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The Triple Mound and Patriarchal Cross in the Coat-of-Arms of Slovakia

The Triple Mound and Patriarchal Cross in the Coat-of-Arms of Slovakia

Veronica Marton

After the 1993 dissolution of Czechoslovakia, a patriarchal (dual) cross atop the triple mound, the emblem borrowed in 1848 from the Hungarian Coat-of-Arms, reappeared on the flag and Coat-of-Arms of Slovakia. In the Hungarian Coat-of-Arms, the triple mound is green, and the central, larger mound has a silver-colored patriarchal cross extending up, out of a ducal (tri-peaked) crown, while in the Slovakian, the triple mound is blue, the crown is missing and the dual cross is white.


1. The current Slovak Coat-of-Arms

It is completely understandable, that a newly[1]-formed country would create or generate national symbols for itself but less so, that one would use the thousand-year-old symbol of its neighbor.

This is a serious insult to the Hungarian Nation.

"The affront to the Coat-of-Arms", [or rather the unrightful use of our symbols][2] has always been regarded as an insult to the owner of the coat-of-arms. The May 26, 1884 order of the Minister of the Interior[3], article 29.722, regulated the use of the small and mid-sized Hungarian Coats-of-Arms. I would presume that current International Law bans the use of one nation’s symbols by another nation even if the colors are slightly changed.

The symbols on coats-of-arms have ancient historical origins; their roots go back to the Middle Ages. In the case of the Hungarian symbols, they reach back to ancient times. "The coat-of-arms is created by the use of shapes and colors following specifically determined rules which . . . states, counties, cities legally use as their respective and immutable emblem, based on ancient right or regal grant. It has identifying symbols and the picture created is incorporated into the shield, so that it becomes accepted as a rightfully worn insignia, inheritable with all its rights. The origins of the coat-of-arms (in Western Europe) can be traced to the age of the Christian Crusades. . . The coat-of-arms was first used on the flag. . . and only around 1180 does it move to the shield. . ." [4]

The dual cross and the triple mound that appear on the Slovak Coat-of-Arms differ only in color from the Hungarian. The question arises: how and why did the Hungarian symbols, the dual cross and the triple mound, that developed centuries ago, migrate to the Slovak Coat-of-Arms? The answer to that is based on the history of the development of the dual cross and the triple mound as symbols.

The Triple Mound

In Europe, the triple mound, as the supporting base for the dual cross, is cited, from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance, as representing the Hills of Calvary.

Throughout the Middle Ages, with the exception of the Holy Crown of Hungary, an angel on either side held up human figures, buildings or objects. The cross was not depicted on a flag but anchored on a base. This kind of base must have been in the shape of the Calvary Hills, the clover arch or a base of steps.

From the 10th century on, following the Byzantine design, the single and triple mounds appeared, representing the three hills of Calvary. "As evidenced by our national currency and document seals, the dual cross, since its introduction, has always been placed on the most unique of bases. Since the middle of the 13th century. . . there has been an impetus to provide the cross with a permanent base. . . on the currencies of Béla IV. and Andrew III., for example, the practice was the base of steps."[5]

The most frequently used base for the Patriarchal cross is the national orb and crown-like arch. "Our oldest relic is the one dénár coin of Andrew II on which the leaf of the Patriarchal Cross rises from a crown… the crown on Andrew III’s dénár is an open crown of leaves."[6]

Some coat of arms researchers[7] explain the transformation of the stepped base of the dual cross or the rounding of the leaves of the crown as the origin of the triple mound. Others attribute it to the Gothic clover arch.[8]


2. The Dual Cross on an Arched Base[9]

The base of the above cross appears to be bowed, but closer observation reveals that the darker and lighter shades of the green coloring divide the hill into three parts.

It is more obvious on the picture of Steven I in the Képes Krónika where we can see the dual cross, the triple mound and the flag.


3. The dual cross on the first page of the Képes Krónika (The Illustrated Chronicle)[10]

Byzantine artwork depicting the three hills of Calvary show the base of the cross, first in a single, and later in a triple mound configuration, the barren land with the skull representing the three hills of Calvary, possibly only the skull on currency and on seals, with a step-like structure.

