Crown of St. Stephen

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Crown of St. Stephen

The Crown of St. Stephen (Hungarian: Szent Korona), also known as the Holy Crown of Hungary, was used to crown Hungarian kings from the 13th century onward. The Crown was bound to the Lands of the Crown of St. Stephen. No king of Hungary was regarded as having been truly legitimate without being crowned with it.


[edit] Fate of St. Stephen's original crown

see more: Doctrine of the Holy Crown

The crowning of István, the first Christian king of Hungary who was later canonized St. Stephen, marks the beginning of Hungarian statehood. The date is variously given as Christmas 1000 or 1 January 1001. It is disputed, whether the currently venerated crown is the original one, or not, sent to St. Stephen I of Hungary ("Szent István") by Pope Sylvester II in the year 1000. In year 1038 King Stephen I died without a direct heir after the tragic early death of his only son, Saint Prince Imre. On his deathbed the elderly king comitted his country into the graces of the Virgin Mary, declaring her Patrona Hungariae (Patroness of Hungary).

[edit] The Holy Crown of Hungary

[edit] Composition

Although some Hungarian scholars attest that the present St. Stephen crown is the original, it is disputed, because the crown's makeshift nature is apparent in many details. The small gold cross at the top is affixed by a screw which crudely penetrates Jesus's stomach; as such it is sacrilegious. Several apostles' pictures overlap each other or are out of order. Thus the crown, in its present form, would likely not have been produced by any established royal goldsmith, and might instead be considered an amalgam of dismantled components. This claim is supported by the crown's unorthodox geometry. Moreover, it requires very large padding inserts to fit a normal adult's head, and its imbalanced weight is extremely demanding on the neck.

According to one theory, the Crown consists of two pieces: the lower Byzantine crown, and the upper cruciform cap. The lower Byzantine (Corona Graeca) may date from the 1070s. Its enamel medallions indicate it to be a gift of the Byzantine Emperor Michael VII Dukas to the Byzantine princess Synadene, wife of the Hungarian King Géza I (1074-75). The upper part is cross-shaped, and may have had some other symbolism. The golden pinnacle cross sits at an angle, and has done since at least 1790; there are many anecdotal theories as to how this damage occurred. [1] From its Latin inscriptions it is known as the Corona Latina.

[edit] Legal personality concept of the crown

King Charles IV
The last King of Hungary. He was crowned in 1916.

The crown's raw gold and jewelry value was assessed at a mere 20.000 gold forints in the early 19th century, but its artistic value and spiritual power are immense. Charles Robert (Charles I of Hungary) had to be crowned three times because it was not until he was crowned with St Stephen's Crown, in 1310, that the coronation was seen as legally binding. Another, more recent, example of the powers of the Crown is the fact that inter-war Hungary — after the last Habsburg king of Hungary, Charles IV, tried and failed to retain the throne in 1921 — Hungary remained a kingdom without a king until 1946.

In such times the Virgin Mary would be considered a formal monarch of Hungary, but this venue was not pursued due to regent Horthy's Protestant faith. Instead the favored idea was Szent Korona Állameszmény, which assigned legal personhood to the Holy Crown and declared that all state powers of the monarch or the government stem solely from the sacred powers of the headgear. A monarch or a regent was formally seen as a mere arm for the crown. The concept was much abused to push Hungary into a retrograde, ultra-right policy of territorial re-gains, which ultimately tied the country to Hitler's Third Reich and ended in severe WWII destruction.

The present day use of the Holy Crown in Hungarian state heraldry and official papers is still controversial with neighbouring countries who continue to suspect that it represents Magyar intentions to reclaim the lost territories of the former Kingdom of Hungary. People of Hungary generally respect the crown as a symbolic reminder of the nation's successful survival through a millennium of turbulent central European history, but are deeply divided over the conservative political movements' efforts to claim specific powers for the crown.

[edit] The regalia in modern times

The Holy Crown has had a lively history, having been stolen, hidden, lost, recovered and taken abroad many times. It was last returned to Hungary from the USA in 1978, where it had been taken after World War II for safekeeping. After undergoing extensive historical research to verify the crown as genuine, it was returned by order of President Jimmy Carter . Most current academic knowledge about Hungarian royal garments originates from this modern research. After the fall of Communism, the crown made its return to the national coat of arms in 1990, the National Assembly choosing the pre-war coat of arms in favour of the crown-less Kossuth arms of 1848-49.

In a unique case in Europe, almost the entire medieval ensemble of coronation insignia survived. On January 1, 2000, the Holy Crown of Hungary was moved to the Hungarian Parliament Building from the Hungarian National Museum. The sceptre, orb and the coronation sword were also moved to the Parliament.

The very large Coronation Mantle remains in a neutral gas glass vault at the National Museum due to its delicate, faint condition. Unlike the crown and accompanying insignia, the originally red coloured mantle is considered genuine to Stephen I, it was made circa 1030. Codices describe the robe as a donation handiwork of the queen and her sorors and the mantle's middle back bears the king's only known portrait (which shows his crown was not the currently existing one). Circular inscription sewing in latin identifies the coat as a bishop's liturgical robe.

The sceptre is considered the artistically most valuable piece of the Hungarian royal inventory. It contains a solid mountain crystal ball decorated with engraved lions, a rare product of the 10th century Fatimid empire. Its handle contains a wooden rod surrounded by very fine wrought silver ornaments. The only missing items are the king's socks which were badly deteriorated and had to be burned in late 1945, after spending a part of WWII buried.

The ceremonial straight sword kept in the Holy Crown collection is a 14th century Italian product. However, the original daily use sword of Stephen I survives in Prague's St. Vitus Cathedral since 1368. The good condition of this short-bladed (60cm ~ 2ft) ivory-decorated normann sword pays homage to the art of smiths at Ulfbreht, a 10th century viking steelwork on the Rhine--see Oakeshott typology. Although the sword regularly visits Hungary as a museum loan, it has never been featured in Hungarian royal inaugurations.

The titular lance of King Stephen I (as seen on the Mantle portrait) was reportedly obtained by the Holy Roman Emperors circa 1100.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

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See also: Coronation | Crown Jewels | Heir Apparent | Heir Presumptive | King | Monarchy | Queen | Regalia | Royal Family

bg:Корона на Свети Стефан de:Stephanskrone hu:Szent Korona it:Corona di Santo Stefano nl:Stefanuskroon pl:Korona świętego Stefana sv:Ungerns krona

Crown of St. Stephen

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