Monuments at: http://www.cimec.ro/Monumente/Lpm/UNESCO/Biertan/eng.htm
Daco-Roman Architectural Elements Reused in Transylvanian Architecture
Fenomenul translaţiei materialelor de construcţie dacice în clădiri medievale este mai complicat decât am scris-o până acum. Cei mai incisivi „profitori” medievali pe care i-am identificat sunt aceia numiţi de izvoare drept „primii oaspeţi ai regatului”, cu locaţie la Ighiu şi Cricău (jud. Alba). Dacă vechea lor biserică de la Ighiu nu s-a mai păstrat, în schimb cea de la Cricău, are mesaje dintre cele mai relevante. În pereţii edificiului nr. 2, ridicat după 1250, se găsesc o mulţime de pietre paralelipipedice, cu celebrele cepuri pentru tiranţi în coadă de rândunică (fig. 4, 5).
Cercetarea arheologică a răposatului Radu Heitel a mai colecţionat o anume cantitate care este depozitată în lapidarul din interiorul bisericii dezafectate (fig. 6).
Nu pot decât să scriu că trebuie să fie vorba despre transporturi serioase de blocuri din cetatea dacică de la Piatra Craivii (Apuolon?).
Mai stărui un singur moment asupra pietrelor dacice din biserica reformată a Cricăului. Printre ele se văd bine unele care au o suprafaţă martelată. Amprenta pare a fi aproximativ triunghiulară. Cum nu poate fi vorba despre console desfiinţate, pentru că sunt prea multe, mi-am pus întrebarea dacă nu ar fi cumva vorba despre elemente decorative care au servit odinioară, controversatului murus dacicus.
Fenomenul reutilizării frumoaselor blocuri fasonate, cu cepuri pentru tiranţi, se descoperă repetat în paramentul curtinelor de est şi nord-est ale fazei de la mijlocul secolului al XV-lea, a castelului de la Hunedoara. „Responsabilul” moral pentru transferul acelor pietre este chiar „românul neaoş” care stăpânea locul (Ioan de Hunedoara).
Adrian Andrei Rusu
 Lista la Adrian A. Rusu, Castelarea carpatică. Fortificaţii şi cetăţi din Transilania şi teritoriile învecinate (sec. XIII-XIV). Cluj-Napoca, 2005, p. 77.
 Vezi R. Popa, Observaţii privind zidurile legate cu mortar din cetăţile dacice hunedorene, în Sargetia, 13, 1977, p. 277-284; idem, La începuturile Evului Mediu românesc. Ţara Haţegului. Bucureşti, 1988, p. 212-213.
 Adrian A. Rusu, Castelarea carpatică, p. 508.
Almen - Alma Vii - Szászalmád
Hall-church with raised choir, from 15-18 cent is on a hill in the northern part of the village. The oldest elements of the church are Romanic. In the 15th century, the defence construction was made. The choir was raised and many gaps for throwing pitch were added. The wall is polygonal is enforced with four towers. The massive gate tower with for levels (1) and the southern tower have watch road from wood. The surrounding wall has gaps for shooting and for throwing pitch. In the 19th century the church was heavily modified. From this period dates the arch and the classicist interiors (altar, pulpit, font, organ, empora, pews). A drawing of Martin Schlinchting, from the middle of 19th century, presents the fortress-church from south proving that in the last 150 years only a few modifications were made.
Baassen - Bazna - Bázna
The church is from 15th century, with Romanic parts from 13th century and with surrounding wall from15-16 cent. The church is in the north-eastern part of the village. The choir is build like a tower. Some Romanic details (western portal, choir niche) indicate that there was an anterior building from 13 cent. Until the end of the 19th century, the choir tower and the gate tower have had an uncovered watch road. The initial shape of the choir could be recognized from Schlichting drawing (from 1850). On the northern wall of the choir is a sacramental niche made from stone, dated 1504. Remarkable are also the Baroque organ and a pew from 16 cent. In the bell tower and the gate tower there are three bells from before the Reform.
Birthälm - Biertan - Berethalom
Bogeschdorf - Bagaciu - Szászbogács
The hall-church is in late Gothic style from 15 cent., wall from 15-17 cent. The fortress-church is on the main street of the village. The church is remarkable by the sculptures of the construction. The portals from south and west are richly decorated; in the choir are also stone ornaments. Valuable interior decoration objects are preserved. The altar is from the beginning of the 16th cent and has three sculptures representing Virgin Mary. The pews are from the workroom of Johannes Reichmut from Sighisoara.
Deutschweisskirch - Viscri - Szászfehéregyháza
The church from 14 cent., is built on a former Romanic construction, surrounding wall from 14-18 cent. The small hall-church is bordered at the east by an initial semicircular choir, and at west by a massive tower. In the interior of the church are preserved remains of the Romanic sculpture (font, niche, triumphal arch, portal). Interior wall is enforced by three towers and two bastions. The fortress-church relatively small by picturesque have had nod modifications in the last two centuries. It represents one of the examples most significant about the ways in which, in very restraint space, a survival zone is made for a community menaced from outside.
Draas - Drauseni - Homoróddaróc
Romanic basilica with a western tower (13 cent.), modified around 1500 for defence. The initial Romanic basilica was modified during the fortifications construction works, so the naves and the eastern apse were demolished, and the choir was equipped with a defence level. From the Romanic ornaments preserved are the western portal, the remains of a western empora and the twin windows.
Eibesdorf - Ighisul Nou - Szászivánfalva
Hall-church with a western tower (14-15 cent.), wall from the beginning of thee 16 cent. The fortress-church is in the center of the village. The western tower has the same width as the hall-church and is the distinctive sign of this building. Above the choir is a defence level, equipped with gaps for shooting. Sculptures are found on the western portal, choir niche, sacramental niche, on consoles, nervures and arch keys. The altar, the pews, the pulpit are Baroque.
Großschenk - Cincu - Nagysink
One of the biggest basilicas from Transylvania. The double wall was mainly destroyed.
Hamruden - Homorod - Homoród
Romanic church from 13 cent. modified in 15 and 18 cent. Double wall from 15-18 cent. The church is in the village center. The initial Romanic church was reinforced in 15 cent. with a massive choir tower. The interior wall is quadrilateral and has towers at corners. At the end of the 18 century there was built the choir from the southern wall of the church. From this period is the interior furniture (altar, pulpit, pews, ceiling) in peasant Transylvania Baroque style.
Heltau - Cisnadie - Nagydisznód
Romanic basilica with western tower, 13th century, was fortified in 15 cent. Double wall with water fosse and in the center of the fortress is the Romanic basilica, a massive western tower on the both sides with naves. First the church was built for Saint Walburgis and was transformed in 15 century to a fortress-church. The choir was raised, above the northern and southern entries were built defence fortifications. A double wall with water fosse (moat) to protect the church.
Holzmengen - Hosman - Holcmány
Romanic basilica with a western tower, fortified around 1500. It was built in 13 cent. and modified in 15 cent. suitable for the defence tactics. For this the naves from the sides were demolished and a surrounding double wall was built. The gate tower still has the initial closing system (falling grid). The western portal is Romanic and represents a very valuable detail.
