessed art thou, who art come in the name of the Lord, on high and on earth.”

The knight was amazed at what he had heard, and asked the angel:

 – How is it possible that, despite so many sacrifices of Holy Mass, so many alms, and so many acts of mercy, which I myself and others have abundantly performed for the sake of the dead mentioned, I see the souls of all those whom the mercy of the Saviour has been worthy to call out of the world during the last twenty years, here tormented in this fire?

The angel answered gently:

– Let not your wisdom wonder at the torments of these souls, for many times in the Secret Revelation of St. John the Evangelist it is written, “For their doings follow them.”

– “And how can their torments be more speedily relieved?” asked the angel, who answered:

– “All kinds of good works, but especially the frequent saying of the Mass, will relieve them of their torments more quickly.

 – These and many other secret things did the angel then revealed, which the knight could not tell to the compiler of this work, but the angel commanded the knight himself to tell; and the angel said:

– Follow me, and I will lead you back to the exit.

The angel led the way, the knight followed, and with quick steps, they both reached the cave. There the soldier fell on his knees, lifted his hands to heaven, and gave abundant thanks to the Holy Trinity, the Mother of the Son, the Immaculate Virgin, and to St. Michael, St. Patrick, and all the holy inhabitants of heaven, for the eternal God, from His inexhaustible fullness, had helped him to make this perilous pilgrimage in safety, for the strengthening and great increase of his faith. When he had finished his words, the soldier wanted to kiss the angel’s foot, but the angel said:

– Don’t touch me: you’re not worthy!

The angel stood there like a high priest and said:

– Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made Heaven and Earth. Blessed be the name of the Lord, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now and forever:

– May the blessing of the Lord God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, descend upon you and remain upon you always. Amen. – With that, he disappeared and ascended into Heaven.

As soon as it dawned – about the third hour after noon, when the sun was in the twenty-eighth degree of the sign of Scorpio, and the moon in Libra, the 1411th year of the Lord – the Prior went to the cave, opened the door, and the knight came out safe and cheerful. At the sight of the knight, the Prior was filled with great joy in the Lord, and the knight was received into his house with joy and great respect.”

 Translated from Latin: Boronkai Iván; Translation of the poem: Flóra Imre

Tar (Photo: Szegedi Szabolcs)

(Sources: http://pokoljaro.nethu.net/ and “Tar Lőrinc pokoljárása” – Középkori magyar víziók; Szépirodalmi, Bp., 1985;
and  https://www.irodalmijelen.hu/05242013-1425/orok-utitarsak-tar-lorinc-pokoljarasa-1411 

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