World War I as a Historical Divide

Béla Tomka
University of Szeged
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Hungarian Historical Review Volume 11 Issue 4  (2022):675–701 DOI 10.38145/2022.4.675

While World War I certainly represents a historical rupture in Europe and many parts of the world, there are diverging views in scholarly literature and broader historical discourse regarding its character as a dividing line between historical periods. The essay identifies three main positions within the debate and elaborates on the broader consequences of these interpretations. Several scholars consider World War I as the end of an earlier, longer historical era. According to another periodization, the two World Wars and the two decades separating them make up an era together, which is distinct from the pre-1914 and post-1945 periods. Finally, a third major current interprets World War I as the overture to a new epoch. Each of the three approaches can be relevant to research on World War I and the twentieth century, but there are considerable divergences between the interpretations thus produced. If we regard World War I as the endpoint of the previous era, then great emphasis should be placed on the road leading up to the war. If we conceive of the two World Wars and the decades between them as a single unit, then we should focus on violence as a defining feature of the periodization, and short-term factors should be highlighted. Finally, if we understand the Great War as the beginning of a new period which lasted until the end of the twentieth century or beyond, World War I will be seen as the Urkatastrophe (primordial catastrophe) that set the stage for World War II and, indirectly, for the Cold War, while also generating seminal long-term processes in politics, society, and the economy.

Keywords: twentieth century, Europe, World War I, historiography, periodization

From the 1880s onwards, well before the actual outbreak of World War I, several leading personalities of the age began expressing their views on the character of a future war to be fought by the European great powers. Helmuth von Moltke Senior, the victorious German commander-in-chief of the Prussian-French war, warned the Reichstag in 1890 that if a war were to break out in Europe, neither its duration, nor its end could be foreseen. The losing great powers would not accept defeat or the peace terms. This situation would soon generate another, prolonged conflict, Moltke Senior predicted, which could last for seven years or even 30.1

Other predictions were made in a similar vein, but it would be highly misleading to consider these seemingly prophetic insights as universally shared. In fact, many contemporaries, although they feared a potential war, hardly shared anything resembling the aforementioned Moltke’s views, nor were they in any way able to foretell the specificities or significance of any impending conflagration. Quite symptomatically, instead of heeding Moltke’s admonition, the German military leadership relied on the somewhat modified version of Alfred von Schlieffen’s notorious plan, which anticipated a brief conflict. This plan entirely miscalculated the importance and the limits of contemporary innovations in the field of transport and military technology, which provided a much wider range of options for the defenders against the attackers than in earlier or subsequent wars. But Germany was not the only country to cherish such unrealistic ideas about the war. Ferdinand Foch, who eventually became the commander-in-chief of the Allied troops in France in 1918, published books in 1903 and 1904 that were reprinted several times over the course of the following years. In these works, Foch voiced his conviction that the future war would be a tremendous clash that could and would be decided swiftly, i.e., in a single gigantic battle.2

When the war broke out, it quickly became evident to contemporaries that it was a conflict of special intensity and significance corresponding much more to the vision of Moltke Senior than to the ideas of Schlieffen or Foch. This dawning realization turned out to be all the more valid when it came to the consequences of the war.3 Although Europe and the world were affected by numerous other major events throughout the twentieth century, the Great War constituted a significant caesura in European history. The present study explores the specificities as well as the long-term effects of World War I to determine the place occupied by the war in historical periodization.4

World War I can be regarded as a global conflict for several reasons. The origins of the war can be traced back to the unparalleled surge of globalization in the last third of the mid-nineteenth century. Europe was in the center of this process, and the European colonial powers controlled massive overseas territories, which made it nearly inevitable that a conflict involving them would reach a global scale. Thus, the actual hostilities stretched well beyond Europe, with crucial battles taking place in the Atlantic, Africa, Asia, and the Pacific. Moreover, during the war, the mobilization of human, natural, and other resources took place in a global dimension. In particular, the Allies relied on their overseas colonies in that respect, but other nations, such as the United States, also marshalled overseas resources. In addition, the war had an impact on international trade and other global connections even in areas such as Latin America, which did not take part in the actual struggle. Finally, the war was a series of global events that were intensively covered, debated, and analyzed by the media all over the world.5 Admittedly, this paper mainly focuses on the war and the historiography of the war in Europe, and thus it cannot do full justice to the global dimension of the war. Since there is no full congruence between national, continental, and global chronologies, and in Africa and the Far East, World War I constituted a less important rupture than it did in Europe, I cannot claim global validity for the results presented here, even if Europe was epicenter of the conflicts leading to the war and the major theater of warfare.6

While World War I undoubtedly represents a historical rupture in Europe and many parts of the world, there are diverging views in scholarly literature and broader historical discourse regarding its character as a dividing line between historical periods. There are three main currents within the debate. According to the first school of thought, World War I meant the end of an earlier, longer historical era. This interpretation prevailed, for instance, in the interwar French and British historiography, while today, some authors regard World War I as the end point of the “long nineteenth century.”7 According to another periodization practice, the two World Wars and the two decades separating them make up a single period which is distinct from the pre-1914 and post-1945 periods.8 Finally, a third major current interprets World War I as the overture to a new era.9 One idea that is frequently ventured is that the latter historical epoch came to an end in 1991, i.e., with the fall of the European Communist regimes. This notion is also captured by the concept of the “short twentieth century,” but there are some who would argue that we still live in the age that began with World War I.

Drawing distinctions between these periodization efforts and their analyses is not a self-serving exercise. As I shall show, a preference for one over another has serious implications for an interpretation of the entire twentieth century, as proponents of the varying periodizations lay emphasis on different elements of the period.

End of an Era

The first periodization, according to which the war was the end of a historical era, recognizes the extraordinary importance of World War I because it brought about new dimensions of violence in both qualitative and quantitative terms. However, changes of such historical significance usually do not result from a single event or series of events, i.e. they are not determined by short-term factors. According to this approach, the roots of the violence seen in the war went back to distant times.10

In the last decades of the nineteenth century, Europe was the stage for comprehensive structural and ideological transformations which triggered changes in the nature of political violence manifested in a spectacular form during World War I. New forms of state power emerged, and this power began to penetrate geographical and social spheres where, earlier, it had had only moderate influence. In other words, governments exercised more and more control over their citizens and their citizens’ everyday lives. There were substantial shifts in the power relations of the individual European states, especially in the eastern and southeastern part of the continent. The Ottoman Empire was dwindling, and its place was taken over by new, virulent nation states in the Balkans. This launched a new wave of ethnic and diplomatic conflicts that had a strong impact on Central and Western Europe. Forms of mass politics also began to evolve in Western and Central Europe. As a result of this, the masses ceased to be an occasional force in political processes and started to be a major determinant.11

These political changes were accompanied by economic and social trans­formations. Industrialization strengthened the abovementioned administrative and military capacities of the state everywhere, and the organization of industrial workers into a social class also posed a threat to the ruling elites. Urbanization also facilitated the emergence of mass politics. The uneven pace of economic development decisively contributed to shifts of power among the European states.12

As researchers of political violence have pointed out, the general attitude toward violence had begun to change well before the war in Europe and elsewhere. The American Civil War was a totalizing war, as it blurred the borderlines between the military and the civilian population, warfare and the home front, and it also advanced the concept of unconditional surrender.13 A conspicuous sign of this change was the widespread conceptualization of war as a desirable and noble activity, a phenomenon also referred to as the glorification of violence. The intensification of political violence in the first decades of the twentieth century can be put down to numerous sources. In particular, three major political-ideological currents of the nineteenth century contributed to the explosion of political violence: nationalism, colonial imperialism, and communism.14

The most significant factor was the linkage of popular sovereignty and nationalist ideology.15 This became a quintessential force primarily in contested regions with heavily mixed ethnic compositions, most notably the Balkans and East Central Europe. As the emancipatory character of nationalism began to fade, the subordination of ethnic minorities increasingly came to be coupled with aggression at the end of the nineteenth century.16 The primary catalyst of violence was the Eastern Crisis, which began to flare up in the mid-1870s and which involved an intricate web of international, imperial, and ethnic conflicts. It was followed by outbreaks of brutal ethnic violence in the Balkans up until 1914. These bursts of violence were not entirely new, but the arsenal of the opposing parties became more powerful and the actors more intransigent. As has been noted by scholars of late nineteenth century political violence, “[t]he pattern of state oppression, terrorism, revolt, ethnic conflict, international intervention, forced resettlement of populations and ethnic cleansing and genocide was one that had already been established in Europe long before 1914.”17

From the end of the nineteenth century, radical national groups gained ground in Western and Central and Eastern European states as well. They not only put pressure on their own governments to force them to take more aggressive stances in international politics, they also intimidated foreign governments and public opinion in other countries. The diplomats closely monitored the radical nationalist demands and the xenophobic articles published in the press. The French and the Russians feared the Pan-German movements, while the Germans were alarmed by the Pan-Slav initiatives. The activism of the nationalist agitators produced arguments for similar groups in other countries and contributed to the development of an atmosphere of distrust in international politics.18

Another important political-ideological current which influenced the dynamics of political violence was colonial imperialism.19 The governments of colonizing countries could be relatively nonviolent when it came to domestic affairs but repressive and even brutal when it came to colonized populations. Clearly, several factors were at play, including racism, the effort to spread Christianity, and the pursuit of imperial territorial expansion. Material interests played a secondary role in colonization efforts. Most the colonies, with India being the most important exception, demanded more investment from the colonizing country than the revenues produced. This was true even when the balance was positive for certain business groups which tried to drive imperialist policy forward. Richard Findlay and Kevin O’Rourke also emphasize that in the globalizing world economy at the end of the nineteenth century, there were no antagonistic conflicts between the great powers that would have demanded a military solution.20 Therefore, colonial imperialism can be traced back primarily to ideological and political factors. Nonetheless, the imperialist attitudes were quite clearly detectable in the European escalation of violence after World War I, too. It was with reference to the British and Belgian colonies that the Nazis demanded similar territories outside Europe and on the old continent as part of their project to create a so-called “living space” for themselves, one that would clearly be based on racial discrimination.21

Finally, communism and bolshevism can also be classified among the key ideological sources of violence.22 Where authoritarian regimes blocked the gradual emancipation of the working class (particularly in Russia), revolutionary ideas in the labor movement became dominant. Long before the Russian revolution of 1917, Lenin and other Bolsheviks were of the view that profound social change could be achieved in Russia only by unrelenting terror.23 The Russian revolution, which broke out after three bloody years of war, turned into a brutal civil war which soon exported revolutionary and counterrevolutionary violence beyond Russia’s borders.24

Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to regard the pre-1914 period as a mere prelude to World War I. The war was not inevitable. International relations of the time were not characterized exclusively by conflict, and significant efforts were made to maintain peace. It is no accident that after 1871, Europe experienced one of the longest periods in its history without wars between the great powers. There were several factors that prevented the outbreak of major armed conflicts. Most of the statesmen knew that a war would cause social upheaval and revolutions, and they were also aware of the additional political, financial, and economic risks. Although the military leaders of the great powers had called for an armed solution on several occasions before the World War, they were always restrained by the politicians, who knew that wars needed justification and that waging a comprehensive modern war was only possible with broad social support. The biggest political parties in Europe, the German Social Democratic Party and the British Labour Party, were unambiguously anti-militarist. Radical nationalism was an important factor, but it was hardly the only factor that influenced foreign policy in the countries of Europe.25

Era of World Wars

Moving on to the other periodizations of the twentieth century, works that consider World War I not as the endpoint of one era but rather as the beginning of a new one are in fact more common in the historical literature. As noted above, the decades between 1914 and 1945 were a period which was referred to as “another Thirty Years’ War” (Winston Churchill), the “Thirty Years’ War in the 20th century” (Raymond Aron), “the age of the European civil war” (Ernst Nolte), or simply “the era of violence” (Ian Kershaw).26 These decades were connected by the explosion of violence: well over 100 million people perished in wars, civil wars, Nazi extermination camps, and Soviet labor camps.27 According to the advocates of this type of periodization, this era differed fundamentally, at least in Europe, from the previous decades and especially the second half of the century, which brought a longer period of peace again.

Within the immense literature dealing with the causes of World War I, the revisionist approach that evolved around the turn of the millennium calls into question the idea that the outbreak of the war was somehow inevitable or highly likely because of the prewar tensions, crises, and pressures created by nationalist agitation. Instead, this approach assigns a greater role to the contingent incidents or unfavorable coincidence of specific events, especially during the July crisis. It accepts, however, the crucial role of World War I in the long-term escalation of political violence.28

World War I not only increased the number of the victims of political violence, it also signaled the beginning of a new quality of violence. This novel quality was the result of the combination of modern industrial technologies with the new conception of war, one that was reminiscent of the sixteenth-century and seventeenth-century wars of religion. Such clashes were conceptualized as battles between “good” and “evil.” Unlike the conflicts of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, which had comparatively limited aims (for instance, the preservation or fall of a given dynasty), the aim of the major powers in World War I was to destroy the enemy utterly.

The new culture of war involved, first, the cultural mobilization of the population for violence and, second, the changing practice of war.29 On all sides, the dehumanization of the enemy was a primary tool of cultural mobilization (some refer to this as psychological mobilization).30 This was greatly facilitated by the fact that, in the age of mass media, the governments had efficient tools at their disposal to distort information and widely disseminate such news reports. Initially, they exercised censorship only over news directly related to the military situation.31 Later, however, information regarding prevailing general sentiment and especially views of the war and also critical remarks made by politicians and politically exposed persons were also considered relevant from the perspective of military considerations, so they too were submitted to censorship. Accordingly, while in 1914, there was only one press officer in the German army, there were more than 1,000 of them by 1916.32 The expansion and modernization of the propaganda activities are demonstrated by the fact that, in early 1917, a Photo und Film Office (Bild- und Filmamt, BUFA) was set up within the military department of the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and in early 1918, Great Britain set up a Ministry of Information.33 Priority was accorded to the presentation of sexual violence perpetrated by the enemy.34 Serbian newspapers contained reports concerning rapes allegedly committed by members of the Austro-Hungarian army, and the Austrian press provided broad coverage of the atrocities allegedly perpetrated by Russian troops against women in Galicia. The aim was not simply to report on the assaults committed against women. The propaganda suggested that if men were unable to defend their women (and by implication their country), their masculinity itself would be endangered.35

However, the demonization of the enemy was not simply the product of censorship and propaganda. As recent research on World War I has pointed out, civil society also took an active part in this campaign.36 In October 1914, 93 prominent German intellectuals, including Max Weber and Albert Einstein, published a manifesto entitled “Appeal to the Civilized World.” In it, they rebuffed all accusations against the German army, from the violation of Belgium’s neutrality to the cruelties allegedly committed by German troops, and insisted that the German army was, in fact, the defender of German culture and, hence, the culture of the world. Attacks on the German army, they contended, were also attacks on German culture. In response, French scholars published a manifesto in which they argued that German culture and military aggression were closely related: the former bred the latter. As Henri Bergson, perhaps the most renowned philosopher in France at the time, put it, war was “the fight of civilization against barbarism.”37

As these examples make clear, the basic function of the culture of war was the creation of an antagonistic opposition of collective identities. Although critical voices eventually became louder, a markedly antiwar attitude was characteristic only of a rather small fraction of intellectuals throughout the war. These opinions were expressed most noticeably in Russia, Great Britain, France, and to a lesser degree in Germany and Austria-Hungary.38

Two important elements of the other key component of the new war culture, the change in the practice of war, merit particular emphasis here. Over the course of the war, military actions against civilians and the destruction of the memorial sites crucial to the cultural identity of the enemy became an increasingly standard tool in the arsenals of the opposing armies.39 To cite one example, one might think of the act of arson committed in Leuven in the first weeks of the war. The University of Leuven Library, which held a collection of precious codices and incunabula, was set aflame by the German army, an act without military justification.40 The tremendous fire power in the battlefields was another major element of the new practice of war which, not surprisingly, shaped the culture of war.

As the above makes clear, the war was waged not only in the battlefields by soldiers but also on cultural fronts involving the civilian populations, which is why it has come to be referred to as a total war in the historical literature.41 Since the conflict was a war of nations and empires with the participation of entire societies, acts of violence could be perpetrated in the name of the people, and violence could be deployed against the civilian populations. In other words, the enemy was no longer states and their armies, but the entire populations of other countries.42 The totalization of the war led to brutalization both in the ranks of the military and within the wider society, because it made ever increasing levels of aggression socially acceptable, arguably preparing the way for World War II.43 This process can be described not only as a transformation of the culture of war but also as a change in the prevailing political culture.