Honigberg - Harman - Szászhermány
Romanic basilica with a western tower and the chapels on the both sides of the choir, strong surrounding wall with water fosse.
Kelling - Cîlnic - Kelnek
Noble fortress with a chapel, donjon and double wall. The fortress is in the middle of the village on the river that crosses the village. It consists in an oval wall, a donjon and a chapel. A second surrounding wall was built later. The oldest parts of the fortress are from the second half of the 13 cent. A second phase of the construction can dated at the end of the 15 cent and the beginning of the 16 cent.
Kleinschelken - Seica Mica - Kisselyk
Gothic basilica from 14 cent., modified around 1500 for defence, double enclosure.
Klosdorf - Cloasterf - Miklóstelke
Fortified church from the beginning of the 16 cent. with quadrilateral wall. The church is on the main street of the village. It is a hall-church continuing towards east with a choir of the same width. The choir and the hall are covered with a defence level. Surrounding wall is a quadrilateral, and have in each corner a tower. The construction was finished in 1523.
Mediasch - Medias - Medgyes
Late style Gothic church, half hall-church, half basilica. Double wall with water fosse.
Meschen - Mosna - Muzsna
Church-hall in late Gothic style, from the end of 15 cent., strong wall, with enclosed zone.
Michelsberg - Cisnadioara - Kisdisznód
Short Romanic basilica, built around 1200, wall with battlements. The church is mentioned first in a documentary in 1223, when his owner was changed (Magister Gozelinus donated it to the Cirta Abbey. The basilica was designed with two towers on the western side but it was never built. Remarkable is the western portal in steps. At the east the church has three semicircular abside. The top of the hill on which is the church was fortified with a wall with battlements. At the south there is the gate tower, near the wall. In a most recent period was built at the east, at the exterior of the wall, another defence tower. The remains of a third defence tower are preserved in the front of the western portal.
Reussmarkt - Miercurea Sibiului - Szerdahely
Romanic church with a western tower, transformed in 18 cent., oval enclosure. The oldest building is the romanic basilica; it was transformed in 18 cent. into Baroque style. From this period dates the central nave arching, pilasters and the whole interior decoration: altar, pew, organ. The Church is surrounded by an oval wall, on which interior sides are watch roads and cereal larder. Supplementary fortifications consolidate the southern entry.
Schönberg - Dealul Frumos - Lesses
Romanic church with choir tower and a western tower, surrounded by a quadrilateral defence wall, enforced with towers and bastions. The church-fortress is at the crossing of the village roads. The first building was a Romanic basilica with a western tower, with a square choir and a semicircular apse. The side naves included the western tower. During the consolidation works, the western tower was raised and a watch road was added. Above the choir was built a tower (after the apse was demolished). The church is surrounded by a quadrilateral wall, which has towers at the corners and the southern part is closed. The fortifications are consolidated by supplementary towers and bastions. From the objects preserved are: a crucifix from before the Reform, remains of a Gothic pew, a sacramental niche, Gothic door handle. The altar, the pulpit and the font have classicist characteristics.
Tartlau - Prejmer - Prázsmár
Church, with a central building from 13 cent., it is surrounded by a very strong wall with water fosse.
Wurmloch - Valea Viilor - Nagybaromlak
Church-hall with a tower for choir and a western tower, in late Gothic style. The drawing made by Schlichting shows that the church-fortress suffered only a few transformations in the last 150 years. The Church is surrounded by an elliptical enclosure. Comparing with other church-fortresses from the Tarnava area, here is the masterpiece. The interior decoration of the church is from the 16 cent. (sacramental niche, portal, some of the pews) and from the 18 cent (altar, pulpit, font, and the other pews).
Valea Viilor (German: Wurmloch; Hungarian: Nagybaromlak)
It is a commune located in Sibiu County, Romania. It is composed of the villages of Valea Viilor and Motiş.
Valea Viilor is first mentioned in 1305 when its owner, Count Apafi, passed away. In a document from this period the village was referred to as terra Baromlach which means "land of the cattle". The German version of the village's name sounds similar but has a different meaning. The German name appears half a century later in a document that acknowledges the church of Wurmloch as belonging to the Superior Council of Schelk (Şeica Mare). The Saxon name roughly translates to "snake hole". As to whether the place was swarming with snakes or full of cattle it is unclear. What is clear is that the land was owned by nobility. However, by 1359 the land was being mentioned as a free commune. Surprisingly, the villagers of Valea Viilor excelled at making wine, giving rise to the Romanian name meaning "Vineyard Valley". The whole area has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1999.
The fortified church is situated in the center of the village. The first church was most likely a Gothic basilica erected in the early 14th century. Archeological excavations have revealed the existence of another building before the present church. Observable ruins in the floor of the vestry indicate that once was a Romanesque church at Valea Viilor. It is speculated that the original church was approximately 10 meters long, less than half the length of the present church. The present-day Gothic church, built in the 14th century, is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The church is characterized by Late-Gothic elements from around 1500. The church hall has a tunnel vault with a Late-Gothic ribbed net. The small nave has a vault supported by seven pairs of pillars that are attached to the side walls. Both the nave and the choir have a complex network of ribs on their vaults. In the construction phase, more levels were added above the choir with arches between the tall buttresses and a fortified level with a hoarding. The Baroque altar from 1779 has two tiers, columns, small columns, saint’s statues, and painted panels. A Eucharist shrine and stall work from the beginning of the 16th century have survived. The existing organ is from 1808. The church had undergone several periods of construction in the beginning of the 19th century.
The church is surrounded by an oval precinct with 7-8 meter high mantle walls. Towers were placed in the east, west, north, and south with the western one being a gate tower. The church and precinct are accessed via a vaulted gangway with portcullis on the western side. On the sides there are four bastions oriented north, south, east, and west. The walls are equipped with battlements and machicolations that are supported by brackets on the outside. There is another hoarding above the hall, with loopholes and arches for machicolations. The west tower, which is also a bell tower, has buttresses at 45 degrees, arches between the buttresses, and a hoarding on wooden cantilevers. The fortress of Valea Viilor is impressive because of the sculptural character of the fortified aspects.
The Germans of Transylvania, commonly called the Saxons, settled in the 12th and 13th centuries between Orastie and Brasov in the southeast and in the northeast around Bistrita. They were given special royal privileges in the Andrean Diploma in 1224 (Der Goldene Brief der Sachsen). In 1848, the Fundus Regius territory of the Saxons contained 271 villages, boroughs and towns populated by 275,000 inhabitants (172,000 Saxons and 203,000 Romanians) ruled by an autonomous territorial-administrative entity called the Universitas Saxonum, with its political, administrative and religious center at Sibiu (Hermannstadt).
The majority of Saxons in the Fundus Regius were freemen, though a number of Saxon serf villages existed in Tirnave. Some 40,000 Romanian serfs also existed in the region, who had to pay rent in kind and also give 100 days of forced labor a year. In the towns of Sibiu, Brasov, Bistrita, Medias, Sebes, Orastie, and elsewhere, a new bourgeois stratum and intelligentsia developed prior to 1848, which began to adhere to liberal views and question the corporatist medieval system (Zünfte).
