I was reading about Battle of Mohi between the Mongol Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary.

Wikipedia contains this artistic depiction of the battle:

enter image description here

The cavalry on left hand looks like Mongols while presence of Knights on right hand side means those are the Magyar. You will notice the banner carried by knights contains a white crescent on a red plain field.

I know the crescent was not originally associated with Islam or Muslim Empires in the East, and might actually have been adopted by them from Byzantines who were neighbors of Hungarians. But by the time Battle of Mohi took place, crescent was firmly associated with Muslims and linked to Muslims since the Crusades.

I have tried googling it but the results are mostly about Hungarian confrontations with the Ottoman Empire due to keywords "Hungarian" & "Crescent" (thanks a lot Murad II & John Hunyadi). One lead me to a book, but it only refers to a crescent formation used by both sides in the Battle of Mohi.

Anyhow, why are the Hungarian Knights depicted in this picture holding a crescent banner? Did Hungarians ever go to battle bearing crescent banners in the medieval era?

Wikipedia states however that this artwork is an anonymous illustration, so authenticity of said image might be in question. But by putting the image through Google Image search, it seems this image is used to illustrate the battle in question by a lot of sources.

  • 4
    One thing I noticed looking through the entry is that the country had recently absorbed a lot of Cuman refugees, some of which presumably may have been fighting men. The Cuman were Altaic shamanists, not Muslims either. However, their flag does appear to have had a small crescent moon on it. There were also Knights Templar involved. I'm also seeing some images of Templar "Battle Flag"s with small crescents along with their other symbology.
    – T.E.D.
    Jun 1, 2016 at 13:58
  • "But by the time Battle of Mohi took place, crescent was firmly associated with Muslims." How so? I thought the association of crescent with Muslims was due to the Ottoman Empire, and Battle of Mohi was at 1241 before the Ottomans were around.
    – user69715
    Jun 1, 2016 at 18:04
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    @T.E.D. That's some interesting info. I will start digging on those angles now.
    – NSNoob
    Jun 1, 2016 at 19:27
  • 1
    Fascinating Question. Has anyone been able to make out the text? It might be a clue to the source of the image...
    – justCal
    Jun 3, 2016 at 19:46
  • 1
    Found a full copy of the image & page, entitled 'The Mongols led by Batu Khan into the Battle of the Danube', miniature > from a manuscript, French Codex 2623 folio 29, Hungary 13th Century at Getty Images
    – justCal
    Jun 3, 2016 at 23:26

2 Answers 2


Not as precise answer as I'd like, but it might lead you to the correct answer with further research. Googling for "hungarian heraldry crescent 13th century" yields at least one crescent, from the Sas coat of arms, which indeed has a crescent in it.

Sas or Szász (origin: Slavic for "Saxon", Polish: Sas, Hungarian: Szász, Romanian: Saş) is a Central European coat of arms. It was borne since the medieval period by several Transylvanian-Saxon Hungarian, Ruthenian and Polish-Lithuanian noble families. The house was once a mighty princely and ducal house with origins in Saxony, Transylvania, Hungary and Ruthenia. [...]

Ancient Polish-Lithuanian historians like Szymon Okolski say that the origin of these arms is derived from Saxony, where during the mid-12th century King Géza II of Hungary invited Germanic peoples of Saxony to settle in, establish trading centres and defend relatively sparsely populated Transylvania in the Kingdom of Hungary, upon which the Transylvanian Saxons were later given a privileged status in the "Diploma Andreanum" (Golden Charter of Transylvanian Saxons) issued by King Andrew II of Hungary (see Transylvanian Saxons).

Sas coat of arms

A tiny bit more googling on "crescent heraldry meaning" and following links yields Halle

Halle coat of arms

Along with Tarnów in Poland:


And Ödeshög in Sweden:


Or Croatia:

Oldest symbol of Croatia

Anyway, regarding your two questions:

Why are the Hungarian Knights depicted in this picture holding a crescent banner?

Something to explore indeed. :-)

Did Hungarians ever go to battle bearing crescent banners in medieval era?

Presumably, if the above wikipedia article is anything to go by - if only by way of mercenaries.

The symbol presumably, had other meanings than what they might today.

Woman of the Apocalypse

Based on the Woman of the Apocalypse.

... the crescent symbol itself may have to do with popular representations of the Virgin Mary.


The crescent is likely from the old coat of arms of Croatia, as pointed out in de Bernardy's answer. The illustration is probably of Coloman's charge against Mongols which led to securing the bridge in the initial stage of the battle. Coloman was the duke of Slavonia, so it is likely the troops would carry the local standard.

Slavonia was commonly considered part of the kingdom of Croatia, although it was sometimes administered separately. However, according to Wikipedia, the title of duke of Slavonia also implied other Croatian regions:

The Duke of Slavonia (Latin: dux Slavoniae, also dux Dalmatiae et Croatiae, in translation duke of Dalmatia and Croatia) was a title of nobility granted several times in the 13th and 14th centuries to relatives of Hungarian monarchs or other noblemen.

This implies the title was mostly decorative, as Croatia was in effect governed by bans (Slavonia sometimes having a ban of its own.) But I would conjecture that in battle, Croatia's levy would have been led by the duke, with the ban as the second in command. It is however not clear whether this army in particular was assembled from all Croatian regions, or just from Slavonian levies.

Returning to coats of arms, Slavonian coat of arms does not feature a crescent:

Coat of arms of Slavonia

This coat of arms however is first recorded in 13th century, according to Croatian wiki, whereas the old coat of arms of Croatia appears to have been in use "in the region of Croatia" since 12th century at least (same link).

old Croatian coat of arms

As for the association of the crescent with Islam, this may have already been the case in the countries that participated in the crusades in Levant and Egypt, but not in the countries in the central-eastern Europe and Balkans, where - judging by their experience with the fourth crusade - the cross might have caused more concern.

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    +1, Coloman's charge at Sajó bridge might as well be the moment captured in the artwork.
    – NSNoob
    Feb 2, 2018 at 13:54

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