The use of physical violence evolved into an intrinsic instrument of partisan actors in the new order of the interwar decades, in which physical assaults were considered a legitimate means of political struggle. Therefore, the formal end of World War I did not mean an end to political violence. On the contrary, between 1917 and 1923, revolutions, counterrevolutions, civil wars, and violent ethnic conflicts shattered many parts of Europe.44 The process of brutalization was especially striking in Russia during the revolution and civil war and in Germany in the revolutionary period and during the moments of diffuse political violence of the 1920s and 1930s.45 In Russia, World War I was instrumental in the brutalization of politics, but often in a more indirect way. Violence did not simply originate on the battlefield. Rather, it had a more complex genealogy. The institutional weakness of the state had permitted cultures of violence to flourish before the Great War. The war destroyed the old state structures and state authority, releasing the preexisting propensities for violence, which started to feed on themselves. Many instances of violence (White, Green, criminal, and mob violence) were devastating but were employed mostly tactically. In contrast, the Bolsheviks practiced violence and the threat of brutality in a strategic way to transform society and create a new state. The strategic use of force helped them defeat their opponents, and it also led to the institutionalization of violence in the newly established communist state.46 Central and Eastern Europe was also highly affected by political violence after the war. In Hungary, the revolutionary and counterrevolutionary terror and the intense everyday violence that evolved in the early 1920s (which included, for instance, the beating of Jews at universities) were all manifestations of the above. However, compared to Russia or Germany, the situation was consolidated relatively soon, within a few years.47

The revolutions, counterrevolutions, and paramilitary violence showed that although Europe was exhausted by 1918, there was no general cultural demobilization after World War I.48 Not even the Paris Peace Treaties managed to lay down the foundations of an enduring peace or an era without violence on the continent. This failure should be put down less to a lack of wisdom among the diplomats and more to the fact that “the war in people’s heads” continued, i.e., wartime attitudes continued to live on in broad spectrums of European societies, even if significant differences could be observed across Europe. Mobilization for political violence began to decline in the 1920s, especially in the victorious countries (such as Great Britain and France), but demobilization was hardly complete there either.49 The change is well illustrated by the transformation of depictions of war in France. While before 1914, images of war were dominated by heroic cavalry attacks and the figure of the noble and self-sacrificing soldier, after the mid-1920s, heroism disappeared for the most part from these depictions, and war was often presented as a filthy and vile act. Thus, it has been suggested that the increase in political violence as a formative experience of the post-World War I order depended less on the experiences of the war and more on how a specific country had fared in the peacemaking processes after the war. Accordingly, recent studies underline the confusion and humiliation brought about by defeat, which played a key role in the eruption of violence in Germany, Austria, and Hungary. Here, a “culture of defeat” emerged which, as a symptom of enduring cultural mobilization, prevented many war veterans and civilians from coming to terms with the war’s outcome and demobilizing themselves internally.50 However, even in the “cultures of victory,” political violence was an essential constituent of the interwar order. The task of securing the new borders in the context of ethnically and religiously diverse societies created considerable conflicts and violent excesses in countries as such as Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Ireland.51

In addition to this absence of cultural demobilization, the two World Wars were also connected to each other by the armed conflicts that broke out shortly after the end of World War I. Japan invaded Manchuria in 1931, Italy launched an attack against Abyssinia in 1935, the Germans and the Italians intervened in the Spanish Civil War in 1936, and war broke out between Japan and China in 1937.

Beginning of a New Era

There is another widespread position concerning World War I as a historical divide which considers the Great War as the overture to a new era that lasted not simply until the end of World War II, but much longer than that. Reference has already been made to the well-known concept of the “short twentieth century,”52 meaning the period between 1914 and 1991, but several works have chosen World War I (its beginning or its end) as the starting point, and they trace historical trends which lasted until the turn of the millennium or up to the present day.53 According to these works, the twentieth century was essentially a period of historical continuity, as the historical trends sparked or ignited by World War I were decisive even after World War II.54

According to historians who see World War I as the beginning of a new period stretching until 1991 or beyond, this continuity can be detected with regard to violence as well. Once the war culture and other characteristics of World War I have been acknowledged, and in particular the practices of demonizing the enemy and committing acts of violence against civilians (such as shelling and aerial bombardment, U-Boat attacks, requisition of food and labor, mistreatment and abuse of allegedly suspicious members of minority communities, etc.), these phenomena lose their distinct quality and become integral elements of war.55 The conscious application of this type of periodization to European history acknowledges the key importance of World War I and the extreme brutality of World War II, but it also points to widespread political aggression in the second half of the twentieth century. Globally, many wars were fought after 1945, and European powers were directly involved several of them. The colonial wars offer an obvious example, but the export of violence from Europe can be observed in other respects as well. The two superpowers (the United States and the Soviet Union) and their allies often instrumentalized local conflicts in the third world for their own purposes and clashed with each other in proxy wars.

Moreover, political violence, though it may have lost some influence and resources, never ceased to exist entirely in Europe itself. From the 1960s, terrorist movements repeatedly committed violent acts, the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s involved mass violence and ethnic cleansing again, and recently, Russia has come into armed conflict with its neighbors on several occasions, disregarding international law time and again. In the decade after the turn of the millennium, nationalist mobilization took place in several other countries as well, such as Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania.56

For decades after World War II, the threat of political violence was moderate. Underlying factors included the ethnic homogenization of the nation states resulting from large-scale forced resettlements and assimilation. The threat of mutual nuclear destruction as a deterrent during the Cold War and the process of European integration were even more important reasons for the absence of major wars in Europe. Today, however, tensions are no longer bottled up by the logic of Cold War, and European integration is affected by centrifugal forces more than ever. The reappearance of security issues invites interpretations that draw connections between the current era and the age of the World Wars and promotes the related historical periodization.

However, World War I ushered in a long-term transformation that stretched beyond the mid-twentieth century not only in terms of political violence, but in international politics, social and economic affairs and ideologies. A crucial international and geopolitical consequence of the war was the termination of the classic European pentarchy. The empires of Central and Eastern Europe disintegrated, and the borders drawn by the peace treaties stabilized for the most part in the long run. The colonial system was seemingly only restructured, but the imperial overstretch of the British and the French accelerated the emancipation of their colonies. The imperial state as a form of territorial governance came under attack and began to retreat as the concept of the nation state continued its advance across the globe. Several decades and another brutal war between 1939 and 1945 were necessary to accelerate the course of imperial decline, but World War I was the starting point of this process and, thus, a global watershed.57

The victory of the Bolshevik revolution kicked off the evolution of the communist world system, and the rivalry between communist and capitalist countries left its mark on international relations throughout the century.58

Among the economic changes, increased redistribution and state control of business stands out.59 Government agencies and other authorities appeared in each belligerent European country. These bodies oversaw the allocation of raw materials, controlling finances and distributing food and other everyday necessities. As the war progressed, they became more and more powerful, indicating that the government had acquired competencies that would have been inconceivable previously and that they had undertaken a degree of responsibility for the living standards of citizens that had been essentially unheard of. After the war, these authorities were only partially eliminated, as illustrated, for instance, by the continued operation of the Center of Financial Institutions (Pénzintézeti Központ) in Hungary.60

The use of war loans to finance the war and precipitous inflation caused by the manipulation of state finances devastated the economies of the belligerent countries, but a similar fate awaited pre-1914 international commercial and financial relations as well. In some areas, war damages already hindered economic performance, and reconstruction also demanded considerable resources. Overseas investments had to be sold to finance the war. The bulk of the wartime investments flowed into the armaments industry, which later became redundant. There were excess capacities in other branches, too, and the human capital suffered heavy losses. These factors contributed to the Great Depression and thus to the political instability of the 1930s.61

The economic weight of the United States and Japan grew in the west and in the east, respectively, with long-term consequences. This was clearly indicated by the fact that while before 1914, the key currency of the international capital markets had been the British pound sterling and Great Britain had been the leading international creditor, insurer, and investor, after 1918, these functions began to be filled by the United States and the US dollar.62

As far as the broader social implications are concerned, it deserves to be mentioned that World War I brought a breakthrough in the development of mass democracies. In the previous era, parliamentary systems existed all over Western Europe, but only a small percent of the population had voting rights. However, during the war, the biggest sacrifices were made by the excluded groups, so they demanded their political rights. The introduction of women’s suffrage also picked up speed. This was due in no small part to the ever-larger presence of women in the workforce and, notably, in positions requiring forms of skilled labor. This process accelerated over the course of the twentieth century, becoming perhaps the single most important factor in women’s growing political and economic emancipation.63 However, the large-scale extension of the right to vote and the simultaneous spread of parliamentary systems also created some measure of political turmoil in the short run. While Great Britain managed to stabilize its democracy in the 1920s, most liberal democracies collapsed or had been overthrown by the early 1930s, and this contributed decisively to the escalation of international conflicts.64

With regards to long-term social processes, the war did not so much bring about a breakthrough as act as a catalyst which accelerated shifts already underway. The working class continued to grow during the war. In some countries, it increased by one third over the four years in question. Parallel to the expansion of the economic role of the state, social policy was also given greater emphasis. The war uprooted millions, thus contributing to the spread of new habits and attitudes. Relatively insulated peasant communities were increasingly exposed to urban values. The changes which took place to the roles that were played by women in society (particularly but not exclusively with regards to the presence of women in the workplace) are also a significant indication of changes in and challenges to social values. In the 1920s, the sight of a woman on her own in a cinema and another public place of entertainment became customary in European cities, while only a few decades earlier it would have constituted a rare incident.65


All in all, each of the three approaches presented above can be relevant for research on World War I and the history of the twentieth century, but there are considerable divergences between the interpretations they produce. If one regards World War I as the endpoint of the previous era, then strong emphasis should be placed on the road leading up to the war, or in other words the conflicts in Europe and the prevailing ideologies of the last third of the nineteenth century: how were the structural and cultural preconditions created that eventually led to the outburst of violence in 1914?

If one conceives of the two World Wars and the decades between them as a single unit, then the focus shifts to violence as a defining feature of the periodization, and emphasis falls on short-term factors. War is traced back to war in many respects, with World War II being seen as a consequence of World War I. This approach furthers an understanding of the dynamics of violence. It also highlights the relative peace prevailing in Europe for several decades after World War II and encourages one to explore the reasons for this peace. At the same time, this interpretation is Eurocentric and can barely account for long-term social and economic changes.

Finally, if we understand the Great War as the beginning of a new period lasting until the end of the twentieth century and even beyond, emphasis is placed on World War I as a defining watershed—even in comparison with World War II—which generated massive long-term political, social, and economic processes. Thus, World War I is to be seen not only as the prelude to World War II, but as an Urkatastrophe (primordial catastrophe) or “the great seminal catastrophe of this century,” (George F. Kennan) which triggered a series of conflicts.66 From the perspective of Central and Eastern Europe, this approach is particularly relevant, as World War I initiated the breakup of empires in the region and the rise of a new system of nation sates, and the common thread of the ensuing short twentieth century for Central and Eastern Europe was the dominance of authoritarian systems.

In contrast with total war, total history is unfeasible, as historians cannot consider the all the existing sources and research findings in their works. The approaches discussed above cannot be merged into one seamless narrative either. Instead, we see changing foci in the historiography of World War I, and this affects the assessments of the place of World War I in any historical narrative of the time.

Between the two World Wars, historians paid greater attention to the events leading up to World War I than they did to its immediate consequences, but they usually focused on relatively narrow issues. They were intrigued by the question of war guilt, in particular the responsibility of governments, which corresponded to the traditional view that placed the nation at the center of its narratives.67

In the 1950s and 1960s, concern with the events of World War II among both historians and the general public largely overshadowed interest in the Great War. Still, several excellent scholarly works were written on World War I in which the focus shifted to the masses affected by the war on the front and in the hinterland. This contributed to discussions of the long-term effects of World War I and new considerations of how the war had arguably shaped the whole of the twentieth century (some of which have been presented above).

At the beginning of the 1990s, when the new Europe was born and the interpretations of international relations based on the nation state principle seemed narrow or even obsolete, the concept of a “European civil war” gained popularity. As we have seen above, this notion included World War I. One of the key promoters of this idea was the Museum of the Great War, which was opened in 1992 in the Château de Péronne in the town of Péronne, France (the site of the Somme battles).68

This proved to be a temporary change. The centenary of the outbreak of the Great War coincided with growing international instability, which once again encouraged a search for correspondences between the age of World War I and our own days and thereby placed emphasis on long-term perspectives. But the larger framework for understandings of past events has not changed: interpretations of World War I continue to be shaped by historians, members of the public, and their broader social contexts.69



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1 Krumeich, “The War Imagined: 1890–1914,” 5.

2 Ibid., 7.

3 Winter, “Historiography 1918–Today”; Borodziej and Górny, Forgotten Wars; Leonhard, Die Büchse der Pandora; Gyáni, “A Nagy Háború: Kinek a háborúja?” 82–91; Clark, The Sleepwalkers; Horne, “Introduction,” xvi–xxviii; Winter, The Legacy of the Great War; Kramer, Dynamic of Destruction; Braybon, Evidence, History and the Great War; Audoin-Rouzeau and Becker, 1914–1918; Chickering and Förster, Great War, Total War; Winter et al., The Great War and the Twentieth Century; Keegan, The First World War; Horne, State, Society and Mobilization in Europe during the First World War; Winter and Baggett, 1914–18: the Great War and the Shaping of the Twentieth Century; Geyer, “The Militarization of Europe, 1914–1945”; Winter, The Experience of World War I.

4 The literature on historical periodization is rather scarce: Karner et al., Epochenbrüche im 20. Jahrhundert; Stearns, “Periodization in Social History”; Koselleck, Zeitschichten: Studien zur Historik; Jordanova, History in Practice; Green, “Periodizing World History”; Besserman, “The Challenge of Periodization: Old Paradigms and New Perspectives.”

5 On the global dimension of the war, see Winter, “General Introduction”; Neiberg, Fighting the Great War: A Global History; Gerwarth and Manela, “The Great War as a Global War”; Janz, “Einführung: Der Erste Weltkrieg in globaler Perspektive”; Lakitsch et al., Bellicose Entanglements.

6 Segesser, “1918, a global caesura?”

7 Blackbourn, History of Germany 1780–1918.

8 Wehler, “Der zweite Dreißigjährige Krieg,” 32.

9 Hobsbawm, The Age of Extremes, ix.

10 Fischer, Griff nach der Weltmacht; Reimann, “Der Erste Weltkrieg.” For interpretations claiming that the Great War constituted the end of an era, see Osterhammel, “In Search of a Nineteenth Century”; Osterhammel, Die Verwandlung der Welt; Leonhard, “Legacies of Violence.”

11 McMillan, “War.”

12 Carreras and Josephson, “Aggregate Growth, 1870–1914”; Halperin, War and Social Change in Modern Europe, 51–143.

13 Leonhard, “Legacies of Violence,” 321.

14 Kershaw, “War and Political Violence in Twentieth-Century Europe,” 112.

15 Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism since 1870, 22, 84; Mann, The Sources of Social Power, 730–32; Mann, “A Political Theory of Nationalism and its Excesses.”

16 Kershaw, “War and Political Violence,” 111.

17 Bloxham et al., “Europe in the world,” 39.

18 Mulligan, The Origins of the First World War, 233–234; Rauchensteiner, The First World War and the End of the Habsburg Monarchy, 1914–1918, 34–35.

19 Dwyer and Nettelbeck, “‘Savage Wars of Peace’.”

20 Findlay and O’Rourke, Power and Plenty, xxiv–xxv.

21 Kershaw, “War and Political Violence,” 112; Traverso, The Origins of Nazi Violence.

22 Ryan, “‘Revolution is War’: The Development of the Thought of V. I. Lenin on Violence, 1899–1907.”

23 Mazower, Dark Continent: Europe’s Twentieth Century, 8–10.

24 Kershaw, “War and Political Violence,” 112; Beyrau, “Der Erste Weltkrieg als Bewahrungsprobe.”

25 Mulligan, The Origins of the First World War, 227–29.

26 Churchill, The Gathering Storm, 12; Aron, Peace and War, 297; Nolte, Der europäische Bürgerkrieg, 1917–1945; Kershaw, “War and Political Violence,” 112.