The patriciate and Saxon civil servants tended to defend Habsburg absolutism and the Uniotrium nationum (1437) the Magyars, Szeklers, and Saxons which was its basis. The Saxons were represented in the diet and in the gubernium of Transylvania, as well as in the Aulic office (Cancelarie aulica) from Vienna and in the Treasury of Sibiu. The Sibiu Universitas maintained their privileges; the Siebenbürger Bote was their principal published voice
The Transylvanian Saxons (German: Siebenbürger Sachsen; Hungarian: Erdélyi szászok; Romanian: Saşi) are a people of German ethnicity who settled in Transylvania (German: Siebenbürgen) from the 12th century onwards.
The colonization of Transylvania by Germans was begun by King Géza II of Hungary (1141–1162). For decades, the main task of the German settlers was to defend the southeastern border of the Kingdom of Hungary. The colonization continued until the end of the 13th century. Although the colonists came mostly from the western Holy Roman Empire and generally spoke Franconian dialects, they were collectively known as Saxons because of Germans working for the Hungarian chancellery. For much of their history, these Saxons held a privileged status with the Hungarian nobles and Szeklers of Transylvania.
The Transylvanian Saxon population has decreased since World War II. Because of mass emigrations – primarily to Germany – very few remain in Romania.
The initial phase of German settlement began in the mid-12th century with colonists travelling to what would become the Altland or Hermannstadt Provinz (Szeben)(Sibiu County), based around the city of Hermannstadt (Sibiu). Although the primary reason for Géza II's invitation was border defense with the Szeklers against invaders, Germans were also sought for their mining expertise and ability to develop the region's economy. Most colonists from this era came from Luxembourg and the Moselle River region.
A second phase of German settlement came during the early 13th century consisting of settlers primarily from the Rhineland, Southern Low Countries, and the Moselle region, with others from Thuringia, Bavaria, and even from France. A settlement in northeastern Transylvania was centered on the town Nösen, the later Bistritz (Bistriţa), located on the Bistriţa River. The surrounding area became known as the Nösnerland. Continued immigration from the Empire expanded the area of the Saxons further to the east. Daughter settlements from the Hermannstadt region spread into the Hârtibaciu River Valley (Harbachtal) and to the feet of the Cibin (Zibin) and Sebeş (Mühlbacher) mountains. The latter region, centered on the city of Mühlbach (Sebeş) was known as the Unterwald. To the north of Hermannstadt was settled the Weinland near Mediasch (Mediaş).
In 1211 King Andrew II of Hungary invited the Teutonic Knights to settle and defend the Burzenland in the southeastern corner of Transylvania. To guard the mountain passes of the Carpathians (Karpaten) against the Cumans, the knights constructed numerous castles and towns, including the major city of Kronstadt (Braşov). Colonization in the Burzenland region consisted mostly of settlers from the Altland. Alarmed by the knights' rapidly expanding power, in 1225 Andrew II expelled the Order which henceforth relocated to Prussia in 1226, although the colonists remained in the Burzenland.
The Kingdom of Hungary's medieval eastern borders were therefore defended in the northeast by the Nösnerland Saxons, in the east by the Hungarian Border Guard tribe Szeklers, in the southeast by the castles built by the Teutonic Knights and Burzenland Saxons, and in the south by the Altland Saxons.
Although the knights had left Transylvania, the Saxon colonists remained, and the king allowed them to retain the rights and obligations included within the Diploma Andreanum of 1224. This document conferred upon the German population of the territory between Draas (Drăuşeni) and Broos (Orăştie) both administrative and religious autonomy and obligations towards the kings of Hungary. The territory that was colonized by Germans covered an area of about 30,000 km². During the reign of King Charles I of Hungary (probably 1325-1329), the Saxons were organized in the Saxon Chairs (or seats).
Along with the Teutonic Order, other religious organizations important to the development of German communities were the Cistercian abbeys of Igrisch (Igriş) in the Banat region and Cârţa in Fogarasch (Făgăraş).
The earliest religious organization of the Saxons was the Provostship of Szeben/Hermannstadt, founded 20 December 1191. In its early years, it included the territories of Hermannstadt, Leschkirch (Nocrich), and Groß-Schenk (Cincu), the areas that were colonized the earliest by ethnic Germans in the region.
Most of the Transylvanian Saxons embraced the new creed of Martin Luther during the Protestant Reformation (almost all became Lutheran Protestants, with very few Calvinists), while other minor parts of the Transylvanian Saxons remained staunchly Catholic (Latin rite) or were reverted to Catholicism later on.
Biertan was the see of the Lutheran Evangelical Bishop in Transylvania between 1572 and 1867. Roman Catholic bishops Augustin Pacha and Martin Roos are examples of 20th century ethnic Germans, of partially Transylvanian Saxon descent, who became diocesan bishops of Temeschburg (Timişoara).
The Mongol invasion of 1241-42 devastated much of the Kingdom of Hungary. Although the Saxons did their best to resist, many settlements were destroyed. In the aftermath of the invasion, many Transylvanian towns were fortified with stone castles and an emphasis was put on developing towns economically. Many towns were defended by Kirchenburgen, or fortified churches with massive walls. The rapid expansion of cities populated by the Saxons led to Transylvania being known in German as Siebenbürgen and Septem Castra in Latin, referring to seven of the fortified towns (see Historical names of Transylvania):
Along with the (largely Hungarian) Transylvanian nobility and the Szeklers, the Transylvanian Saxons were members of the Unio Trium Nationum, or "Union of the Three Nations", signed in 1438. This agreement preserved political rights for the three inclusive groups and excluded the largely Romanian peasantry from political life.
During the Protestant Reformation, most Transylvanian Saxons converted to Lutheranism. As the semi-independent Principality of Transylvania was one of the most religiously tolerant states in Europe, the Saxons were allowed to practice their religion. The Habsburgs promoted Roman Catholicism to the Saxons during the Counter Reformation, but the majority remained Lutheran.
Warfare between the Habsburg Monarchy and Hungary against the Ottoman Empire from the 16th-18th centuries decreased the population of Transylvania Saxons. When the Principality of Transylvania came under Austrian Habsburg rule, a smaller third phase of settlement commenced which helped to revitalize the Saxons. This included the settlement of exiled Protestants from Upper Austria (the Transylvanian Landler) near Hermannstadt. Germans served as administrators and military officers, especially during the Habsburg Monarchy's wars against the Ottoman Turks. The German-populated Hermannstadt (Now: Sibiu) was an important cultural center within Transylvania, while Kronstadt (now: Brasov) was a vital political center for the Saxons.
THE HISTORY OF
TRANSYLVANIA AND THE TRANSYLVANIAN SAXONS
by Dr. Konrad Gündisch, Oldenburg, Germany
"Siebenbürgen und die Siebenbürger Sachsen" was written in German by Dr. Konrad Gündisch, Oldenburg, Germany. The English translation "Transylvania and the Transylvanian Saxons" was written by Georg Schuller, Edmonton, Canada.
