Legend of Ladislaus

Ladislaus III lived in the fifteenth century, and was king of Poland and Hungary. Shortly after the beginning of his reign, the youngster, inexperienced in the arts of war and politics, led his country to war with the Turks.

In 1444, he was defeated in the Battle of Varna and Ladislaus disappeared. His body was never found and there is no news neither of his death nor of his burial. In Poland, there were rumours that the king was alive and had not died in Varna.

Ten years after the battle, the mysterious knight of Santa Catarina of Mount Sinai appeared in Madeira, with the name of Henrique Alemão. Captain Gonçalves Zarco treated him with all the honours due to a sovereign prince. The knight married Senhorinha Annes, lady of one of the noblest families, and D. Afonso V, King of Portugal, was his best man.

One day, a group of polish franciscan friars visited the island and recognized the knight of Santa Catarina as their king and asked him to return to his homeland. There were rumours of this event and the king of Portugal called the knight to the Algarve for a conversation of which nothing is known. And when he was on his way from the Algarve the knight of Santa Catarina, Henrique Alemão/Ladislaus III, met his tragic death when his barque was hit by a landslide in Cape Girão.

Enigmatically, a superstition remembered by Count Drakul (Dracula), ally of Poland against the Turks, before the battle, fits in the story: a prophetess had claimed that if the Prince (Ladislaus) “escaped war he will die an inglorious death”. On the other hand, the Turkish chief Amurat II never forgave the betrayal of Ladislaus to the agreement they had both signed at the end of the battle of Varna, and despite his absolute victory he cast a curse upon him: “May the punishment of the traitor go, if he has them, until his descendants”. The son and heir of Henrique Alemão also died tragically at sea, when, according to what is told, he headed to Poland to find answers regarding some doubts about the lineage.

Popular tradition says that the figures are actually portraits of Henrique Alemão and Senhorinha Annes, his wife, the founders of Santa Maria Madalena Church and buyers of the painting who wanted to appear in the painting, as was often the case with the donors at the time.

Until today no document was found that proves or permanently denies this story.