According to heraldic references[11] the triple mound in the Hungarian Coat-of-Arms represents neither the Byzantine step configuration nor the hills of Calvary but rather originated from the Gothic clover arch. "During the rule of the Anjous, particularly in the time of King Lajos the Great… in heraldic, numismatic and miniature mementos, its basic form was an artistic pointed clover arch."[12] The motif of the triple mound as a base for the cross appears in the Gothic period (in the seal of Zsigmond), the Renaissance (in the coat-of-arms) and in the Baroque period (the medals of Ferenc Rákóczi II.). On the coats-of-arms of the 19th Century, the triple mound represented the three mountains (Mátra, Fátra, Tátra), suitably represented by a rocky, three pointed, high, mountainous shape. After the Compromise of 1867, "The Hungarian Heraldic and Genealogical Society, in 1884… in an opinion handed down ‘regarding the Coat-of-Arms of Hungary and it’s member nations’ denounces the naturalistic representation of the triple mound ‘…the triple mound is subject to heraldic interpretation, that is, the drawing should not be an effort to depict the natural shape of the mountains. Of the three mounds, the two ends shall be the same height, the center mound rising higher, mightier, which supports the Roman style cross’." … The coat-of-arms attached to it in 1896 already shows this stylized, crowned triple mound, which was even left intact by the 1915 coat-of-arms development.[13]


4. Steven I. with shield and flag[14]

The triple mound does reflect the clover leaf but its origin is completely different; the clues lead eastward.

In ancient Mesopotamia, in China and in Egypt, the pictograph of three mounds was used to represent the concept of "country".



5. The Chaldean-Sumerian pictograph and cuneiform sign for "country"

In Sumer, circa 3400 B.C., the triple mound pictograph (three wedge-shaped symbols in Assyria) meant "country, mountainous country, foreign country". The land beyond Elam, the area between the Caspian Sea and Lake Aral, along with the Tarim Basin belonged to the Scythians. The triple mound represents this mountainous land. It exists in the symbols of nearly every people related to the Scythians, and they all use it to represent "country". One of the founding peoples of the Chaldean-Sumerians, the so called Uruk people, originated from here. (This does not mean, that the other members of the Sumerian people, the al-Ubaid and the Jemdet Nasr peoples, did not belong to the Scythians.)


6. The pictograph meaning "mountain" in Chinese and "foreign country" in Egyptian

In China the three mounds mean "mountain", in Egypt the meaning is "foreign country", mountainous country occupied by other people.

In all probability the triple mound in the Hungarian Coat-of-Arms stands for country, going back to the Chaldean-Sumerian triple mound pictograph meaning land, even if they didn’t depict it with the dual cross. This conclusion is supported by the foreign occurrences and descriptions of the triple mound.

The triple mound is commonly used in the coats-of-arms of German cities ending in -berg (=mountain): Triberg, Heidelberg. etc.


7. The so-called ‘talking’ coat-of-arms of Heidelberg[15]

The foreign sources, therefore, reinforce the original usage of the triple mound to represent mountain, land, and possibly mountainous country.

For the most part, in its Hungarian origins, the color of triple mound is green, which also supports the interpretation of mountain and land. The first real example is from Miklós Oláh: "Haec quatuor flumina… cum duplicata cruce alba, e monte viridi enata, insignia sunt Hungariae"[16] (=These four rivers… the white dual cross rising from a green mountain, is the Coat of Arms of Hungary.) Unfortunately he does not mention which four rivers and which mountains it refers to.

The comparison of the three mounds to Hungary’s three biggest mountains first appears from Macedo Antonius, a Jesuit Priest from Nagyszombat (1687); unfortunately he does not mention the names of the mountains either. By the 17th century, József Koller[17] refers to Macedo’s description as common knowledge: "Alteram scuti partem Montges Regni praecipui, iique summi insigniunt. Nomen illis: Tatra, Fatra, Matra…" (On the other part of the shield, the largest mountains of the kingdom, were depicted. Their names: Tátra, Fátra, Mátra). This description was widely known and accepted by the 18th and 19th centuries and it is even common knowledge today.

