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Imprinting Identities

Illustrated Latin-Language Histories of St. Stephen’s Kingdom (1488–1700)

Karolina Mroziewicz

The book demonstrates how illustrated printed books played an active role in identity-building processes in the Hungarian Kingdom. It shows the influence of Latin-language histories of Hungary in the areas of imagery of the Hungarian political community, visual representations of Hungarian patron saints, rulers, nobility and aristocracy. These books were and still are influential carriers of messages about the shared past. They were used as an important means of communication and as objects through which models of self- and collective identifications were imprinted. Their long afterlives, due to numerous editions, translations, adaptations and transpositions into other media, gradually unified the historical imagery, thus forming a key component for the identifications of the books’ recipients.
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3. Patron Saints

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The patron saints were pillars of the community of faith, a group consolidated by a defined set of beliefs, rituals and experiences, which was an important component of the late medieval and early modern social milieu. By adding a theological sense to history and a religious dimension to political practices, patron saints joined the collective memory with political and religious performances. The result of this junction was a ritualization of social life, a core space for manifesting and harmonizing its members’ identity.

The cult of patron saints played an essential role in bringing a community together on the different levels of political, social and religious existence. The political contexts and roles of incorporating their cult into the structures of power in order to impose certain identity models is a predominant theme of the subsequent reflections. However, one cannot forget about the numerous other functions the cult performed, such as guaranteeing the individual and collective prosperity, its polemical role or a source of prestige and financial income, and last but not least its offering occasions for the performing arts.214

In Hungary many of these functions were reflected in the illustrated Latin books on history. The literary and visual narratives disseminated by the books stressed the importance of the Hungarian role within universal Christendom, the struggles against heresy and the Ottomans, or they highlighted dynastic legitimacy, the protection of saints, their polemical potential and community-building role. As such, the books could serve as a helpful diagnostic...

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