2. The Migration and Settlement of the Transylvanian Saxons
2.1. The Hungarian Crown of King Stephen as "Host"
The immense task to defend and develop the new territories was beyond the capabilities of the Magyars with their relatively small population. Qualified border settlers were not available in sufficient numbers. Often they were displaced groups from the steppe of Southern Russia. A shortage of skilled trades people, especially for mining, became apparent. The Magyars realized, as the founder of the nation St. Stephen reminded his son Emmerich in a "Libellus de institutione morum", "immigrating guests of various languages and customs bring different teachings and weapons. They decorate and uplift all regions and the royal court...because an empire with only one language and one law is weak and transient".. (Footnote 5).
Such guests ("hospites") had to be recruited with winning promises. Owning land was especially attractive in medieval times. The crown land (fundus regius) of the former desolate corridor of the old abatis border was made available. Privileges were also sought. These included rights which the guests were used to and "brought in their bones". However, it had to include rights beyond that to entice people to take the risk and settle in a region a thousand kilometres from their home land. Personal freedom, freedom of movement, permissiveness were magical words which gave promise of higher personal rank, security and better advancement. The Hungarian government made these promises and the promises were honored over centuries. Included in the constitution of the medieval Hungarian Kingdom of King Andrew II (he issued the Golden Bull, sometimes called the Hungarian Magna Charta in 1222) was the guarantee to guests of all nationalities (Footnote 6).
Especially King Geysa II (1141-1162) was successful in attracting German and Flemish farmers, trades people and lower nobility. They settled in Zips, today’s Slovakia, and in Transylvania.
Their colonization was part of an extensive European movement to develop land. It originated in economically developed regions where the population had increased rapidly. The movement entered history as settlements of Germans in the East. People who were disadvantaged by law of succession had the chance to secure land in underpopulated forested areas which could be developed through clearing. The increasing suppression of the rural population by feudal landowners encouraged others to follow the call of a far away land. Attractive were not only the prospects of owning land and personal freedom, but also independent judicature and choice of priests, tax freedom for many years, and the absence of homage.
The medieval German Southeast Colonization occurred in Hungary peacefully and not through conquering land. The king himself invited the colonists to his land.
2.2. Origin of the Transylvanian Saxons
Transylvanian-Saxon historians, over a long period, diligently tried to establish the origin of the settlers who had followed the invitation of King Geysa II to come to Transylvania. The result is disappointing and is proof only of an incorrect starting point. Historians are in agreement on one thing: emigration did not originate from a clearly definable region nor did it occur in substantially large numbers at only one time.
This is why the migration was not really noticed. Documents describing the event are not available. Only three reports mention persons moving during this period from the Lower Rhine region (Niederrhein and from the Wetterau region) to Hungary: Anselm of Braz in the Lütticher Land, Burgvogt von Logne (1103), Hezelo near Merkstein, (Footnote 7) in 1148; during the reign of King Geysa II, and a few residents from Oppoldishusen, mentioned as fleeing to Hungary not before 1313. It is questionable if they did in factt emigrate to Transylvania. Also questionable is the relationship of the "first Transylvanian Saxons" in conjunction with the names of the towns in their home region: Broos, Hetzeldorf, Groß- and Kleinpold or Trappold. However, it was not entirely unusual to name settlements in Transylvania after their founders (knights distributing colonial land, similar to "Lokatoren" in Silesia), for example, Hermannstadt. Its namesake could have been a "maior hospitum" similar to the Hermann mentioned in the southwest Hungarian Fünfkirchen (Pécs) in 1181.
Documents written not before the last decade of the 12th century by the Hungarian Court, the Transylvanian Wojwode (royal governor, or voivode), the papal chancellery and the Transylvanian Bishopric, very seldom mention the new settlers, and their place of origin only vaguely. "The King's guest settlers beyond the forests" are mentioned in very general terms. The "ecclesia Theutonicorum Ultrasilvanorum" was spoken of in 1191, and the "priores Flandrenses" during 1192-1196. The name "Saxones" surfaced in 1206. After this time it was commonly used in the documents of the chancellery and defines the Germanic Transylvanians (Siebenbürger) to this day.
However, all individuals possessing privileges that were negotiated by Saxon miners were called Saxons during Medieval Hungary, regardless in which region they lived: Bosnia, Zips (Slovakia) or Transylvania. These tradesmen were in short supply and were desperately needed to mine the natural resources. The Miners Rights, guaranteed to attract these workers and as an enticement to remain, contain an entire catalog of privileges which all colonists of Medieval Hungary could demand: personal freedom, entitlement to inherit land, self administration and judiciary, religious autonomy with free selection of priests, controlled and, therefore, predictable taxes, and other obligations. "Saxon" was, therefore, a synonym for a legal status, a status with privileges, and not, if at all, a name of origin.
Research of the specific dialect spoken by the Transylvanian Saxons could not establish any correlation with an emigration from Saxony. Similarities with the "Letzelburger Platt", a Mosel-Franconian dialect encouraged researchers to identify this as the place of origin. However, Bavarian, North and Middle German influences have also been proven. Additional confusion arises with a thesis of a parallel but independent development of two isolated languages in the west and southwest of Europe, one in Luxembourg, the other in Transylvania.
Newer historical studies of liturgies based on medieval Transylvanian liturgy books show parallels with the Church province Cologne, but also with the Magdeburg area. This could confirm the assumption that the migrants had a temporary stay at the Elbe and Saale or they were disappointed participants of the Second Crusade in 1147.
Archaeologists assumed, based on finds of the so called gray ceramic, that a larger number of settlers emigrated from Middle Germany to Northern Transylvania. A cult vessel found near Schellenberg shows similarities with a jug from Riethnordhausen in Thuringia and has been connected with crafts of a Hildesheimer workshop. The Franconian architecture of Transylvanian Saxon houses and the architecture of South German churches point to a different place of origin, just like the similarities of a motive of a picture on a headstone found in Heltau near Hermannstadt and one found in Faha near Trier.
Without a doubt, among the settlers were not only Germans, be they Teutonici from Southern Germany or Saxons from Middle and Northern Germany but also Romanic people from the western regions of the then German Empire. One of the earliest documents on Transylvanian Saxons points at Flandrenses who had at least two independent settler groups.
These came from an economically highly developed region of the empire, where during the 11th and 12th centuries shortage of land was overcome through intensive planning and building of dike systems. Cities were developed through the textile industry and trade. Many knights of the first crusade came from here. It is undisputed that Flandrenses played an important role in the German East-Migration.
Latins, settlers of Romanic-Walloon origin, were also represented. For example, Johannes Latinus, who arrived as knight but also as one of the first Transylvanian merchants, Gräf Gyan from Salzburg who frightened the bishop of Weißenburg, or Magister Gocelinus, who presented Michelsberg to the Cistercian abbey Kerz. Also to be mentioned is the name of the town Walldorf (villa Latina, "Wallonendorf", town of Walloons) and villa Barbant or Barbantina, a name which brings to mind Brabant in Belgium.
Based on the described and often contradictory research results, answers to the question of the origin of Transylvanian Saxons cannot be considered as final. An incontestable clarification cannot be expected since it is probable that the colonists of different religions and ethnic background came in small groups from all regions of the then empire and grew, once in Transylvania, into a group with its own distinct identity, with German language and culture. In any event, their number was negligibly small and has been estimated at 520 families, approximately 2600 persons.
