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   Part II.


 Árpád's Conquest of Hungary;


 Conversion to Christianity


 Around 830 A.D, a  large group of Magyars appeared  in the territories next to the Black Sea between the Don and the Dniester, in Levedia.  They lived there until 889 A.D. The Magyars, giving way to the pressure coming from the East, moved to Etelköz, which would be located in  today's Moldavia and Bessarabia (the Republic of Moldavia). These territories were given to the Soviet Union in 1940. 

  The Magyars were in close contact with Byzantium already in   Etelköz (Atelkuzu).  They were allied forces during the Bulgarian‑Byzantine Wars, in 894. The Byzantines got to know the Magyars better, and they managed to receive more detailed information about them.  Magyar links strengthened with the Byzantines.  The Byzantine world exerted a significant cultural influence upon  the Magyars.  This is proved by the fact that in the contemporary tombs,  Byzantine impact  can also be found among Sassanidae, Arab, Norman and other influences. In the tombs from the 10th century we can often observe objects of Byzantine origin or showing Byzantine characteristics.  The findings are often accompanied by money of the Byzantine Emperors.  Several objects with Greek inscriptions were found  in the tombs.  The best example is the silver‑button of Piliny [34].     


During the two decades after the Magyars settled in the Carpathian Basin, they remained faithful to the Byzantine Empire.  They also knew that one of the main conditions of the new state's maintenance was  Byzantine goodwill and recognition.  This point of view was also reasonable, because they sought  Byzantine aid to neutralize the German influence.  The new Magyar land belonged to the Byzantine range of influence, even though earlier it had been an organic part of the Holy Roman Empire.  That is to say, the knowledge of Roman unity was still alive in Byzantium.  The West‑Roman Empire's territories occupied by the barbarians were always considered by the Emperor's court as belonging to the Byzantine Empire.  The lands of Hungary, even after the Magyars settled down there, were viewed as  belonging to the Byzantine zone of interest.  The Hungarians also faced these facts.  They did not oppose Greek‑Catholicism (the Eastern Orthodox Church) either during the years of settling down or later.     

On the territories of their new homeland, Magyars found only one people in considerable number, the Slavs. They are not to be mistaken with the Slovaks.  In the first half of the 10th century, the Carpathian Basin was not inhabited by the Slovaks but by the Slavs, who lived everywhere on the boundaries between the plains and mountains. 


The Magyar ‑ Slav contact did not take place in the interior of the country.  The two peoples met on the confines of the mountainous district, such as the south‑western part of Transdanubia; the slopes of the Mecsek, Mátra and Bükk Mountains; the territories along the Tisza and Szamos, the Kraszna Valley and in Transylvania in the area of Gyulafehérvár.  The lands lying between this area and the natural boundaries were considered of little value from the Hungarian economical point of view, and served defensive purposes because they were largely  uninhabited [35].     

The conquering Magyars settled most densely in  Transdanubia.  Large parts of the area east of the Tisza river and Transylvania remained uninhabited for a while, since people were afraid of the attacks of their eastern neighbours.  Transylvanian findings of the contemporary equestrian tombs prove that “...Central Transylvania: the middle and lower reaches of the Szamos and Maros; and the  lower reaches of the two Küküllős were occupied by the Hungarians. No other contemporary equestrian tombs were found outside of this region, which fact is serious enough to presume that no other territories were occupied  at that time” [36]. 

The subjugated Slav elements – as was the case also with  the  Slavs of the Elba‑Odera territories, who  were assimilated to the surrounding German population, – were after two or three centuries  totally assimilated into the Hungarians.  Many Slavic words became part of the Hungarian language by this time; words  used in state and church organization,  trades, and more advanced  agricultural methods [37].


 Only the Avars, who  are mentioned by the sources before Árpád's conquest of Hungary, left significant marks on the area, along with the Slavs.  Charlemagne (724‑814) ordered their transfer, by their own request, to the area between Szombathely and Deutsch‑Altenburg (Carnuntum) in 804. The sources still mention them in the decades before the arrival of the Magyars.

