Dissolving: The wild boar

Wild boar from the Anne Walshe Bestiary (early 15th c.), Kongelige Bibliotek, Gl. kgl. S. 1633 4º, fol. 23v. Further medieval boar illustrations here

On 18 November 1664 – exactly 350 years ago – the Croatian Ban, Croatian and Hungarian poet, politician and military leader Miklós Zrínyi (1620–1664) lost his life in the forest of Kuršanec, next to Csáktornya, on the way back from a wild boar hunt. The story is well known to the Hungarian reader. The wounded animal, which seemed to be easy prey, in the end seriously wounded the Hungarian aristocrat, who soon died of his injuries. Many of his contemporaries – not to mention posterity – did not believe it was an accident, and suspected a conspiracy of the Viennese court behind the events.

The death of Zrínyi, 17th-c. engraving, from here

But we also know about more fortunate boar hunts by Zrínyi’s predecessors. On 30 November 1514 – exactly 500 years ago –, Wladislas II, King of Bohemia and Hungary confirmed the rights of possession of nobleman János Cseh from Martonfalva and his brothers Gábor and Mihály. This was necessary, because their charters, guarded in the chapter of Csanád, had been destroyed a few months earlier, during the bloody peasant uprising. The affirmation also included the donation of a new coat of arms. In this, a man in hunting clothes fights using his bare hands with a wild boar, already wounded by a spear. This scene is a heraldic snapshot of an event that took place decades earlier. The human figure – as the initials “I. C.” suggest – represents János (Iohannes) Cseh himself, who, during a hunt in the Croatian forests – in saltibus regni nostri Croatie, as the text of the charter writes – defended with his bare hands his master, Matthias Geréb, between 1482 and 1489 the Croatian, Dalmatian and Slavonian Ban, from a surprise attack by the animal. And the other figure in the scene, the wild boar, seems to have stepped directly over from the medieval bestiary paintings into the coat of arms.

Coat of arm of the Cseh family of Martonfalva, 1514, vol. 3 of Magyar czímeres emlékek (Old Hungarian coat of arms, Budapest, 1926)