2.3. Progression of the Settlement
During the period of the first two crusades (1096-1099 and 1147-1149), moving by land through Pannonia across the Balkan Peninsula and Asia Minor to the holy land, people of the West became aware of Hungary as an enticing land. Praised by the timely German Chronicler and Bishop Otto von Freising as "God's Paradise", one can only speculate about an immediate effect of the crusades on the emigration from the Empire to Medieval Hungary. And, without a doubt, the crusaders did not travel through Transylvania.
During the second crusade in the year 1147, King Conrad III came with his army through Hungary. King Geysa (Géza) II (1141-1162), who governed during this period and in 1224 issued the document of privileges "Guarantee of Freedom" (Freibrief) for the Transylvanian Saxons, deserves the credit for inviting "German guests". In 1911, 850 years after his reign began, a memorial was held at the Frankfurt Paulskirche to commemorate among other things, the settlement of Transylvanian Saxons. The organizers were aware of the fact that this celebration at this time is not an accurate but merely a symbolic, although probable, date. (Footnote 8)
At his coronation, Geysa was only eleven years old. His mother Ilona as his guardian and her Serbian brother Belos were governing the country. In 1141 the relations with the Empire were good. The engagement of Geysa's younger sister, Sophie, with the four year old crown prince, Heinrich, was to strengthen the bond between the Staufern and the Árpád dynasties and as a result, during that time German settlers were welcome in Hungary.
This engagement was annulled some years later by the Germans. It was an affront which led to an armed conflict in 1146 between the Empire and Hungary and made a settler program impossible.
Shortly after Geysa II took over the reign, probably in July of 1147, he met with the crusader Conrad III who traveled through Hungary at the time. An agreement concerning the settler program to Transylvania may have been reached at this opportunity. The chronicles of this meeting mention not only the hospitality of the Hungarians but also the disputes with the at times violent Germans. One year later, in 1148, Hezelo von Merkstein made arrangements to sell his house because he was emigrating to Hungary. It is not known if he made it all the way to Transylvania.
After 1148 German-Hungarian relations worsened. After the death of Conrad II a war almost started. It was not a good time to attract colonists from the Empire. A closer Hungarian-German cooperation began in 1158 when a Hungarian delegation offered to assist Emperor Frederick Barbarossa in his planned war campaign with Italy. Maybe the issue of settlers was also agreed upon. After the end of 1159, German-Hungarian relations turned frosty again, since Geysa strengthened his contacts with Pope Alexander III and the French King Ludwig VII. Both were avowed enemies of Barbarossa. The Hungarian king died in 1162, only 31 years of age. The colonizing of the Transylvanian Saxons is, among his achievements, of historic magnitude. But the emigration required the cooperation and approval of the ruler of their homeland. Therefore, only relatively brief periods were favourable and could be considered for the migration.
It probably will never be fully clarified if the colonization was initiated during the years 1141, 1147 or as late as 1158. Certain is only that it occurred during the reign of Geysa II, began at the middle of the 12th century and with interruptions lasted for more than one century. Various colonization stages are apparent when analyzing the traces of the advancing abatis border (Verhausäume). They were erected by the Hungarian crown after parts of Transylvania were occupied and advanced to the east to the point where the Carpathian Mountains were reached. The traditional abatis to protect the borders were then replaced by guarded settlements (Wehrsiedlungen) on Crown Land (Königsboden). The then available desolate land (Ödlandstreifen), in records also called "terra deserta", was distributed to the invited guests.
During the first stage of colonizing (until the end of the 12th century), several mining towns were established in Northern Transylvania. They were located near Kolosch, Desch and Seck. Near Alba Iulia (Weißenburg) half way down the Mures river were the "primi hospites" Krakau, Krapundorf, Rumes and Barbant. At the Zibin and Alt, it was the towns in the Hermannstadt province (Altland) of Leschkirch und Großschenk. The exempt Hermannstadt Provost, which was divided into wards and belonged to the far distant archdiocese of Gran, was founded during 1188 - 1191 for these settlers.
Towards the end of the 12th century annexation of land in Transylvania by Hungary was mostly completed. The Carpathian Mountains were now the border. After this first phase, the second phase of establishing settlements began in the following two first decades of the 13th century Starting in the Hermannstadt region (Altland) these secondary settlements were built in the Harbachtal (Harbach-Valley) and at the foot of the Cibinului (Zibins) and Muntii Sebesului (Mühlbacher Mountains). Most likely additional colonists also arrived from the Occident. At that time the abatis in the Sebes Alba (Mühlbach) region were given up and the Szeklers were moved from the border settlements to their present location in the east of the country. The regions with German settlers in Southern Transylvania reached the west-east limits from Broos to Draas as mentioned in King Andrew II's "Guarantee of Freedom", a document of privileges for the Transylvanian Saxons, dated 1224.
184.108.40.206. The Teutonic Knights in the Burzenland (Brasov)
At this time King Andrew II also invited the Order of Teutonic Knights (Deutscher Orden) to the Burzenland, what is now Tara Bârsei, the greater Brasov region. Embedded in the arch of the Carpathian Mountains where many mountain passes lead from the east and the south, the region was strategically very important but especially vulnerable to attacks. It was planned to develop the regions beyond the Carpathian Mts. for Christianity, primarily for the Hungarian Crown. After the Transylvanian Saxons were assigned to protect the southern and northeast border and the Szeklers the east borders, a qualified group who was equally capable to defend, expand and conduct missionary work, was sought for the southeast section. The Teutonic Knights were chosen with its grand master Hermann von Salza from Thuringia. The Hungarian dynasty established family ties with Thuringia in 1211. Probably with the influence of Queen Gertrude from the Bavarian dynasty of Andechs-Meranien, Princess Elizabeth of Hungary was to become engaged to the future Count Ludwig of Thuringia (1217-1227). (She was canonized in 1235). It is unlikely a coincidence that the Teutonic Knights were invited at the same time.
The monks, experienced in warfare, received the area of the Burzenland (Brasov) depression with the permission to build castles and cities out of wood only, pay no taxes, have duty free markets, keep half of the mined gold and silver and deny hospitality to the Wojwode. They were directly accountable to the king’s judicature, and in religious matters under the Roman Curia. In return they should protect the border against invading Cumans, convert them and other people beyond the Carpathians to Catholicism, and expand if possible the Hungarian empire in this area.
The knights established numerous towns and built the first Marienburg ("Mary’s Castle") at the Alt as their seat. German settlers were called to these establishments, mainly from the Hermannstadt province. Most recent archaeological finds, not yet fully evaluated, point also to an earlier presence of Occidental colonists in this area.
The stay of the Teutonic Knights remained an interlude. Fourteen years later in 1225 they were ordered to leave the country.
Geysa II offered the advantageous conditions of the "Hungarian right of hospitality" to all those he invited to his empire. His successor Andrew II put it in writing, issuing the document of privileges, the "Guarantee of Freedom" (Goldenen Freibrief) in 1224. It contained the most refined and extensive privileges any settlers from the West had received in Eastern Europe.
