Edition of medieval documents by Antonín Kalous from the Department of History published by a prestigious publishing house

Reproduction: UP Žurnál
Wednesday 25 August 2021, 8:00 – Text: Milada Křížková Hronová

Many years of research, especially in the archives and libraries of Venice and the Vatican, have brought fruit. In the prestigious series Collectanea Vaticana Hungariae, published by the Gondolat publishing house in Budapest, Antonín Kalous from the Department of History at the UP Faculty of Arts published an edition of medieval documents entitled The Legation of Angelo Pecchinoli at the Court of the King of Hungary (1488–1490).

The publication focusses on documents relating to the legation of the papal nuncio Angelo Pecchinoli at the court of King Matthias Corvinus of Hungary and Bohemia in 1488–1490. Pecchinoli recorded the negotiations with the monarch and members of the royal court in detail, as well as his death and the accession of the new king, Vladislav Jagiellonian.

“His accounts of his dealings with King Matthias, Queen Beatrix, and other members of the royal court, especially the bishops, are written in very vivid language, using direct speech to record conversations with the monarch and other interlocutors. The nuncio does not shy away from expressive language to give his reports the stamp of authenticity. They are written in Latin; however, sometimes German or Italian terms appear in the documents, even Hungarian invectives,” said the historian from Palacký University Olomouc. He added that the task of the papal nuncio was, among other things, to protect the freedoms and properties of the Church when the situation required it.

“For instance, the king imprisoned the archbishop of Kalocsi, and the nuncio was supposed to free him and bring him before the ecclesiastical court – and he failed. The papal city of Ancona also turned to King Matthias for protection. The nuncio also monitored Matthias’ negotiations with the Ottoman Turks, his involvement in the battles against the Turkish threat, and the question of succession in the Hungarian kingdom," recounts Kalous.

As Kalous noted, the work on this extraordinary edition was complicated due to the large amounts of abbreviations in the medieval script, but also because of the cipher used by the papal nuncio. “Encrypted letters were commonly used by the 15th century. In this case, fortunately, the cipher was a simple substitution," he said.

The book was published by Gondolat publishing house in Budapest as part of a project by the Vilmos Fraknói Research Centre at Péter Pázmány Catholic University and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA-PPKE Fraknói Vilmos Vatican Historical Research Group). It was published in the prestigious Collectanea Vaticana Hungariae series, which focusses primarily on the publication of sources from the Vatican archives, i.e. sources related to papal history. It is the result of Antonín Kalous’s many years of research conducted mainly in archives and libraries in Venice and the Vatican; however he searched other archives in Central Europe, too.

“The book took a lot of time and effort. I first thought about such an edition in 2012, and it took shape a year later when I visited the National Library in Venice. There I discovered how rich the material was," said the historian.

The reports of Angelo Pecchinoli have been studied to date only by Hungarian historian Vilmos Fraknói (1843–1925), who used the transcripts of János Mircse. They are published in Kalous’s book in full for the first time. They provide an unusual and very valuable insight into the events at the royal court of Matthias Corvinus at the end of his reign, and especially into the relations between the papacy and Central Europe. In view of that, these sources are irreplaceable.

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