About the old Order of the Dragon

Sovereign Military Order of the Dragon is based on the old Order of the Dragon, which was founded in the fifteenth century. The old Order of the Dragon, as a royal order of knights, was founded in 1408. by the Hungarian King Sigmund I (Sigismund), and was based on the chivalric orders of the Crusades. The main purpose and idea of this order was the protection of the Western civilization from the Ottoman threat. The Order of the Dragon was a Christian order, which brought together both the Orthodox and the Catholics. The Order had flourished throughout Europe in the first half of the fifteenth century. After the death of King Sigmund in 1437, the significance of the Order in the Western Europe decreased, but it retained the same significance and influence in Hungary, Romania and Serbia, especially after the fall of Constantinople, in 1453. Several important historical events preceded the founding of the old Order of the Dragon. Sigmund of Luxembourg (1368 – 1437) became the King of Hungary in 1387, after marriage with the Queen Mary of Hungary. In addition, in various periods, he was the King of the Holy Roman Empire, Italy and Germany. Shortly after the Battle of Kosovo, the Turks seized a strategically important fortress Nicopolis in Bulgaria, in 1393. In response to this event and based on the insight that the Ottoman Turks are a serious threat to Europe, Pope Boniface IX announced a crusade against the Turks. Shortly after this declaration, an attempt was organized to restore Nicopolis under the control of Christians, and this military campaign was led in 1396, by Sigmund I. King Sigmund led the allied Christian army that was formed by several European countries. King Sigmund was defeated in the Battle of Nicopolis, in which he lost 15,000 knights in just a few hours. In 1408, King Sigmund I was victorious in the Battle of Dobor, against Croatian and Bosnian nobility. The battle was the result of aspirations for the control of Bosnia, and King Sigmund had an easy victory, entirely eliminating his opponents. In that same year, he married Barbara of Celje, in order to strengthen the alliance with her father, Herman II. On December 12th, 1408, shortly after the Battle of Dobor, Sigmund I founded the Order of the Dragon. Code of the Order was written in Latin, and the name of the Order in Latin was “Societas draconistrarum”. The Order of the Dragon was based on the older Hungarian Order of Saint George (Societas Militae Sancti Georgii), which had been established in 1326, by King Carol Robert of Anjou. The patron saint of the newly founded Order of the Dragon was St. George. The symbol of the Order was a dragon with the tail wrapped around its neck and whose back had the red cross of St George. The cross on the back of the dragon signifies the triumph of Christ over the powers of hell. Heraldic model for this symbol was the Uroboros – a dragon or a snake devouring its own tail. Uroboros (in Greek, ura: tail, boros: eat) represents a continuous cycle of birth, death and resurrection, and the primary wholeness of the Universe. The Uroboros symbol appears in different cultures and eras, and might have arrived into the medieval Europe, through the cult of Mithras, which the Roman legionaries brought to Europe from the East, at the end of the Roman Empire. In fact, one of the important symbols of Mithras is Uroboros, which is wrapped around the rock, from which a human is born. The rock in this symbol represents the Universe, and the whole image symbolizes the eternal process of creation. The symbol of the Order of the Dragon has changed with time, and in some of its variants, the integral part had different texts, for example: “O quam misericors est Deus, pius et iustus” or “Iustus et paciens”. The immediate reason for the establishment of the Order was “the protection of the Cross and the fight against the enemies of Christianity, especially the Turks”. The Order of the Dragon was initially limited to twenty one members, and later, after 1418, that number was increased to twenty four knights. As the Order matured and the membership grew, especially after Sigmund’s decision to expand the Order in 1431, several categories of membership were introduced, of which the two most important were – the inner and the outer circle. The outer circle had a large membership, much larger than the inner circle. Members of the Order of the Dragon, after being accepted into the Order, were given a title of baron or a rank of a dragon. An important fact, which is an essential reference for the new Sovereign Military Order of the Dragon, is that the first member of the Order of the Dragon and one of its founders, first to King Sigmund, was a Serbian ruler Despot Stefan Lazarevic.