27 For different estimates, see Leitenberg, Deaths in Wars and Conflicts in the 20th Century, 3–15.

28 Mulligan, The Origins of the First World War, 16–17.

29 Becker, “Faith, Ideologies, and the »Cultures of War«,” 234.

30 Wehler, “Der zweite Dreißigjährige Krieg,” 32.

31 Demm, “Propaganda at Home and Abroad”.

32 Kruse, Der Erste Weltkrieg, 84.

33 Tworek, “Bild- und Filmamt (BUFA)”; Kruse, Der Erste Weltkrieg, 87.

34 Kramer, Dynamic of Destruction, 244–46; Morrow, “A Theory of Atrocity Propaganda.”

35 McMillan, “War,” 62; Steffen, “Othering/Atrocity Propaganda.”

36 Purseigle, “Warfare and Belligerence.”

37 Mulligan, The Origins of the First World War, 4; Irish, “Petitioning the World.”

38 Kramer, “Recent Historiography of the First World War. Part II,” 169.

39 Kramer, “Combatants and Noncombatants”; Watson, “‘Unheard-of Brutality’: Russian Atrocities against Civilians in East Prussia, 1914–15”; Gumz, The Resurrection and Collapse of Empire in Habsburg Serbia, 1914–1918, 44–59.

40 Kramer, Dynamic of Destruction, 6–30.

41 Strachan, “Total War in the Twentieth Century.”

42 Horne, “War and Conflict in Contemporary European History, 1914–2004,” 5.

43 Mosse, Fallen Soldiers: Reshaping the Memory of the World Wars, 162.

44 On the conflicts in the immediate post-war years, see Böhler, Civil War in Central Europe, 1918–1921: The Reconstruction of Poland; Gerwarth, The Vanquished; Gerwarth and Horne, War in Peace; Révész: “Post-war Turmoil and Violence (Hungary)”; Balkelis, War, Revolution, and Nation-Making in Lithuania, 1914–1923; Bodó and Prónay, Paramilitary Violence and Anti-Semitism in Hungary, 1919–1921; Wilson, Frontiers of Violence; Stephenson, The Final Battle; Hart, The IRA at War, 1916–1923; Davies, White Eagle, Red Star; Roshwald, Ethnic Nationalism and the Fall of Empires.

45 Jones, “Political Violence in Italy and Germany after the First World War.”; Voigtmann, “The Baltikumer.”

46 Beyrau, “Brutalization Revisited.”

47 Gerwarth, “The Central European Counterrevolution.”; Gerwarth and Horne, “Paramilitarism in Europe after the Great War: An Introduction.”; Sammartino, “Paramilitary Violence.”

48 Geyer, “The Militarization of Europe, 1914–1945.”

49 Laurence, “Forging a Peaceable Kingdom”; Schumann, “Europa, der erste Weltkrieg und die Nachkriegszeit.”

50 Schievelbusch, The Culture of Defeat; Edgecombe and Healy, “Competing Interpretations of Sacrifice in the Postwar Austrian Republic.”

51 Eichenberg, “The Dark Side of Independence”; Kučera, “Exploiting Victory, Sinking into Defeat.”

52 Hobsbawm, The Age of Extremes, ix.

53 Krüger, “Der Erste Weltkrieg als Epochenschwelle.”

54 James, Europe Reborn: A History, 1914–2000.

55 For contributions that in specific aspects consider World War I a precursor to World War II, see, for example, Liulevicius, War Land on the Eastern Front; Winter, America and the Armenian Genocide of 1915; Prusin, Nationalizing a Borderland; von Hagen, War in a European Borderland; Liberman, The Holocaust and Genocides in Europe; Wróbel, “Foreshadowing the Holocaust.”

56 For example, see Feischmidt and Majtényi, The Rise of Populist Nationalism.

57 Gerwarth and Manela, “The Great War as a Global War.”

58 On the social consequences of the war, see Marwick and Purdue, “The debate over the impact and consequences of World War I”; Wall and Winter, The Upheaval of War; Winter and Robert, Capital Cities at War.

59 Winter, War and Economic Development; Hardach, The First World War 1914–1918; Offer, The First World War: An Agrarian Interpretation; Wrigley, The First World War and the International Economy; Strachan, Financing the First World War.

60 Tomka, A magyarországi pénzintézetek rövid története, 1836–1947, 81.

61 Jolanta and Harrison, “War and disintegration, 1914–1950”; Capie, “Inflation in the twentieth century,” 164–66.

62 Broadberry and Harrison, “The economics of World War I: an overview.”

63 Grayzel, “Women and Men,” 263.

64 Reynolds, The Long Shadow, 39–83.

65 Marwick and Purdue, “The debate over the impact and consequences of World War I,” 113–21.

66 Kennan, The Decline of Bismarck‘s European Order, 3; Schulin, “Die Urkatastrophe des zwanzigsten Jahrhunderts”; Mommsen, Die Urkatastrophe Deutschlands.

67 Winter and Prost, The Great War in History.

68 For recent examples of this view, see several contributions to Pennell and de Menese, A World at War, 1911–1949.

69 Brandt, “The Memory Makers.”


“The King in the Saddle”: The Árpád Dynasty and Itinerant Kingship in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries

Pavol Hudáček
Slovak Academy of Sciences
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Hungarian Historical Review Volume 11 Issue 3  (2022):505–544 DOI 10.38145/2022.3.505

The rulers of the Árpád dynasty spent a great deal of time on the road traveling from one royal castle, palace, mansion, monastery, or bishop’s seat to another. The ruler’s travel and personal presence were an important way of exercising power during this period. However, few sources have survived from the eleventh and twelfth centuries, making it difficult for historians to do much research on the travel of the Árpád kings. The Kingdom of Hungary was a large country and it is necessary to determine what was the main power center and where the periphery territories were located. For the most part, the Árpád kings stayed in the central region, where the most important royal settlements, the oldest monasteries, and the first bishoprics were located, and they visited the peripheral parts of the country only sporadically. The king met every year with his faithful magnates, bishops, abbots, and so on, and these important events was included various ceremonies, rituals, banquets, court proceedings, conferences with political elites, and gifts or donations.

Keywords: Kingdom of Hungary, house of Árpád, itinerant kingship, royal travel, royal power

Early medieval monarchs spent a great deal of time traveling from one castle, palace, mansion, monastery, or episcopal seat to another. The presence of the ruler was an important element in the use and maintenance of power in this period. Kings did not have a single main seat. The royal court was constantly on the move. Kings had several centers of power in the territories they controlled, and they frequently moved between them with their courts or entourages (iter regis). Medieval monarchs most often traveled for economic reasons, including the use of products and services from royal estates in the individual regions, and also for reasons of politics or power. Their journeys were elements of “highly ritualized” practice, whether they were the consequences of a military campaign, the negotiation of peace treaties, the reconciliation or settlement of disputes, important Christian holidays, countrywide assemblies, church synods, or hunts. When he traveled to his estates, the centers of power, or an ecclesiastical center, the king took the main royal roads and their turn-offs, which formed the “road network” of the country. The use and concentration of these roads depended on whether they were located in the central territories or in peripheral areas. The royal roads connected the monarch’s residential palaces, mansions, monasteries, and episcopal seats. Sometimes, the monarch only stopped in these places for short periods of time, but depending on his needs and material provisions, he sometimes stayed for much longer. During these travels and sojourns at individual places the king ruled, made decisions, issued judgments, and met with the political elites of the country (princes, magnates, abbots, bishops). Therefore, the royal presence was nearly always accompanied by various ceremonies and rituals.1

Itinerant Kingship

Research on royal travel is closely linked to research on medieval roads, the central and peripheral regions of the given kingdom, the favorite territories of the monarch, the reconstruction of the network of royal estates (including ecclesiastical centers and monasteries), which contained royal palaces or agricultural mansions that served as residences of the king or his family, and the monarch’s right to supplies, hospitality, and services.2 Historians who focus on the period use the terms itinerant kingship, Reisekönigtum, and peripatetic kingship to refer to the “on the road” form of rule of medieval monarchs. This manner of rule, where the king performed his practical duties and symbolic demonstrations of power by occasionally or constantly traveling around his estates, was used, for instance, by the monarchs of the Holy Roman Empire. The movement of the royal court around the country had a number of common elements, but the individual dynasties had different specific expressions that changed over time and were adapted to new circumstances. Not all monarchs traveled with the same frequency, and itinerant kingship was hardly the only manner of rule and execution of power. Unlike military campaigns or other journeys abroad, so-called itinerant kingship refers to the regular visits of the king to more or less the same places at more or less the same time of the year, for example the chief religious holidays, the holidays of the patrons of important churches, the countrywide assemblies, hunts, etc. The personal presence of the monarch during his travels to the individual parts of the country was an important channel of communication between the central power and local sites of power.3

According to historians, itinerant kingships had these common characteristic elements: a predominantly subsistence economy, the sovereign authority of the monarch, which was fostered through personal relationships, the magical or sacral perception of the ruler (or dynasty), and very often little dependence on the written word in the management of the country. It was in such societies that the ruler constantly traveled through his territory with his court. His personal presence gave legitimacy to his position, emphasized his majesty, and fostered relationships with loyal locals. The extent to which this style of the exercise of power was applied, the frequency of royal visits and the favored territories or places changed during specific periods. To a great extent, this was determined by gradual changes in the form of government, which were related to the conditions within the administrative institutions, new forms of representation of the monarch, changes of dynasties, and the monarch (some traveled more, some less).4 For instance, the Carolingians traveled the country but routinely stayed in their favorite residences for longer periods of time. From these places, they sent written instructions to surrounding parts of the country. Their arrival and meetings with important figures were accompanied by political rituals that used symbolic expressions during public events, such as important church holidays, countrywide assemblies, etc.5

According to the secondary literature, the East Frankish, Ottonian, and Salian rulers traveled much more than the Carolingians. During their reigns, they spent nearly half of their time on the road. They rarely stayed in one place for longer than a few days, though they did sometimes remain for several weeks. As part of the ways they ruled, they also sent instructions in writing and by messenger, but far less frequently than their predecessors. The power and position of these kings were based to a much greater extent on their personal presence and the sanctity of their person. For them, travel was an effective way of fostering power and winning loyalty. It was a demonstration of their exceptional position of authority. Through the regular personal appearances of the monarch, the individual parts of the large kingdom were connected. During the newly elected kings’ travels around the country (Königsumritt), the rulers won approval for their ascendance to the throne, mainly in the most important centers of power and at local assemblies of the nobility, and they also solved disputes and revolts and received honors and oaths of loyalty.6 Over the course of a year, they ceremoniously arrived on important church holidays or at important meetings in the episcopal seats, monasteries, and cities (adventus regis). They publicly demonstrated the sanctity of their royal position through their presence at masses and the symbolic wearing of the crown. In his visits to these places, the monarch executed his political and judicial duties, for example, rewarding people who were loyal to him, participating in rituals of reconciliation, and taking part in the punishment of enemies.7 The planning and organization of the journeys to the various locations particularly depended on the material possibilities along the selected route. These were provided by the royal estates and the right held by the king to hospitality, provided by the royal church institutions, such as bishoprics and monasteries.8

Iter Regis and Hungarian Medieval Sources

The aim of research on travel during an itinerant kingship is not to compile a complete itinerary of the travels of the individual Árpád kings. A reconstruction of the journeys undertaken by the king rather encompasses a description of the events, rituals, and ceremonies connected with his presence in the important ecclesiastical or worldly seats during Christian holidays or during other important events such as the conclusions of peace treaties, rituals of reconciliation, countrywide assemblies, etc. It is equally interesting to observe the changes in the preference for different seats or even whole territories and the construction of new residences or monasteries, which frequently took place during the rule of the individual kings. This text is an attempt to outline possible outcomes of research on the reigns of the Árpád kings in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, when some of their administrative duties and the symbolic demonstration of their power took place through continuous travel around their kingdom.

Some historians who have studied this period have only briefly stated that, like other monarchs, the Hungarian kings traveled around their kingdom with their court.9 But they have not considered the precise destinations to which the Árpád rulers traveled, when they traveled, how long they stayed, or what was the intention of their visit was. Similarly, they have also failed to consider whether the Árpád kings stayed for long periods of time only in the central territories or also took more frequent and longer sojourns to the peripheral areas of the kingdom. Although these are very important questions related to research on the journeys undertaken by the kings, in the case of the Kingdom of Hungary, it is difficult to find reliable answers.10 As far as their frequency and diversity (chronicles, legends, charters, etc.) are concerned, Hungarian sources from the eleventh and twelfth centuries are rather limited in comparison to the sources for other countries.11 It is difficult to find and compare information about the itinerant kingship of the Árpád kings with itinerant kingship in the surrounding countries, and one is compelled to rely on the isolated mentions from Hungarian medieval narrative and hagiographic sources or law-codes and charters. Very few documents have survived, and this prevents historians from engaging in thorough or penetrating research, so I highlight only some of the main points related to the travels of the kings of Árpád House.12

Most of the events described in the Hungarian Chronicle Composition of the fourteenth century take place in the central part of the Kingdom of Hungary. This Chronicle Composition was based on older sources that acquired a coherent textual form, known as the lost Gesta Ungarorum or Gesta Ungarorum Vetera, sometime within the second half of the eleventh or the beginning of the twelfth century. These earliest Gesta Ungarorum, however, were heavily rewritten, supplemented and interpolated in the course of the twelfth and thirteenth century. As they were also adapted, depending on the needs of the individual Hungarian kings, a certain degree of caution is necessary when using information from this source.13 The Chronicle Composition underwent several redactions and not all the information is trustworthy, but the places visited by the Árpád kings, where they spent time and celebrated Christian holidays are certainly not made up. They took place in the real geographic space of the eleventh and twelfth centuries, in localities that were important to the monarchs. Therefore, for research into iter regis, we consider the references in this source related to the journeys of the kings, princes and their courts and the information related to the localities and territories that they visited to be reliable information which was probably already included in the earliest version of the lost Gesta Ungarorum.

We know that the Hungarian kings traveled, we know some of their favorite places, where they built palaces and mansions, but the available sources only provide a rough outline of where the rulers of the Árpád dynasty traveled and where they stayed most often.14 In the Chronicle Composition or in some Hungarian medieval legends important seats are not mentioned so often (e.g. Esztergom, Székesfehérvár, Veszprém, Óbuda, Visegrád)15 and only a few references to royal palaces,16 hunting or agricultural mansions,17 monasteries and collegiate chapters appear.18 Although very few sources from the eleventh and twelfth centuries have been preserved, the kings may have regularly visited other locations, as evidenced, for example, by some documents from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. However, it should not be forgotten that the topography of power changed over the centuries as individual monarchs abandoned or less frequently visited traditional seats and built new residences in other places.19

From the second half of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century come two itineraries by Károly Ráth and Béla Sebestyén, in which they also recorded the journeys and stays of the kings of Árpád.20 Their compilers acquired information from narrative sources, royal charters (often also forged) or literature, and it is not possible to verify the credibility of some of the data without mentioning the source. Only a few royal charters have survived from the eleventh and twelfth centuries, some of which were not drawn up by the royal chancellery, but were only sealed by the monarch at a later date. Some of them are either forged or interpolated and their form is often known only from later copies. Only very rarely is the place of issue mentioned in these documents and great caution is therefore needed when using unique information from these oldest documents about the places where the Árpád rulers stayed.21

According to the register of royal charters compiled by Imre Szentpétery, 192 documents have been preserved from the period 1000–1200. Of this number, approximately 48 were forged or not very reliable, and only 17 documents (including forgeries) mention the place of issue. These were Győr, Székesfehérvár (3x), Óbuda (2x), Pécs, Szeged, Somogy, Zadar, Vác, Nitra (Nyitra), Esztergom (2x), Eger, Veszprém and Csepel-sziget.22 According to György Györffy, 73 royal charters were issued between 1000 and 1131, of which 23 were forgeries and only three of them have the place of issue. They were Sóly (near Veszprém) and the already mentioned Győr and Somogy. Of the forgeries that have been made after 1526, these were Óbuda (2x), Szeged and Zadar (Zára). 23 In the selection register of charters from 1001–1196 by the same author, only Székesfehérvár was as the place where the royal document was issued. Other non-royal charters, issued in the presence of the monarch in 1134, 1146 and 1152, mention locations such as Oradea (Nagyvárad), Szentendre (near Óbuda)24 and Şemlacu Mare (Mezősomlyó).25 In these cases the king (his chancellery) issued, confirmed or sealed the charter when he was staying in the main royal and episcopal residences, royal castles, Dalmatian towns, collegiate chapters or other favorite places near important seats.26 Because of their small numbers, these mentions are not very representative if one is seeking to learn more about how often the Árpád rulers visited individual sites during this period.27