Document of Privileges of the Transylvanian Saxons (1224)
In the name of the holy Trinity and indivisible Unity. Andrew by the grace of God King of Hungary, Dalmatia, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Galicia and Lodomeria for always.
As it behooves the royal dignity, to suppress the supercilious refractoriness, it is proper for the royal kindness, to alleviate the humble affliction mercifully. To protect the service of the loyal and show and provide to all what is deserved with grace.
Here are our loyal guest settlers, the Germans beyond the forests (Transylvania), having approached in unity our majesty, presented to us humbly their complaints and pleas that they risk to lose entirely their freedom provided by our grandfather, the all merciful King Geysa, unless our royal majesty continues as in the past to keep a merciful eye on them. Therefore, out of poverty and despair they could not provide service to the royal majesty.
In listening mercifully as usual to their just complaints we wish to announce for the present and the future to follow the trail of our predecessors, and emotionally touched, grant the freedoms they previously had. And as to:
1.All peoples from Waras to Boralt including the Szekler region of Sebus shall create a political union (unus populus) responsible to one judge. Simultaneously all counties (comitatus) excluding Hermannstadt shall suspend (their activity).
2.Who, however, becomes count of Hermannstadt may appoint (as judges/administrators) only permanent residents in the mentioned counties, and the political units (populi) shall always elect such (judges/administrators) which are assumed especially capable in their authority. Nobody of the county of Hermannstadt shall make an attempt to buy an administrator.
3.They shall contribute every year 500 Silvermarks to the benefit of our court. We want to make certain not to exclude any landlord or anybody else who resides in the area of these contributions unless he has a special privilege. We also allow to pay the moneys owing in no other weight but Silvermarks, as defined by our Father Bela in pious memory, namely 4 ½ Vierdung (= 1 Mark und 2 Lot) Hermannstadt weight, like the Cologne penny (Kölner Pfennig) to avoid any discrepancy when weighing. They shall not refuse to pay three Lot for every day to the royal messenger appointed to collect the moneys, to cover his expenses while staying in their region.
4.They shall provide 500 armed personnel (milites) to serve the king during a campaign in the empire. They shall provide 100 armed personnel for a campaign outside the empire, provided the king is participating personally. Whenever he sends a nobleman (iobagionem) across the borders of the empire only 50 armed personnel are to be provided. The king may not demand more armed men nor must they send them.
5.They shall elect their priests (sacerdotes) freely and introduce the elected (to the bishop). They shall pay every Tenth to them and shall be conventionally accountable to them in all church laws.
6.We wish to rule lawfully, nobody may prosecute except us or the Count of Hermannstadt, whom we will appoint for a location and a time. Should one stand before any judge, the court proceedings must comply with the common law (of the settlers). Also, nobody may order them to our court unless the case cannot be decided by their own judge.
7.Beyond the aforementioned, we provide the regions Vlachen- and Bissenenwald and the respective waters for common use with the mentioned Vlachs and Petchenegs without having to provide services for the mentioned freedom.
8.In addition we have permitted their own seal which is to be publicly accepted by us and our great (magnates).
9.Should any of them be before the courts for money matters, only residents of the region may be called as witnesses. We release them of any other (foreign) jurisdiction.
10.In compliance with the old freedom, we allow them all for a period of eight days free collection of Salt for personal use on or about every holiday of St. Georg (April 23rd), St. Stephen (September 2nd) and St. Martin (November 11th). In addition, no customs duty collector may obstruct their journey during departure nor when returning.
11.The forest, and all its contents and use of the waters with the course of the rivers, which only the king may distribute, we provide to them all for their free use, to the poor and the rich.
12.We rule with royal authority, none of our nobles (iobagiones) may dare to request from the royal majesty a town or land. Should one request (a town or land), they shall object, based on the freedom provided by us.
13.We specify that the mentioned loyal provide only three meals to us when we must travel to them during a campaign. But when a Wojwode in matters of the king is sent to or through their region, they shall grant hospitality twice, when entering and departing.
14.We add to the freedoms of the aforementioned, their trades people may travel freely everywhere in our kingdom, where they may enforce their right by referring to the royal highness.
15.We order their markets to be free of taxes.
16.To ensure the above mentioned freedoms remain in force and unshakeable, we apply to this sheet our two seals for enforcement.
Provided in the 1224th year after the incarnation, in the 21st year of our Kingdom.
Source: Ernst Wagner (ed.): Quellen zur Geschichte der Siebenbürger Sachsen. 21981, Nr. 5, pgs. 16-19.
At the beginning, beneficiaries of these rights, German colonists originating from different regions, were called "hospites Theutonici" or "Flandrenses". Later the collective description "Saxones" as used by the Hungarian administration (Chancellery) became predominant. German settlers of the Zips region (Slovakia), German miners in the Balkan (Bosnia and Croatia belonging to Hungary), in Serbia and in the Osmanian Empire were also called "Saxones" apparently referring to the owners of privileges as defined in the "jus Theutonicum".
At the time when representatives of the settlers (comparable with the localite -Lokators of Silesia) mediated between the king and the settlers, negotiated the privileges and developed towns, the so called Gräfen (Count) most likely appeared, who also became the Saxons' first elite and who probably originated from the German ministries.
3. Political History and Economic Development during the Middle Ages
These "Transylvanian Saxons" developed their assigned areas commercially over a short period. They not only made the soil arable, improved agricultural methods but also made accessible and exploited the areas containing precious metals in the West and East Carpathians (Ostkarpaten, Siebenbürgisches Erzgebirge, Rodenauer Berge) and the Transylvanian high country salt deposits, and advanced handicrafts and trade. Already in 1186, the Hungarian king was able to collect 15000 Silvermarks contributed by the "hospites regis de Ultrasylvas" .
The aspiring Transylvanian Saxons were like all people burdened by the Mongol invasion in 1241. The Tatar horsemen invaded almost simultaneously through several passes of the Carpathians, overcame the old border defense system almost effortlessly, defeated the Hungarian army of horsemen near Mohi and put entire regions to waste. Apparently the only successful resistance came from the Transylvanian Saxons. In the mountain city Rodenau "six hundred selected armed Germans" led by the city judge Arscaldus, opposed the Mongols, as was reported by a contemporary. The city was eventually conquered with a trick. When the enemy pretended to retreat the Germans celebrated with a victorious drunkenness "as the German passion demands" and lost the battle.
The Mongol invasion resulted in a new orientation of the Hungarian defense and economic policies. Cities were increasingly fortified and became catalysts of the economic development. New settlers were recruited for this purpose. Strategically and economically important towns were promoted and advanced through privileges and tax concessions. In addition to the then existing mountain cities Rodenau, Offenburg, Thorenburg and Großschlatten, a chain of German commerce and trade centres were developed along the Carpathian Arc, like Bistritz (Bistrita) , Kronstadt (Brasov), Hermannstadt (Sibiu), Mühlbach (Sebes) and Klausenburg (Cluj).
