The Representation of the Saints of the Mendicant Orders in Late Medieval Hungary

Thesis author: 
Eszter Konrád
Year of enrollment: 
Duration of thesis project: 
Sep, 2011 - Dec, 2017
Thesis supervisor: 
Gábor Klaniczay
Thesis abstract: 

The topic of the dissertation examines the ways and means used by the Franciscan and the Dominican Orders in constructing, preserving and shaping the memory of the saints and blessed particularly venerated by their own orders in the medieval Kingdom of Hungary on the basis of canonization documents, liturgical books, chronicles of the orders, hagiographic and sermon literature. The introduction and the solidification of the cult of the mendicant saints, however, should not be seen as a one-way effort on the part of the mendicant orders but rather as an on-going interaction between the friars and the audience that included ecclesiastic as well as lay public from quite diverse social layers. Despite the considerably smaller amount of evidence displaying the public’s devotion to the mendicant saints, in some cases it is possible to throw some light on their commitment, for instance in the form of private prayers, donations, church, chapel and altar foundations and dedications, visual representations in churches or in illuminated manuscripts, and records of the public’s participation in pilgrimages to the saints’ shrines or to the churches where their relics were preserved. By looking at both the religious and the secular understanding of the saints promoted by the mendicant orders I intend to provide a more complex understanding of the interaction between the friars and their audience in the formation of the cults of mendicant saints in Hungary between the thirteenth and mid-sixteenth centuries by means of synthesising and contextualising a wide range of records related to the preservation of the memory of those mendicant saintly figures who were venerated either on a local level or had a widespread cult throughout Europe.
Although previous scholarship has made significant contributions to the ecclesiastical and literary activities of the Franciscan and Dominican Orders in late medieval Hungary as well as on their impact on the formation of lay piety, there are questions that need to be (re)addressed, either because they have never been dealt with or at least not in an exhaustive fashion, or because a new examination that takes into account the results of the latest national and international academic research is required. The comprehensive treatment of the local saints of the mendicant orders will permit the identification of these saintly characters and the region where their cults sprang up. By the investigation of the possible reasons for the friars’ special devotion to the Virgin Mary, the early Christian and the national saints, the view will be more refined concerning the way they embraced already existing cults taking into consideration the needs of the local audience. The observation whether there was any trace of the cult of saints connected to the Austin Hermits and the Carmelites in Hungary will answer the question that had been neglected until the present day. The reconsideration of the results of the Hungarian scholarship in the light of the latest research in the field of Franciscan Studies and the assessment and the placement of the Hungarian legend of St. Francis in the Franciscan vernacular hagiography will be a significant contribution to this field. The analysis of the sermons together with the hagiographic portrait of the saints should reveal certain features characteristic of the order an individual belonged to leading to a better understanding of the similarities and differences between Franciscan and Dominican spirituality. The collective treatment of the written sources of the saints together with their iconography will also provide an answer to the question of whether any regional characteristic can be observed in their representation. In addition, the textual sources may also provide insight into the political or religious issues of the time, such as the debates centred on the Immaculate Conception or the stigmatization of saints.
The sources I intend to analyse in my research are primarily written, but I will also rely on visual sources, treating them as an essential part of my work whose importance is equal to that of the written sources comprises the general chronicles of the Franciscan and Dominican Orders, saints’ lives, sermons, hymns and rhymed offices both in Latin and in the vernacular that were either circulating all over Europe and were available also in Hungary or were specifically made for local use or which contain some kind of reference that they were somehow connected to the country.
The approach I intend to employ in the research relies heavily on a close reading of the primary written sources in critical and facsimile editions or the digitalized form of the original texts combined with a critical assessment of the secondary literature including historical, philological, literary and religious studies. For the analysis of the visual representation I will rely on the latest results of art historians.