Explainer: Introducing the Hungarian flag, anthem and coat of arms
Ever wondered why the Hungarian flag is red, white and green? Or why a giant hole was cut in it in 1956? Or what Hungary’s national anthem sounds like? Or what the coat of arms has looked like over the years? Look no further! Here we introduce these national emblems. And, no, Hungary didn’t steal its flag from Italy!
The national flag has undergone many changes. While the red, white and green stripes have been the basis for successive Hungarian flags since 1848, variations of the Hungarian Coat of Arms have at times been placed in the middle. The current-day plain tricolour – without any additional symbols on it – was instated on 12 October 1957 and has remained unchanged since that time.
The shield has two parts, the left side is made up of red and white “Árpád stripes,” which originate back to the House of Árpád dynasty in the 9th and 10th centuries. The four white stripes represent the four rivers: Danube, Tisza, Dráva, and Száva. The red and white are divided seven times and this is said to represent the seven Magyar tribes that joined to form the Principality of Hungary in the 9th century. On the right side of the shield is a double cross sitting in a crown, placed on three hills, which represent the Tátra, Mátra and Fátra mountain ranges located in the Carpathian Basin. The crown on top symbolises St. Stephen’s crown with the crown’s bent cross on top. St. Stephen was the first King, and founder, of Hungary.
The current coat of arms (above) is what’s referred to as the “small” version; and there have also been what’s called “medium” and “large” versions. In the image below you can see the “medium” coat of arms with the “small” crest in the middle. It’s embellished to include the coat of arms of various territories that had been part of the Lands of the Crown of St. Stephen, as well as two angels.
Isten, áldd meg a magyart
Jó kedvvel, bőséggel,
Nyújts feléje védő kart,
Ha küzd ellenséggel;
Bal sors akit régen tép,
Hozz rá víg esztendőt,
Megbűnhődte már e nép
A múltat s jövendőt!
This is the poetic translation of the first verse in English, but you can read the full eight versus here.
O, my God, the Magyar bless
With Thy plenty and good cheer!
With Thine aid his just cause press,
Where his foes to fight appear.
Fate, who for so long didn’t frown,
Bring him happy times and ways;
Atoning sorrow hath weighed down
Sins of past and future days.
Here is the literal translation of the first verse in English:
O God, bless the nation of Hungary
With your grace and bounty
Extend over it your guarding arm
During strife with its enemies
Long torn by ill fate
Bring upon it a time of relief
This nation has suffered for all sins
Of the past and of the future!
It’s interesting to note that the “Himnusz” makes a plea to to God, and that this reference meant that during communist times (when religion was discouraged to varying degrees) the anthem was sometimes played without the words. During the communist years there were even attempts to replace the anthem, but these were unsuccessful.
(Cover photo: hammmem – Instagram)