birth of literature, Funeral Oration and Prayer

Veszprémvölgy - Deed of gift
Funeral Oration and Prayer
Pray codex 2
The birth of literature

Familiarity with the Latin alphabet in the Carpathian Basin was the direct consequence of St Stephen's decision to join the Latin Catholic church. The basic criterion of the birth of literature was the knowledge of the signs of the Latin alphabet. Several pieces of literary work were born during King Stephen's reign. The first authors came to the Hungarian king's court from different countries of the western Christian world. They were all priests, some of them simple monks, others prelates. In all probability it was the same person who composed the Latin form of St Stephen's Exhortations to his son, Prince Emeric, and the resolutions of the royal council, that is, Stephen's laws.

The author's language and his thoughts suggest that his homeland must have been North-France or Lotharinghia, preserving the traditions of the Carolingian renaissance; concerning his presonality, many scholars think that he was Archbishop Astric. The writer of the letter of previleges from Pannonhalma might have come to Hungary from Germany, from Otto III's chancellery, chancellor Heribert's clerk, whose name started with the letter "C". The clerk who composed King Stephen's charter from Pécs also came from a region where German was spoken, since he followed the practice of the German chancellery, headed by chancellor Egilbert. The 1009 charter from Veszprém shows North-Italian lingustic and stylistic characteristics. It was composed by someone, who was born in Lombardy. Historians suspect that he must be Bonipert, Bishop of Pécs. Finally the author of the Veszprémvölgy Greek charter may have been a Byzantine monk.

Soon this range of variety took a more definite turn: during King Peter's reign the great influence of the Lotharighian French - they played an important role already in King Stephen's court - was pushed back by that of the Italians and Germans, though only for a short period of time. From Andrew I's time, however, the role of the French Vallons became more and more significant, the lead was taken over from them by the real French. By the end of the century it was almost exclusive. The board of Andrew I's military leaders consisted of Lotharinghian Vallons. St Ladislaus founded a monastery at Somogyvár, which accomodated only Frenchmen, so it played an important part in French-Hungarian relations.

The specimen copies of the 11th century liturgic books originated from French territories. The influence of French charter tradition started with the Letter of Foundation of Tihany, and finally from the 11th century onwards Latin spelling and pronunciation in Hungary was modified in accordance with the rules of unwritten French spelling and pronunciation. This process reached its peak in the very end of the 12th century, through the work of educated clergymen, who studied at French universities, when it was urged by the crusaders and the relations of the Árpád dynasty. It is also a wellknown fact that Hungarian Latin literature, which was born under Italian-Lotharinghian-Bavarian influence, was totally changed by French traditions by the end of the age of the Árpád dynasty, in linguistic, stylistic and aesthetic repects alike.


Funeral Oration and Prayer

The oldest unbroken Hungarian textual relic is a 26-line funeral speech and a 6-line prayer for the dead connected to this. It appeared in the appendix of the sacramentarium of the Pray codex, at the end of a Latin funeral service. This part of the codex was copied between 1192 and 1195, but the Hungarian text had already appeared in the specimen copy. According to the condition of its language it originates from the middle of the 12th century. Right after the funeral oration there is a similar, more detailed Latin sermon, after the pattern of the Hungarian version. The author of the Hungarian text rewrote the Latin one. He made the text simple, meanwhile adopting all the stylistic elements, from repetition to exclamation and figurative etymology (halálnak halálával halsz = you shall die the death of deaths). This sermon was made for people, who did not speak Latin, but had basic theological knowledge. The speech refers to the funeral, the Fall, and its consequence, death. Then it invites the believers to pray for the dead. The text of the prayer is fixed: it is the word by word translation of the Latin prayer. The Hungarian sermon is perfect linguistically, like a speech which was repeated many times: once someone wrote down the well-known spoken version. This version, however, was not only made for a couple of occasions, but it could be the model of the Hungarian funeral oration. (At the funeral of Charles Robert, in 1342, bishop Csanád Telegdi made a similar speech.) Since it was not common to write down native sermons at that time and the fact that the genre of funeral oration was not wide-spread in Europe then, it is even more significant.