It is commonly believed that the Hungarians' ancestors were pagans.  Christianity was introduced to them by Byzantine missionaries before their state founding (38). They found direct contact with Roman Christianity in their new homeland by the way of the conquered Slavs and the captives taken during the frequent military campaigns in the West. According to Gyula Pauler, “...  the pastors of the conquered managed to find the easiest way to the ears of the conquerors.  The memento of these apostles was not kept by historiography but by the language.  Words pertaining to the Christian religion, such as Christian, pagan, baptism, confirmation, bishop, priest, monk, saint, angel, and altar, were borrowed from the language of the Slavs (the Slovenes).  None of them is of German origin.” [39].    According to Ferenc Levárdy, the Magyars found  some ruins of the old Roman buildings at the time of their conquest of Hungary.  They even found temples and priests in Pannonia and in the Szerémség [40]. Archaeological material left by the Magyars show some Christian influence.  The Christian cross appears  on a few objects. Almost one dozen tombs, mainly children's burial places were found, with engraved bronze and silver crosses and necklaces. It is a fact that several Hungarian aristocrats, acting from political consideration, converted to Christianity already in the 10th century. According to Ioannes Skylitses, Byzantine historian “Bulcsú ostensibly was baptized into the Christian religion, Constantinus became his godfather, and he was honored by Patrician rank and a lot of money  before returning to his homeland.  In 952 Gyula, another reigning Prince of the Hungarians, went  to the Emperor's city, received baptism, and enjoyed the same distinctions.  He returned with  a pious monk, named Hierotheos, who was  by Theofylaktos  ordained bishop of Turkia (Hungary). He drove many people out of the barbarian straying to Christianity.”  Bulcsu’s journey to Byzantium took place in 948 and Gyula’s in 952.  From the record of these journeys, it appears that  the first  bishop in Hungary started his work in the 10th century in Transylvania and used Greek‑Christian rites in his conversion of the people. [41].


The Magyars took the Greek‑Christian religion and used its rites.  By the time of the defeat of the Magyars at Augsburg (Lech Field) in 955, a Greek‑Christian bishop was functioning in Hungary. The  leaders, commanders and part of the nation were formally baptized. 

The alliance between Constantine Porphyrogenitos (903‑959) and the Hungarians was made stronger by annual taxes and “gifts” paid by the Emperor. The Emperor however got so much hostile and disdainful information about the Hungarians – the news of the sorrowful defeat of Bulcsú's army – that he ended the paying of such “gift‑taxes”.  Instead, Olga, the Russian Great reigning Princess put in a claim for the “gift‑taxes”, after her baptism. Constantine thus managed to acquire Russia for the Greek‑Christian Church.  Hungary, however, turned from it.  Byzantium lost its military alliance against Bulgaria, as well as the influence of the Greek‑Christian Church  in Hungary. 

The Byzantine‑Hungarian relationship became so hostile, that Taksony (son of Zoltán, Magyar leader; 947‑972) asked for a bishop from Rome to continue the spread of Christianity.  Luitprand, Secretary of the Holy Roman Emperor, Otto I., said: “The Pope ordained a bishop for Hungary in the winter of 961‑962.”  A Magyar envoy of Bulgarian origin,  by the name of Salk, was sent to Rome.  The Pope sent Zacheus with a bulla to  Hungary to be bishop there.  The delegation, however, was captured in Capua by the followers of Otto.  This action was supposed to accomplish the conversion of the Magyars  into the Christian organization by Otto's own bishop.  The Magyar great reigning princes were ready to build up the Christian Church's organization in the 950's and 960's.  It was no fault of theirs that the attempt turned out to be unsuccessful  [42].     


The trend towards Christianity also meant political change.  It was expressed by the mission, consisting of twelve Magyar representatives, who in 973 A.D. were sent to Emperor Otto, in Quedlinburg by Prince Géza (Gyécse).  The Emperor was there accepting the  salutations of  small populations  who belonged to the German Empire's range of interest. In this way, the hostilities between the Magyars and the German royal court ended.  Bruno,  the missionary bishop baptized Géza and his son Vajk, who received the name István (Stephen) after the first martyr and patron saint of the church of Passau.  However, the new religion did not  take root  in Géza.  According to a later born legend, he considered himself rich enough to serve two gods at the same time.     

While the glory of the battles lasted, the Magyars did not care much about the conquered territories around them.  It is well known, that a part of the Magyar army  was badly defeated at Augsburg (Bavaria) in 955.  Undoubtedly, that great misfortune forced those tribes of the nation, who led their raids on the West during the earlier decades, as well as in 955, to discontinue the attacks. For those who regularly raided the South, the defeat at Augsburg did not bring change.  Only the defeat at Arcadiupolis in 970‑971, ended the attacks on the South. 