We only have information about the movements of the royal court from rare mentions in narrative sources and charters—if they include their place of issue, which was not common practice in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. According to the precious few references, we have information that the Hungarian kings nearly always stayed in important seats, monasteries and royal castles of medium regni or in its vicinity. These sources, however, may give the impression that monarchs always spent their time in the central part of the kingdom. But these sources are not a representative sample, they only record several important events from the times of the Árpád dynasty (coronations, meetings of rulers and funerals). From the few mentions we do know where the ruler was in a particular year, month or day, but we know almost nothing about most of the trips and sojourns of the Hungarian kings. Like the majority of medieval monarchs, the Árpád rulers stayed mostly in the chief center of power of the kingdom where had the best opportunities for travel in this area - a dense road network, plenty of royal estates (palaces, mansions, castles), which provided them with accommodation and supplies for the “court on the road,” royal monasteries or episcopal seats, etc.28

The Central Region and the Peripheries

In the secondary literature on the regular journeys undertaken by the rulers of the Kingdom of Hungary, we need to indicate what should be considered the central territory and what was the periphery.29 It is also important to consider where the centers of power were and whether they underwent change. For example, with regards to the travels of rulers from the Holy Roman Empire (Ottonians) around the country, Eckhard Müller-Mertens identified four types of geopolitical regions or zones: the core/central regions, the remote regions, the transit zones, and the zones of proximity, depending on their importance and the frequency of the king’s visits.30 The central regions were those where the king spent the most time and where the greatest level of material support, in the form of royal estates, could be found. They were the most important centers of power, where people from other parts of the country gathered when they went to see the king. The central regions could change or new ones could spring up (in which new residential palaces were sometimes built), depending on the popularity of a specific area with an individual monarch or a successor.31

Hungarian medieval sources most frequently mention the presence of the kings in the medium regni or in its vicinity. The most important royal and ecclesiastical centers were located there, along with the highest number of monasteries, which led to the densest road network. This contributed to the founding of the first bishoprics in these centers. The remote regions were those where the king’s power and presence was limited (mostly border or peripheral territories). There was a lack of material resources to allow a longer stay by the monarch, and also fewer royal centers of power, so the kings only visited them sporadically and under exceptional circumstances. The deficiencies in these territories were, to a certain extent, compensated for by the royal monasteries that were gradually built in them. An example of this, in the Kingdom of Hungary, was Transylvania, which, in the narrower sense, is always considered to be a territory, an administratively distinct unit, in the available sources. They were also wooded, hilly or frontier regions (confinia),32 which had originally also served as royal forests (hunting areas).33

In the time of the Árpád dynasty, there were no changes in the central region. In other words, there was nothing that could be compared with, for instance, the case of Saxony, a marginal region, which became a central region during the reign of the Ottonians.34 The transit zones were narrow strips of territory around important roads which the kings used when traveling to other parts of the country or to other centers of power outside the central region. In the Kingdom of Hungary, these centers may have been found in the territories between the Danube River and the Tisza River, which connected the medium regni, for instance, with Bihar and Transylvania and, from the time of Ladislaus I, the territory beyond the Drava River in the direction of Dalmatia and Slavonia-Croatia. They may also have been found in the territories through which royal roads led to the episcopal seats, royal mansions, and hunting areas to the south, north, and west, outside the medium regni. And finally, the zones of proximity were the adjacent territories where the kings had their favorite haunts (in particular, the bishoprics and royal palaces) located on the margins of the central regions. In the Kingdom of Hungary, this may have been, for example, the territory between the Danube River and the Tisza River (e.g. Vác, Kalocsa, Tiszavárkony, etc.).

If the king began to travel more frequently from the center to marginal parts of the country which previously had been less often visited, the importance of the remote regions grew markedly, as did the importance of the transit and proximity zones. This is clearly shown by the more frequent donations made to the older centers of power, the construction of new royal residences, and the foundation of monasteries in these territories. For example, when King Coloman was in the Dalmatian city of Zadar in 1101, he stayed at palace, who had commissioned previously built there.35 Dalmatia became part of the Kingdom of Hungary only during his reign, and so he established a new residence in this city, which he then used when he came to Zadar.

The Árpád rulers certainly built such royal palaces at other important places within their kingdom. Within the political geography, these grand residences, which were often edifices of several stories which sometimes included a tower and fortification, were physical embodiments of royal power. Through their architecture and their external and internal decoration (paintings, tapestries, etc.), they were also symbolic expressions of the king’s authority in these parts of the country during his absence.36 According to Thomas of Split, Coloman visited the Dalmatian city of Split (Spalato), probably in 1102, where citizens received him respectfully after a time. The burghers of Split allocated a tower on the eastern edge of the city fortifications to Coloman, where the king accommodated his deputy (dux), together with the military garrison, which was in charge of the collection of the royal fee.37 Coloman and his court visited the Dalmatian cities (Trogir [Trau] and Zadar) several times, for example, in 1102, 1105, 1108, and 1111. Later, Béla II, Géza II, and Stephen III also stayed there.38

Medium Regni

The center of power for the rulers of the Árpád dynasty was in the territory of the former Roman province Pannonia, and some sources therefore continue to refer to it as Pannonia, medium Ungarie or caput regni, or sometimes just as Hungaria. In the secondary literature, one smaller part of this territory is most often referred to as medium regni.39 Grand Prince Géza, followed by his son Vajk (Stephen I) and other Hungarian kings, most often stayed here, in this center of power of the kingdom. Important royal seats existed here, along with the oldest monasteries and first bishoprics to be founded.40 In addition to these important seats, the sources sometimes mention, usually only once, places which cannot always be located and the importance of which for the kings cannot always be determined. As the monarchs spent time at these places, they may have been important sites that the Árpád kings regularly visited. In this period, the seat of the kingdom was the so-called traveling court, and the power center was wherever the monarch was staying.41

In addition to the medium regni, which formed a small territory from Esztergom through Óbuda to Székesfehérvár, the broader center of Árpád power was bounded by the Danube River in the north and west (circa partes Danubii), the Drava in the south, and the frontier areas near the borders with Margraviate of Austria and Carinthia in the east. In the early eleventh century, the Kingdom of Hungary was also comprised of territories on the left bank of the Danube River,42 between the Danube and the Tisza, and Bihar in the east.43 When Stephen I defeated the independent rulers Gyula II and Ajtony, he annexed their expansive areas in the east (Transylvania) and south to his kingdom.44 The medieval sources differentiate between Hungary in the narrower sense (Pannonia, Hungaria, including Bihar) and Transylvania (regnum or provincia), which had a specific position within the kingdom.45 During the reign of Ladislaus I and Coloman, Dalmatia and Croatia were also added to the Kingdom of Hungary.46

The power expansion of the Árpád dynasty to other parts of the country determined and gradually also changed the direction of travel and sojourns of the kings, which began to include these newly added territories more and more frequently. The planning of regular visits to these parts of the country, which were rather distant from the central part, was also adapted. During journeys to new locations undertaken by the royal court, new routes began to be used along which stood mansions or monasteries where the king could stop and replenish supplies or make longer stays.

The importance of certain sites in the central part of the kingdom is also indicated by mentions of places where individual members of the Árpád dynasty were buried. Stephen I and his son Emeric were buried in the Basilica of the Virgin Mary in Székesfehérvár.47 All the royal coronations took place at Székesfehérvár (with the exception of the coronation of Stephen I in Esztergom), and beginning with Coloman, several of the Hungarian kings and their family members were buried next to the graves of the first dynastic saints, Stephen I and his son Emeric.48 But before Coloman, all kings were buried in monasteries, episcopal or collegiate churches which they had built, completed, or richly endowed, and not in Székesfehérvár: Samuel Aba in Abasár, Peter Orseolo in Pécs, Andrew I in Tihany, Béla I in Szekszárd, Géza I in Vác, Ladislaus I either in Oradea or perhaps at the Somogyvár monastery49 (which he founded), Coloman’s son Stephen II also in Oradea, and Emeric I in Eger. Esztergom, Székesfehérvár, and Óbuda were important sites, but the Hungarian kings also built their own monasteries or churches next to the chapters where they had their palaces, and apparently they stayed there regularly. These places were of exceptional importance to the kings and their families, which is evidenced by several donations, confirmations, and gifts from individual members of the Árpád dynasty, such as those by Domoslaus to the monastery of Pécsvárad,50 by David to the Tihany monastery,51 and by Lampert to the collegiate chapter in Titel.52 These important power and sacred centers were also visited by their descendants, and within the dynasty’s sacral topography some of them became the favorite residences of the Hungarian monarchs, where the memory (memoria) of famous ancestors was preserved, as is sometimes mentioned in charters of foundation or donation.53

The Árpád Rulers on the Road

According to the Lesser Legend of St. Stephen, when his enemies were destroying royal castles, mansions, and estates, they also wanted to conquer Veszprém castle, where the king allegedly liked to stay.54 The Árpád rulers left this central territory when they traveled to their estates in the peripheral areas of the country to meet the local political elites, when on military campaigns, for synods and countrywide assemblies (Tarcal, Szabolcs),55 to hunt (Igfon, Sárospatak, Maramureş [Máramaros] or Zvolen [Zólyom]),56 or in exceptional cases, to celebrate important Christian holidays (Csanád, Ikervár, Bodrog).57 However, the sources do not reveal how often they did this, nor do they indicate where the monarchs and their entourages stayed most frequently when they traveled to the peripheral parts of the kingdom. For example, the Lesser Legend of St. Stephen mentions that at the time the Pechenegs unexpectedly invaded Hungary (sometime between 1017 and 1018), the king was hunting in remotae partes.58 This reference to a remote area suggests that Stephen was not hunting in the forests of the medium regni but somewhere in the east of the country, maybe in the popular Igfon Forest in Bihar, which was located outside the center of power of his kingdom.59

When Béla I became king, he summoned an assembly at Székesfehérvár in 1060–1061, and he issued orders according to which two elders from each village should come to an audience with the king. Székesfehérvár was the traditional location for countrywide assemblies and also the main center of power where the Árpád kings were crowned.60 The kings spent a substantial period of time in Székesfehérvár every year in order to celebrate the important holidays, including the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, the death of St. Stephen, and the lifting of his remains.61 People from different parts of the country had the opportunity to see the monarch and to participate with him in royal legal courts, liturgical ceremonies, and feasts.62 The king reached judgements, solved disputes, received foreign ambassadors, and planned military campaigns, and there were also debates on the state of the kingdom. He fostered relationships with his faithful magnates, ispáns, bishops, and abbots, and he granted gifts and issued charters of donation. These events were accompanied by various ceremonies and rituals.63

The countrywide assemblies were mainly held once a year, or more frequently, if necessary, mostly out in the open, for instance on islands, in the vicinity of important castle centers, and next to episcopal or royal palaces. The times at which assemblies were convened coincided with the celebration of the important church holidays within the liturgical year, such as Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost.64 For example, according to The Long Life of St. Gerard, Stephen I came to Székesfehérvár every year, where abbots and bishops gathered to celebrate the Assumption of the Virgin Mary together.65 The Chronicle Composition states that King Samuel Aba was staying in Csanád during Lent in 1044. This is one of the first references to the presence of a king outside the central territory. Csanád was an episcopal seat, where the Hungarian Bishop Gerard worked at the time. Samuel Aba may have traveled there to spend time in the episcopal seat during Lent and to meet the important bishop. It is very likely that at that time, due to the presence of the king, a local assembly was convened at Csanád, with about 50 noblemen gathered there.66 This possibility is also suggested by a later reference to the meeting of Hungarian noblemen in Csanád, who were unhappy with the reign of Peter Orseolo.67 The members of the Árpád House mostly celebrated a number of Christian holidays in their main residences, episcopal seats, and monasteries in the power center of the kingdom. It is not clear, therefore, whether this was an isolated event or whether kings regularly visited outlying parts of the kingdom in this connection too. In 1046, the village of Zámoly is mentioned, where Peter Orseolo stopped on his way from the border castle of Moson to Székesfehérvár. When he realized that Prince Andrew wanted to capture him, he took refuge in a curia, where he and his men defended themselves for three days.68 It may therefore have been a fortified royal mansion in the central part of kingdom along a road that connected several important sites in its vicinity.

Among the important royal palaces was Tiszavárkony, which was mentioned at the meeting of King Andrew and Prince Béla in 1059 as a pallacium, and in 1098, King Coloman also traveled there when he was about to fight his brother Álmos.69 Tiszavárkony was strategically located because it stood on the right bank of the Tisza River, and the far side of the river was already Bihar territory. This is why rulers of the Árpád family often stopped there on their way to the Igfon Forest, Transylvania, or even to the more distant northern or southern parts of the country along the Tisza River. In 1064, King Solomon and Prince Géza were staying in Győr during the holiday of St. Fabian and Sebastian, where they concluded a peace treaty.70 The selection of Győr as the site may not have been accidental. Although Solomon had been crowned in Székesfehérvár, he did not yet have a firm grip on power, so he withdrew to the border castle of Moson for a period of time. Prince Géza also returned to the Kingdom of Hungary at that time. He had been residing in Poland.

Through the intercession of the Kalocsa Archbishop, Dezider, the cousins finally met in the seat of the Győr bishop, which was located near the border where Solomon was staying. It is probable that in order to prevent a new conflict between them, they did not choose any of the most important royal seats, such as Esztergom or Székesfehérvár, for the meeting, but preferred instead the “neutral” city of Győr.71 Several months later, Solomon and Géza visited another episcopal seat together, Pécs, on Easter Sunday.72 Maurus, the bishop of Pécs, who had contributed significantly to the peace agreement between them,73 must have known that at Easter, the king and the prince would come to his palace and he therefore had to make sufficient preparations for their arrival. When the king and prince arrived with their entourages,74 the bishop had to provide them with suitable lodging in his seat and ensure they had everything necessary for their stay.75 During this holiday, Prince Géza placed the royal crown on the head of Solomon in the presence of the noblemen of the country.76 As it was an exceptional event, it is very likely that Hungarian bishops, abbots, magnates, and ispáns also took part in this ritual, who were apparently in Pécs at that time.

The very valuable and unique information in the Chronicle Composition on royal travel during a relatively short period (1072–1075) relates to Solomon’s reign. They were not confined to the central part of the kingdom, where, for obvious reasons, he stayed most often as king, but also traveled outside this territory because of military campaigns or important meetings. First he was in Niš (Serbia), then he went to the Keve castle (on the road to Belgrade), from where he traveled to a meeting in Esztergom (where he negotiated and concluded a peace treaty with Prince Géza on the nearby Danubian island).77 He then traveled to Székesfehérvár, after which he stayed briefly in the royal village of Megyer (probably Kismegyer near Győr), from where he went to a meeting near the Rábca River. He then celebrated Christmas in the nearby Ikervár, from where he went to Zala, then to the Szekszárd Abbey, then to Kemej near the Tisza River, where fought with his cousins. He then moved to the curia of Peter’s son (probably Peterka near Pest), from where he went to nearby Rákos (near Pest). He then fought at Mogyoród, and after the military defeat, he crossed the Danube River at Szigetfő and arrived at the border castle of Moson.78

In 1073, King Solomon celebrated Christmas at a place called Geminum Castellum, which was mentioned as Ikervár, located on the right side of the Rába River. Since it is mentioned as castellum and the Hungarian name has the ending vár, it was very likely a royal fortified palace or mansion, which must have included a church or a royal chapel where Solomon could have celebrated this important Christian holiday.79 The king went from there to Zalavár, where he met with Marquard, duke of the Germans, who apparently had promised him military assistance against Géza.80 Although Zalavár was a county castle, Stephen I founded a Benedictine abbey there sometime at the beginning of the eleventh century,81 so at the end of 1073 or at the beginning of 1074, Solomon may have stayed either in this castle or in the royal monastery. The king then apparently visited Szekszárd Abbey in early 1074, and he camped near it and attended mass in the monastery church in the evening.82

When Géza, his opponent, became king, he celebrated Christmas at the Szekszárd monastery sometime between 1074 and 1076, which had been built by his father, Béla I.83 Although Vác was exceptionally important to the Árpád dynasty and was also the seat of the bishop, very little information has been preserved about its earliest history. According to the Chronicle Composition, Vác was an important seat of King Géza I, and the bishopric was probably established there during the reign of Peter Orseolo (the territory of the diocese was split off from the territory of the Eger bishopric).84 When Géza was still a prince and fought against Solomon for power, he met his brother Ladislaus and also later the Olomouc Prince Otto in Vác.85 Sometime in the beginning of March 1074, before the famous Battle of Mogyoród, Princes Géza, Ladislaus, and Otto (from Moravia) left from Vác for the manor of Cinkota (part of Budapest today), which is mentioned as allodium. This Latin term might indicate that there was also a royal mansion, similarly to Dömös (regale allodium), where the Árpád rulers had their mansion or palace in the second half of the eleventh century.86

According to the Chronicle Composition, King Ladislaus I celebrated Easter Sunday of 1093 at the county castle of Bodrog.87 Unless we count the episcopal seat of Csanád, the royal visit to Bodrog is the only reference to the celebration of an important Christian holiday at a county castle. We do not know why Ladislaus was staying at the Bodrog castle at that time. It was in a strategic position on the left bank of the Danube River, near the spot where the Drava River flows into the Danube. As Ladislaus was spending Easter there, there must have been a church. As in the case of Csanád, it is not possible to determine whether the Hungarian kings visited this site more frequently or if this was merely a one-off visit by Ladislaus. Béla II, at the suggestion of his wife Helene and the barons, convened a countrywide assembly near Arad probably sometime between 1131 and 1132.88 We do not know why this place was chosen. After Béla was blinded, some Hungarian magnates helped him find refuge at an unknown place in the kingdom so that the king would not find out about it.89

During the reign of Stephen II, Béla may have stayed in Arad or in its vicinity in secret, in other words beyond the main center of power, where the Hungarian king moved most frequently, and this might explain why the assembly was held there. For Béla II, Arad was probably a favored and important seat where he frequently stayed, as indicated by the fact that he founded a collegiate chapter there, probably in 1135.90 The countrywide assemblies over the course of a year could also take place outside of the medium regni at places which were linked to an older tradition of the holding of local assemblies, possibly in the vicinity of the favorite seats of the king or his family. The selection of a site depended to a great extent on the preferences of the monarch too. He could select a suitable place to hold a royal tribunal and meet his loyal magnates based on the political situation in the country at the time.

