History of Transylvania - Middle Ages - Transylvania As Part of The Kingdom of Hungary: Later Middle Ages

Transylvania As Part of The Kingdom of Hungary: Later Middle Ages

Gradually, after 1366 Romanians lost their status as an Estate (Universitas Valachorum) and were excluded from Transylvania's assemblies. The main reason was religion: during Louis I's proselytizing campaign, privileged status was deemed incompatible with that of "schismatic" in a state endowed with an apostolic mission by the Holy See: through the Decree of Turda/Torda, in 1366, the king redefined nobility in terms of membership in the Roman Catholic Church, thus excluding the Eastern Orthodox "schismatic" Romanians. After 1366 the status of nobility was determined not only by ownership of land and people, but also by the possession of a royal donation certificate. Since Romanians' social elite, chiefly made up of aldermen (iudices) or ‘knezes' (kenezii), who ruled over their villages according to the old law of the land (ius valachicum), managed only to a small extent to procure writs of donation, they came to be expropriated. Lacking land property and/or the official status of owner and being officially excluded from privileges as schismatic, the Romanian elite was no longer able to form an Estate and participate in the country's assemblies.

In 1437 Hungarian and Romanian peasants, the petty nobility and burghers from Kolozsvár (Klausenburg, now: Cluj) under the leadership of Budai Nagy Antal upraised against their feudal masters and proclaimed their own Estate (universitas hungarorum et valachorum - the Estate of Hungarians and Romanians) (see: Bobâlna revolt). In order to suppress the revolt, the Hungarian nobility in Transylvanian counties, the Saxon burghers and the Székelys formed the Unio Trium Nationum (The Union of the Three Nations), an alliance of mutual aid against the peasants, jointly pledging to defend their privileges against any power except that of Hungary's king. By 1438, the rebellion was crushed. From 1438 onwards the political system was based on the Unio Trium Nationum and the society was led by these three privileged nations (Estates): the nobility (mostly Hungarians), the Szeklers and the Saxon burghers. These nations, however, corresponded more to social and religious rather than ethnic divisions. Being explicitly directed against the peasants, the Union limited the number of Estates, implicitly excluding the Orthodox from political and social life in Transylvania.

However, Eastern Orthodox Romanians were not allowed to build up local self-government (like the Szekelys, Saxons in Transylvania, Cumans and Iazyges in Hungary), the Romanian ruling class the "nobilis kenezius" had the same rights like Hungarian "nobilis conditionarius". In contrast to Maramureş, after the Decree of Turda/Torda 1366 in proper Transylvania the only possibility to remain or access nobility was for them through conversion to Roman Catholicism. In order to conserve their positions some Romanian families converted to Catholicism, being subsequently magyarized (i.e. the Hunyadi/Corvinus, Bedőházi, Bilkei, Ilosvai, Drágffy, Dánfi, Rékási, Dobozi, Mutnoki, Dési, Majláth, etc. families). Some of them even reached the highest ranks of the society (Nicolaus Olahus became Archishop of Esztergom, while half Romanian regent John Hunyadi's son - Matthias Corvinus - became king of Hungary).

Nevertheless, since the overwhelming majority of Romanians refused to convert to Roman Catholicism, in the constitutional system of the three nations there was no place left for them up to the 19th century, to be politically represented. Thus, they remained deprived of their rights and subject to specific segregation such as not being allowed to dwell or acquire houses in the cities, to build stone churches, or enjoy fair justice. Several examples of legal decisions taken by the three nations some hundred years after Unio Trium Nationum (1542–1555) are illustrative: the Romanian could not appeal to justice against Hungarians and Saxons, but the latter could turn in the Romanian (1552); the Hungarian (Hungarus) accused of robbery could be defended by the oath of the village judge and three honest men, while the Romanian (Valachus) needed the oath of the village knez, four Romanians and three Hungarians (1542); the Hungarian peasant could be punished after being accused by seven trustworthy people, while the Romanian received punishment after he was accused by three trustworthy people (1554).

After the diversionary manoeuvre led by Sultan Murad II, personally, it became clear that the goal of the Ottomans was no more simply to consolidate their grip on the Balkans and intimidate the Hungarians, but to conquer Hungary.

A key figure to emerge in Transylvania in these hard times was John Hunyadi (c. 1387 or 1400–1456). John Hunyadi himself was awarded numerous estates (he became one of the greatest landowners in Hungarian history) and a seat in the royal council for his services to Sigismund of Luxemburg. After supporting the candidature of Ladislaus III of Poland to the throne of Hungary, he was rewarded in 1440 with the captaincy of the fortress of Nándorfehérvár (Belgrade) and the voivodship of Transylvania (with his fellow voivode Miklos Újlaki). His subsequent military exploits (he is considered one of the most talented generals of the Middle Ages) against the Ottoman Empire brought him further status as the regent of Hungary in 1446 and papal recognition as the Prince of Transylvania in 1448.

Read more about this topic:  History Of Transylvania, Middle Ages

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