Equating the triple mound to Historic Hungary’s three largest mountains is acceptable insofar as the basic meaning really is "mountain". If it occurs in a coat-of-arms, and if the original meaning represents "country", it refers to a mountainous country. This is not contradicted, even by the dual cross described in the Chaldean-Sumerian language as the upper region of the sky because, if the cross is standing on the triple mound which represents country, then the combined meaning of the two: the joining together of country, the land (earth) and the sky (heaven).

Therefore the triple mound, meaning country, with the dual cross creating a link to God on top of it, appeared several millennia ago in Chaldean-Sumerian pictographs. Its appearance on flags suggests that the depicted country is God’s country. And Hungary truly is just that, since, before his death, King Steven I. offered our home(land) to the protection of Our Lady of Hungary, the Blessed Virgin.

How did the symbols of Hungary appear on the Slovak Coat-of-Arms?

The dual cross and triple mound of the Hungarian Coat-of-Arms were expropriated by representatives of the pursuit of Slovak nationalism as far back as the 19th century. They did nothing more than lift the two images from the Hungarian Coat-of-Arms and recolor them. 

The creation of Tóth-ism (Slovakism)

In the 1800’s the Slovak writers still considered the Tátra to be a Hungarian mountain. The French, Swiss, Italian and German Alpine cult is connected to the Tátra worship of the Tóths. The Slovak nationalism of the 19th century was bold enough to use the Tátra Mountain as a Slavic and Slovak symbol. By 1814, the Tátra was the embodiment of Slovak thought. The basic theme of Safarik’s[18] poetry is the Tátra. Ján Kollár’s[19] " Son of Tátra" recognizes only a Slovak Tátra. By 1836 he writes of Tátran Slovaks "Tatry jsú hnizdo a kolébka vąech Slávov." (The Tátra is every Slav’s nest and cradle.)

In the 19th century, Slovak youth lived completely in the romanticism of the Tátra. This is when the periodicals Tatranka and Orel Tatranskŷ appeared in Felvidék (Northern Hungary); this is when the Slovak Tatran Association was established; this is when the song "Nad Tatrou sa blýska" (Lightning over Tátra) was written etc. The Slovaks hold their language to be Tatran because, according to their beliefs, under the protection of the high valleys of the T á tra, it remained original, untouchable, not distorted by foreign languages.

The reality, however is different.[20]

Czambel[21], a Tóth linguist, demonstrated that the names of the most famous mountains and rivers of Felvidék (Tátra, Fátra, Poprád, Vág, Nyitra, Garam etc.) cannot be proven etymologically to be of Slavic origin [since these are all names of Hungarian origin]. According to Saąinek, a Slovak historian, the Slavs from beyond the Carpathians began their slow migration from the Black Sea and the Vistula region only after the fall of the Hun Empire. According to other opinions, the Avars brought the ancestors of today’s Slovaks to Felvidék, to serve as border guards.

It is certain that the Tóths (Slovaks) occupied the eastern and central regions of Felvidék last, since they were covered with impassable forests even in the 12th century. Larger interdependent settlements were found only along the Morva River and the area surrounding the lower Garam, but there is no proof that Szvatopluk’s Moravian-Slavs were the ancestors of the Tóths (Slovaks).

Who were the ethnic Tóths?[22]

The upland Tóth people differ completely in language, and in customs from the neighboring Slavs, even from the linguistically closest Czech-Moravians. Czech linguists teach that Slovak is the eastern dialect of the Czech-Moravian language.

There is no common link, so to speak, between Slovak folk songs and Czech folk songs, but there is an obvious kinship between Slovak and Hungarian folk songs. The Slovak folklore, the customs, are not akin to the neighboring Slavic peoples but only to the Hungarian. The Slovaks have no national dance; they dance the Hungarian Csárdás.

All this attests to the fact that, after the Treaty of Trianon, the Hungarian populace of the upland region of Hungary (Felvidék) that became part of Czechoslovakia, gradually became Slovaks as a result of forced assimilation. Looking at the old upland cemeteries, it is obvious that the 19th century headstones bear Hungarian names. The families stayed; they didn’t move away but on the newer headstones the self same family names are Slavicized. This is how, in the Gimeskosztolany cemetery, for example, Szegény Anna’s descendant became Jan Segen etc.