When traveling from one place or territory to another, the kings likely only stopped a single night in the various localities (e. g. royal agricultural mansions or villages). These stays were referred to as “one-night stops.” If need be, the king would spend a single night or several days in a tent or on the estates of his loyal magnates.91 When King Béla III, together with his notary, validated the last will of Csaba sometime around 1177, he did so on a Sunday, next to the house of comes Zenie, while he sat under an oak tree in the presence of his ispáns.92 In 1071, for example, King Solomon and Prince Géza stayed in the village of Buziás on the estate of Vid, the ispán of Bács.93

The Árpád rulers also traveled in response to invitations from loyal magnates, most often to be present for important events. Thus, in 1061 (1064), Palatine Otto invited King Solomon and Prince Géza to celebrate the consecration of his St. James’ Monastery, which he had had built in Zselic (Zselicszentjakab, part of Kaposvár today).94 The consecration of a church or monastery was an important event that the monarch had to attend. Several people from the royal court and the close vicinity of the monastery gathered for the occasion. At such a public event, the ruler presented himself as the protector of Christianity. This celebration included feasts, gifts, rituals, and ceremonies.95 On similar occasions and for other reasons (the confirmation of loyalty, creation of alliances, planning of a military campaign, etc.), the Hungarian kings visited the estates of important magnates and ispáns much more frequently than is mentioned in sources.

The king’s arrival at a place was demanding and expensive for the host, but the king’s presence also created important advantages for the host. A stay by the king was a great honor and an exceptional event for the surrounding area. During such visits, the king and his hosts exchanged gifts, and the king would be accommodated and entertained throughout the whole visit. As a reward, the host might “obtain” some donations.96 The consecration of the chapter church in Dömös in 1108 was probably similarly spectacular. Prince Álmos even invited King Coloman to this important event, despite the fact that he had a long-standing dispute with him.97 The importance of this residence is evidenced by the fact that, when the king had Álmos and his young son Béla blinded in 1113, he was then taken to his “monastery” in Dömös.98 However, there was originally a royal (hunting) mansion on the site, which is mentioned as regale allodium as early as 1063 and as curia Dimisiensi in 1079.99

Very little information has been preserved about the number of journeys and stays of the Hungarian kings in various parts of the country in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. That is why the mentions in the charters from 1134 and 1152 are exceptionally valuable. The document from 1134 related a dispute, which lasted several years, concerning the Dubrava Forest between the Zagreb bishopric and Somogy ispán, or the Somogy castle-warriors. Fáncsika, the archbishop of Kalocsa, and Macilinus, the bishop of Zagreb, and three important men from the Zagreb bishopric gave testimony in favor of the bishopric at the synod in Oradea and swore on the local altar.100 It is very likely that King Béla II was also present at this synod.

King Géza II’s charter of 1152 records the verdict of Palatine Belus, the court judge Hendrik, and three ispáns concerning the dispute brought by royal servants who were to present themselves at a divine tribunal before the Veszprém chapter. This royal decision was probably previously taken and approved under oath in the Church (of the collegiate chapter?) of St. Stephen the King next to the Şemlacu Mare royal estate. This could have happened during a countrywide assembly at which Géza II may also have been present.101

Iter Regis in the Law-Codes and Synods of the Árpád Rulers

Pursuant to King Coloman’s law-code, all payments received from the royal counties before the holiday of St. Michael were to be sent to Esztergom, and a share of them belonged to the king. The shares due to the ispáns and centuriones were to be set aside from the county’s fees in Esztergom.102 Thus, sometime before the holiday of St. Michael, the king or his deputy could stay in Esztergom in order to supervise the payment of his share. The king thus must have met with his loyal magnates, bishops, or abbots in Esztergom every year, and this important event was accompanied by various ceremonies, rituals, feasts, tribunals, agreements with political elites, bestowal of gifts, and the award of donations. The Synod of Szabolcs in 1092 forbade priests to celebrate mass outside of a church with the exception of travel that lasted for several days. and under such circumstances, they were allowed to celebrate mass in a tent. This probably also applied to the royal chaplains if they were on the road with the king for an extended period of time and there was no church in the vicinity.103

Another article of this synod mentions that if an abbot or monk were to visit the royal court, he was not to greet the monarch in the church but should to do so in either king’s residence (domus) or a tent.104 The king could thus be found at the places where he had a domus,105 thus presumably meaning the royal palace, agricultural mansion, or royal village. But if he was on the roads and there was no suitable accommodation available in the vicinity, he camped in a tent in which he received visitors. This is also proven by the Synod of Esztergom, which took place sometime in the years between 1105 and 1112/1113. According to one of its articles, mass could not to be celebrated anywhere but in a church, not even in a tent or “house” (domus), which probably meant residences in which there was no chapel. However, this did not apply to the king, for whom masses could be celebrated outside of a church, as well as to bishops, ispáns, and abbots, but only if they had a designated tent or similar specially adapted place for holding mass, and this only applied when they were traveling.106 King Coloman’s law-code also stipulates that a mass could only be held in consecrated places, but this did not hold true for journeys or pilgrimages, which probably only applied to the king, senior church dignitaries, and magnates, who were permitted to celebrate mass at a portable altar, within a tent, or at an alternative place deemed suitable. However, this exception did not apply when they were on the hunt.107

In order for the Hungarian kings to be able to exercise their power even in the more distant territories of their kingdom, they had to visit them in person from time to time. The personal presence of the monarch and his court was also often linked to the execution of royal judicial powers and the confirmation of the loyalty of the local powerful elites in these peripheral parts of the country.108 However, the Árpád kings probably did not visit these territories every year, because they spent most of their time in the medium regni. Whether they were staying in the central region or the peripheries the kingdom, in order better to deal with the necessary “administration,” they had their ispáns available at the royal castles or abbots in royal monasteries and provosts in collegiate chapters. Kings used messengers (nuntii regis) to communicate with the surrounding areas. The task of these messengers was to announce royal regulations, important changes, or exceptional events concerning the kingdom and the ruling dynasty. For example, Life of Archbishop Conrad of Salzburg mentions that the Archbishop of Esztergom sent a messenger (nuntius) with an urgent message to King Stephen II, who sometime before 1131 was staying outside the central territory in the marchia Ruthenorum.109

The Árpád rulers may also have used their messengers to announce the arrival of the royal court to individual parts of the country. Even if kings routinely visited the same places over the course of a year, sometimes their plans may have changed due to various circumstances, making it necessary to inform loyal dignitaries of these changes. Therefore, the royal messengers had to convey the plans of the monarch to the individual bailiffs of agricultural or hunting mansions, abbots, bishops, ispáns, etc., well in advance to give them sufficient time to prepare for the arrival of the king, which meant gathering supplies, ensuring available fodder for horses, and making sure that the items necessary to accommodate the royal court were on hand.110 The royal messengers had to travel to a public place in the various localities of the kingdom, where people normally gathered, usually the markets, and announce the royal regulations there. In addition to royal messengers (nuntii), who probably enjoyed royal protection and an important position, the law-code of Ladislaus I also mentions other messengers who traveled by horse (cursores).111 While it is not entirely clear how these messengers differed, cursores were apparently of lower status than the royal messengers, who seem to have been sent (also on horseback) directly from the royal court (nuntii as well as precones and veredarii).112 Cursores may have been county messengers who only traveled within their territory and were forbidden to ride a horse (probably only one) further than the third village. This may suggest that their movements were limited to a comparatively small area, and cursores were apparently subordinate to the royal messengers.113

It is very likely that stud farms were established near some royal residences, mansions, or main roads. In the medium regni, there was an important and probably large royal stud-farm in Csepel-sziget, which was close to royal residences such as Óbuda or Székesfehérvár.114 A mention from 1067 says that a royal stud-farm was also found in the frontier county of Borsod, next to the royal mansion at Szihalom and close to the main road along the Tisza River.115 Next to Alpár, at the border of Csongrád and Szolnok counties, close to the road to Szolnok castle, according to a reference from 1075, a man lived who cared for and guarded royal horses.116 These horses, which were kept only at designated places in the kingdom and were apparently a kind of network of royal stud-farms, were probably also used by royal messengers when delivering regulations from the royal court to other, often remote parts of the country.

Coloman’s law-code contains a wealth of information concerning the various laws governing the travel of members of the royal family. Should the king or a prince enter any county, he was to receive a war horse from this county.117 It is not quite clear if this provision only applied in the case of a military campaign or whether the king and prince had the right to a war horse for their entourage whenever they crossed through the territory of a royal county. Apparently, upon entry into another county, they returned the first war horse and got a new one. This practice seems to have been repeated whenever the king or prince was traveling in the country and passing through the individual counties. Another article of this law-code is related to this provision according to which, if the ispán of a border territory (marchia) received important news from the royal court, he was to send two messengers with four war horses to the king (only horses without riders?). The messengers were to cover the expenses of the journey themselves, and the expense incurred on their return to the frontier area was to be covered by the palatine. Should these horses die or be injured, financial compensation was to be paid to these messengers, but should the horses return uninjured, their journey back to the frontier territory was to be considered a military campaign.118

The meaning of this provision is not quite clear, but the ispán and the two messengers from the border territory had to know where the king was staying and what road he would take so that they could bring him the war horses. The dignitaries of the royal court therefore had to inform the (border) ispán in advance about the monarch’s journey to his territory, and it was probably the royal or county messengers who came to the frontier area to announce this important news.119 This may have been an unexpected military campaign due to the invasion by an enemy from the neighboring country, and the monarch therefore had to move to the frontier with the army. However, it is possible that this merely referred to information about the regular arrival of a royal, and it did not concern any matter of defense, but rather applied only to “annual” travel within the country. This provision in Coloman’s law-code is related to the previous regulation about the provision of a war horse by the county. While the former probably concerns the ordinary needs of the royal or princely entourage, the latter likely applies more to a military campaign. This law-code further mentions that if the king visits a (royal) village and somebody steals a (royal) horse there, the inhabitants will not be expected to provide compensation.120 Apart from traveling from one county to another and occasionally arriving in the border areas of the kingdom, Arpad’s kings apparently regularly visited their villages, which may have been hunting or agricultural mansions scattered across the countryside.

Another regulation in Coloman’s law-code concerns the royal judicial powers. If the king entered a county, two counties judges were to join him, and together they would decide local lawsuits.121 Thus, in the course of his regular travels, the ruler came to the counties, where he personally exercised his judicial authority and thereby also demonstrated his position of power (though it is not clear whether he traveled to each individual county every year). The following provision of this law-code is also very interesting. It regulates the collection of denarios from the free inhabitants of the Kingdom of Hungary. Eight denarios were originally paid by all freemen, but after the new regulation, this amount was to be paid only by the men of the castle (cives hedbomadarii), who apparently were exempt from the duties of the common “castle folk,” but as freemen, they still had to pay the king a tax for their freedom. Free of the men who usually furnished the king with horses, transport wagons and “services for pay” (servitia stipendiaria) when the king traveled through their territory were to only pay four denarios.122 The freemen who provided services to the king were favored, as they paid only half of the amount usually paid, presumably because they were expected to fulfill special duties intended to address the needs of the monarch. There also seem to have been free royal people whose services were mainly related to supplying the royal court, though it is not impossible that their duties also included providing for the needs of the king in the course of his regular travels around the country.123 The question is what, in fact, is meant by the Latin term servitia stipendiaria, which some historians translate as mercenary services. From the context of this provision, it follows that it might be more appropriate to translate stipendia as hospitality or the provision of supplies (victuals, fodder for horses, etc.).124 It probably meant duties and services similar to those provided by the specialized servants of the kings of the Holy Roman Empire, who provided supplies for rulers when they were on the road, which were referred to by the Latin terms fodrum (fodder), gistum (hospitality), and servitium regis/regale (services). Later, an “umbrella term,” hospitium, was used.125

Adventus Regis and Descensus

In Hungarian medieval narrative sources, very few references to the ceremonial arrival (adventus regis) of the individual Árpád kings to important residences in the eleventh and twelfth centuries have survived.126 The king’s arrival at a residence, town, monastery, or bishop’s seat was a ceremonial event, accompanied by liturgical-celebratory songs (laudes) and the public wearing of the crown (Festkrönung).127 We can only assume that the regular arrivals of the rulers to popular localities also involved honoring the memory of saints128 or royal ancestors or commemorating exceptional events, ceremonies which included the bestowal of gifts, public liturgical processions, and participation in church services, as we have documented, for example, in the case of kings Solomon and Géza during their visit to the Szekszárd monastery. In this context, one of the provisions of the Synod of Szabolcs is particularly important. It stipulated that, if a king or a bishop were to come to an abbey, the abbot and the monks should not welcome him or give him the kiss of peace in the monastery church. The solemn welcoming ceremony should take place, rather, in the cloister. At the same time, the abbot was to permit the king to enter the monastery with as large an entourage as he required.129 As the rules for the ceremonial entry of the king were specially regulated, this is evidence that monarchs came to the monasteries regularly and, in addition to a “proper” welcoming ritual, very probably also expected shows of hospitality. This is clearly one of the first indirect references to the fact that members of the Árpád dynasty commonly exercised the right to descensus (lodging and provisioning) in the monasteries.