The intelligent and experienced voivode Gyula, who married Sarolta, Géza's daughter, was Géza's good advisor.  With his great influence on the  reigning prince, he succeeded in convincing him  that there were two tasks to be solved involving the nation’s future destiny: Peace must be ensured between Hungary and Germany  and a way must be found for Christianity to  capture the soul of the nation.     


The first missionary's name was Wolfgang.  He was followed by Piligrim, who sent a letter to Pope Benedict VII. around 974, in which he informed the Pope that the priests and monks had already converted five thousand Hungarians to Christianity.  There was peace between pagans and Christians. Almost the whole nation was willing to embrace the Holy Faith [43].

Géza often had to resort to force to ensure the spread of Christianity.  The consequence was discontent and open revolt in some parts of the country.  He tried to compromise,  and appeased the diehards by also offering sacrifices  to the traditional gods.  After the marriage of his son, he died with the knowledge that in addition to the homeland, he acquired for his nation strong ties to Europe by the adoption of Christianity.     

The work of conversion was led by Archbishop Astrik.(xv) There is only one source about the conversion and the organization of the new Church: the biography of Szent Gellért (Saint Gerardus).  This source mentions that the first missionaries were Benedictine monks.     

The first truly Christian King, Szent István (Stephen I, 997‑ 1038), wanted to tie Hungary to the Roman‑Catholic Church, along with the Western Roman‑German cultural community, even though he had the opportunity to choose between the Roman and the Byzantine Churches. He helped to secure the Western type Roman‑Catholic Christianity for his nation, but he did not exclude other religions.  The former Bishop Gellért of Marosvár (today Csanád, Rum. Cenad)  allowed Greek‑Christian communities in his diocese.  The King made possible the exercise of Greek rites and ceremonies in the Greek language.  He provided rich donations to the Greek  convent (basilica) in the Veszprém Valley. Consequently, the Greek‑Christian Church  continued to live in Hungary undisturbed also after the millennium.  It is  also an important fact, that king Stephen, being an ally of the Byzantine Emperor, after occupying Ohrida, did not take any booty except for the relics of the martyr Saint George,  much revered by the adherents of the Greek Christian Faith. 


King Stephen, following in the  footsteps of his father, “...who tyrannized his own people, but was merciful and generous to the foreigners, especially the Christians”, took the view that: “The guests and newcomers yield such a large profit, that they deservedly can stand on the sixth place on the honour roll of the  king, since the unilingual country with one custom is weak and fallible.” As a consequence, he ordered his son, Imre, to benevolently support and cherish the newcomers, “therefore they preferred to stay at his court, rather than  living somewhere else” [44].     

King Stephen “often consoled the serfs of the temples, the monks, and priests with alms and donations.  All of his available income was spent on pilgrims, widows and orphans. He often made donations through his envoys to the monasteries of  provinces  abroad”. [45].     

At the beginning of the 11th century, the Byzantine Emperor, Basilios II. attacked and subdued  the Bulgarian kingdom.   King Stephen forged  an alliance with him for reasons pertaining to both internal and foreign affairs.  His troops ‑ as we know from the information of Fundatio Sancti Albani Namucensis ‑ were fighting alongside the Byzantine troops, in the battles against the Bulgarians in 1004. After the  conquest of Bulgaria in 1018, the borders of the Byzantine Empire reached the lines of the Danube and the Száva rivers and coincided with the southern borders of Hungary.  This direct proximity required that the good relationship between the two countries should not  deteriorate with discrimination against the Eastern Christian Church.  The Byzantine influence had to be counted in the state affairs also.  It is enough to mention that the double cross of the Hungarian coat of arms is of Byzantine origin.     


In the light of these historical facts, Stoicescu's theory about the adoption of the Slavonic language of the Church by the Rumanians living in Transylvania  before the Hungarians settled there, cannot be accepted. Stoicescu argues that “this important religious reform could not have been accomplished under the sceptre of Saint Stephen's Apostolic Crown.” 

The period is the  10th and 11th centuries, when the Slavic liturgy spread, penetrating also  into Russia (46). As we have shown above, King Stephen and his predecessors did not just tolerate, but farsightedly supported the newcomers, thus also the representatives of the Greek‑Christian Church and their cultic places.  King Stephen was occupied with the conversion of the pagan Hungarians, and had no reasons to persecute  his already Christian subjects.