The history of the Slovaks is the history of the thousand year old Hungary, the history of the Hungarian nation, because the upland~ (Felvidék)~ never constituted a separate political area, but was an integral part of Hungary.

Watching Slovak television today, it is obvious that more and more programs about the Slovaks contain references to folk customs. They represent the Slovak folk dress, which although somewhat altered, resembles the Hungarian. The same applies to their songs, their dances, and even the 17th and 18th century noble garb. It is obvious that the Slovaks are working at full steam to create their folk traditions to the detriment of the Hungarians.

How did the Hungarian triple mound and dual cross become Slovak national emblems?

Ludovit’ Stúr[23] filled his idyllic visions of Slovakia with political content. According to him, the Tátra was the ancient home of the Slovaks, the nest from which the other Slavic (sic!) languages were born. This romantic frame of mind attributes the origin of the triple mound (and dual cross) of the Hungarian Coat-of-Arms to the Tátra and soon this became the symbol of Szlovenszkó (=Slovensko), which wished to be politically independent. This concept is not only in the poetry of Stúr, it also appears in Josef Hurban’s[24] " Tatri sú skamenala, v tvrdej hmote vtelená idea Slovenska." (=The hard, petrified clay of the Tátra embodies the Slovakian consciousness.)

The Tóth historians and politicians followed the novelists. In 1848, the dual cross atop the triple mound became the accepted badge of a Slovakia awakening to political self-awareness. In May of 1848, the (Slovak) National Assembly of Liptószentmiklós decided, that the Tóth people, "the free sons of Tátra" could also express their nationality with colors and a flag. They differentiated among three types of flags:

  • the red-white-green (=červeno-bielo-zelené) color, the Hungarian,

  • the red-white (=červeno-biela) color Slovak flag (at that time the color blue was absent from the flag. The Slovak flag of today is white-blue-red with the Slovak Coat-of-Arms on it)

  • the red-white-green (=červeno-bielo-zelené) color with the Hungarian Coat-of-Arms, for the Empire.

This meant that the Assembly, in the framework of the Austro-Hungarian dualism "recognizes two equal peoples, the Hungarians and the Slovaks".[25] This determination also had an external political background. The so-called cultural Pan-Slavism during the 1840’s developed into the Czech-Tóth-Illyrian movement, which broke into power against the Hungarians or rather the Germans. Until then, the elite of the upland Tóths, Kollár and Safarik, contributed nothing to the cultural advancement of their people and the Czech influence even hindered it. The workings of Stúr and Hurban drew the Slovak national movement from under Czech influence.

They called together a Slavic congress in Prague, at which the Czechs, citing the Great-Moravian Empire, pressed for the annexation of the Slovak territory to Czechoslovakia. Stúr and his allies protested, saying, they were only seeking protection from the Hungarians and it was not their intention to dissolve the historical connection, which linked them to Hungary.

It was exactly at this time [1848] that the Czechs, working in the shadow of the dynasty, hoped that if they worked in its interests, it would follow the plan to divide up the monarchy and annex the uplands region (Felvidék) to Czechoslovakia, leaving nothing for Hungary other than the region beyond the Danube and the Great Plain[26], that is the area of Hungary according to Trianon.

[It is generally acknowledged in Hungary today, that the notion of the land theft of Trianon was conceived several decades before the outbreak of World War I, although, for the most part, the plan was prepared before the Freedom Fight of 1848-49.]

After the crushing of the Revolution in Prague, that broke out on June 12th 1848, Stúr and his followers joined the Austro-Slav movement[27]. After the establishment of the Slovak National Council in Vienna and "after the June uprising, they decided… that they were preparing to mount an opposition to the Hungarian government. After the outbreak of the armed uprising between the Hungarians and the Government in Vienna, they joined the struggle against the Hungarian Revolution…"[28] In Vienna, they vowed that the Tóths would stand beside Austria, and when the Austrians broke into Miáva[29] in September, barely a few hundred Tóths (looting rather than fighting) joined them. "In the spring of 1849 they fought with the Czarist army against the Hungarian government forces".[30] The Austrians were quickly convinced, that Stúr’s movement had no roots among the Tóths. At that time the Hungarian national identity proved to be stronger than Austro-Slavism.[31]

