The documents of the Esterházy and Nádasdy families kept in the Hungarian National Archives are an inexhaustible source of Hungarian culture and art history. To this group belong the three batches of sources giving an insight into the funeral ceremonies of the Esterházys in the 17th century. Sources on the burial customs of the Esterházy family began to be published in the 20th century. In the focus of interest was the battle of Vezekény against the Turks in which four young Esterházys were killed on 26 August 1652 including the head of the family, László. Art works connected to his death, such as the weapons and outfit he wore in the battle, his portrait on the catafalque and the so-called Vezekény dish ordered in commemoration of him, were put up for various historical exhibitions. Two engravings of the funeral procession of the four Esterházys killed in action and buried in Nagyszombat on 26 November 1652 and their castrum doloris are also among the important sources. Using the prints made by Mauritz Lang after Hans Rudolf Miller's drawings, art historian Péter Szabó reconstructed the funeral procession in his book entitled Végtisztesség [Last Tribute] (Budapest 1989). The Esterházy family designated several places of last repose for its members in the 17th century. At the beginning they were buried in the family crypt of the Jesuit church at Nagyszombat [today Trnava, Slovakia] built by palatine Nicholas Esterházy. At the end of the century Pál Esterházy had a crypt built in the Franciscan church at the centre of the family estate in Kismarton [today Eisenstadt, Austria]. The first of the three groups of archival sources is the description of palatine Nicholas Esterházy's funeral procession in the Hungarian and Latin languages. The aristocrat died in 1645 and was buried in Nagyszombat on 11 December. The ceremony was organized by eight directors in kinship with the family, the master of ceremonies being Ferenc Wesselényi, captain of Fülek [today Filakovo, Slovakia]. The procession included the troops and representatives of the Hungarian aristocratic families, the council of Nagyszombat, the local guilds, the teachers and students of the academy, the leaders and bodies of the Catholic Church, deputies of the counties and the marches, and the Esterházys. Various emblems were included in the procession representing Esterházy's military rank (helmet, spurs, sword, stick) and public office as palatine (mace, sword). Separate roles were assigned to the flags including the national flag and to two alter egos who represented Nicholas Esterházy the person. The second group of sources includes the funeral procession and costs of count László Esterházy in Hungarian. The procession is very similar to the palatine's: the participants were nearly the same and the funeral ceremony was also similar. However, the written source and the funeral procession reconstructed by Péter Szabó on the basis of the engraving do not tally at several points. The costs of burial were 8615 forints, a large sum in the age. The paraphernalia were mainly bought in Vienna close to Kismarton. The expenses reveal that as was customary, the family and the familiares were dressed in new clothes and the artisans were given large amounts of money. The third source is the Hungarian account of the death and burial of baron Farkas Esterházy. A lower ranked collateral of the Esterházys, Farkas died unexpectedly in Lőcse [today Levoča, Slovakia] in 1670. Owing to the danger of infection, the funeral had to be staged quickly. Since the Catholic magnate could not be buried in Lutheran Lőcse, Farkas was buried in nearby Szepeshely [today Spišska Kapitula]. The funeral was organized by a relative living in the vicinity, the widow of György Homonnai Drugeth born countess Mária Esterházy. The procession included the locally available noblemen and the representatives of the town of Lőcse. The first two funerals in Nagyszombat were monumental, representative events, while Farkas Esterházy's was far more modest. It can be concluded from the 18 surviving accounts of funeral processions that in the area of the Hungarian Kingdom there was a relatively unified custom of funeral culture modeled first of all on the burial ceremonies of the Habsburg rulers.
Authors:Erika Gál, László Daróczi-Szabó and Márta Daróczi-Szabó
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