The Tartars Carrying the Head of Heinrich before Castle Liegnitz; Saint Hedwig Seeing in a Dream Her Son's Soul Carried to Heaven
Folio 12 of manuscript Ms. Ludwig IX 7
These small paintings illustrated a manuscript about the life of St. Hedwig. It was drawn by a Polish artist in 1353. Hedwig was an Eastern European noblewoman, the mother of Duke Henry of Silesia (in Poland) in 1241. In that year Mongol forces led by Chinggis’s grandson Batu Khan conquered Russia and invaded Poland. They defeated the Polish knights under the command of Duke Henry and killed him. The Mongols won almost every battle they fought. On their horses, they traveled faster than any other army. To defenders, it seemed like the Mongols just appeared out of thin air! The Mongols killed everyone who resisted them. If a town resisted, the Mongols killed all the men, women, and children and destroyed the town. The Mongols believed that they should be very cruel to anyone who opposed them so that other people would be scared and surrender immediately. Why would they carry Henry’s head on a lance while they attacked his castle? Next, look at the way the Polish artist represented the Mongols. Compare the faces and dress of the Mongols in this image to the faces and dress of the Mongols in Sources 2 and 5. What is similar? What is different?
The Battle of Leignitz in the Duchy of Silesia, in the German-Polish border region, took place on April 9, 1241, between the Mongol horde and the combined forces of European defenders under the command of the Polish Duke Henry (Heinrich) II, whose army was destroyed after he was struck down and beheaded. The battle happened two days before the main Mongol army under the command of Batu Khan and Subutai achieved victory over the Hungarians at the much larger Battle of Mohi. The Hungarian army was completely defeated, which led to the devastation of much of the country. The rest of Europe was terrified at the prospect of further advancement of the Mongols; however, the unexpected death of the Mongols' supreme khan, Ogedei, in December 1241 caused the withdrawal of the Mongol forces, as Batu Khan was called back to the empire’s capital, Karakorum. The image in this source is the page from the illuminated manuscript that narrates the biography of Henry II’s mother, Saint Hedwig. The European artist who illustrated the manuscript used European-style armor and imagery to portray the Mongols. The faces also have European features. After students catalog the similarities and differences between the images, encourage them to make an interpretation about how different cultures represent figures.
Top: Hic fertur caput emsten Ducis Henrici filii Sancte Hedwis in lancea a Thartaris ante castrum Legniez.
Here the mounted head of Duke Henry the son of St. Hedwig is carried on a lance by the Tartars before the castle Leignitz.
Middle: Hic vidit In sompnis beata Hedwigis anima filium suum Ducis Henrici ducentem ab angelis in paradysum.
Here the Blessed Hedwig sees in dreams the soul of her son Duke Henry being led by the angels into Paradise.
Ribbon (Hedwig says:) Nolite hoc karis ... voluntas dei est.
Don’t [question] this. It is the will of God.