Mosaics from the heritage of ELTE – February 2022

Object of the month  – The flag of the ELTE Trefort Ágoston Practice High School

Our school – then known as the Royal Hungarian Institute for Teacher Training – was founded in 1872 with the aim of providing teacher candidates with pedagogical and methodological knowledge under the supervision and guidance of the head teachers during their teaching practice and study of school life. It was the first school of its kind in Europe and has continued to play its role in teacher training ever since.

The First World War wreaked great havoc, leaving few artefacts from the first four or five decades of the school's history. The flag shown here was probably made between 1925 and 1927. On one side is the inscription of the Royal Teacher Training College of Budapest and the Hungarian coat of arms, and on the other side is a beautiful embroidery depicting the Virgin Mary as the Great Lady of the Hungarians. We do not know where the flag was displayed or exhibited for two decades, or on what festive occasions and how it was used. It is thought that the last director before the communist dictatorship, Sándor Újhelyi, hid the flag in a secluded corner of the school's coal cellar in the late 1940s. He was removed from the school in 1950, mainly because of his openly professed religious beliefs.

We don’t know when, maybe in the sixties, but no later than around 1970, the school’s caretaker found the flag. Presumably, however, due to the depictions on it, it was not re-used, as the communist ideology did not want to display either the historical Hungarian coat of arms or religious images. We know that for the school’s centenary celebration in 1972, the flag was displayed in the school building as a historical object and then re-placed in the basement. The caretaker worked at the school even in the years after the change of regime. ,He once mentioned the flag Gábor Lénárd (appointed director in 1992), who was very surprised to discover a national flag measuring 114x158 cm, decorated with beautiful embroidery. He had the flag restored (the restorer judged it to be in very good condition) and placed it in a dignified setting in the central part of the first floor. In 1993, together with Mrs István Kiss, an eminent researcher on the history of the school, he also created the surroundings for the flag, with a plaque commemorating József Eötvös on the left and Ágoston Trefort on the right.

Since then, the flag has been the most decorative motif of the school's most important celebrations, and has continued the traditions of the past, in the presence of the whole school community, reinforcing the sense of belonging to each other and the nation among its members, the students and the teachers.

Péter Mohay

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