Mosaics from the heritage of ELTE – October 2022

Object of the month – Rector's gown

Rector's gown with mink lining designed by Gyula László in 1960.

At the legal predecessor of the Eötvös Loránd University, the University of Trnava, the leaders and teachers dressed in formal clothes on festive occasions, following a foreign model. Until 1784, the ceremonial ornate consisted of a black, long „gown” similar to that worn by the Jesuits, and the „epomis” (cloak), which was made of red velvet for the rector and deans. The outfit also included a dark red cap, the so-called „biret”. By order of King Joseph II, the monastic orders were dissolved in 1784, and as a result, the use of gowns and cloaks in the universities was abolished in the entire territory of the monarchy. In 1785, they were obliged to send the costumes to Buda, where the clothes were auctioned off. 

Thereafter, no new ornate will be created, so wearing traditional Hungarian dress becomes part of the ornate at university celebrations. This tradition remained alive until the end of the Horthy era. 

In the following period, the ornate became mandatory for celebrations, until 1960, the 325th anniversary of the university's founding. In preparation for the jubilee year, on the initiative of Rector Gyula Ortutay, the University Council passes a resolution to prepare new pedums, chains and ceremonial ornates. In order to make the gowns, permission had to be requested from the Ministry of Culture, the cost was estimated at eight thousand forints at the time. The archeology professor, Gyula László was asked for the design.

The rector's and dean's gowns, which were completed in 1960 and are still in use today, consist only of a cloak. In its simplicity and form, it resembles the cloak of Protestant preachers. Their material is black fabric, their lining and collar are colored silk fabric. In the case of the rector's gown, it is red, and it is considered more decorative than the dean's gowns: lined with mink fur. The cloaks are with „Bocskai”, with a silk lining in the color matching the cloak. The rector's and dean's chain is also part of the ornates. The original gown is no longer in use, a new rector's gown was made in 2017, which is almost identical to its predecessor in almost everything, only the color of the fur has changed and the inner lining has been supplemented with an inner pocket. 

At Eötvös Loránd University the rector, vice-rectors, deans, and vice-deans are entitled to wear gowns, and they wear them at university-related ceremonies (opening of the academic year, honorary doctorate, doctoral inauguration, jubilee diploma celebrations). In addition, the rector can wear the ornate as an invitee to the celebrations of partner universities and foreign universities. 


Source: Papp József: Hagyományok és tárgyi emlékek az Eötvös Loránd Tudományegyetemen, Budapest, 1982.

Written by: Bianka Kovács-Molnár

Photo: Ádám Kuttner

Source/author of illustration:
ELTE University Library and Archives, Photo: Ádám Kuttner