There are also Rumanian authors who contradict Stoicescu in this matter.  Petru Maior  was of the opinion  that Saint Stephen did not fight or hinder the Rumanians' religion in Transylvania – on the contrary, they even had some privileges given to them by the first king of the Hungarians.  In a footnote to Maior´s text,   Manole Neagoe remarks: “The two Churches were separated in 1059, it is therefore logical that the Rumanians were not oppressed by Stephen I. due to their religious belief.” [47].     

 Stoicescu asserts, referring to P.P. Panaitescu, that Saint Stephen wanted to spread Christianity because of national interests.  This theory could not have been appropriate, even though he would have been reigning during the time when the civil nation's ideas occurred along with feudal and national motives.     Saint Stephen's wisdom is a historical fact.  He could have been wise; he could not, however, have gone ahead of his time. 

Should not Stoicescu have known that there was no antagonism because of nationality, or intolerance of people because of their language at that time?  This could not have been the case because, after the Magyars entered the Carpathian Basin, its  ethnic picture changed: “The ethnic picture of the Carpathian Basin became extraordinarily colorful, where the Finno‑Ugric, Turk, Iranian, and Slavic peoples were living next to each other, on varying levels of the historical evolution” [48].     


According to the law of Saint Stephen, groups of  ten villages were obliged to build a church.  If the conquering Magyars had found  temples or churches, King Stephen would not have been forced to order the “ten villages  ‑ one church” law.  The issuing of such an order proves beyond all question that in Transylvania, even the pagan cultic places could have survived only in small numbers.  If they  had survived, Stephen would have made them – if only temporarily – Christian chuches.

Moreover, if Stephen had been such a king as Stoicescu says, referring to P.P. Panaitescu, he would have used “Rumanian churches” by force for his recently converted people.  However, there are no legends nor chronicles  about such actions.  We do not have any data either that the Hungarian state or clerical leadership, accepting the Western Church's liturgy, forced it on another, non‑Hungarian people, for example on the Rumanians.  If this were the case, the resistance would have reached such a high level that it would not have passed unnoticed, without a trace in history.     

The Hungarian relationship with Byzantium did not slacken until the end of the 11th century, when the Serb principality and Bulgaria, again  independent, got wedged in between Hungary and Byzantium.  On the other hand, Byzantium declined after the reign of the Komnenoses, (xvi) and  in 1204, it fell to the Western conquerors.  In 1261, the Palailogoses (xvii) restored the Greek Empire, but it could only be  a shade of the Byzantine Empire. Regarding the friendly relations between Hungary and Byzantium up to the end of the 11th century, the Hungarians had a political interest  in supporting the Transylvanian Greek‑Catholic (Orthodox) Rumanians – or in any case, not oppressing them – if they had existed there. We do not have any data or references about this question, or about such a population.     


It is a very important historical fact that the Greek and Latin Churches were not divided until 1054.  That is why we have  stated above  that the Orthodox religion in Hungary was not exposed to persecution either by the state politics or by another Church.  There was nothing to prevent the allegedly  “original” Transylvanian Rumanians from building their own cultic places or having their own clerical organizations.     

King Stephen received his crown from Pope Sylvester II. (999‑ 1003).  As an independent, ordained Hungarian king, he rightly founded episcopacies, abbacies and the archbishopric of Esztergom.  Unfortunately, the contemporary church  documents did not survive.  It can only be suspected, that the first Hungarian archbishopric's deed of foundation was dated in Ravenna in 1001.  According to György Győrffy “The  foundation‑stone of the Hungarian Church organization was laid  in  April of 1001, in Ravenna.” [49].      From our point of view, the foundation of the bishopric of Gyulafehérvár is particularly important.  As György Győrffy says,  it was founded in 1009.  The Transylvanian Bishop got hold of the territories of Kraszna and Szatmár counties, in addition to the “Seven castles, namely Siebenbürgen” counties: Hunyad, Fehér, Küküllő, Torda, Kolozs, Doboka, and Dés (that is Belső-Szolnok).  There is no mention, however, of any existing Greek‑Christian Rumanian Church,  episcopacy or  bishop.   

It is not by chance that we left the discussion of Anonymus' Gesta Hungarorum to the end of this chapter.  The Gesta talks about the  people found by the Magyars in Transylvania  at the time of their settlement: they were, among others,  Blaks and the “shepherds of the Romans”.  Historians identified the Blaks as the ancestors of the Rumanians, but later came to the conclusion that Anonymus made a serious anachronism by stating that the Rumanians were present in Transylvania during Árpád's conquest of Hungary.  The Rumanians did not settle in Hungary before  the 13th century, thus the good monk, Anonymus  retro projected  the  ethnic situation of his own era to the time of the Árpáds.


