Until recently no one knew who László Gonda was, but in the last two years he has become infamous. He is one of the leaders of the group that in the fall of 2006 camped out in front of the parliament building for almost two months while the Hungarian authorities idly stood by, not knowing what to do. László Gonda is an unlikely revolutionary. He is in his fifties, soft spoken, and polite. He can sound quite reasonable as long as he isn't talking about the theory of the Holy Crown or other favorite topics of his nationalistic imagination. We don't know much about him except that he spent some time in Germany and returned to Hungary not long ago. As far as I know he has no job but devotes his entire existence to his muddled "revolutionary" activities. His intellectual-looking face can be seen at every demonstration that is touted as a huge gathering against the "bolshevik" government but turns out to be a protest of no more than a few dozen fanatics. Yes, Gonda is a fanatic whose ideas are harder and harder to interpret.
The last time Gonda tried to create a scene was on August 20th. First he headed a group of about twenty people who tried to interrupt the celebrations in front of the parliament building. But the square in front of the parliament is large, and the Rákóczi March is awfully loud, so Gonda's efforts failed to produce noticeable results. After that Gonda and company rushed to Heroes' Square where he complained that the new officers were not being sworn in in the presence of the copy of the Holy Crown that had been used in previous years. The swearing in itself is to the Republic of Hungary but it was during the Orbán government that someone, most likely in the Ministry of Defense, decided that this copy of the crown should be dragged out to the swearing-in ceremony. Viktor Orbán is responsible in large measure for the absolute craziness that reigns in certain circles about the place of the crown in today's Hungary.
Constitutionally, the crown is nothing but a very important museum piece and in fact between 1978, when the crown was returned from Fort Knox to Budapest, and 2000 it was housed in the National Museum. However, Orbán, wanting to whip up national enthusiasm and use it to his own political advantage, moved the crown from the museum to the parliament. Before it was placed in the parliament building, Orbán got the brilliant idea of sending this priceless work of art on a little boat trip between Budapest and Esztergom and back on August 20, 2000. Esztergom was the capital of Hungary during Stephen's time as well as Stephen's birthplace.
Gonda went to Heroes' Square because this year at last the Ministry of Defense in charge of the swearing-in ceremony decided that the crown had no place there. Gonda wanted to place three huge pictures of the crown in front of all the cameras, but his plan was foiled. Afterward he gave an interview to one of the internet papers (Stop) in which he claimed that "the Holy Crown is the symbol of Hungarian Christian statehood." A few sentences later he added that in his opinion "this state was not established a thousand years ago but was founded by [the pagan] Árpád." So Gonda can't decide whether he really wants a country that is part of Christian Europe or he is yearning for a state that was founded by invading "barbarians." Moreover, the Holy Crown of Hungary is not really one thousand years old and therefore doesn't not mark the beginning of Christianity in Hungary.
It was only after 1978 that serious study of the crown could be undertaken, and the experts came to the conclusion that the Holy Crown was assembled into its current form during the reign of Béla III (1172-1196). The lower part of the crown is of Greek origin (corona graeca), while the top was made somewhere in Italy (corona latina). The cross on top was added in the sixteenth century in a rather crude manner, affixing it through a picture of Christ on top of the crown. It was in the seventeenth century that the cross got bent when someone carelessly closed the box in which it was placed. On the lower (Greek) part of the crown there are four pictures: three of them depict members of the royal house of Michael VII of Byzantium (1071-1078), including the emperor himself, and the fourth King Géza I of Hungary (1074-1077). Most likely this corona graeca was a gift to the wife of Géza who was of Greek origin. This lower part of the crown is definitely a Byzantine style of crown made for a woman. The corona latina, that is the top part of the crown, was not a piece that had an independent function. It was designed to be attached to the rim and provide a cupola-shaped top. The inscription on the pictures of the saints and the style of their lettering suggest the date when they were made: most likely before the middle of the eleventh century. Originally they may have decorated a reliquary box or a portable altar used by Stephen himself. Or, of course, it is also possible that it was not originally used in Stephen's court but was acquired later from somewhere else. Here is a picture of the crown.
The upshot is that the Holy Crown of Hungary is not a symbol of the introduction of Christianity that began sometime in the last twenty or so years of the tenth century and gained full acceptance around the middle of the eleventh. The current Hungarian government is not terribly happy about the crown's presence in the parliament building, and I wouldn't be surprised if it eventually ended up in the restored Royal Castle. The full restoration of the Royal Castle will take place over the next seven years.