The College of Hereditary Nobility of Hungary


Earlier than 376 a new wave of migratory people, the Huns, reached Transylvania entering in conflict with the Visigothic Kingdom. Hoping to find refuge from the Huns, one of Visigothic leaders, Fritigern, appealed to the Roman Emperor Valens in 376 to be allowed to settle with his people on the south bank of the Danube. However, a famine broke out, and Rome was unwilling to supply them with the food they were promised nor the land. As a result, the Goths rebelled against the Romans for several years (376-382).

The Huns fought against Alans, Vandals, and Quads forcing them to leave the region towards the Roman Empire. During Attila's reign (435-453), Pannonia became an administrative center for the Huns.

After the death of Attila, the Hunnic empire disintegrated. In 455 AD the Gepids under King Ardarich conquered Pannonia, allowing them to settle for two centuries in Transylvania. The rule of the Gepids was destroyed by the attack of Lombards and Avars in 567 AD. Very few Gepid sites from after 600 remain, such as cemeteries in the Banat region. They probably lost their identity by being assimilated in population of the Avar empire.

By 568 AD, the Avars under the capable leadership of their Kagan, Bayan, established an empire in the Carpathian Basin that lasted for over 250 years. During this period the Slavs were allowed to settle inside Transylvania. The Avars met their demise with the rise of Charlemagne's Frankish empire. After a fierce seven-year war and civil war between the Kagan and Yugurrus which lasted from 796 to 803 AD, the Avars were defeated. The Transylvanian Avars were subjugated by the Bulgar Huns under Khan Krum at the beginning of the 9th century and Transylvania, along with eastern Pannonia, was incorporated into the First Bulgarian Empire.

Transylvania as part of the Kingdom of Hungary: High Middle Ages

In 1000, Stephen I of Hungary, Grand Prince of the Hungarian tribes, was recognised by the Roman Pope and by his brother-in-law, Henry II, Holy Roman Emperor as king of Hungary. Although, Stephen was brought up as a Roman Catholic and Christianization of the Hungarians was achieved mostly by Rome, he also recognized and supported Orthodoxy.

The Szeklers, entered Transylvania before the Magyars of Arpad conquered the Carpathian basin. By the 12th century, the Szeklers were established in eastern and southeastern Transylvania as border guards.

In the 12th and 13th centuries, the areas in the south and northeast were settled by German colonists called (then and now) Saxons. Siebenburgen, the German name for Transylvania, derives from the seven principal fortified towns founded by these Transylvanian Saxons. The German influence became more marked when, early in the 13th century, King Andrew II of Hungary called on the Teutonic Knights to protect Transylvania in the Burzenland from the Cumans. After the Order began expanding their territory outside of Transylvania and acting independently, Andrew expelled the knights in 1225.

In 1241, Transylvania suffered greatly during the Mongol invasion of Europe. Guyuk Khan invaded Transylvania from the Oituz Pass, while Subutai attacked to the south from the Mehedia Pass towards Ors, ova. While Subutai advanced northward to meet up with Batu Khan, Guyuk attacked Sibiu to prevent the Transylvanian nobility from aiding King Bela IV of Hungary. Bistrit,a, Cluj-Napoca, and the Transylvanian Plain region were all ravaged by the Mongols, as was the Hungarian king's silver mine at Rodna. A separate Mongol force destroyed the western Cumans near the Siret River in the Carpathian region and annihilated the Cuman Bishopric of Milcov. Estimates of population decline in Transylvania owing to the Mongol invasion range from 15-20% to 50%.

The Western and Eastern Cumans converted to Roman Catholicism, and, after they were defeated by the Mongols, looked for refuge in central Hungary; Erzsebet, a Cumanian princess, married Stephen V of Hungary in 1254.

In 12th - 13th century Transylvania was organized according to the system of Estates.

As in the rest of the Hungarian Kingdom, the first Estate was the aristocracy (lay and ecclesiastic), ethnically heterogeneous, but undergoing a process of homogenization around its Hungarian nucleus. The basic document that granted privileges to the entire aristocracy was the Golden Bull issued by King Andrew II in 1222. The other Estates were Saxons, Szeklers and Romanians, all with an ethnic and ethno-linguistic basis. The Saxons, who had settled in southern Transylvania in the 12th-13th centuries, were granted privileges in 1224 by the Golden Bull of 1224, also called the Andreanum. In the 13th-14th centuries, when the king or the voivod summoned the general assembly of Transylvania (congregatio), this was attended by the four Estates: noblemen, Saxons, Szeklers, Romanians (Universis nobilibus, Saxonibus, Syculis et Olachis in partibus Transiluanis).

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.

Early Modern Era: Transylvania as an autonomous principality

When the main Hungarian army and King Louis II Jagiello were slain by the Ottomans in the Battle of Mohacs (1526), John Zapolya, governor of Transylvania, took advantage of his military strength, who opposed the succession of Ferdinand of Austria (later Emperor Ferdinand I) to the Hungarian throne. As John I was elected king of Hungary, another party recognized Ferdinand. In the ensuing struggle Zapolya received the support of Sultan Suleiman I, who after Zapolya's death in 1540, overran central Hungary on the pretext of protecting Zapolya's son, John II.

Habsburg Austria controlled Royal Hungary, which consisted of counties along the Austrian border, Upper Hungary and some of the northwestern Croatia. The Ottomans annexed central and southern Hungary.

Transylvania became an autonomous state, under the suzerainty of the Ottoman Empire, Principality of Transylvania, where native princes, who paid the Turks tribute, ruled with considerable autonomy and where Austrian and Turkish influences vied for supremacy for nearly two centuries.

Transylvania was governed by princes and its Diet (parliament). The Transylvanian Diet consisted of three Estates: the Hungarian nobility (largely ethnic Hungarian nobility and clergy); the leaders of Transylvanian Saxons-German burghers; and the free Szekely Hungarians.

List of rulers of Transylvania

Transylvania as part of Romania

Although Kings Carol I and Ferdinand I was of the German Hohenzollern dynasty, the Kingdom of Romania refused to join the Central Powers and stayed neutral when the First World War began. In 1916, Romania joined the Triple Entente by signing a secret Military Convention with the Entente, which recognised Romania's rights over Transylvania. King Ferdinand's wife Queen Marie, who was of British and Russian parentage, was highly influential during these years.

As a consequence of the Convention, Romania declared war against the Central Powers on August 27, 1916, and crossed the Carpathian mountains into Transylvania, thus forcing the Central Powers to fight on yet another front. A German-Bulgarian counter-offensive began the following month in Dobruja and in the Carpathians, driving the Romanian army back into Romania by mid-October and eventually leading to the capture of Bucharest. The exit of Russia from the war in March 1918 in the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk left Romania alone in Eastern Europe, and a peace treaty between Romania and Germany was negotiated in May 1918. By mid-1918, the Central Powers were losing the war in the more determinant Western front, and the Austro-Hungarian empire had begun to disintegrate. Austria-Hungary signed general armistice in Padua on 3 November 1918. The nations living inside Austria-Hungary proclaimed their independence from the empire during September and October 1918.

Search by Surname

Coat of Arms