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Transylvania During the Times

of the Turkish Expansion

During the reign of Nagy Lajos (Louis the Great, 1342-1382), a menacing power appeared on the Balkans, the Ottoman Turks. Turks endangered Hungary as well as the whole Central Europe. Realizing the danger, the king paid special attention to Transylvania. He stayed there from April to August 1366. He strengthened the Charters of the seven Saxon Seats. He visited every important place in the Székely territory.

Under the reign of Louis the Great, the number of Vlachs increased considerably. He permitted the Vlachs to settle not only on the royal, episcopal and prebendal properties, and ruled that also the cities and the landowners should have the right to settle down immigrating Vlachs. In July of 1366, the Parliament gathered in Torda.[17] According to the royal document, which summarized the orders of the Parliament, the public security was in constant jeopardy. The public law and order were extraordinarily bothered by the Vlachs, living in chaotic circumstances. He allowed free hands to kill off the "evil-doers".

The king visited Transylvania in 1377 for the last time. He convinced the Saxons in Brassó to reconstruct Törcsvár, [18] and to always take care of the fort's defenses. In return, he transferred the authority over the villages of the Barcaság from the Székely sheriff to Brassó. He donated Erd_felek (Feleacu) with its Vlach dwellers to the city of Kolozsvár. He took all these actions knowing that Transylvania was the south-eastern stronghold of the Hungarian Empire, the supporting pillar of the Hungarian power politics towards the Balkans. After the death of Louis the Great, his oldest daughter, the eleven-year-old Maria inherited the Hungarian throne, but the king's widow, Elizabeth ruled. She was killed by some aristocrats, who were dissatisfied with her rule.

Maria, fiancee of the Prince of Luxembourg, was imprisoned. Zsigmond led his armies to free his fiancee. In 1387, he was crowned the Hungarian king by the nobles, faithful to Maria (1387-1437).

These events prompted the Wallachian voivod Mircea and the Moldavian voivod Peter to break away from the Hungarian kingdom and surrender to the Polish king (1380). One of Zsigmond's tasks was to get the voivods back in line. Mircea surrendered on his own, while _tefan, who followed Peter as the Moldavian voivod, was forced back.

The period of Zsigmond's reign was critical in the history of Transylvania. During the first decade of his reign, the Turks conquered the Balkans. A little later, the Turks started to threaten, and then annexed the Vlach voivodhsips.

After the Battle of Rigómez_ (Kosovo), (1389) the Bulgarian, Serb and Bosnian rulers, still cooperating with the Hungarians, had to realize that their power and country could be saved only if they maintained good relations with the Turks. The neighboring Rumanian voivodships also had to engage in the way of equilibrium politics. The Turks first annexed Wallachia, and somewhat later Moldavia. This circumstance led to further deterioration in the relation between the Rumanian voivodeships and Hungary.

In 1396, in the battle of Nikápoly, Zsigmond's army of 90.000 men was defeated by Sultan Bajazid's army. After this battle, the Rumanian voivods showed more willingness to maintain better relations with the Turks than the Hungarian king - because of religious reasons. The Turks required only political submission, taxes, loot and in case of war, troops to support. They did not attack the religion of the voivodship's people. They did not want to convert them to Mohammedanism. The proviso of the Hungarian king's assistance and aid was all the time the conversion to the Roman-Catholic Church. The Hungarian Anjou kings' diplomacy always sharply opposed the Greek Orthodox religion. Louis the Great's every effort tended towards the conversion of the Greek-Orthodox Vlachs, in a peaceful way if possible, to recognize the Papal authority and unite them with the Roman-Catholic Church.

The Hungarian kings committed themselves to the spread of Roman-Catholicism so deeply, that Catholicism was considered a "Hungarian religion" by the people of Eastern-Europe and the Balkans, at least after King Imre's reign (1196-1204) [66].

In order to gain their goodwill, the Vlach voivods turned the Turks' attention to Transylvania. The first Turkish army broke into Transylvania in 1420, under Dan, Wallachian voivod's inspiration. The Székelys and the Saxons resisted, but were defeated by the Turk's numerical superiority. The Turks destroyed Brassó and ravaged the Barcaság and Háromszék. (The Barcaság was inhabited by Saxons, Háromszék by Székelys.)

The Hungarians started to take precautions against the Turks in the period that came after the Battle of Nikápoly. They have fortified the southern borders. At the news of the Turkish approach the forts' significance, primarily the ones capable of harboring large groups of people, grew among the defending Székelys and Saxons. Where there were few forts, a whole range of Székely and Saxon church fortresses formed a defense line [67]. There are no reports about Vlach churches having been included among these.

The fortified castles and churches saved the material possessions of the village people in addition to the protection of their lives. Within the walls, the defending families had their own chambers where they could put their valuable goods and food in a safe place.

Although the presence of Vlachs was a fact at the beginning of the 13th century in the Southern-Carpathian area, there are no data regarding fortification of Vlach churches or castles. It all points to the fact that the small number of Vlachs, who had just recently became farm hands, were used only as soldiers for defending the castles of the landowners.

The appearance of the Turkish Army on the southern borders of Hungary brought about different kinds of fortresses (royal, noble, and peasant). The fortified churches and castles played an important role in the country's defense. Thick, high, stone walls, bastions and towers were built around the churches, turning them into real fortresses. The building of Transylvanian forts, and the fortification of the stone churches meant defense for the Vlach voivods, too. They were given a chance to increase their strength. Among the owners of castles in Transylvania, we can also find several Wallachian and Moldavian voivods. As vassals of the Hungarian kings and the Transylvanian voivods, several of them were given castles in Transylvania, as will be shown in the next chapter.


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