"O Quam Misericors est Deus, Pius et Justus" - The Order of the Dragon, Crusaders and Vampire Tales from the Blue Danube
“I have had a long talk with the Count. I asked him a few questions on Transylvania history, and he warmed up to the subject wonderfully. In his speaking of things and people, and especially of battles, he spoke as if he had been present at them all. This he afterwards explained by saying that to a boyar the pride of his house and name is his own pride, that their glory is his glory, that their fate is his fate. Whenever he spoke of his house he always said “we,” and spoke almost in the plural, like a king speaking. I wish I could put down all he said exactly as he said it, for to me it was most fascinating. It seemed to have in it a whole history of the country.“ (Bram Stoker, “Dracula”)
|The order patch of the "Ordo Draconum", usually worn stitched on the collar or the shoulder|
|Hermann Knackfuss (1848 - 1915) - Sigismund, covered by his faithful vassal Hermann of Cilli, flees from the battlefield of Nicopolis to the Venetian ships anchored on the Danube and escapes his Turkish pursuers|
While the locals thusly battled to maintain their identity and, more often than not, their very lives, the Westerners seemed to have perceived the affair as something of a light opera acted out along the banks of the Blue Danube. Even a new military order was founded, nothing like the Knights Templar or Knights Hospitaller, of course, rather a gentlemen’s club, the Order of the Dragon. Fathered by the later Holy Roman Emperor and then King of Hungary Sigismund, membership in the Order of the Dragon was a privileged affair. Members were ranging from the Serbian ruler Stefan Lazarevic and Hrvoje Vukčić Hrvatinić, Ban of Croatia and Bosnia, to Henry V of England. Not quite as blue blooded as the other European princes, but equally proud of his membership was Oswald von Wolkenstein, one of the last minnesingers, maybe the last one of consequence. However, the order was not founded as a direct consequence and counter-measure of the disastrous defeat of a Crusader army at Nicopolis in 1396, where Sigismund fled from the battlefield, but after a punitive expedition against his rebellious Croatian and Bosnian subjects, allegedly to suppress Bogomil heresy. The campaign ended in a massacre of the local nobility, former allies who had fought the Turks, and the confirmation of Sigismund’s marriage to the daughter of his most faithful vassal, Hermann of Cilli, Barbara, who was crowned as Queen of Hungary a few weeks before Sigismund allegedly came up with the plan of founding a chivalric order. It might well have been Barbara of Cilli’s idea and with her, another, darker part of local folklore mingles with the “Blue Danube” atmosphere of the order’s foundation.
|A contemporary woodcut showing Sigismund and his dragon knights|
And more about the Order of the Dragon on: