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Transylvania from the

Árpád's Conquest of Hungary

until the Mongol Invasion of the Country

The Church played a very important role in the life of Transylvania before the devastation of the Mongol invasion in 1241-42. We already mentioned that Saint Stephen founded an episcopacy in Gyulafehérvár. It is a very important circumstance, that there were some congregations on the Transylvanian Diocese's Territory, which did not belong to the Bishop's clerical sphere of influence and authority. These congregations belonged to the abbacy of Kolozsmonostor, the abbacy of Kerc, founded by King Béla III. (1172-1196) and to the provostship of Szeben. For a certain period the churches of Barcaság belonged to the Moldavian Catholic bishopric, located in the city of Milcov. These were not Greek-Catholic churches.

Maria Holban deals in detail with the argument [52] which took shape between the Transylvanian Bishop and the Provost of Szeben, who was supposed to fulfill the provostship's position, which recently had become unoccupied. At this time, the Teutonic Knights migrated to South Transylvania and occupied the territories of Barcaság in Brassó County under the leadership of Salza Herman.

The Transylvanian Bishop considered the provostship's foundation in Szeben as a transgression against his sphere of authority. His power would have been further damaged by the wish of the King, who was willing to make the provostship of Szeben an episcopacy and subordinate it to the authority of Kalocsa's Archbishopric. The provostship of Szeben would have gotten hold of all the Saxon dwellers, including those who had belonged to the Transylvanian episcopacy before.

The Transylvanian Bishop immediately sent an envoy to the Pope to protest against the plan. Finally, the Pope refused the foundation of the new episcopacy. The Transylvanian Bishop's sphere of authority was in every way exposed to danger by the immigration of the knights. At this time such an argument with the Rumanians did not take place. Also this fact suggests - among other things - that Vlachs did not live at that time in Transylvania.

Before discussing the question of the settlement of Vlachs in Transylvania, we have to mention briefly the reports about this population in the Balkans. There, written sources record Vlachs (the ancestors of present day Rumanians) since 976 A.D. They are described as nomad or transhumant shepherds, and as conscripted soldiers in the Byzantine Army. They were the ones who led the Cumanians, breaking into Byzantine territories through the passes of the Balkan Mountains in 1094.

At the end of the 12th century, several Serb documents (deeds of gift) mention the shepherd Rumanians, who lived in the mountainous district between the Drina and Morava rivers (see, for example, Du Nay, 1996, pp. 26-39).

It is not possible to state the exact period of time when the first Vlachs shepherds came to Transylvania. Small numbers might have come in the 11th century, but the first document which mentions this people there refers to 1208. The absence of cultic places, as well as the testimony of the geographical names and the place-names indicates that before the end of the 13th century, Transylvania had no significant Rumanian population.

According to a document dated 1223, the land of the Rumanians living along the Olt was donated to the Abbacy of Kerc in 1208 by Andrew II. In the donated territories, there are no Rumanian geographical or place-names, and besides Olt and Kerc (of unknown origin), three names appear in the document: Egerpatak, Nagybükk and Árpás (palus Eguerpatak, fagus Nogebik, rivulus Arpas) - all Hungarian, which were later borrowed by the Rumanians. Thus, this area was not "owned by the Vlachs from ancient times", but was originally inhabited by Hungarians.

A contemporary document named Andreanum (1224), which determined the privileges of the Saxons, gave them the right to use the forests of the Rumanians and Petchenegs. Here the king has taken the Rumanian and Petcheneg ownership into consideration.

In 1231 Salza Hermann, who had been just ousted from Barcaság, stayed in Rome, where he mentioned that Rumanians had their own land, as well as the Székelys, and their own customs authorities, which were independent from that of the Barcaság.

In his writings about his victory over the Hungarian King, Czech King Ottokar II. mentioned the Hungarian King's "inhuman men": Hungarians, Cumanians, Slavs, Székelys, Vlachs (Rumanians), and Petchenegs.

On the basis of contemporary and later documents, we can presume the existence of a "Blakland", located in the highlands behind present day Fogaras and Szászváros. This Rumanian-defended frontier region was organized into an administrative unit presumably around 1200.

The protection of the Southern Border Region was devolved primarily on the fortress of Hátszeg and its district. We are informed about the area's Rumanian population since the so called "frieze lands" were given to a noble by King Stephen the Minor in 1263. The donation did not include the lands of the kenez-es Dr_gan and Kretoch.[14] The king thus recognized the possessory rights of the presumably Rumanian kenez-es over some of the territories in question.