The development of the cities, consistently supported by the Hungarian Kings Carl I Robert of Anjou (1308-1342), his son Ludwig I the Great (1342-1382), and Sigismund of Luxembourg (1387-1437), resulted in the transition from a resource to a commerce economy, and attached the grain and stock production to the European trade of goods. The first obtainable rules of a guild dated 1376 points to an advanced differentiation of the craftsmanship at a level similar to west European cities. 25 trades were organized in 19 guilds. The cities became economic and cultural centres of the country. Constitutional and legal standards of German cities were adapted, in part the city laws of Magdeburg and Iglau. New laws were developed as early as 1271, the law of "Bergrecht von der Rodenau" for example.
From the end of the 14th century on, the fortified cities were the best protection for the increasing threat by the Osman Turks. The cities withstood longer lasting sieges and hampered the advancement of larger forces. Fortified churches in villages offered protection from smaller raids. With this unique system of fortified churches and cities the Transylvanian Saxons became part of the much heralded "Antemurale Christianitatis", the advanced fortress of Christianity, protecting southeast European people from advancing Turks. After the fall of Constantinople in 1453, the mayor of Hermannstadt could write with pride that his city is "not alone a shield for the Hungarian empire but for all of Christianity".
A looming danger to undermine the privileged position came not only through the Osman threat but also from the Hungarian aristocracy. The initiative was taken mainly through the privileged patrician class consisting of Counts (Gräfen) and later by merchants and rich tradesmen and owners of mines, to politically unite the settler communities which lived within the four territorially unconnected regions: the so called Seven Chairs of the Hermannstadt province, the two chairs of the Kokel region, the Nösner and the Burzenländer districts. With reference to the document of privileges of Andrew II (Andreanischen Freibrief, "unus sit populus", einig sei die Gemeinschaft, unity within the community) they grew into an "Entirety of Saxons", the intact unity of Transylvanian Saxons, the "Sächsische Nationsuniversität" (-Universitas Saxonum, -Gesamtheit der Sachsen). It became the superior political, administrative and judicial representation of the free Germans in Transylvania, an institution similar to the alliance of cities in western Europe. This lengthy process was completed in 1486.
It created a self governing strong commonwealth whose population grew to a people with a German language, with an unique relic dialect, similar to the one in Luxembourg; a people with a special legal status within a medieval Hungarian state, with its own values of self-consciousness, experience spheres and judgmental values, and with a special sense for togetherness. The "Sächsische Nationsuniversität" (Intact Unity of Transylvanian Saxons) represented a class of free, privileged townspeople and farmers and was their representative in the Transylvanian assembly which included Hungarian aristocracy and the free Szekler defense farmers.
The word "nation" was used in reference to class at that time. The Nationsuniversität did not however, represent the Germans living on the land belonging to aristocrats just as it did not represent the people under Hungarian or Romanian bondage (who were already then the majority), just like the congregation of nobility did not represent commoners.
Therefore, the implied nationality within the word "Nationsuniversität" was primarily not an expression of nationality but of social status and discrete values, a byproduct of historic constitutional events and the result of a conscious desire to unite and defend the rights of a privileged group. There is also no relation with Council of Nations or medieval Universities. The Transylvanian Saxon students had no inhibitions to join the "natio Hungarica" according to territorial principles. The "Nationsuniversität" was therefore successful during the early recent history and stood the test of time.
4. Early recent history: Autonomous Principality Transylvania
Early recent history began in the medieval Hungarian kingdom with a catastrophe in 1526. Sultan Suleiman I the Magnificent, defeated Hungary near Mohács. King Ludwig II died in the battle. Based on contracts concerning inheritance law and marriage settlements, the crown of Hungary was claimed by the Hapsburg dominion. These demands could be met in only West and Northeast Hungary. Central Hungary was occupied by the Osman dynasty and converted in 1514 into a Pashalyk, a Turkish province. Transylvania had developed into an autonomous principality recognizing the superiority of the Ottoman empire.
Three privileged groups, Hungarian nobility, free Szkelers and the Saxons played a decisive role. They had the right to veto (Kuriatvotum) in the assembly and were able to block laws which were contradictory to their own particular interests. They elected a Hungarian aristocrat as prince and appointed his advisors. Neither the prince nor the two other groups were allowed to interfere with the affairs of one group. It is obvious why this period was considered the period of blossom of the self rule for the Transylvanian Saxons.
The political and economic situation developed less favourably. Transylvania was drawn into the secular struggle between the Hapsburgs and the Ottoman empire. The Austrian dynasty did not relinquish its claim for the strategically important Transylvania, although lacking the power for enforcement. The Hungarian aristocracy opposed these claims and the Transylvanian Saxons supported it out of loyalty to a German dynasty and with the hope for support from the West against the Turks. Mayor Petrus Haller of Hermannstadt wrote in 1551:"May God give us peace under our German king". This statement points to an emotional component in the consciousness of self which the Transylvanian Saxons developed in the period of humanism and reformation. In addition to the self stereotypes of a free and privileged class and the protective shield of Christianity, the one of being a member of the German people was added.
This was connected to the spiritual renewal of the Transylvanian Saxons during the 1540s. Johannes Honterus, a Kronstadt senator who had studied in Vienna and was active as a printer and humanist in Cracow and Basel, practiced spiritual renewal in the spirit of Martin Luther and published a reformation booklet. Hermannstadt's mayor, Peter Haller, partially rewrote the book, as "Order of the Church of all Transylvanian Saxons" (Kirchenordnung aller Deutschen in Sybembürgen) and introduced it into the worldly political scene. The "Nationsuniversität" decided in 1550 to impose these rules in all cities and communities of Transylvania. The Transylvanian Saxons created a so-called spiritual university, a people's church for themselves. Over time this evangelistic inspired cooperative "ecclesia Dei nationis Saxonica" assumed important worldly functions.
In compliance with the "order of the church", the school system was restructured in urban and rural regions including the care of the poor and sick. Graduates of the secondary schools (gymnasium) were sent to Protestant universities in Germany. With this the contact nourished with the "motherland" over centuries in trade, commerce and education became, so to speak, institutionalized in the area of higher education.
German was now spoken in church and school. The Augsburg confession was accepted. Hungarians and Szeklers were Reformed or Catholics, and the Romanians remained Greek Orthodox. Confession and nationality became synonyms. However, religious tolerance was brought into existence in 1557 on initiative of the Saxon "Nationsuniversität", a first in Europe. That is, "everybody may keep his desired confession, and allow at their discretion new and old rituals in church service including in matters of confession of faith, allow to happen what they prefer, however without insulting anybody’s confession". In tolerating other confessions, the Evangelical-Lutheran confession became a further important component of Transylvanian Saxon selfhood.
In 1583, the "Nationsuniversität" brought together the existing ancestral common laws which were complemented with clauses of the Roman law and had these revised laws approved by the ruler prince Stephan Báthory, who was also the king of Poland : "The Statutes of the Saxons in Transylvania or their own Common Law" (Der Sachsen in Siebenbürgen Statuta oder eygen Landrecht). The law guaranteed all members of the "Nationsuniversität" personal freedom, proprietary right and equality before the law, and remained in effect until 1853. However, reality did not always reflect equality as expressed in the law. Social differences were present in Transylvania’s Saxon society and conflicts between the patrician population and the lower classes became especially virulent in the 17th century.