According to the notes of Roger (Rogerius) Bacon (1214‑1294), “...the Blaks came from ´old Byzantium´, which was located next to old Hungary and Bulgaria (i.e., Hungary and Bulgaria along the Volga).  They live  between Constantinople, Bulgaria and ´new Hungary´”.  Hungarian historians showed that the Blak people had lived south-west of the Hungarians' ancient home in Baskiria before they got into Central and South-Europe.  While they attached themselves to the Bulgarians, they still used their own name in the 13th century.  It may therefore be that Anonymus did not commit an anachronism.  He probably did not  talk about Rumanians, but about a people of Turk or Bulgarian origin, in ancient contact with the Hungarians; most probably on the basis of the ancient Gesta [50].     

According to the already quoted Erdély Története Vol. I., pp 235-242, Anonymus got acquainted with the Blaks through Nestor's Russian Chronicle from the 12th century.  As Nestor says; “The conquering Magyars found Volohs (Volohi) and Slavs in the Carpathian Basin.  They expelled the Volohs and subjugated the Slavs,” ... “and from that time on, the land was called Hungarian (magyar; ugorszka)”.  By Volohs, Nestor meant Franks, actually the Trans-Danubian Franks, in a wider sense every people speaking the new Roman or Romance language,  or those who belonged to the Holy Roman Empire. 

The French crusaders met the Rumanians in the Balkans and pronounced their Greek and Slavic name as Blak,even though it was spelled Blach and pronounced Vlach by the native people.  The French form was used by the Hungarian chancellery, and  declined as a Latin word (blacus, blacci, blacorum).  In the Hungarian documents written up to 1247, the French form: blak  appears.  The Hungarian colloquial form:   “oláh”, came into use after that year.  It  probably derived from the Greek and Slavic form “vlach”, through an intermediate “volach”.      

Anonymus placed the Rumanians in Transylvania on the basis of Nestor.  His work proves, therefore, that in his era Rumanians did not live in northern Transylvania. 

Anonymus's work does not give any data to find out what kind of people the Magyars could have found in Transylvania. Modern archeology proves the presence of Slavs.  Rumanian material remains from the 10th century, distinctly separable from that of the Slavs, were not found [51]









 Transylvania from


 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, at the beginning of the 13th century, between King András (Endre) II. (1205-1235), the Transylvanian Bishop and the Provost of Szeben, who was supposed to fill the provostship's position, which recently had become unoccupied. At this time, in 1211, the Teutonic Knights migrated into South Transylvania and  occupied the territories of Barcaság in Brassó County(xviii), under the leadership of Salza Herman.     

The Transylvanian Bishop considered the provostship's foundation  in Szeben  in 1189-1190 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 obtained all the Saxon dwellers, including those who had formerly belonged to the Transylvanian episcopacy. 

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.  This fact also indicates – among other things –   that Vlachs did not live at that time in Transylvania.  All we can conclude is that the Vlachs wandered  in small numbers into this area from their homeland in the Balkans.  If they had lived here as groups of nomad shepherds, they would have been only temporary settlers.  Hungarian documents from before the 13th century made no mention of the presence of Vlachs 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. Written sources  record  Vlachs (the ancestors of present day Rumanians) from Thessalia to the Balkan mountains since 976 A.D. They are described  as nomad 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.

 From 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 Vlach 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 absence of  testimony of geographical names and  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 King András II.  In the donated territories, there are no Rumanian geographical or place-names, moreover, 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 just been ousted from Barcaság, stayed in Rome, where he mentioned that Rumanians had their own land, just like the Székelys, and they were independent of the taxes 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 beyond present day Fogaras and Szászváros.  This Rumanian‑defended frontier region was presumably organized into an administrative unit around 1200.

The protection of the Southern Border Region was primarily the responsibility of 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 kenéz-es(xix) Dragan and Kretoch.  The king thus recognized the rights of possession of the presumably  Rumanian kenéz-es over some of the territories in question.    

The tradition  of  building  churches and monasteries practised 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 churches of the Transdanubian area (twin‑windowed towers).

