Peter Finer

A Magyar Nobleman’s Silver-Mounted Mace of Judicial Office, Constructed on the 17th Century Head of a Horseman’s Fighting Mace, dated 1725

Item Ref: 1963 Price on application

1963 10

Hungary. Steel, silver, wood and leather.


Dr E. Budde Collection, USA

The date 1725 commemorates the year in which the Szopkovics family of Eperjes in Southern Hungary (now Slovakia) were created nobles of the Hungarian empire. The title ‘Dux’ (duke) which forms a part of the inscription on the haft of this mace is probably a local courteous form of address used generally to mark nobility: in reality the Szopkovics family held the Hungarian rank of either báró (baron) or gróf (count). The Hungarian practice of proudly recording dates of family ennoblement on items of great symbolic family value was not at all uncommon within the 18th and 19th centuries, particularly so in the instance of maces displayed as symbols of judicial power and rank. According to the continued abbreviated inscription on the present mace the second name, Michael Görözdös, was a judge also, a position also ranked within the Hungarian lesser nobility. The Görözdös family originated in Csallókös, also now in modern Slovakia.

The iconographic emblem of the Hungarian saint engraved on the lower mount of the present mace haft is entirely in keeping with the ideals of judicial office. The figure is almost certainly that of the youthful martyr St. Stephen, patron saint of Hungary. He wears an ecclesiastical cope, itself a symbol of purity, and carries the attribute of his martyrdom, a palm branch and three stones. 

Within the context of Hungarian social culture the mace was since the 15th century the weapon of the knightly classes and ownership conveyed an acknowledgement of the owner’s rank and a respect for his person. It is for this reason therefore that maces re-born as emblems of office were constructed for the greater part on earlier heads, the majority of which date from the period of the Turkish wars. A comparable example, the head of very similar construction to the present one, named and dated 1674, is preserved in the Hungarian National Museum. The construction of the 18th century haft of the present mace is also typical of the period. An  example of the haft on a ceremonial axe of the Hungarian royal guard, dated 1710, is also preserved in the Hungarian National Museum.                                                                         

The earlier steel head of eleven robust flanges each formed in three stages, the rounded central portion of each flange thickening substantially towards its middle and with a small lip projecting outwards at the top, the lower two stages concave, diminishing both in thickness and diameter towards the base, and the two lower stages each segmented at the uppermost point of its edge by an additional small projecting lip. The head retained by a tall standing button on a fluted convex washer. The tubular upper steel portion of the haft integral to the core of the head, formed in a series of stages with turned mouldings between, and the short upper stage decorated with a faceted pattern. On its 18th century wooden lower haft encased in leather and bound with spirals of patterned silver wire. The lower part of the leather-covered haft mounted with two finely engraved tubular silver sleeves each with turned mouldings at both ends; the smaller upper one decorated with differing bands of imbricated leaf ornament carrying expanded flower-heads. The larger silver sleeve capped over its base and retained by a silver rivet impaling the centre of a silver relief rosette. Engraved with a central frieze formed of a pair of plaques each within an imbricated octagonal frame, one filled with the Royal Arms of Hungary, the other with the figure of a youthful Hungarian male saint, probably St. Emeric, standing dressed in a cope, his attributes including a Lily of Purity, his head framed in a nimbus of divinity and with a Latin cross to his right; both panels set against a ground of chased dense scrollwork. Encircling the top in two rows is the abbreviated Hungarian inscription ‘GÖR. P:G:D MICHAEL / .Ö3DOS IVDEX’ (for ‘JUDGE MICHAEL  GÖRÖZDÖS’). Encircling the base is the inscription ‘S: DVX.D: IOANÑES SZOPKOVICS / ANNO 1725’ (for DUKE IOANNES SZOPKOVICS). The mace preserved in extremely fine unrestored condition throughout, the silver mounts in near pristine condition.      

Size: Length 71.3 cm / 28 in