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Abstract

In the 14th century iconography of St Ladislaus there is an ensemble in which the sainted king is sitting on a throne. The earliest known relic of this maiestas type is bishop of Várad András Bátori's pontifical seal (1329–45). The high priest on confidential terms with King Charles Robert is credited with the renovation and enlargement of Várad (Oradea) cathedral including the erection of new altarpieces and the transformation of old ones. The first impression of his pontifical seal is dated 1338, which marks a turning point in the traditional composition of pontifical seals. They customarily featured the stationary figure of the archbishop or bishop, and later (from the beginning of the 14th century) the patron saint of the diocese with high priests at prayer around him or her. In the middle of the Bátori seal neither the bishop, nor the patron saint of the cathedral (Beata Maria Virgo), but King Saint Ladislaus can be seen (it was the king who had transferred the seat of the Bihar bishopric to Várad and founded the cathedral). Previously, St Ladislaus only featured on the seal of the Várad chapter from 1291. After its release the sedentary type spread quickly. Its extant specimens include a – by now perished – mural in the St Michael church of Kolozsvár, and the starting scenes in three fresco cycles on the legend of St Ladislaus in Transylvania (Gelence [Ghelinta], Homoródszentmárton [Martiniş], Homoródkarácsonyfalva [Craciunel]). The best known examples are the silver coins issued by King Louis I the Great from 1364. Highly distinguished among the relics is a mould for casting pigrim's badges fished out of the Seine in 1894. The casting mould gives us a clue as to what kind of a St Ladislaus altarpiece was venerated in Várad. This conclusion is justified by the fact that a pilgrim's badge always portrayed a votive icon or statue at the place of pilgrimage, with tiny copies of other saints specifically worshipped at the shrine. This applies to this casting mould as well, hence it features the schematic representation of the picture erected on St Ladislaus's renewed altar at the time of András Bátori – and this representation is identical with the picture of the bishop's seal. Concerning the Bátori seal, it was Jolán Balogh (1900–1986) who first hypothesized a Neapolitan link. On the basis of the quite obvious compositional correspondences, one can conclude that this link must have been Simone Martini's altarpiece of Saint Louis of Toulouse (1317) in Naples, which had a specially high ideological importance for the Anjous.

The enthroned St Ladislaus picture was undoubtedly a cultic image for the Hungarian Angevin kings, with ideological-typological roots in the Neapolitan court. The Hungarian branch of the family also adhered to the cults and iconographic traditions of Naples but they tried to adapt them to the circumstances of their new country with a view to superseding and modernizing the earlier models.

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There is a type in the iconography of Saint Stephen which, although it is perhaps one of the best known portrayals of the saint, has nevertheless escaped the attention of art historical research. The woodcut in the Augsburg edition of János Thuróczy's Chronica Hungarorum (1488) is of interest not only from the viewpoint of art history; it is at least as important for the history of ideas and constitutional law, and it was not only in one particular period, namely at the very end of the 15th century that it became a special theme, but it proved to be very much alive in the following century with minor changes. The Hungarian source of the composition is a special theme that appeared in the 14th century, the portrayal of Saint Ladislas crowned by angels which was revived by the art propaganda for display of Louis I (the Great), based on Byzantine traditions and given current relevance. As far as we know at present, the motif of angelic coronation first appeared in the iconography of Saint Stephen on a woodcut printed perhaps in Ulm around 1460-1470. However, the immediate model for the woodcuts in the Thuróczy chronicle was very probably not this image of Saint Stephen but the relief of King Matthias Corvinus on the tower of the Ortenburg castle in Bautzen. Right from the time of its appearance the woodcut was an enormous success. This was due in part to its technique and message but the main reason why it became popular was its extremely important constitutional law implications for the feudal constitution, especially in the struggles for succession following the death of Matthias Corvinus (1490). Since it gave the most succinct expression of the doctrine of the Holy Crown, the constitutional law foundation of the Kingdom of Hungary, and could be updated later too, countless copies and variants were produced in the following centuries, particularly after the appearance in Nuremberg in 1664 of the Mausoleum published at the expense of Ferenc Nádasdy chief justice, right up to the 20th century. It was probably through this art channel that it trickled down later through further intermediary stations into folk tradition although there are only a few oral and pictorial traces of this.

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Authors: Terézia Kerny, Krisztina Frauhammer, Anikó Báti, Magdolna N. Szabó, Netta Nagy, Éva Rimai, Gyula Viga, Ferenc Fodor, András Simon, Zsófia Palla, Bertalan Pusztai and Zsóka Tomán

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