Thus began the practice of the clans building sacred places for small groups of monks   These cloisters and churches gave shelter to monks swarming out of the larger monasteries.  At the beginning, the number of monks in a smaller monastery could have been around twelve, later it was reduced to three or four.  We have no information about such Orthodox churches or monasteries founded by Rumanian clans in Transylvania.     


In the 12th and 13th centuries, the system of permanent private property developed from the rapid progress of the noble clans. A  particular type of family or clan owned church represented its strength. There is no knowledge or data 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.  These new neighbors broke into Hungary, twice 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) banks of the River Temes in 1091.  After a century of peace, the Cumanians attacked the country again.  They ravaged, robbed, and burned the Barcaság. 

The Pope, as all 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 appointed him 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 András 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 was not 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 to convert them to Catholicism and would have turned their attention to Wallachia, Moldavia, and the Balkans, only after they had succeeded 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 rapid spread of the Bogumil heterodoxy.(xx) 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.









                                                              Transylvania during the Mongol Invasion



        According to János Thúróczi, (xxi)  in 1241 the Tatars (Tartars or Mongols) of Genghis Khan marched into Hungary with four armies, 500,000 armed men [56]. The main body of their army marched through the Verecke Pass to the Tisza Valley.  The other three armies attacked from Transylvania.      As the Tatars were retreating from the Great Plain and the Maros Valley, they  devastated Transylvania to a very large degree.  They destroyed everything that had got in their way.   The Partium and Transylvania suffered the biggest losses and  most casualties. 

In his memorandum, Carmen Miserabile (Miserable Song) Rogerius, of Italian origin, the  Dean of Várad, wrote that when he had escaped from  Tatar captivity, and was travelling through Transylvania, he was hardly able to find a man there; he did not see anything but “heaps of ruins” in Nagyenyed, Torda and Gyulafehérvár.     “On the Eve of the Tatar invasion the Hungarian armies were fighting  in the Balkans, serving the interest of the Hungarian aristocracy and the Papacy.  The Papacy, however, did not recruit Western forces against the Tatars in 1240‑1242...  The struggle against the Mongols was strongly hindered, since the German feudal nobles, serving their own interests in Northern and Eastern Europe, in agreement with the Papal State, led their troops against the divided Russians” [57]. 

Without any allies and also separated from each other, Hungary and Poland were attacked by the  Mongols, who, after breaking the Russian resistance, turned with full force against the two countries. 


King Béla IV. (1235‑1270) tried  to organize the defense of the country, but  failed.  The King's desperate efforts were seen with malicious joy by the nobles who felt offended due to the strengthening of the King's power.  They  put their soldiers at the king's disposal with considerable delay and reluctance.  The murder of Kötöny, Cumanian leader, turned the Cumanians away from Béla IV., even though the responsibility did not rest with the King.  The King could not mobilize an  army of satisfactory numbers, until the very last moment, when the Mongols had already  broken into the country, and the danger had become overwhelming.

The army of King Béla IV. could not resist the Mongols, whose horsemen swarmed all over the Tisza area.  The Tatars and the Hungarian cavalry  fought on the battlefield of Muhi, near the Sajó stream on April 11th, 1241.  The battle ended with the total destruction of the Hungarian Army.  The King escaped with extreme difficulties.  His death would have meant the  final destruction of Hungary.     

After the battle of Muhi the country was in complete ruins.  The number of slaughtered people could be counted in ten-thousands.  Most of those who survived were hiding in the deep  forests and marshes and were waiting for the day of salvation. 

Fortunately, the Mongol Chief Khan, Ogotaj died unexpectedly.  Since Batu Khan, the Commander in Chief of the Mongol army, now in Hungary,  wanted to be present and take part in the  power struggle,  following the death of the chief khan,  he hastily  withdrew from the country and returned to Mongolia.     

At the end of May 1242, there were no Mongols left in Hungary.  The work of reconstruction could start.     


King Béla's first task was the  reorganization of the country's defenses.  He realized that the Mongols had not been able to capture the Hungarian fortresses.  He organized a castle system on the border zone, and urged his nobles to build more fortified castles.  He founded a  new capital at Buda  with a splendid royal palace and churches on the Castle Hill (part of modern Budapest).     

After the Mongol withdrawal, King Béla immediately started to  re-build the country,  building new fortified castles of stone also (in Transylvania: Dés, Kolozsvár).

