|The reliquary of Saint Ladislas from Várad cathedral, early 15th century (Győr, Cathedral)|
2017 has been declared the Saint Ladislas (László) memorial year, to mark the 940th anniversary of Saint Ladislas (1077-1095) becoming the king of Hungary and the 825th anniversary of his canonization. One of the most popular Hungarian saints, Ladislas was the embodiment of the ideal Christian knight. He was canonized in 1192; his feast day is June 27.
Ladislas I belonged to the Árpád dynasty and was the son of King Béla I and the Polish princess Richeza. He was born around 1040 in Poland and ascended the throne of the Hungarian kingdom in 1077 after decades of internal power struggle within the newly founded Christian monarchy. He died in 1095, and the two decades of his rule brought consolidation and relative peace, which was further preserved with the introduction of several new laws regarding the protection of private property and the judiciary system. The new cathedrals (Várad [Oradea] and Zagreb) and monasteries he founded, along with the canonization of his predecessors, King Stephen I and his son Emeric in 1083, strengthened the position of Christianity in the country. He died in 1095 and was buried at the cathedral of Várad. After the death of Ladislas, many healing miracles were associated with him and his burial place, and as a result, he was officially canonized in 1192, and shortly thereafter at the beginning of the thirteenth century his legend was written. Várad became the center of his cult and his head relics were put on display there in a marvelous reliquary bust. Apart from individual cult images, the most characteristic medieval depiction of Ladislas shows him in the 1068 battle of Kerlés against the Petchenegs (Cumans), in which Ladislas saved an abducted Hungarian girl. The painted narrative of this heroic struggle is found on the walls of countless Hungarian churches as well as in manuscripts. After the cathedral of Várad was destroyed during the Reformation and the Turkish wars, the relics of Ladislas were transported to Győr (1607), where they are kept today. A number of popular stories and legends are associated with his name, and László is still a popular given name in Hungary.
| The battle of Saint Ladislas with the Cuman, initial from the Illuminated Chronicle|
(Budapest, National Széchényi Library)
The memorial year of 2017 provided an opportunity for numerous conferences, smaller exhibitions and a variety of other events, which are listed on the Facebook page of the year. Now as the year is coming to a close, the results of other projects carried out in the framework of the memorial year have also become available. I would like to call attention to two new websites, which provide further information about Saint Ladislas and his cult.
|Bögöz (Mugeni), frescoes of the church, with the Legend of Saint Ladislas in the top row|
route planner, where you can select medieval wall paintings, for example. The information provided about medieval monuments is well-researched and the image galleries provide great material on the churches. You may want to have a look at Bögöz (Mugeni), Gelence (Ghelinţa) or perhaps Türje - or just keep browsing.
|Detail of the Legend of Saint Ladislas at Homoródkarácsonyfalva (Crăciunel)|
The other website, titled Szent László, focuses only on medieval paintings depicting the Legend of Saint Ladislas, more specifically the story of his battle against the invading Cumans, and the rescue of an abducted Hungarian girl. The painted cycle of this battle is perhaps the most significant contribution of medieval Hungary to the common heritage of the European Middle Ages. The complex and extensive cycle appeared within a short time all over the territory of the Kingdom, and was especially common in wall painting. For well over a century – during the reign of the Angevin kings Charles Robert and Louis the Great, as well as their successor, Sigismund of Luxemburg – the cycle was the most popular painted narrative in Hungary. If we count surviving monuments today, as well as a few examples only known from 19th century copies, we know just about 45 cycles of wall paintings with this narrative – and there are several other documented examples which have disappeared from the walls of churches. This website - developed by the Arany Griff Association (Odorheiu Secuiesc, Romania) - aims to collect images of these painted cycles. So far, they provide information on and photos of 32 painted cycles, which makes it the most comprehensive website on the legend. You can find images of the painted cycles from all over the territory of the medieval Kingdom of Hungary.
|Detail of the Legend of Saint Ladislas at Szepesmindszent (Bijacove)|