The creation of the Szlovenszko (Slovensko) Coat-of-Arms and flag is tied to the 1848 revolutionary movement of the Tóths against the Hungarians. The Tóths who joined in the attack against Miava "swore allegiance to the tri-color (blue-white-red) Slovak flag, decorated with the Hungarian dual cross atop the triple mound. Here they had already repainted the triple mound blue. This is the emblem that found its way onto the seal of the Slovak National Council established under the direction of Stúr, Hurban and Hodľa and also into the movement’s songs. This is how the Hungarian triple mound and dual cross became the Slovak Coat-of-Arms."[32]


8. Hungary’s small Coat-of-Arms between the two world wars[33]

The truth be told, the Pan-Slavic, Austro-Slavic and Slovak National Movements only set their leaders, not the people, against the Hungarians, since during the 1848-49 Freedom Fight, approximately 40,000 Slavs fought with the Hungarians against the Austrians.

~ Unfortunately, it only became evident at the end that, during the 1848-49 Revolution and Freedom Fight, they succeeded in spreading hatred among the nationalities in Hungary, which came to a head by the time of the Trianon Decision and a large part of the Slovaks turned against the Hungarians. During the time Czechoslovakia existed and now, under the rule of the Slovak Republic, the Slovaks have artificially fanned the hatred against the Hungarians (the same thing is happening in every country bordering Hungary), in spite of having a thousand years of common history and a common fate. The acrimony and pulling apart of the small nations of the Carpathian Basin is detrimental for everyone, for us and for them.


9. Hungary’s united or middle coat-of-arms between the two world wars[34]

The countries neighboring our homeland have not yet realized, and they are not aware, that in the past 20 years, the increasingly merciless, continuous, enforced changes against the Hungarian people, directed from above, will sooner or later reach them too. The Trianon Decision destroyed our country from the outside, rent Hungary to pieces, because they thought well into the future, that it would be easier to deal with small countries rather than one big one. Thanks to Miklós Horthy’s clever politics of the time, this only partly succeeded. In spite of the war we won some time and we survived. Now, from the inside, the official leadership, which calls itself Hungarian, is directing against the Hungarians, hopefully a not deadly, tragic sneak attack… and after us, they, the countries around us will be next. The new conquerors don’t want a small Hungary, but the entire Carpathian Basin.

(Translated by Béla Jobb)

[1] Through the good will of the Germans, with the Presidency of Tiso, Slovakia was a free state for almost 5 years. (MV)

[2] In quotations from the article [text within square brackets] is not part of the quotation but observations of the author (MV)

[3] Révai Lexikon: Vol. 4.p. 503.

[4] Révai Nagy Lexikon: Vol. 4, Révai Testvérek Irodalmi Rt., Budapest, 1912. pp. 502-503.

[5] Kumorovitz L. Bernát: A magyar címer kettőskeresztje (The dual cross of the Hungarian Coat-of-Arms). = Turul, the Hungarian Heraldic and Genealogical Association Gazette, Budapest, 1941 p. 24.

[6] L.m.f. p. 24.

[7] Heraldic researchers

[8] L.m.f. p. 25

[9] A part of the filigree frame of the 1367 "Mary with child" panel painting in Aachen. In: Die Domschatzkammer zu Aachen, Ornamenta Ecclesiae, Köln, 1985 p. 72

[10] Képes Krónika, duplicate edition,. Nemzeti Kincseinkért Egyesület (Association for our National Treasures), Budapest, 2003. p. 1

[11] Bernát L. Kumorovitz: A magyar címer hármashegye (The Three Mountains of the Hungarian Coat-of-Arms), In: Turul, 1942. V. 56. 1-2. p. 24

[12] Bernát L. Kumorovitz : Ibid. p. 27

[13] The Yearbook of Klebesberg Kunó Hungarian Historical Research Institute, 1934. 4. pp. 74-92

[14] Képes Krónika. p. 46

[15] Meyers Groβes konversations-Encyclopedia, Sechste Auflage, Neunter Band, Bibliographisches Institut, Leipzig-Wien, 1908. p 60

[16] Oláh Miklós: Hungária Magyarországnak a mohácsi vész előtti helyrajzi története (Topographic history of Hungary before the massacre at Mohács)

[17] Koller József (1745-1832) historian, curator of the Bishop of Pécs library, teacher, then provost. His work: Dissertatio de s. Regni Corona etc.