The King sent Vajda (Voivod)  Lőrinc to Transylvania “ gather his people, and arrange everything, by using his authority, that he finds useful to his country”.  Lőrinc tried his very best to fulfill his duty.  He transferred ploughmen and soldiers to the depopulated areas from the  territories that suffered less. He also encouraged people from abroad to settle in the devastated territory.     

In his letter to the King, the Transylvanian Bishop Gallus, wrote that in the year of 1246 it was hard to find people in Gyulafehérvár and the city's surrounding areas.  He asked the King to take the people, who lived or were willing to live on the episcopal properties out of the authority of the voivodes and county sheriffs.  He, the Bishop of Transylvania, would be in this case their only master. The King fulfilled his request. 

The Mongol invasion  decimated the population, therefore foreigners had to be hired to do the reconstruction.  What kind of nationality did they have? Where did they come  from?  The new dwellers, who were brought to the Episcopal and unoccupied royal properties, migrated with their flocks from the Balkans.  They were Vlachs, ancestors of today's Rumanians [58].  Most of them were fleeing from the political discords and battles going on in the Balkan Peninsula. They were led by  Bulgarian and Serb kenéz-es. 

During the times of Charles of Anjou (Károly I.) (1307‑1342), especially in 1335, they  were also invited to Transylvania.  In 1370 some of their nobles moved, because of political unrest,  from Bulgaria,   as well as from the western areas of Wallachia, to Transylvania [59].     


The Szamos and Maros valleys were Transylvania's main military routes during the Mongol invasions.  These  valleys were inhabited by Hungarians.  Every  enemy, marching through the area, ravaged mainly this people.  The Saxons found shelter in their forts and fortified towns, while many Székelys were hiding in the forests.  The farming people of the undefended villages always became easy prey of the enemy. That is why they could not and did not grow sufficiently in number.  That is why they later were forced to welcome foreign settlers.     

King Béla, “the second state founder” settled the Johannite Order of Knights of Malta between the Lower Danube and the Olt, a territory which had also been devastated by the Mongols.  Their presence, from the year 1247, meant defense for the territory.     

The Christian churches, devastated earlier by  pagan insurgents, were replaced by new ones.   Saint Stephen's orders were reissued by Saint László (Ladislas) I.  He ordered that the burned out or devastated churches had to be rebuilt by the congregations. “The churches which were ruined because of their old age must  be reconstructed by the bishop.”  These churches were rebuilt by the time of the Mongol attack (1241).  It was hard to find a village without a church.  The churches, however, were mostly robbed, burned  and destroyed by the Tatars. The cathedrals of Gyulafehérvár and Nagyvárad had to be rebuilt. The village churches also had to be  rebuilt from their ruins. Again, we have no information about the reconstruction of any Greek‑Catholic (Orthodox) church in this period  in Transylvania. There weren't any. 


 After the Mongol attacks, fortified stone and brick churches were built that could have been used for defensive purposes. Their construction was regulated  – under the king's inspiration – by the propriety relations.  “Every proprietor recognized the spiritual  and material advantages of the patronage's right.” The number of parishes in the 13th century exceeded that of the 11th century.  We do not know about Rumanian parishes and church building proprietors.  Thus, in the Hungary of the 13th and 14th centuries, particularly in Transylvania, Hungarian churches made earlier of wood and mud were reconstructed because they were completely destroyed by the Tatars.  The reason was not that assumed by Radu Popa, Rumanian historian [60]. The brick and stone churches mentioned by him are newer.  They are churches re-built after the  Tatar devastations.   If there were some Rumanian churches made out of bricks or stones after the Tatar attack in Transylvania, it would mean that they were built in that period,  –  they could not have been built before the Tatar invasion.











34  Archeológiai Közlemények. (Archaeological Papers) 9/1873, p.22. A Magyar Történelemtudomány Kézikönyve. (The Handbook of Hungarian Historiography) (Ed.:Bálint Hóman) Book 1,  6/b. A Magyar  történet bizánci forrásai. Magyar Történeti Társulat, (The Byzantine Sources of Hungarian History. Hungarian Society of Historians), Bp. 1934, p. 128.

35.  Kristó, Gyula: op. cit.  p. 58.

36.  Jancsó, Benedek: op.cit. p.30.

37. Eckhart, Ferenc:  Magyarország története. (The History of Hungary.) Káldor Könyvkiadó  Vállalat, BP. 1935, p. 19.

38. Dummert, Dezső: Az Árpádok nyomában. (In the Trails of the Árpád Dynasty.) In the Panorama, 2nd ed. Gondolat Kiadó, Budapest. 1977, p. 126.

