Pro salute anime. Holy Mass and salvation of the nobility in late medieval Hungary


The people of the Medieval era strived to ensure salvation for themselves, their ancestors and their descendants in any way their social and financial status permitted. One possible means to this end was available through Mass-endowments. The current study is based on an analysis of 85 Mass-endowments from 34 Hungarian aristocratic families (1406 – 1531). Besides barons, family members—and particularly their widows and descendants—are covered in the scope of this research. The primary goal of endowed Masses was to provide peace to the soul of the deceased during the transition period between death and Final Judgement, which was thought to be ensured through a continuity of Masses and prayers. This was best achieved by foundations for “eternal times,” proven by the fact that the majority of Mass orders analysed here are perpetual foundations. Daily Masses were the most popular request among the founders, followed by those celebrated weekly. Though sometimes even more Masses were ordered in a week, this cannot be considered typical for the Hungarian aristocracy. The total number of annual and anniversary Masses is rather low, and some bits of information can even be found on series of Masses. Almost half of the foundations were created in monastery churches of the Order of St. Paul the First Hermit. Though the confraternity of the Franciscans proved to be very popular among the barons, the number of Mass-endowments which were established at this order was lower. Regarding the other mendicant orders, one endowment was created in a monastery owned by the Dominicans, and one more in a monastery established for the members of the Order of St. Augustine. Monastic orders came only from the Benedictines, while the communities of prebends came from the Order of Augustine as well as the Premonstratensians. Concerning Masses which were ordered by secular clericals, priests of parish-churches were favoured by the members of distinguished families, followed by cathedrals and chapels.