Thus, the aforementioned regulation of the Synod of Szabolcs was based on the actual practice of Hungarian monarchs, as is confirmed by The Life of St. Emeric in the description of the visit of Stephen I and his son to Pannonhalma, when the honor which, upon entry to the monastery, belonged to the king was left to Emeric.130 The royal visit was an important event for the monastic community and an effective way for the monarch to control the activities, commitments, and fidelity of the leaders of his abbeys. Kings gave generous endowments to the monasteries, in return for which they expected abbots to provide financial or military support and, on their repeated arrival, the right to descensus. Although it was costly for the abbot to provide welcome and host the monarch and his entourage in the manner expected, during these visits, kings gave the abbots valuable gifts, and they confirmed estates or privileges and often granted new donations.131 The first reliable document about the obligation of the monastic populi udvornici to provide supplies for the monarch’s entourage upon arrival of the king (adventus regis) dates back to 1226 and concerns Pannonhalma Abbey.132 This common practice was apparently applied by the Árpád rulers in all the royal monasteries, as evidenced by a document from 1247 on the rights and duties of the iobagiones of the Hronský Beňadik (Garamszentbenedek) Abbey, which were, however, based on their earlier freedoms granted by King Stephen III. If the monarch came to this monastery, they were to “assist” the abbot like other monastery populi, which very probably meant supplying the royal court with foodstuffs and providing various services.133

Royal travel was closely related to the right held by the monarch to hospitality that extended to his family, court dignitaries, and servants (ius descensus regii, Hung. szállás), but Hungarian sources from the eleventh and twelfth centuries do not contain any direct information related to this right. Although mentions of this right appear only in law-codes and privileges from the thirteenth century, it is nevertheless possible to assume that the members of the Árpád dynasty had exercised the descensus in the preceding centuries as well, as indirectly evidenced, for example, by the provision for the king’s arrival at the monastery according to the Synod of Szabolcs.134 Interesting in this context is Coloman’s privilege for the Dalmatian city of Trogir from 1108, in which he allowed the Trogir burghers to live according to the old customs they had previously observed. If the king visited the city (advenio), he had no right to demand hospitality in the burghers’ houses. Inhabitants of the city could welcome the ruler into their domiciles, but this was done on a completely voluntarily basis. If the kingdom were attacked by an enemy, the king, his wife, his sons, and his entourage were allowed to enter Trogir without limitation.135

Royal charters from the eleventh and twelfth centuries related directly to the territory of the Kingdom of Hungary do not regulate the king’s right to descensus in any special way. The reason why no information of concerning this has survived may be related either to the insufficient number of preserved medieval sources or the fact that the Árpád dynasty commonly exercised this right, and thus it was not necessary to make special mention of it in the individual donation documents from this period. Apparently, after the annexation of Dalmatia, the Hungarian kings could not claim the right to descensus as was their custom in the Kingdom of Hungary, and therefore in important Dalmatian cities, which were already governed by other customs, they had to respect the old rights of these communities. According to the revenues of King Béla III, every ispán entertained the king once a year and gave him financial gifts during the banquets, which may be one of the first indirect references from the second half of the twelfth century to the royal right to descensus in the Kingdom of Hungary. The queen and her sons also received gifts such as silver, fine fabrics, and horses, probably on the same occasion when the king visited his ispáns during the year.136

The first mention of this royal right is found in the Golden Bull of 1222, when Andrew II promised not to collect any collecta or freemen’s denarios from royal servientes and also pledged that he would not claim the right of descensus in their houses or villages unless they voluntarily invited him.137 One of the articles in the 1231 confirmation of the Golden Bull deals with descensus, due to the significant damage and burden caused by the obligation to welcome and host the king, the queen, the royal sons, the archbishops, the bishops, the barons, and the nobles. The king ordered that the tithe required to supply the royal kitchen (coquina nostra) and the material provisions of the royal court would only be accepted if a payment was made upon the provision of victuals, such as corn, wine, and so on.138 This provision provides evidence that in addition to the members of royal family, the ispáns, provincial dignitaries, and high church representatives also traveled the country and demanded the right of descensus.


The Árpád kings spent a great deal of time on the road with their court over the course of a year. Even if they had a longer stay in the same place, mostly in their favorite residences, they also seem to have moved frequently to other sites, about which very little information has survived. In all likelihood, more trips took place in the eleventh and twelfth centuries than are mentioned in Hungarian medieval sources, whether merely sporadic excursions or regular sojourns, as part of the movement around the country. The presence of members of the Árpád dynasty is most often associated with the central part of the kingdom (medium regni and the surrounding territories). As very few sources from this period have survived, it is not possible to state unequivocally that iter regis was confined to this area and that other parts of the country were not regularly visited by the kings. Isolated mentions suggest that royal travel outside the main power territory was related not only to military campaigns but also to the celebration of religious holidays, assemblies, the judiciary, hunting, and very probably, even the consumption of foodstuffs and the provision of services in individual palaces, mansions, and monasteries throughout the kingdom. In this period, the personal presence of the monarch, which was related to symbolic shows of power, rituals and ceremonies, the resolution of conflicts, the strengthening of relations with faithful ispáns, etc., was extremely important and could not be limited only to the main part of the kingdom. When members of the Árpád dynasty left the central territory and traveled to other parts of the kingdom, though it is not possible to determine how frequent these sojourns were or how long they lasted, the sources do indicate that they stayed in county castles, mansions, and monasteries (possibly also in tents) which formed parts of the dynasty’s network of power-sacral centers as the rulers moved around the country.


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1 Brühl, “Remarques”; Perroy, “Carolingian,” 133, 138–40; Nelson, “Rulers,” 105–6, 112–13, 116; Bernhardt, “On the Road,” 303–6; Bachrach, “Exercise,” 393–95; Reuter, “Regemque,” 129, 133–37; Innes, “People,” 397–98, 409, 415–16, 423–27, 434–35; Airlie, “The Palace,” 2–3, 7–8.

2 Rösener, “Zur Topographie”; Iversen, “Royal villas.”

3 Peyer, “Das Reisekönigtum,” 1–5; Helmarath, “Reisekönigtum,” 106–10; Bernhardt, Itinerant, 45–75; Reuter, “Regemque,” 129–30, 133–44; Bernhardt, “On the Road,” 304–6; Ehlers, “Having the King,” 1–8; McKitterick, “A King,” 146–52, 166–68; Zotz, “Kingship,” 316–17, 327–28.

4 Nelson, “Kingship,” 389–98, 407–17, 422–30; Nelson, “Rulers,” 96–97; Zotz, “Kingship,” 317–18.

5 Helmarath, “Reisekönigtum,” 110–15; Leyser, “Ottonian,” 746–49; McKitterick, “A King,” 145–46, 150–53, 166–68; Reuter, “Regemque,” 129, 133–36.

6 Schmidt, “Königsumritt”; Bernhardt, “King.”

7 Leyser, “Ottonian,” 732–33, 746–49; Leyser, “Ritual,” 196, 201–2; Ehlers, “Having the King,” 2–16, 26; Bachrach, “Exercise,” 394–95; Reuter, “Regemque,” 129–44; Althoff, “The Variability,” 71–74, 86–87; Nelson, “Rulers,” 96–97, 105–11, 119–20; Roach, “Hosting,” 34–35, 42–45.

8 On the bishop’s seats, see Schlesinger, “Bischofssitze.”

9 Bernát Kumorovitz is one of the few historians to have dealt with this topic in detail. Kumorovitz, “Buda.”

10 Within the framework of itinerant kingship, it would also be appropriate to examine the royal manorial organization and the system of royal servants (condicionarii). However, the study is primarily concerned with the eleventh and twelfth centuries, and the greater number of sources on the subject date only from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries (see for example Kis, A királyi szolgálónépi, 10–86), so this interesting issue is not considered in this text. On this subject, see Györffy, “Zur Frage der Herkunft, 1 and 2,” 39–83 and 311–37. Within the broader Central European context, see Krzemieńska and Třeštík, “Zur Problematik der Dienstleute,” 70–103; Kučera, “Anmerkungen zur Dienstorganisation,” 113–27, and Modzelewski, Organizacja gospodarcza, 5–75.

11 Engel, The Realm, xviii; Klaniczay, “The Birth.” Caution must be exercised when comparing historical circumstances in different countries. It is necessary to consider the time period is involved, the different geographical environments, often specific developments, the state of the sources, and the traditions in the scholarship. Wickham, “Problems,” 6–11. See also Veres, “A magyar,” 361–62.

12 Györffy, “A Case”; Hunyadi, “…scripta manent”; Berend, “Historical.”

13 The source value of individual chapters of the Chronicle Composition, which relate to the period of the eleventh and twelfth centuries, is still the subject of historical research. See Gerics, Legkorábbi gesta, 63-70; Györffy, Krónikáink, 3–10, 183–88; Szőcs, “A 14. századi krónikaszerkesztmény,” 59–64, 87; Thoroczkay, “A magyar krónikairodalom,” 23–26, 30–31; Veszprémy, “Korhűség és forrásérték,” 809–10; Bak and Grzesik, “The Text,” 7–16.

14 Kumorovitz, “Buda,” 12–16; Veres, “A magyar,” 355–58, 363–64.

15 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 13, 268; Cap. 23, 281; Cap. 28, 290; Cap. 64, 313–14; Cap. 66–67, 316–18; Cap. 112, 378; Cap. 124, 394; Cap. 133, 407; Cap. 170, 462.

16 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 92, 353–54; Cap. 98, 363; Cap. 146, 426; Legenda sancti Gerhardi episcopi II, Cap. 5, 487–88. See also Syn. Szab., 41, DRMH I, 59; AA, His. Iero., Liber II, Cap. 3–4, 64–65.

17 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 85, 343; Cap. 93, 357; Cap. 96, 360; Cap. 113, 378; Cap. 114, 379; Cap. 121, 388; Cap. 144, 423; Cap. 148, 427–28; Legenda sancti Gerhardi episcopi II, Cap. 5, 487–88. See also AA, His. Iero., Liber II, Cap. 3, 64–65; Cap. 4, 66–67.

18 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 88, 345; Cap. 93, 357; Cap. 139, 416; Cap. 141, 420; Cap. 148, 427–28; Legenda maior sancti Stephani regis, Cap. 8, 383; Cap. 9, 385; Cap. 6, 381; Cap. 10, 385; Legenda minor sancti Stephani regis, Cap. 3, 395; Cap. 4, 396; Legenda S. Emerici ducis, Cap. 2, 452; Cap. 3, 453; Legenda Sancti Ladislai regis, Cap. 5, 519; Cap. 8, 522–23; Legenda sancti Gerhardi episcopi II, Cap. 9, 493; Cap. 12, 498; Cap. 15, 503.

19 Jong and Theuws, “Topographies.”

20 Ráth, A magyar, 1–13; Sebestyén, A magyar, 13–17.

21 Szentpétery, “A datum,” 127; Györffy, “Die ungarischen.”

22 RA, vol. 1/1, 1–58; CDSl, vol. 1, no. 63+++r, 60; no. 72+++r, 69; no. 74+, 73; no. 85++, 82; no. 90, 86; no. 99, 93.

23 DHA, vol. 1, 19–424; appendix, 435–37.

24 ÁMTF, vol. 4, 696–97.

25 ChAH, 49–50, 58, 61, 84–85; Györffy, “Die ungarischen,” 263–64. On private medieval charters certified with the royal seal, see Veres, “A magyar,” 364–69.

26 See Györffy, “Die Anfänge”; Györffy, “Die ungarischen.”

27 In documents from the first of the half thirteenth century, there are more references to places where kings, queens, or other family members stayed. Often, there were, in addition to important seats such as these, places that are not mentioned at all or only exceptionally in previous periods. For example, Insula Bubalorum, Isle of Hares, Erked, Szatmár (today’s part of Satu Mare), Verőce, Segesd, Tekov (Bars), Krupina (Korpona), Hrhov (Görgő), Sárospatak, Zvolen (Zólyom), Bereg, Šariš (Sáros), and many others. These sites may have been visited by the Árpád rulers as early as the twelfth century, or even earlier, but some of them may have become favorite places of the rulers only during the thirteenth century. RA, vol. 1/1, no. 296, 97; no. 431, 139; no. 458, 147; no. 467, 150–51; no. 483, 155; no. 485, 155–56; no. 500, 159; no. 528, 167; RA, vol. ½, no. 604, 185; no. 638, 195; no. 645, 197; no. 731, 220; no. 732–25, 218; no. 727, 219; no. 758–59, 226–27; no. 765, 229; no. 777, 233; no. 790, 237; no. 793, 237–38; no. 813, 243; no. 818, 244–45; no. 934, 287–88; no. 744, 223; no. 991, 308; RA, vol. 1/3, no. 1165, 357; no. 1220, 374; CDSl, vol. 2, no. 199, 132; no. 200, 133; RD, no. 1, 21–22; no. 12, 27; no. 32, 36; no. 39, 40; no. 49–52, 46–48.

28 See Font, Koloman, 49–50; Veres, “A magyar,” 368–69, 373–81. For details on royal roads in the Kingdom of Hungary, see Szilágy, On the Road, 18–24, 53–62, 76–84, 86–98, 101–3, 107–20, 186–96.

29 Bartlett, “Heartland”; Remensnyder, “Topographies,” 195–97; Guarini Fasano, “Center,” 74–75, 95–96. See Veres, “A magyar,” 358–63.

30 Müller-Mertens, Die Reichsstruktur, 101–24, 133–48. See Bernhardt, Itinerant, 60–63, 65–67; Bernhardt, “On the Road,” 307–8.

31 Leyser, “Ottonian,” 746–49; Airlie, “The Palace,” 263–64, 275–76; Innes, “People,” 410–12, 419–22, 426–27; Bartlett, “Heartland.”

32 Zsoldos, “Confinium.”

33 Hudáček, “Silva Bereg.”

34 Ehlers, “Having the King,” 15–16, 26; Bernhardt, “On the Road,” 307–10.

35 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 146, 426.

36 Reuter, “Regemque,” 140–41; Airlie, “The Palace,” 256–61, 277–79, 286.

37 Thomae archidiaconi, Cap. 17, 95; Cap. 18, 99.

38 Györffy, “A XII. századi,” 47–50; Steindorff, Die dalmatinischen, 11–25; Szeberényi, “Remarks,” 36–37; Gál, “The Roles,” 472–74, 483–84.

39 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 10, 261; cap. 26, 286; cap. 28, 288, 290; cap. 83, 339; cap. 124, 394; AA, His. Iero., Liber I, Cap. 7, 12–13; Simonis de Kéza, Liber 2, Cap. 27, 43, 165–66, 172; Barta and Barta, “Royal,” 22; Altmann et al., Medium Regni, 5–8, 11–199; Veres, “A magyar,” 371–72.

40 Kumorovitz, “Buda,” 44–46; Kralovánszky, “The Settlement.”; Barabás, “The Christianization,” 119–23, 125.

41 MacLean, “Palaces,” 313; Airlie, “The Palace of Memory,” 1–8; Leyser, “Ottonian,” 739–40.

42 In historiography referred to as the Principality of Nitra.

43 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 28, 288; Cap. 64, 312–14; Cap. 102, 366; Cap. 104, 369–70. Kristó, “Die Entstehung,” 14–15.

44 Györffy, Święty, 138–52; Kristó, “Die Entstehung,” 15–16; Thoroczkay, “The Dioceses,” 50–52.

45 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 26, 286; Cap. 28, 287; Cap. 30, 291; Cap. 64, 314; Cap. 65, 314–15; Cap 102, 366; Cap. 134, 408; Cap. 137, 412; Simonis de Kéza, Liber 2, Cap. 27, 165–66; Cap. 43, 172; Kristó, Early, 17–30; 43–114.

46 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 132, 406; Szeberényi, “Remarks,” 36–37.

47 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 70, 322; Legenda minor sancti Stephani regis, Cap. 8, 399; Legenda S. Emerici ducis, Cap. 7, 458–59.

48 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 152, 433; Engel, “Temetkezések,” 613–14, 616–22, 632–34; Thoroczkay, “A székesfehérvári,” 11.

49 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 76, 332; Cap. 85, 343; Cap. 93, 357; Cap. 96, 360; Cap. 130, 403; Cap. 141, 420. Historians still do not agree on the question of where Ladislaus I was actually originally buried. László Solymosi assumes that it was Oradea. László Koszta, however, leans towards Somogyvár and suggests that his remains may have been transferred to Oradea only under Coloman or Stephen II. Solymosi, “Egy tévedés nyomában,” 171–72; Koszta, “Bencés szerzetesség,” 294, 297–300.

50 DHA, vol. 1, no. 12, 63 and 77 (1015), no. 76, 222; no. 103, 306.

51 DHA, vol. 1, no. 86, 264; no. 96, 284; Simonis de Kéza, Liber 2, Cap. 58, 180; Györffy, “Die Kanzleien,” 327.

52 DHA, vol. 1, no. 106, 309; Romhányi, “The Ecclesiastic,” 309–10.

53 MES, vol. 1, no. 65, 94–96 (1138); Nemerkényi, The Latin, 269–78. See Bernhardt. “King,” 44, 59–61; Remensnyder, “Topographies,” 194–96.

54 Legenda minor sancti Stephani regis, Cap. 3, 395. In the Chronicle Composition, the chapter on Óbuda also mentions that Stephen I habitually visited the churches he founded three times a year. This is very likely just a topos and only a later interpolation about the famous Christian king and founder of the monarchy. But this sentence might suggest the Árpád kings often traveled to the places where there were older royal churches or churches which they themselves had founded, whether they were churches on their demesnes or in chapters, episcopal seats, or monasteries. Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 67, 317.

55 Colomanus: Proem, DRMH I, 23; Syn. Szab., DRMH I, 53.

56 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 114, 380; Cap. 115, 381. Probably also Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 139, 416; Szűcs, “Sárospatak.” 1–57; Hudáček, “Kráľovské,” 38–41.

57 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 75, 330; Cap. 139, 417.

58 Legenda minor sancti Stephani regis, Cap. 5, 397.

59 It was in this forest, for example, that Prince Géza also hunted and stayed in 1074. Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 114, 380; Cap. 115, 381. See Szabó, Woodland, 93–97, 105–9, 120–26, 135–37.

60 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 95, 359; Göckenjan, “Stuhlweißenburg.”