39.  Pauler, Gyula: A magyar nemzet története az Árpádházi királyok alatt. (The History of the Hungarian Nation during the Age of the Kings from the Árpád Dynasty.) Budapest, 1899. Book 1, p. 18.

40.  Levárdy, Ferenc: op. cit. p.44.

41.  Bakay, Kornél: A magyar államalapítás. Magyar Historia. (The Foundation of the Hungarian State.) Gondolat Kiadó, Budapest, 1978, p.133.

42.  Győrfffy, György:  István király és műve. (King Stephen and his Achievement.) Gondolat Kiadó, Bp. 1977, p. 27.


43.  Horváth, Mihály:  A kereszténység első_ százada Magyarországon. (The First Century of Christianity in Hungary.)  6/7. Fejer Cod. Dipl. I. p. 260

44.  Gondolkodó magyarok. István király intelmei. (Thinking Hungarians. The Admonitions of King Stephen.) Magvető Kiadó, Budapest, 1982, p.17.

45.  Gondolkodó magyarok. István király intelmei. (Függelék. Nagyobbik Legenda) Magvető Kiadó, Budapest, 1982, p.49.

46.  Stoicescu, Nicolae op. cit. p.156.

47.  Maior, Petru: op. cit. p.39.

48.  Kristó, Gyula: op. cit. p.65.

49.  Győrfffy, György: op. cit. p.178.

50.  Földes, Péter: Ha az ősi krónikák igazat  mondanak.  A honfoglaló vezérek nyomában. (If the Ancient Chronicles Tell the Truth. About the Leaders of the Original Settlement in Hungary.) Móra Ferenc Ifjúsági Könyvkiadó. Budapest, 1982, p.185‑186.

51.  Erdély története: op. cit. p.242.

52.  Maria Holban: Din cronica relatiilor româno‑ungare în secolele XIII‑XIV. (On the History of the Rumanian - Hungarian Relations in the 13th-14th Centuries.) Editura Academii Republicii Socialiste România. Bucuresti, 1981, p. 13.

53.   Levárdy, Ferenc: op. cit. p.66.

54.  Domokos, Pál Péter: Édes hazámnak akartam szolgálni. (I Wanted to Serve my Country.) Szent István Társulat,  Budapest, 1979, pages 35‑40.

55.   Domokos, Pál Péter: op. cit. p. 41.

56.  Thuróczy, János:  Chronica Hungarorum, (Transl.: János Horváth) Európa Könyvkiadó, Budapest, 1980, p. 196.

57.  Magyarország története. (The History of Hungary.) (Ed.: Erik Molnár), Gondolat Kiadó, Budapest, 1967, p. 81.

58.  Jancsó, Benedek: op. cit.  p. 42.

59.  Karácsonyi, János: Magyarország egyháztörténete főbb vonásokban 970‑től 1970‑ig. (The History of the Church in Hungary from 970 to 1970 A.D.)  Könyvértékesít_ Vállalat, Budapest,  1985, p.28.

60  Popa, Radu: "Descǎlecǎri" Transilvǎnene şi


 “Întemeieri de Tarǎ” între tradiţie istoricǎ si dovezi materiale. (Transylvanian “Colonizations” and “Foundings of Country” between Historical Tradition and Material  Evidence.) Transilvania 80/8, p. 7.















(xv) Astrik was the first Bishop of Kalocsa, a Benedictine monk. In the time of Géza, he came to Hungary as a missionary.  He led the delegation sent by St. István (Stephen) to Rome, to ask Pope Sylvester II. for the crown.

(xvi) Eastern Roman or Byzantine ruling dynasty which died out in 1158.

(xvii) The last Byzantine dynasty (1259-1453)

(xviii) The Barcaság territory is surrounded by the Transylvanian Carpathian Mountains, the fertile land on the banks of the River Olt and River Barca and the mountainous part of Transylvania.

(xix) kenéz – a clan leader, who received uninhabited land from the Hungarian King in order to settle his people there.  This kenéz and his descendants were permitted to make judgements in smaller matters.  

(xx) In Bulgaria, in the 10th century, a heretical religion was formed, which survived to the 15th century but finally its members were converted to Islam.

(xxi) Thúróczi János: (1435-1490) Chronicler, in the time of King Mátyas he was a judge.  His work: Chronica Hungarorum.