Within the group the belief of a society developed "where nobody is master and nobody is servant", of a centuries old democracy based on the election of political and clerical representatives. Their historians had an influential part in this development. This component of the Transylvanian Saxon selfhood ignored not only the social structures but also the fact that only landlords, people owning property, could be elected. Transylvanian Saxon commoners had no part in this democracy nor did Romanian subordinates who had settled on crown land.
The new self consciousness developed during the period of Humanism and Reformation in a participating Transylvanian principality was reflected in a speech of the Saxon count Albert Huet in 1591 to the Transylvanian prince, "the basic sermon of the Saxon’s origin, life, actions and change".
It was a speech designed to defend Saxon privileges. The Hungarian aristocracy was questioning these privileges with reference to the foreign origin and the lowly class of the German farmers and tradesmen. Huet countered they had been "invited and asked" and had "long fought for their land so long until the swords and spears could become plowshares". As farmers, tradesmen and merchants, they "honestly earned their bread … and when in need gave to the king and his people a good, fat and pleasant interest" which was by far larger than the one of any of the other "nations". In addition "the Saxons are the third part of the land and use a free vote to elect the prince and all common activity". "That is why" Huet mentioned with confidence "are we strangers no more but citizens and locals of the country".
THE "SAXON" AND GERMAN ELEMENTS
A wide variety of Germans migrated to Hungary during the course of the Middle Ages. Five important groupings of these settlers can be identified. Let us begin with the people who are usually referred to as the Saxons of Transylvania.
The first major influx of German settlers into the region occurred during the reign of Géza II, who issued a call for colonizers in 1141. These first settlers were mainly from the areas of Saxony in northern Germany, and, although subsequent people came from all parts of the Holy Roman Empire and Flanders, the term "Saxon" came to denote all Transylvanian Germans. The Germans received a major set of privileges
from king András II in 1224 in a document usually referred to as the Diploma Andreanum. Although this gave them autonomy in most local matters, they were still subject to the authority of the count (comes) of Szeben (Sibiu, Hermannstadt). Following the Tatar devastation, the Saxons were able to free themselves from the comes and had similar immunities to those that governed the life of free cities. Eventually, the area developed further administratively, with complete local judicial autonomy. By the fourteenth century, there emerged the so-called Seven Seats (Stühle, sedes), to which two other "seats" were later added. Other important Saxon centers were the cities of Beszterce (Bistrita, Bistritz) and Brassó (Kronstadt, Brasov), which were able to gain, by the fifteenth century, the same tax privileges as the other Saxon seats. The Saxon settlements in Transylvania were obliged to pay a set sum of taxes to the royal treasury, to be delivered on Saint Martin's Day. They also contributed an agreed-upon number of soldiers to the royal army.
When the first German settlers arrived, they found the environment hostile to the growth of towns; but as they prospered, urbanization set in, and soon the villages were subordinated to the rising towns. The areas settled by the Saxons were only sparsely occupied by Hungarians, and thus it was possible for the Germans to create large, coherent blocks of territory almost exclusively inhabited by their own people. Penetration of Magyars and later of Rumanians into these units was slow. The first mention of Vlachs in the Saxon cities comes in 1404. It is interesting to note that a number of the judges among the Saxons, known as Gräve, made the transition to Magyar nobility, intermarried with Hungarian families, and advanced in the administrative or ecclesiastic field. The Saxons formed the Universitas Saxonum (or Saxonorum) and were one of the three elements (together with the Székelys and the Magyar nobles) who made up the Universitats Trium Nationum.
The second major concentration of Germans was in the area of Szepes (Zips) and Sáros in northeastern Hungary, on the important trade routes between Poland and the Hungarian plains. These settlements originated mainly from the period following the Tatar invasion. The first major charter of privileges was issued to the settlers in 1271 by István V. The newcomers, many of whom came from the region of Flanders, settled in among the existing Magyar and Slovak villages, forming not a continuous unit of territory such as existed in Transylvania, but a mosaic of settlements bound together by their common privileges. These newly-arrived Germans soon emerged as the dominant ethnic element in the cities of Kassa, Lõcse, Késmárk, Bártfa,
Eperjes, and others. Their numbers were reinforced by continuous new migrations, especially from Silesia. The cities prospered under the commercial advantages granted to the settlers and steadily rose in importance throughout the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. To further protect their privileges from possible erosion, a confederation under the leadership of Bártfa came into existence in the fifteenth century. This bound the northeastern cities together in common defense of their interests in national and international matters. Every second year they held conferences to develop a unified policy on major issues. This development reached its peak in 1485 with the signing of a far-reaching promise of cooperation among the cities.
The third major group of Germans settled in the north-Hungarian mining towns in what is today central Slovakia. Most of the immigrants came following the Tatar invasion, from the areas of Thuringia and Nürnberg. In these mining regions, the German settlers found a mix of Slovak and Magyar inhabitants. The towns were predominantly German, although some movement from the countryside into the cities is evident. The language, culture, and even architectural style in these towns were predominantly German. The Slovak and Magyar elements were not among the leaders of these municipalities.
The fourth area of German domination can be seen in the various towns throughout the Hungarian kingdom. We have already mentioned the strong German influence on the life of the capital city, Buda. The same situation prevailed in other towns such as Pozsony and Sopron. In both cities, the town council was usually dominated by the German element, and the majority of the correspondence and city council documents were in German. Nagyszombat (Tyrnava) was also founded with special privileges granted to German colonists by king Béla IV in 1238 and grew into a major trade center on the highway leading to Brünn (Brno) and Prague from Esztergom and Buda. The town became one of the free royal cities with extensive privileges and immunities. In Transylvania, the town of Kolozsvár (Cluj, Klausenburg), which became a free royal city in 1316, was at first a Magyar settlement. By the beginning of the fifteenth century, the German element had become dominant. There was, however, a constant influx of Magyars into the city, and by the second half of the century the Hungarians had made major advances. In 1458, a compact, or union, between the Magyars and the Saxons was established. Half of the town council had to be made up of Germans, the other half of Magyars. Likewise, the judgeships (Richter) also had to be rotated, with one German and one Hungarian serving his term. Although this meant considerable political
progress for the Magyar population, the Germans managed to retain their economic superiority well into the next century.
Finally, one more area of German settlement needs at least passing attention, namely, the region on the western borders of Hungary with the Austrian lands. In the area that is now part of the Burgenland, there were extensive Magyar settlements in the period before the thirteenth century. Subsequently, however, a shift in populations occurred, and a number of new settlers from other parts of Austria were brought here and established their homes in the area of the Neusiedlersee (Fertõ Tó), in a southwestern direction. The Hungarians were progressively pushed from this region in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
To sum up, we can say that the German settlers in Hungary, although a small minority compared to other ethnic groups, exerted an influence that was far greater than their numerical strength would indicate. The fact that they were mainly urban dwellers and possessed extensive privileges and immunities helped to insure their prosperity. Their presence in Hungary was a definite economic and cultural advantage and helped to raise the general level of society in the kingdom.