61 Libri liturgici, vol. 1, 14–15, 37–39.

62 Reuter, “Regemque,” 143–44; Reuter, “Assembly,” 196–205; Bernhardt, “On the Road,” 310–11; Roach, “Hosting,” 41–42; Zupka, Ritual, 55–57, 123–24.

63 Deér, “Aachen,” 16–18; Font, Koloman, 50–51.

64 Such as king Peter Orseolo in 1045. Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 78, 334; Font, Koloman, 49–50, 55.

65 Legenda sancti Gerhardi episcopi, vol. 2, Cap. 5, 487–88.

66 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 75, 330; Legenda sancti Gerhardi episcopi, vol. 1, Cap. 5, 476; Legenda sancti Gerhardi episcopi, vol. 2, Cap. 14, 500; Zupka, Ritual, 42–43; Veres, “A magyar,” 361.

67 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 81, 337; Bak and Lukin, “Consensus,” 100–1.

68 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 85, 343; ÁMTF, vol. 2, 417.

69 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 92, 354–54; Cap. 144, 423; Zupka, Ritual, 74, 94; Bagi, “The Dynastic,” 148–49.

70 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 97, 362; Zupka, Ritual, 77–79.

71 ÁMTF, vol. 2, 595. See Bernhardt, “On the Road,” 311–13.

72 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 97, 362; Bachrach, “Exercise,” 394–95; Helmrath, “Reisekönigtum,” 114–15.

73 Fedeles and Koszta, Pécs (Fünfkirchen) das Bistum, 48–49.

74 The royal entourage could have numbered about 150–300 people, together with supplies and baggage. In the case of a military expedition, it could be up to as many as 1,000 people. Helmrath, “Reisekönigtum,” 112; Strömberg, “The Swedish,” 167.

75 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 98, 363; ÁMTF, vol. 1, 359.

76 See Zupka, Ritual, 38–39, 42–46, 69, 76–78.

77 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 112, 378. See also MES, vol. 1, no. 62, 87 (1136); ÁMTF, vol. 2, 284–85. In 1188, Béla III and his magnates were staying at Esztergom, probably also on a nearby island. CDSl, vol. 1, no. 99, 93.

78 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 111–21, 377–91.

79 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 114, 379.

80 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 114, 379.

81 Ibid.

82 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 114, 380–81.

83 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 130, 402; Cap. 96, 360.

84 ÁMTF, vol. 4, 309–10, 314; Koszta, “State Power,” 72; Barabás, “The Christianization,” 127.

85 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 117, 385; Cap. 119, 387. On the presence of the king in Vác see the charter from 1139. CDSl, vol. 1, no. 79, 77.

86 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 121, 388; Gerevich, “The Royal,” 385; ÁMTF, vol. 4, 512–13. Glossarium, 25; Lexicon, 36–38; LLMH, vol. 1, 136; Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 96, 360.

87 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 139, 417; ÁMTF, vol. 1, 712.

88 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 160, 447.

89 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 157, 443; Bagi, “The Dynastic,” 147.

90 ÁMTF, vol. 1, 170–72; Juhász, “Az aradi,” 494–96.

91 Helmrath, “Reisekönigtum,” 113; Roach, “Hosting,” 40; McKitterick, “A King,” 150–51.

92 CDSl, vol. 1, no. 93, 89.

93 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 109, 375.

94 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 99, 364; DHA, vol. 1, no. 50/I, 169; no. 50/II, 170–174.

95 Zupka, Ritual, 55–57, 64, 123–24.

96 Leyser, “Ottonian,” 746–49; Roach, “Hosting,” 34–40; Ehlers, “Having the King,” 3–9.

97 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 148, 427–28; Thoroczkay, “A dömösi,” 411–12.

98 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 150, 430.

99 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 96, 360; DHA, vol. 1, no. 78, 226; ÁMTF, vol. 4, 583–93; Gerevich, “The Royal.” See also mansion of Zirc in Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 93, 357.

100 ChAH, no. 41, 49–50; Šišić, Geschichte der Kroaten, 346–48; Szeberényi, “Birtokviszonyok,” 115–18.

101 “X principes servants iustitiam G. rex prenominatus in Mezeusumlusiensi sancti Stephani regis ecclesia conventa in unum gloriosorum multitudine principum, sic ab iniusta perversorum incursion causam cuiusque studuerunt statuerunt…” ChAH, no. 23, 61. In the thirteenth century, there was a royal mill and monastery of Augustinians-hermits who had been invited there by the monarch, in Şemlacu Mare. Based on documents from the first half of the fourteenth century, county assemblies took place next to this church on the holiday of St. Stephen the King. The 1152 assembly may also have taken place in August during the holiday of St. Stephen the King (sometime between August 15 and 20). Géza II probably visited Şemlacu Mare more often, as it was his estate, and he could stay there while traveling around the country. During the time the king was present, tribunals and local assemblies were probably held there. ÁMTF, vol. 3. 493–94; Mező, Patrocíniumok, 19.

102 Colomanus: 79, DRMH I, 31; Deér, “Aachen,” 4–5; Font, Koloman, 44, 50.

103 Syn. Szab.: 29, DRMH I, 57; Font, Koloman, 52–53.

104 Syn. Szab.: 36, DRMH I, 58.

105 To the term domus and its meaning see Zsoldos, “A királyné,” 268, 300–1.

106 Syn. Strig.: 33, DRMH I, 62.

107 Colomanus: 68, DRMH I, 30.

108 See Roach, “Hosting,” 39–40; Bachrach, “Exercise,” 394–95; Zotz, “Kingship,” 318.

109 Vita Conradi archiepiscopi Salisburgnesis, Cap. 18, Gombos, Catalogus, no. 4950, 2326.

110 See Bernhardt, “On the Road,” 305–6; MacLean, “Palaces,” 313; Roach, “Hosting,” 37.

111 Ladislaus III: 1, 2, 14, DRMH I, 17, 20.

112 DHA, vol. 1, no. 28/II, 123; no. 73/II, 218; no. 81, 236; no. 114, 326; Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 95, 359; Bartoniek, Legenda maior sancti Stephani regis, Cap. 13, 389; MLLM, 1074.

113 Ladislaus III: 28, DRMH I, 22; Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 92, 354; Györffy, Święty, 293, 295.

114 DHA, vol. 1, no. 14, 91 (1019); ÁMTF, vol. 4, 198–200.

115 DHA, vol. 1, no. 58, 183.

116 DHA, vol. 1, no. 73/II, 216; CDSl, vol. 1, no. 58+, 56.

117 Colomanus: 36, DRMH I, 27. See Veres, “A magyar,” 359–60.

118 Colomanus: 36, DRMH I, 27.

119 Sometimes, the king unexpectedly decided to come to a place where the locals were not prepared for his arrival. Leyser, “Ritual,” 198.

120 Colomanus: 62, DRMH I, 29.

121 Colomanus: 37, DRMH I, 27. On the Hungarian judicial system and procedural law under the kings of the Árpád dynasty, see Hajnik, A magyar bírósági, 3–31.

122 Colomanus: 45, DRMH I, 28.

123 See Bolla, “Das Dienstvolk,” 15–24, 29–34.

124 Mediae latinitatis, 991–92.

125 Brühl, Fodrum, 10–11, 33–34, 337–38, 414–15; Metz, Das Servitium, 47–50; Göldel, Servitium, 19–35, 55–65, 78–89, 128–29, 138–54, 184–85.

126 Only Székesfehérvár, Split, Trogir and Zadar. Zupka, Ritual, 123–28.

127 Zupka, Ritual, 11–12, 26–28, 38–39, 42–49, 76–78, 117–21. See Bernhardt, Itinerant, 49–50; Warner, “Henry II,” 137–42; Warner, “Ritual.”

128 See Warner, “Henry II.”

129 Syn. Szab., 35, 36, DRMH I, 58. See Warner, “Ritual.”

130 Legenda S. Emerici ducis, Cap. 2, 452; Zupka, Ritual, 122–23.

131 Bernhardt, Itinerant, 45–84; Leyser, “Ottonian,” 722–24, 732–33; Bernhardt, “King,” 41–48, 53–58; Warner, “Henry II,” 135–36; Warner, “Ritual.”

132 CDSl, vol. 1, no. 322, 233–35 (1226) and CDSl, vol. 2, no. 75, 52–54 (1240). See also references to the provision of victualia by royal monasteries in forged documents. DHA, vol. 1, no. 17, 101 (1024); no. 108/II, 316 (1101) or no. 43/II, 156 (1055); no. 96, 285 (1092).

133 CDSl, vol. 2, no. 241, 166 (1247).

134 Glossarium, 209; LLMH, vol. 3, 94–97; Solymosi, A földesúri, 55–73. See Veres, “A magyar,” 355.

135 However, this charter has only survived in a copy from the seventeenth century, and it is assumed that the original text was not written until sometime in the first third of the fourteenth century. It is therefore quite possible that the mention of the descensus does actually refer to a later period. DHA, vol. 1, no. 130, 355–57; Györffy, “A XII. századi,” 49–50; Steindorff, Die dalmatinischen, 11–25, 57–61. See Veres, “A magyar,” 382.

136 Barta and Barta, “Royal,” 22; Györffy, Święty, 415. See Font, Koloman, 43, 52, 57–60; Bernhardt, “On the Road,” 306–7. On the revenues of the kings of Árpád, see Weisz, “Royal Revenues,” 255–64.

137 1222: 3, DRMH I, 32.

138 1231: 4, DRMH I, 37.


* The research on which this article draws was supported by the [VEGA] under Grant [2/0028/22]: Stredoveká spoločnosť v Uhorsku (štruktúra, koexistencia a konfrontácia sociálnych skupín do konca 13. storočia) and by the [APVV] under Grant [19–0131]: Ars Moriendi. Fenomém smrti v stredovekom Uhorsku.


The Town of Gölnicbánya in the Árpád Era

Péter Galambosi
Research Centre for the Humanities

Hungarian Historical Review Volume 11 Issue 3  (2022):545–569 DOI 10.38145/2022.3.545

In this article, I describe the emergence and early development of Gölnicbánya (today Gelnica, Slovakia) from a settlement-historical and historical-geographical approach, mainly based on the diploma material of the Árpád and the early Angevin Eras concerning the settlement and its region. I examine the origin of the town in the context of the northern expansion of the royal forest-estate of Torna and the economical upgrading of Szepes, which dates to the beginning of the thirteenth century. I show how Gölnicbánya became the primary center of the county’s southern part in the second half of the thirteenth century thanks to mining and holding markets. I offer a detailed analysis of the provisions of the privilege charter from 1287, emphasizing that the border description covered a larger area far beyond the original extent of the settlement. I contend that although the charter refers the donations of two predecessor kings, the points set new provisions. Finally, I show how the economic importance of Gölnicbánya became apparent during the internal wars following the extinction of the Árpád dynasty and the consolidation that was underway in the early fourteenth century.

Keywords: Settlement history, urban history, historical geography, regional social history, economic history.

The formation and early history of Gölnicbánya (today Gelnica, Slovakia) is a critical point in Hungarian urban historical research on the Middle Ages. The early history of the settlement is obscure, but at the end of the thirteenth century, the town appears as an important regional economical center. Gölnicbánya was mentioned for the first time in 1278, when Ladislaus IV (also known as Ladislas the Cuman), laid down the customs tariffs for the town’s markets.1 In 1280, the king offered 100 marks a year from the income of the Gölnicbánya silver mine to the papal legate Philipp, Bishop of Fermo, because he had tried to impede the convocation of the synod of Buda.2 The town obtained its first known privilege charter in 1287, which refers to the privileges donated by Béla IV and Stephen V. However, no mention of these donations is found in other sources.3 A few decades later, these privileges became an example, as in 1317 Charles I granted the people of Zsidópataka the freedoms that the citizens of Kassa (today Košice, Slovakia) and Gölnicbánya had already been enjoying.4

From this short overview, it is clear that the development of Gölnicbánya was based on mining and holding markets. Moreover, both had reached and maintained a significant level of advancement through the course of the decades before the town was mentioned in the sources. The rise of Gölnicbánya can be described in detail through the tried and tested methods of the Hungarian settlement-historical and historical-geographical research. However, it is not adequate solely to gather the sources concerning Gölnicbánya. We must also consider the wider context in which the town became increasingly important, including the surrounding lands and settlements.5

The Beginnings

The source of the Gölnic (Hnilec) River, from which the town took its name, lies on the eastern side of Low Tatras at the foot of Mount King (Kráľova hoľa, 1946m). The river flows southeastwards through the narrow valleys in the Slovak Ore Mountains. It turns to the northeast between Svedlér (today Švedlár, Slovakia) and Remete (today Mníšek nad Hnilcom, Slovakia) and then takes the Szomolnok (Smolník) Stream from the right, finally joining the Hernád River at Szentmargit (today Margecany, Slovakia). The Slavonic name of the river, which means rotten water, took its place in the Hungarian language through German transmission. According to a view widespread among linguists, the term came into Hungarian at the latest at the turn of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, as the g turned into an h in the Slavonic at that time.6 According to a popular view based on this observation, Gölnicbánya was founded by German settlers in the second half of the twelfth century. Gusztáv Heckenast questioned this contention and drew attention to the fact that the archaic Slavonic forms appear in the written sources from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries in the surrounding region. Based on this, he argued that the town had been founded only after the 1241–1242 Mongol invasion.7 Although he emphasized correctly the unreliability of the linguistic-based chronology, he could not cite any data about the river or the town. If one examines all the available sources and, in particular, the border descriptions, however, it is clear that the name of the river already appeared with a g at its first contemporary mention (1255), and this form was in use in the period under discussion.8

It is worth noting that Hungarian vernacular geographical names often appear in the sources from the area surrounding the town at the turn of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. A source from 1282 mentions the “Hársmező” (Linden Meadow) in the forests that belonged to Gölnicbánya. The “Ökör-hegy” (Mount Bullock) and the “Szénkő” (Coal Stone) are also mentioned in the border description of the 1287 privilege charter. The place “Jakóréte” (Meadow of Jacob) is mentioned in 1325, also on the town’s periphery.9 These data reveal that a significant Hungarian-speaking population lived in the region that was able to preserve its cultural identity. This is also proven by the settlement’s name, in which the Hungarian word “bánya” (mine) appeared even in the earliest sources.10

Based on these data, the early history of Gölnicbánya cannot be explored through a comparison of the linguistic concepts regarding the etymology of the river’s name and the historical conclusions based on the written sources. Due to the presence of the archaic Slavonic forms in the toponymy of the region, no time limits can be determined. The linguistic-ethnical diversity and the use of vernacular names, seen in sources from the late thirteenth century, prove that the various ethnic groups had been living together for a long time. From my point of view, given the lack of direct data, the context of public history offers the most reliable framework within which to describe the emergence of Gölnicbánya.

At the beginning of the thirteenth century, the Gölnic region was annexed by the royal forest estate of Torna. This is mentioned in the 1243 privilege charter of Olaszi (today Spišské Vlachy, Slovakia), which notes that the village was founded by German and (as the name of the settlement shows) Valloon royal mining people resettled from Torna. According to the source, the villagers’ taxes were specified by Prince Coloman, the younger brother of Béla IV, who had held dominion over Szepes from the 1210s to 1226, when he became the duke of Slavonia.11 Shifting economic trends prompted the mining people to be resettled. At the turn of twelfth and thirteenth centuries, iron mining ceased in Galyaság and the Bódva region. The exploitation of the Slovak Ore Mountains then began in the Gömör and Szepes regions.12 Two important conclusions can be drawn from the mention of Coloman. First, the development of the mining region may have prospered under the governance of Coloman and his escort. Second, his presence in Szepes gives the temporal framework of these economic and social tendencies. Olaszi’s location proves that the Torna forest estate expanded northwards at least to the Hernád River, which means that the villages of the Gölnic region were also founded by the royal mining people. This in turn implies that the beginnings of Gölnicbánya date back to the first third of the thirteenth century, when the Germans settled in lands occupied by indigenous Slavonic groups.

