Symbolic Actions and Anti-royal Propaganda during a Political Crisis
On Christmas Eve 1402, Hungarian noblemen gathered in the Cathedral of Nagyvárad, where St. Ladislas’ tomb was located, and swore an oath on the holy king’s relics. They proclaimed thus their allegiance to King Ladislas of Naples and conspired against the ruling King Sigis mund of Luxemburg. By swearing an oath on St. Ladislas’ relics, the conspirators united their minds and forces around the ideal figure of the holy king and knight who became the symbol of a political cause and the embodiment of the kingdom which King Sigismund was no longer suited to represent. The symbolic gesture of oath-swearing on St. Ladislas’ relics took place in the midst of a three-year political crisis (1401–1403) that seized the Kingdom of Hungary as a consequence of the barons’ dissatisfaction with King Sigismund’s measures, which jeopardized their wealth and political influence. By relying on both written accounts and visual sources, the present paper examines the utilizing by Hungarian noblemen during this political crisis of important political and spiritual symbols associated with the Kingdom of Hungary. These included: the cults, relics, and visual representations of St. Ladislas, the Hungarian Holy Crown, or the kingdom’s heraldry. The propagandistic usage of these spiritual and political symbols was reinforced by their insertion into elaborated rituals and symbolic actions, such as coronations or oath-swearing on relics. By activating the link between secular and religious spheres through these rituals and symbolic actions, their performers hoped to attract the divine approval. By discussing such instances, the present paper seeks to illustrate how the ideal figure of St. Ladislas became the catalyzing force behind a political cause.