The tradition of building temples and monasteries practized by kings and aristocrats was learned by the clans forming smaller branches and families in the 11th-12th centuries [53]. In Transylvania, the Kácsics clan built the monastery of Harina after the Mongol devastation of Hungary, in the middle of the 13th century. The monastery with three aisles and two steeples is related to the family temples of the Transdanubian area (twin-windowed towers).

The building of sacred places for the clans begun. These cloisters and churches gave shelter to monks swarming out of the larger monasteries. At the beginning, the number of monks could have been around twelve, later it was reduced to three or four. We have no information about such temples or monasteries of Rumanian clans in Transylvania.

In the 12th and 13th centuries, the permanent private property was born in the wake of the noble clans forging ahead. It developed the particular type of family or clan owned churches that represented their strength. There is no report about such a church built by a Rumanian landowner.

In the first decades of the 13th century, right before the Mongol invasion, Transylvania was well developed politically, socially, and clerically. Rumanians, however, were not present in this development since we do not have any relics or data referring to their church organizations or congregations.

In the year 1087, the pagan Cumanian people settled down in Wallachia, south of Transylvania. The new neighbors broke into Hungary, two times through the Eastern, and once through the Southern Carpathians. They were defeated and driven out of Hungary on every occasion by Szent László (King Saint Ladislas, 1077-1095). He met the Cumanians at Kerlés (Cserhalom) in 1071, at Bökény (Szabolcs county) in 1081 and in Pogányró on the riverbanks of the Temes in 1091. After a century of peace, the Cumanians attacked the country again. They ravaged, robbed, and burned the Barcaság.

The Pope, as well as all other Popes, had the important task of converting the pagan people, like the Cumanians, to Christianity. Members of the first Dominican Cumanian Mission were killed by the Cumanians. The second mission, however, proved to be successful. They convinced Bors Membrok, leader of the Cumanians to adopt the Christian religion. Membrok sent his own son to Esztergom with the Dominicans. He asked the Hungarian Primate to come to Cumania and convert the population to Christianity. He also asked for a consecrated Bishop for his people. The Hungarian Primate reported the Cumanian request to the Pope and asked for permission to carry it out. The Pope named the Primate to his legate and invested him with full power to complete the necessary tasks. The Primate, accompanied by the Bishops of Veszprém, Pécs, and Transylvania as well as Prince Béla with a small group of people, departed to the lands of the Cumanians. He baptized the Cumanian people in the city of Milkov, between Wallachia and Moldavia. He consecrated Teodorik as the first Bishop of the Cumanians, and the Bishop of Milkov in 1227. We have three documents to prove this in the Secret Archives of the Vatican. The first letter went to the leader of the Hungarian Dominicans, the second document to the Primate of Esztergom, the third to Prince Béla, son of Andrew II., who was later crowned Béla IV. (1235-1270) [54].

Official documents prove also that the Cumanian Bishop became a member of the Hungarian Episcopal staff and that he attended several episcopal assemblies. (Finally the episcopacy of Milkov was annexed nominally to the diocese of Esztergom by Tamás Bakócz [1442-1521], Archishop of Esztergom.) If an Orthodox Rumanian episcopacy had been functioning in Transylvania, the contemporary documents would have mentioned it, even though the Rumanian Bishop would not have been a member of the episcopal staff. But if such documentary did not commemorate it, the crown office should have mentioned Rumanian episcopacies or other smaller clerical organizations. If they had existed, the Hungarian kings would have tried them to convert to Catholicism and would have turned their attention to Wallachia, Moldavia, and the Balkans, only after they had suceeded in Hungary.

Forty thousand Cumanian families asked for and received permission to immigrate to Hungary in 1238. They settled down between the Danube and the Tisza. They and the people of the Teutonic Knights who remained there survived the devastations caused by the Mongols in 1241. Their religious life was, however, endangered by the quickly spreading of the Bogumil heterodoxy.[15] As a countermeasure, the Pope fulfilled the Hungarian King's wish and founded the second Catholic episcopacy at Szörénytornya in 1246. The life of the episcopacy can be traced until 1416. Some of their bishops are known by name. When a new episcopacy was founded, groups of Hungarians settled down on the territories of former Cumania. The territories left empty after those forty thousand resettled Cumanians were colonized by the Megleno- and Arumanians, coming from the Balkans. A small number of them reached Transylvania [55]. They, however, did not live in the territory of Cumania with the Cumanians because we do not have any traces of their clerical organizations.


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