Order of St. George

An Examination of the Ancient Statutes


click to view larger image of the same
An image depicting the original statutes, which currently reside in Országos Levéltar (National Archives), DL. 40 483. These images were digitized of a facsimile of the statutes found in Antal Pör. in "Az Anjou Ház örösei (1301-1439)", vol III of "A magyar nemzet története" (The History of the Hungarian Nation), ed. Sandor Szilagyi (10 vols, Budapest, 1895), between pp. 138-139. Click to view a larger image of the statutes (patience on loading, file size: 6.0MB).

The statutes of the Society, c1326, were written in Latin, which was at that time, the normal language for written expression in Hungary before the revival of the Hungarian language in the nineteenth century, in a text composed of approximately 1,700 words in the form of a letters patent.
click to view larger image of the seal
The great seal of the Society suspended from the statutes.
Suspended from the statutes was the great seal of the Fraternal Society of St. George, which depicts St. George mounted on a horse slaying the dragon under the horse's hooves as depicted on the right.

The statutes consist of a prologue followed by twenty-seven items. The prologue in these statutes explains the actions of the founders in terms of generally accepted principles of the time and explains these in grandiose language. It lists those important individuals who were present when the statutes were adopted who included the Archbishop of Esztergom, Primate of Hungary and seven other Hungarian bishops. The statutes goes on to state the highest ideals of Christianity, creating a fraternal union to defend the king and the Holy Crown of the realm from their faithless enemies. The founders refer to themselves as the "universitas societatis fraternalis militiae Sancti Georgii insigniti" - "The Community of the Fraternal Society of knighthood named for the notable Saint George". However, later it is referred to as "societatem beati Georgii" and after this, it is called "societate beati Georgii Martyris" - "the Society of the Blessed George the Martyr", and elsewhere, simply as "fraternalis societas" or the "Fraternal Society".

click to view larger image of the same
A close-up of a portion of a fold in the statutes.
Following the prologue are 27 items detailing the religious or moral obligations of the members, obligations to one another, the habit to be worn by its members, obligations to the Monday meal and other weekly obligations. There is text describing the judgement of members who fail to observe the statutes. Interestingly, membership was limited to "knights", referring to the brothers combined with the use of the term "knighthood" implying that only those who were "dubbed" as knights were permitted into the order.

There is no information concerning the length of time that the statutes were stored folded, but folded they were, which caused the poor condition of the manuscript along the fold lines, whereby, the text is badly worn and therefore, difficult to ascertain the exact text. Although there may be techniques to enhance the text using chemical compounds, the fear would be that the document may be irreversably damaged further. This explains why the transcriptions known to have been published may not agree with one another. At this time, there are four known transcriptions that have been published, and are the following:

  1. György Fejér (1766–1851). "Codex diplomaticus Hungariae ecclesiasticus ac civilis" (Budae, 1832), VIII/3, no. L., pp. 163-170.
  2. Antal Pör. in "Az Anjou Ház örösei (1301-1439)", vol III of "A magyar nemzet története" (The History of the Hungarian Nation), ed. Sandor Szilagyi (10 vfols, Budapest, 1895), between pp. 138-139.
  3. Veszprémy László. "Az Anjou-Kori Lovagság Kérdései. A Szent György-lovagrend alapítása". Hadtörténelmi Közlemények (Military History Journal), 107. évfolyam. 1994. 1.szám, 3-11. p.
  4. Rácz György. "A Szent György Lovagrend alapszabályai 1326. április 24. - Latin átirat" Budapest, 2008. (Magyar Történelmi Archivum) Archív Kiadó.
An additional exceptional resource can be found online at the Magyar Országos Levéltár (Hungarian Archives) which offers a utility which provides a detailed view of the digitized statutes, and which possesses a feature to adjust the magnification allowing the reader to view the original written text in great detail. The link follows:
 
Dr. Rácz György. "A Szent György-rend alapítólevele". DL. 40 483. Magyar Országos Levéltár (Hungarian Archives).

Examination of the Latin Transcriptions and Translations of the Statutes

The following pages will present both the Latin transcriptions available to us from the publications highlighted above accompanied with an English translation and comparative presentation. There are four presentations, one per published transcription. Each presentation will display an online transcription extracted from the publication as is. Links to copies of the publication may be included in each of the presentations. Accompanying the transcription will be the translation of the statutes performed by collaborative work by Canadian individuals possessing Latin expertise, which was done based on a comparative analysis on the transcriptions, hence, the minor disagreements between the English translation version resident in other Order of St. George sites, and our translation. To access the version of interest, click on the link of interest following:

  • Examination of the transcription by György Fejér. This presentation includes a pdf file containing scans of the pages sourced from the codex indicated. The transcription was sourced online from the Hathi Trust Digital Library.
  • Examination of the transcription by Antal Pör. This presentation includes a facsimile of the statutes, a copy of his original transcription, and a copy of his original translation of the statutes into Hungarian, and a translation of the Hungarian text into English. This material was sourced from a copy of an original publication from personal library.
  • Research by Veszprémy László. This presentation includes the article authored by Professor László of his study and questions pertaining to the age of chivalry in Anjou with respect to the Knights of St. George Society.
  • Examination of the transcription by Dr. Rácz György. This presentation includes a pdf file containing Dr. Rácz György's version of his transcription in 2008, his Hungarian translation of the statutes and an English translation.

Conclusions

The English translation found on the UK site, is surmised to be derived from the Hungarian translation by Antal Pör. The analysis of the English translation with that of the Hungarian translation appears to be relatively consistent, the statements mapping between the English and Hungarian translations are fairly close, with some minor differences or deviations found in the English translation. The translation from Latin to Hungarian, followed by a translation from Hungarian to English may introduce cultural biases resulting in a translation which is more removed from the original Latin text. However, this cannot be proven without the original works being made available. It was decided by the Order of St. George, Canadian Priory to work on our own English translation directly from the Latin text transcribed by Fejér, Pör, László and György by colleagues who are students of the Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Toronto, who are fluent in Latin as that is the requirement for Medieval Studies. The resulting English transation by Ms. Ariella Elema, a student of that department, and who is nearing the completion of her dissertation, is included on this website.

The challenge of producing a complete English translation is that the source (the Latin enscription on velum) has incurred damage, in particular, in the folded areas of the document causing the original text to disappear over time. Therefore, the various Latin transcriptions do differ slightly, periodically, with text inserted in the transcription based on the "best guess" by the original authors examining the statutes. The actual and correct English translation of the original statutes may never become a possibility due to the damage, and as well, Latin translation to English is NOT an exact science, as different translators may translate differently due to their own cultural biases and influences in the environment in which they matured, or received their education. However, the Canadian Priory will stand behind this English translation and adopt this translation as its "official" Statutes which sets the ethos and culture of the Canadian Priory.


References:
  1. D'Arcy J.D. Boulton. The Knights of the Crown - The Monarchical Orders of Knighthood in Later Medieval Europe 1325-1520. The Boydell Press, Woodbridge, Suffolk, UK. 1987. ISBN 0 85115 417 4.
  2. Dr. Rácz György. "A Szent György-rend alapítólevele". DL. 40 483. Magyar Országos Levéltár (Hungarian Archives).
  3. Veszprémy László: AZ Anjou-kori lovagság kérdései. A Szent György-lovagrend alapítása. Hadtörténeti Közlemények (Military History Journal), 107. évfolyam. 1994. 1. szám, 3-11 p.
  4. Ariella Elema. English Translation of the Statutes of the Fraternal Society of St. George. Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Toronto. March 04, 2011.