Ceremonial sword of the Dragon Order
Hungarian treasures in the museums of the world…
Ceremonial sword of the Hungarian Society of the Dragon, about 1433
(Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien, Hofjagd- und Rüstkammer, Austria)
This is the museum’s description of it:
“The medieval ceremonial sword has a gilded two-part ear knob, reminiscent of the oriental Jatagan. Very original is the also gilt crossguard in the shape of a dragon, whose natural shape is playfully transformed into the functional.
Despite the various ends of the monster, the desired symmetry remains largely intact. The multi-tailed tail faces the viper-like bent head, whose deep eye sockets were once filled with color. Between the dentate pines, the rolled-up tongue is visible.
The connecting body center is wider and equipped on each side with two crocodile-like legs. The handle carved out of ivory mimics the meandering of the Narwalzahn, which in the Middle Ages was considered to be the weir of the legendary unicorn.
On the broad, tongue-shaped blade on both sides, four characters and gold etched tendril patterns can be seen.
This is followed in majuscule writing on the obverse by “REX VNGARIE” and on the opposite side by “COLOMANVS.EPS”, each ending with a cross.
This sword is, therefore, most likely the ceremonial sword of 1408 founded by Sigismund “Society of the Dragon”.
Sigismund moved in 1433 to the coronation of the Emperor in Rome and appointed on the way back, as documented, in Verona and Mantua numerous noblemen to Dragon Knights.
The shape and the extremely early etched decoration of the sword suggest that this was created in northern Italy and can be associated with this appointment of the Dragon Knights.
During his lifetime, Emperor Sigismund had his son-in-law Albrecht V. von Habsburg as heir, over whose son Ladislaus Posthumus the sword finally to the later Emperor Frederick III fell.
Currently not exhibited.”
The knights of the Order used to have a greeting when they met:
“O Quam Misericors est Deus, Pius et Justus” (O how merciful is God, faithful and just) In other cases, the knight addressed the other like this: O Quam Misericors est Deus (“Oh, how merciful is God”) and the reply was: “Justus et Paciens” (“Just and patient”)
I feel honored to be connected to a Hungarian Reenactor Association called “Societas Draconistrarum – A Sárkányos Szövetség Lovagjai” (Knights of the Dragon Order). We used to greet each other on our HEMA training as was described above.
A few words about the Order of the Dragon:
The Order of the Dragon was a chivalric order founded in 1408 by Sigismund of Luxembourg, King of Hungary 1387–1437, and Holy Roman Emperor 1433–1437. It was fashioned after the military orders of the Crusades, requiring its initiates to defend the cross and fight the enemies of Christianity, in particular the Ottoman Turks.
The founding document of the Order, written in Latin, calls it a society (“societas”) whose members carry the “signum draconis”. (It was also called Gesellschaft mit dem Drachen, Divisa seu Societas Draconica, Societas Draconica seu Draconistarum, and Fraternitas Draconum.
It was to some extent modeled after the earlier Hungarian monarchical order, the Order of St. George (Societas militae Sancti Georgii), founded by King Károly Róbert of Hungary in 1318, the grandfather of Sigismund’s first wife Mary. Another influential model may have been the Sicilian Order of the Ship, founded in 1381.
The order adopted St. George as its patron saint, whose legendary defeat of a dragon was used as a symbol for the military and religious ethos of the order. The other patron saint was St. Margit; she was swallowed by the dragon but God freed her unharmed.
The aim of the order was to fight the Ottoman Empire, defend the Hungarian monarchy from foreign and domestic enemies, and the Catholic Church from heretics and pagans. It also included foreigners (and non-Catholics), such as the Orthodox Serbian ruler Stefan Lazarević and the Wallachian rulers. Traditionally, the bodyguards or the captains of the Hungarian kings were members of this Order, too. The members were to swear loyalty to the king, queen, and their future sons and to protect the royal interests. In return for their services, the nobles could expect to enjoy royal protection, honors, and offices.
After some time, Sigismund chose to expand the ranks of the Order. The second group of inductees was initiated between 1431 and 1437. As membership grew, the Order of the Dragon came to have two degrees. There was a superior class, which between 1408 and 1418 wore both the dragon and the cross as the Order’s emblem and a more elaborate version afterward. In the first group, the members` number was limited to 24 and they were allowed to wear both the dragon and the cross, while the rest could wear just the dragon; the latter’s number was not limited.
Following Sigismund’s death in 1437, the Order lost prominence. However, the prestigious emblem of the Order was retained on the COA of several Hungarian noble families, including Báthory, Bocskai, Bethlen, Szathmáry, Benyovszky, Kende, and Rákóczi.
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