[18] Safarik, Josef Pavel (1795-1861) Slav historian. Studied at Késmárk and Jéna. University of Prague librarian.

[19] Kollár, Ján (1793-1852)- poet and Slavic agitastor, Evangelical minister in Pest, archeology instructor at the University of Vienna, one of the creators of the Tóth (=Slavic) literature, proponent of the separation from Chechosovakia.

[20] Révai Nagy Lexikona, Vol.XVIII pp. 388-389

[21] Samu Czambel (1856-1909) Tóth linguist, wrote several books about the Slovak language, professed the Tóth and Slavic are brother languages. His work: Slovensky pravopis, Slováci I ich rec etc.

[22] Prior to 1920 the Slovaks in Hungary were called Tóths. The Slovak name was made official by the peace treaty of Trianon (MV)

[23]  Stúr, Ludovit’ (1815-1856) Tóth natonal agitator and author. Strove to stir the Tóth’s national feelings against the Hungarians with Hurban and Hodzsa leader of the Tóth movenment. He was the first representative of the Tóth literary language (=liptó-túróc-zólyomi dialect) first representative. (MV)

[24] Hurban, Jozef Miloslav (1817-1888) Tóth author and agitator. Author of the memorandum: "What does the Tóth nation want?" at the Liptószentmiklós Assembly. This was dismissed by the Hungarian government. He later orchestrated (many) armed Tóth uprisings against the Hungarians.

[25] Chaolupecky, Vaclav: O znaku Slovenska = Staré Slovensko, Vyd. Filosofická fakulta University Komenského, v Bratislavé, 1923. pp 166-167

[26] Bálint Hóman – Gyula Szegfű: Hungarian history, Vol. 5 Royal Hungarian University Press, Budapest 1939 p 403.

[27] Austro-Slavism was Palacky’s idea, saying "If there were no Austria, we’d have to invent it". Palacky brought Austro-Slavism into existence to replace the Pan-Slav-Russian dreams. Austro-Slavism wanted to create a Slavic empire out of Austria to oppose the German Hungarian hegemony. (MV. – Hóman-Szegfű Op. cit. pp 402-403)

[28] Mala Československá Encyklopedie, I-IV, 1982. Nakl, Československé akademie, věd, Praha, 1987. vol. V p. 686 Č

[29] A large village near Nyitra (MV)

[30] Mala Československá Encyklopedie, I-IV, 1982. Nakl, Československé akademie, věd, Praha, 1987. vol. V p. 686 Č

[31] Hóman-Szegfű: Op. cit. p 404

[32] Hodľa, Michal Miloslav (1811-1870) – Tóth agitator and author. Evangelical Minister at Liptószentmiklós. One of the creators of the Tóth literary language. One of the directors of the 1849 armed Slovak uprising against the Hungarians.

[33] Chaolupecky i.m. p. 170

[34] Révai Nagy Lexicon.v. XIII p. 226. colored picture


Editor's note: Merriam-Webster date the word "Slovak" to 1829 (Collegiate® Dictionary, Eleventh Edition). The political entity known today as the Slovak Republic became an independent state on January 1, 1993, in wake of the brake up of former Czechoslovakia, itself a fabrication of the Trianon Dictate of 1920. Before the 19th century, the people known as Hungarians and Tóths lived together in the Hungarian Uplands, today's Slovakia, as one nation. Intermarriages are commonplace even today; and, except for language, Hungarians and Tóths share a common culture. Tóths are distinct from Slavs - many of whom also live in today's Slovakia. "Tóth" is a common Hungarian surname and its variant, "Tót," is part of several place names in Hungary. Other non-Slavs who today speak a Slavic language are the Croats, the Poles and the Ukrainians.

This page is unable to reproduce the uppercase caron (haček) over the letter "S" in the names Stúr, Safarik, and Saąinek. Our apologies.

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