Symbols of the Hungarian Nation

Description of the photo



The most ancient element of the coat of arms is the patriarchal cross, which shows Byzantine influence. It appeared around 1190 during the reign of King Béla III who was raised in the Byzantine court. On later versions three hills and a crown appear at the foot of the cross.


The red and white stripes were the symbol of the Árpáds and they were first used in the coat of arms in 1202 on a seal of King Imre. This seal didn't include the double cross, only the stripes, and there were nine lions on the white stripes. On the Golden Bull of King Andrew II of Hungary there were only seven lions facing each other, in the middle of the stripes linden leaves were depicted. This coat of arms was used for a short time only; Béla IV used the one with the patriarchal cross again.


When the House of Árpád became extinct and the Angevins came into power, they wanted to emphasize their legitimacy and their relation to the previous royal house by using the Árpáds' coat of arms, the red and white stripes. They combined this coat of arms with their own, using a coat of arms that resembles the one currently in use, but with the Angevins' fleur-de-lis in place of the cross.


The coat of arms with the stripes on the left and the cross on the hills on the right appeared during the reign of Louis I (1342-1382). The crown above the coat of arms appeared during the reign of Ulászló I (1440-1444). At first it was only a non-specific diadem but on the 1464 seal of Matthias Corvinus it resembled more to the Holy Crown.

The final version of the coat of arms was set during the reign of King Matthias II of Hungary in the beginning of the 17th century. Its usage became regular during the reign of Queen Maria Theresa of Austria.


In the following centuries, the coat of arms of Hungary became more and more complex. It included the coats of arms of the territories that joined the Kingdom of Hungary, like Croatia, Dalmatia and Slavonia, and conquered Bosnia, but the so-called "small coat of arms" always remained the central piece. (The more complex ones were called "medium" and "large coat of arms".) The image to the left shows the medium coat of arms official (with some modifications) from the Ausgleich (1867) till the end of the First World War (1918). The outer pieces (anti-clockwise from top left) are the coats of arms of Dalmatia, Slavonia, Bosnia (added in 1915), Fiume (added in 1890), Transylvania, and Croatia.

When Hungary became part of the Habsburg Empire, the coat of arms became a part of that of the Empire, but later it became of marginal importance and during the reign of Joseph II it was omitted from the coins.


During the Revolution and War of Independence in 1848-49, following the dethroning of the Habsburg dynasty on 14 April 1849, the Holy Crown was removed from above the coat of arms. The remaining small coat of arms is usually referred to as "Kossuth Coat of Arms" (Hungarian: Kossuth-címer) after Lajos Kossuth, Regent-President of Hungary. (Foreigners might find it a somewhat misleading name, since it was not the coat of arms of the Kossuth family.) In the large coat of arms, however, a laurel wreath replaced the crown both in the central piece and above the shield, as shown on the image to the left.

After the revolution was repressed, the Hungarian coat of arms wasn't used again until 1867, the compromise between Austria and Hungary ("Ausgleich"), when the small coat of arms with the crown once more became a part of a more complex coat of arms, similar to the medium coat of arms shown above.

In 1918 the Kossuth-style coat of arms was used again for a short while. The Hungarian Soviet Republic in 1919 totally abolished the traditional coat of arms and used the five pointed star on official documents. After the fall of the Soviet Republic in August 1919, the small coat of arms (with the Holy Crown) became official again until 1944. During the reign of the Arrow Cross Party in the end of World War II, 1944-1945 the letter "H" (for Hungaria) and the Nazi Arrow Cross symbol were added to it.


Between 1946 and 1949 the Kossuth-style coat of arms was used, then the Communist regime introduced a new state coat of arms with a layout closely resembling that of the Soviet Union's coat of arms. Heraldically, this was not a coat-of-arms, due to the lack of shield. This symbol, known as "Rákosi badge", was not popular with the majority of the Hungarian population.


During the 1956 revolution, the "Kossuth" Coat of Arms was used again. In old newsreels, the Kossuth badge can be seen painted onto the turrets of many revolutionary tanks fighting against the Soviet invasion in Budapest streets. Although this revolution was crushed quickly by the Soviet Red Army, the new Communist government didn't want to reinstate the "Rákosi badge", and thus this coat of arms was used for about a year.


The new Socialist coat of arms was created in late 1957 by combining the general shape of the "Rákosi badge" with a small crest in the middle that had its entire area covered by the Hungarian national tricolor. This so-called "Kádár badge" conveniently omitted the cross from the non-religious Hungarian worker-state insignia, but it was quickly scrapped during the change of regime.

Since 1990 the historical crowned small coat of arms has served as the official symbol of the Hungarian Republic.

In the first democratically elected Parliament there was considerable debate about the depiction of the Holy Crown on the coat of arms. The liberal opposition party (Alliance of Free Democrats, SZDSZ) proposed the Kossuth-style "Republican" version but the conservative government backed the historical crowned one. After the majority decision the restored coat of arms with the crown soon became generally accepted by every political party and there is a national consensus around them.