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The Golden Bull, the Foundation of Hungary’s Constitutionalism

Mariann Őry 2023.04.24.

The Friends of Hungary Foundation (MOBA) organized a conference entitled “Decretum of our Hungarianness – our civilizational heritage” at the Károlyi-Csekonics Palace in Budapest on Monday. Last year, on the 800th anniversary of the publication of the Golden Bull of 1222, Parliament declared 24 April as the Day of the Golden Bull.

E. Sylvester Vizi Photo: Hungary Today

“Our conference aims to contribute to a common reflection that places Hungary’s historical constitution – the Golden Bull – in the European constitutional, political, cultural, and civilizational heritage and highlights its importance in the development of European values,” said E. Sylvester Vizi, President of the Friends of Hungary Foundation and former President of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, in his opening speech. “The uniqueness of our language and culture unites us, whether we live in the Carpathian Basin or diasporas anywhere in the world,” he added.

President Novak Praises Golden Bull: “We are not just the suffering subjects of, but also makers of Europe's history”
President Novak Praises Golden Bull: “We are not just the suffering subjects of, but also makers of Europe's history”

Hungary’s president praised the creation of the Golden Bull of 1222 as a defining event of Hungary's thousand years of statehood.Continue reading

The president said that

the significance of the Golden Bull to this day is undeniable, as the entry into force of Hungary’s Fundamental Law in 2011 opened a new chapter in the history of our country”.

“We Hungarians have followed a particular path of development. To think about our struggles for freedom, about defending our sovereignty and national interests against external influence, the Golden Bull provides a framework for interpretation. It helps us understand who we Hungarians are, where we come from, where we are going, and our role in Europe and the world. But where is Europe going?” – asked E. Sylvester Vizi.


In his opening speech, the president of the Foundation stressed that the MOBA’s mission is “to commemorate, to strengthen Hungarian consciousness and to cherish Hungarian heritage and values.” He recalled that in this context, the album “The Decree of Our Hungarianness – 800 Years of the Golden Bull” was published last year. He said that the album is particularly valuable because it features the introductory speech of Judit Varga, Minister of Justice, and the closing speech of Tamás Sulyok, President of the Constitutional Court. He said that it was a real curiosity that geographer and academic Károly Kocsis, member of the Board of Trustees of the MOBA and Director of the Institute of Geography of the Centre for Astronomy and Earth Sciences, had created a map of Europe in the year of the Golden Bull’s publication in 1222, which had never existed before, especially for the volume.

Tamás Sulyok, President of the Constitutional Court, recalled in his lecture that the Golden Bull is the starting point for Hungarian constitutionalism’s development. It is no coincidence that the judges of the Constitutional Court wear a medal depicting the Golden Bull when publicly announcing decisions”.

Tamás Sulyok Photo: Hungary Today

He said the Golden Bull “is a symbol in itself: a symbol of the constitutional exercise of power.” Tamás Sulyok explained:

the Constitution itself is an important national symbol. It symbolizes that where there is a homeland, it is only a matter of time, but there is also law, and there is only a real homeland where there is law.”

“801 years ago, the first and still the most influential cornerstone of Hungarian constitutional history, the Golden Bull, was born. In the past 800 years, concepts such as nation, state self-limitation, the democratic exercise of power, and the rule of law have been born, and concepts such as nobility and king have disappeared, at least from the constitutional order,” he reminded. “Just as the world is constantly changing, so is the system and methodology of exercising power,” he added.

Our struggles and our decisions will be the future of those who come after us, and our days, our deeds, and our struggles will become history for later ages, just as the Golden Bull and those who created it are history for us today,”

said the President of the Constitutional Court.

János Martonyi, former Minister of Foreign Affairs and member of the MOBA Board of Trustees pointed out that the Hungarian historical constitution would not have gone through its developmental path without the Golden Bull. “The unique achievement of Hungarian culture is our historical constitution, a condensed expression of our national identity and a miracle of constitutional development in Europe and even in the world at large,” he explained. According to János Martonyi, Hungary’s historical constitution has interacted inextricably with European constitutional development over the past thousand years.

János Martonyi. Photo: Hungary Today

The European constitutional development would have been different without the Hungarian historical constitution,”

he stressed, mentioning, in particular, the principle of limitation of power.

László Trócsányi, Rector of the Károli Gáspár Reformed University, MEP of Hungary’s governing Fidesz party, recalled that for Hungary, “it is not the rich oil fields, the seas, the valuable mineral deposits or the natural wonders, but primarily the treasure of knowledge that has ensured and continues to ensure our survival, our self-identity and independence, and the chance to build our future amidst the ups and downs of history.”

He stressed that “the freedom of teaching and learning, the preservation and transmission of culture are thus the cornerstones of the Hungarian constitutional heritage. Debate and the clash of opposing views have always had a stimulating effect on academic life. Our historical constitution, which has evolved over the centuries, has regarded and protected the right to education, the freedom of teaching, and learning as a fundamental right”.

According to Trócsányi,

the European Union does not respect the equality of member states, as the European Commission decides based on political criteria when it takes legal action against member states for alleged violations of EU law”.

László Trócsányi Photo: Hungary Today

“The law based on objective and abstract rules and the legal culture that has developed over centuries to apply them – of which the 800-year-old Golden Bull is a clear proof -find such European procedures incomprehensible,” he concluded.

István Fodor, member of the MOBA Board of Trustees, said that the European Union has changed from a community of values to a community of interests. He recalled that at the time of Hungary’s accession to the EU almost 20 years ago, the state of the European Union today would have seemed unbelievable. He pointed out that the double standard towards the eastern member states is still present. He noted that Hungary has been accused of unfounded and unfair accusations since 2010. In contrast, in his view, Brussels’s real problem with Hungary is that Fidesz-KNDP has repeatedly won two-thirds majorities.

István Fodor said it was a challenging but not impossible task for MOBA to counter the distorted image of Hungary in the international media.

István Fodor Photo: Hungary Today

In this context, he stressed that the foundation members are leading members of their community, opinion leaders and that objective information is provided through conferences, books, and other publications and courses, as well as through the news portals Hungary Today and Ungarn Heute. István Fodor also stressed that it is our goal for the future to expand the list of Hungary’s friends.


The conference was attended by  – among others – Katalin Szili, MP and former Speaker of the National Assembly, Éva Marton, opera singer and co-founder of MOBA, Árpád Kovács, President of the Budget Council and Chairman of the Supervisory Board of MOBA, Jenő Szász, President of the National Strategic Research Institute, György Senyei, President of the National Office of the Judiciary, Dezső Havasi, President of the Hungarian Bar Association, representatives of the cultural and scientific world and the diplomatic corps.

(L-R) Tamás Sulyok, János Martonyi, E. Sylvester Vizi, László Trócsányi, István Fodor. Photo: Hungary Today

The Golden Bull, Hungary's First Constitutional Document, Issued 800 Years ago
The Golden Bull, Hungary's First Constitutional Document, Issued 800 Years ago

The edict established the rights of the nobility and was among the first documents that placed constitutional limits on the powers of a European monarch.Continue reading

Featured photo: mek.oszk.hu

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