The German-speaking population of medieval Szepes was not homogenous.13 After the Mongol invasion, Saxon settlers came to the region, and they were granted collective privileges by Stephen V in 1271. Their privilege charter was confirmed by Charles I in 1317, who supplemented the rewritten text with a list of the settlements that formed the Saxon community. These villages all came into existence north of the Hernád River. Alcnó is the only settlement that was founded on the right bank of the river, however it was an external part of Olaszi. The Hernád River determined the settlement system of Szepes and clearly separated the German-speaking groups of the land, as the 1299 record about the foundation of the Carthusian monastery of Létán Hill (Klástorisko, 760m) proves. According to the source, the mountain, which rises on the right bank of the river, was located along the border of the Saxon province (“situm in terminis nostre provincie”).14 This makes clear that the privileged Saxons didn’t expand southwards from the Hernád River. These tendencies can be explained by the aftermath of the Mongol invasion. The villages in the Hernád basin were exposed to the destructive invading forces, while the settlements of the Gölnic region were defended by the mountains, which were difficult to cross, so the mining people could survive the invasion without significant losses.15 As a consequence of the different structures of their settlements, the Gründers of the Gölnic region and the Zipsers of Szepes spoke different dialects, and the differences between these two dialects still constitute a cultural difference between these two groups today.16

While the kingdom was being rebuilt in the wake of the Mongol invasion, Béla IV reorganized the royal forest estates in Northern Hungary, which led to the creation of new counties. It is worth noting that the king dealt directly with this region in May and June 1243, as he released three charters arranged for the surrounding territories. On May 31, the privilege charter of Olaszi was released. On June 2, the king donated the royal estate of Pelsőc (today Plešivec, Slovakia). Finally, on June 7, he gave collective privileges to the lancers of Szepes.17 These tendencies show that the county system of Szepes was also formed after the Mongol invasion, from the northern parts of the Torna forest estate and the lands along the banks of the Poprad and Hernád Rivers, which were referred to as the Szepes Forest (Silva Zepus) by Anonymus, who was Béla III’s notary.18

After these territorial reorganizations, the estate of Pelsőc was attached to Gömör County. According to the 1243 charter, the borders started from the mouth of the Szomolnok Stream and then followed the stream to its source. The last section extended from the source of the Gölnic River to the mouth of the Szomolnok Stream.19 The territories east of the Szomolnok belonged to the premonstratensian provostry of Jászó (today Jasov, Slovakia). As the 1255 privilege charter of the monastery reveals, the border of its properties ran northwards from the Bódva River to the source of the Szomolnok Stream and then continued along the stream to the Gölnic River, which separated the ecclesiastical estate from parts of Szepes, at last in the tributary streams of Gölnic southeastwards among the mountains to the Ida River.20 Thus, the original territory of Gölnicbánya did not extend farther than the Galmus Mountains north of the river and the land between the Hernád River and the Gölnic River east of the town.

The Early Privileges

Although this territory wasn’t as large as the borders described in the 1287 charter, the town’s agglomeration already covered the southern part of the county, south of the Hernád River. Thanks to this, the importance of Gölnicbánya rose in the administrative system that emerged immediately after the Mongol invasion. Since Béla IV had dealt directly with this region in May and June 1243, the first privilege charter might also have been released at this time to support the development of the mining region attached to Szepes County.21

It is more difficult to determine the topicality of the privileges given by Stephen V. After Béla and his son had divided the kingdom in the 1260s, Szepes belonged to the part under Béla’s rule, but Stephen was also interested in this region, as indicated by many sources.22 In 1265, he rewrote and confirmed the privilege charter of Olaszi as iunior rex. Later, in 1271, acting as the king of Hungary, Stephen gave collective privileges to the Saxons of Szepes.23 Unfortunately, his donation politics do not give any insight into when he turned his eyes to the Gölnic region.24

The content of these privileges is unknown, but the sources from the late thirteenth century contain clear indications of the direction of the town’s economic development. In the 1270s and 1280s, Gölnicbánya appeared as a mining town and a commercial center with high incomes, which confirms that these sectors were supported by the original privileges.

According to the tradition that was registered in the 1487 statutes of the seven mining towns of Upper Hungary, Gölnicbánya was the oldest mining town. Although this category of settlement became clearly distinct only in the Angevin Era, they had started developing in the middle of thirteenth century.25 The Mongol conquest had broken the eastern economic relations of Hungary, and in the following decades, the Hungarian Kingdom gradually integrated into the economical and mercantile system of the West. Thanks to this, Hungarian mining, especially silver mining, reached a significant level of development, which is clearly shown by the fact that a quarter of the silver mined in Europe came from the Hungarian mines at the end of the thirteenth century.26 Gölnicbánya and the surrounding region were the center of this development, as is clearly shown by the offering of Ladislaus IV in 1280 to give 100 marks a year from the income of the Gölnicbánya silver mine to the papal legate. The 1278 customs tariffs also offer an indication of the mining development, as it determined in detail the value of gold, silver, lead, iron, and the timber used in the mining process.

It is worth noting that the 1278 ordinance was based on the 1255 customs tariffs of Buda, and the king just tailored several points to the local needs. The regulations show diversity not only in the scale of products but also in the measurement units in use. Both local products, for example metals, timber and fish, and imported goods, for example cloths, can be found in the regulations. Although the measurement units were arranged to the concrete products, most of the items were measured in wagons. The text mentions the great wagon named quintal (“de curro magno… quod vulgo masa dicitur”), which was the typical transport vehicle for long-distance trade in the thirteenth century.27 This makes clear that the town’s markets had not only a local but also a regional importance. The first known marketplace of Szepes was Szombathely (today Spíšská Sobota, Slovakia), which appeared under this name (Forum Sabati) in 1256, but it had lost its importance to Késmárk (today Kežmarok, Slovakia) by the late 1260s, and the settlement’s name “Szentgyörgyhegy” (Mount St. George) became permanent. Késmárk obtained customs-free status on its markets in 1269, which guaranteed the town’s leading role in the economy. The seat of the ten-lancers, Szentlászló (today Spišský Štvrtok, Slovakia), appeared as Csütörtökhely (Quintum Forum) for the first time in 1292, which shows that the market acquired greater importance in the late thirteenth century. Other markets in Szepes were only mentioned first in sources from the fourteenth century, which means, that there were two important economic centers in the county in the middle of the thirteenth century: Késmárk in the northern parts and Gölnicbánya to the south of the Hernád River.28

The royal privilege charters released to settlements used to allow the election of the mayor and the parish priest. The council of Gölnicbánya first appeared in the 1287 privilege charter, which specifies that the confirmation of donations was requested by the mayor and the jurors, although the text does not give their names. The first mention of the town’s parish priest can be found in the 1286 verdict of Lodomer, Archbishop of Esztergom, which settled the conflict between Provost Jacob and the canons. According to the source, the provost had to pay one mark in the presence of Gölnicbánya’s parish priest and the Cistercian Abbot of Savnik (today Spišský Štiavnik, Slovakia). In 1329, the parish priest of the town appeared as the general vicar of the provost.29

The economic importance of Gölnicbánya was clear in the civil war of the 1270s. The ispán of Szepes, Roland son of Mark, rose up against Ladislaus IV in the autumn of 1274. He took hold of royal goods and harassed the people of the land. The king and his ispán were reconciled by Saint Kinga of Poland (the daughter of Béla IV of Hungary), and the king kept Roland in his favor. In 1277, Roland revolted again and joined the uprising of the Geregye kindred, who built an oligarchic lordship in the Transztisza region. After the fall of the Geregyes, the king sent his veteran warlords, Finta of the Aba kindred and George of the Baksa kindred, against Roland, and in the battle, which took place at an unknown site, the rebel count fell. According to the 1285 donation charter of George, in which his merits are listed, Roland had occupied Szepes with the town of Gölnicbánya (“unacum Gylnuchbana”).30 It seems clear that Roland invaded the town to ensure that he would be able to use the town’s economic power, its incomes from mining, and its markets to put up long-term resistance. Although other sources make no mention of the occupation of Gölnicbánya, it is almost certain that the revolt led by Roland somewhat hampered the town’s development. The rebel count probably made an attempt to found his own oligarchic territorial lordship, and the oligarchs of the age usually considered the towns as resources and tried to draw profit from them.31 It is certainly no coincidence that Ladislaus IV arranged the customs tariffs in 1278 just after the revolt in order to preclude cheating and abuses (“volentes amputare omnem calumpniam et sopire materiam iurgiorum in tributis exigendis sive persolvendis”).32 Although the source makes no mention of Roland, he probably monopolized the incomes from the customs.

In 1282, the king donated an uninhabited forest between Gölnicbánya and the Hernád River (“silvam nostram desertam et inhabitabilem a Gulnychbana incipiens usque ad Harnad”) to a citizen of the town named Jekel, who gave his name to the village Jekelfalva (today Jaklovce, Slovakia). The border description of the estate mentions Korompa (today Krompachy, Slovakia) on the right bank of the river and the silver mine of Svedlér to the west of the Szomolnok Stream, which also became a settlement in the fourteenth century.33 In 1328, the villages Szentantal and Szentmargit appeared in the same territory.34 This suggests that some settlements came into existence spontaneously, but other villages were founded consciously through royal donations. Jekel got his estate with noble rights, which made him be able to settle people on his territory and have legal authority over them. Gölnicbánya thus lost territories and, more importantly, natural and human resources.

The 1287 Privilege Charter

The oldest surviving privilege charter of Gölnicbánya was issued in 1287 by Ladislaus IV. According to the preamble, the king confirmed the privileges donated by Béla IV and Stephen V, including the estates, territories, the gold, silver and iron mines, the waters and forests, and all incomes from these resources at the request of the mayor, the jurors, and the citizens. Although the text clearly refers to the donations of two predecessor kings, the charter details only three provisions:

(1) In all litigations between the citizens and those who lived within the borders of the settlement the town was given exclusive jurisdiction. According to János Bárdossy, who commented on the source at the beginning of the nineteenth century, the privileges of the town were significantly damaged under the revolt led by ispán Roland, which necessitated the restoration of the status of the community. Bárdossy cited the arenga of the 1287 charter, according to which the king sought to ease the situation of his subjects, who suffered from harassment and oppression.35 In contrast with Bárdossy’s thesis, the 1278 customs tariffs clearly shows that the king has already arranged the case of the settlement after the revolt. Moreover, the 1280 offering to the papal legate regarding the incomes from the town’s silver mine proves that the settlement had again embarked down the path towards development. The preamble of the 1287 charter also proves that the town’s government was working, as it specifies that the confirmation was requested by the mayor, the jurors, and the citizens.

(2) The villages that emerged within the borders of the town were prohibited from holding markets, and their inhabitants were obligated to trade at the markets in Gölnicbánya. In this provision, we find an early form of the ban-mile right (Bannmeilenrecht), which was borrowed from the German legal system. This institution ensured the monopoly of a market within a determined territory, in its advanced form usually one mile, but sometimes the monopoly concerned only a few products. In this case, the prohibition concerned the territory of Gölnicbánya in order to hamper the economic and the political independence of the villages in the town’s periphery, and in this way to grant raw material and foodstuffs for the settlement.36

(3) The king ensured the citizens of Gölnicbánya the right to work undisturbed within the borders of the town, including the fishermen on the rivers and the burners and lumberjacks in the forests. Because proper silviculture was indispensable to mining, the privileges of the mining towns usually determined the rights of citizens to logging from a territorial perspective, usually within the borders of each settlement, as in the case of Gölnicbánya.37

Interestingly, the 1287 privilege charter does not touch on some questions that usually appear in the royal charters released to mining towns or dealing with mining activity.38 The provisions don’t concern mining, apart from the formal preamble, which mentions the gold, silver, and iron mines of the town. The fact that Gölnicbánya had high incomes from mining at the end of the thirteenth century indicates that the most important questions had been arranged in the previous decades, for example the right to search for ore and metal. It is also worth noting that the 1287 charter doesn’t detail the situation of the local market. Although its monopoly was ensured, the charter does not indicate its type and date. In my opinion, the arrangement of these questions was in no way urgent or pressing in 1287, because the privilege charter of Ladislaus IV essentially set new provisions necessitated by the developments of the previous decades, even if it refers to the donations of two predecessor kings. The common denominator of these provisions is the fact that they prevail within the borders of the town. Although the territorial aspect is not surprising in the case of a settlement, it is worth analyzing the border description in detail.

According to the 1287 charter, the border of Gölnicbánya started from the road to Dryn (“a via Dryn”) and then ran to the house of hermits (“ad domum heremite”) and Ökör Mountain (“ad montem bovum, qui Wkurhegh vulgariter nuncupatur”), where it turned towards the source of the Szomolnok Stream (“ad caput cuiusdam fluvii Smolnyk nominati”). It then ran to the houses where the iron that had been mined was melted and purified (“ad domos seu aedifica, in quibus ferrum flari et purgari consuevit”), from where it turned towards the source of the Kallós Stream (“ad caput cuiusdam alterius fluvii Valkensesyn nominati”), arriving at last at Szénkő Mountain, a place where customs were taken (“ad montem Scynkw nuncupatum, usque ad illum locum, ubi tributum exigi consuevit”).39 The borders cover almost the full catchment of the Gölnic River, except the territory in its eastern part, which was taken from the town and given to Jekel in 1282. This means that Gölnicbánya got hold of the southern part of Szepes County, to the south of the Hernád River. It is worth noting that the border description of the 1287 charter incorporates the territories in the western and eastern neighborhoods of the Szomolnok Stream that belonged to the estate of Pelsőc in 1243 and to the Premonstratensian provostry of Jászó in 1255. Two years later, in 1289, Wygandus, provost of Jászó, protested at the chapter of Szepes, because the king had attached a large forest estate at the Gölnic River from his monastery to Gölnicbánya (“super eo, quod serenissimus dominus noster rex Ladislaus de possessione sui monasterii porcionem possessionariam in magna quantitate iuxta fluvium Gylniych existentem, ad montana sue nove civitatis Gylniychbanya abstulisset”), but he hadn’t paid the promised compensation. The litigation ended in 1342, when the provostry came to an agreement with the governments of Gölnicbánya and Szomolnokbánya (today Smolník, Slovakia), which became independent during the first half of the fourteenth century. This meant that the citizens were allowed to cut half of the monastery’s forests between the Gölnic and Bódva Rivers. In return, they had to pay one unit of white cloth, but the territory still remained in the property of Jászó.40

The westernmost point of the border is the Szénkő (Tri kopce, 1056m), which is found in the northeastern ranges of the Ore Mountains. An important long-distance trade route ran under the mountain, which came to Szepes from Gömör County and led to Poland following the Poprad River.41 Due to its location, it seems doubtful that the market customs were paid at the Szénkő, because only those merchants could have been called to account here who came to or left the town from or to the west. In the second half of the thirteenth century, Gölnicbánya began to play a more important economic role in the region, but the sources mainly show the importance of the southern, northern, and eastern relationships. A border description from 1255 mentions the road to Jászó, which ran on the left bank of the Gölnic River, then turned southwards at Remete and followed the Szomolnok Stream. The 1284 border description of Kolcsó (today Klčov, Slovakia), a village in the eastern neighborhood of Lőcse (today Levoča, Slovakia), mentions the road, that came from Gölnicbánya. Some border descriptions from 1318, 1321, and 1325 mention the roads connecting Gölnicbánya with Szinye (today Svinia, Slovakia) and Újfalu (today Chminianska Nová Ves, Slovakia), villages in the neighborhood of Eperjes (today Prešov, Slovakia).42 The lack of the western relations could be explained simply by the fact that the southern part of the county belonged to the town. The intensity of the eastern relations is also clear, because the main trade route in the region followed the Hernád River and brought the rise of several settlements, for example Kassa in the second half of the thirteenth century.43 Due to its peripheral location, the merchants usually didn’t go around Szénkő, because they usually chose the roads that led to the important markets. The markets of Gömör and Abaúj counties were accessible by the southern and eastern roads, and the crossing points on the Hernád River provided access to the other markets of Szepes. Considering that the road under the Szénkő led to Krakow, I think that some kind of road toll was taken here, which is not mentioned in other sources.44

During the analysis of the border description, it is worth touching on the manuscript tradition of the 1287 privilege charter. The original copies of the 1287 charter and its confirmations from 1318 and 1327 by Charles I are lost. In 1359, Louis I rewrote and confirmed his father’s 1327 charter, which contained the text of the 1287 privilege charter and its 1318 confirmation, but this charter is also lost. Its text was rewritten by the chapter of Szepes in 1699, which has survived in six copies. In 1637, the chapter of Szepes rewrote the text of the 1327 charter at the order of Ferdinand III, which was confirmed by the king in the same year. The original copy of this variant is also lost, but its text is known from the 1813 rewriting by Francis I. An original charter issued by Louis I from 1367 epitomizes the provisions of the 1287 privilege charter, but its preamble makes clear that the excerpt was made of a charter issued by Louis I, probably the 1359 charter, which contained not only the original 1287 charter but also its confirmations.45 A comparison of the known variants reveals an interesting contradiction at the beginning of the border description. The sources that copy the 1699 rewriting of the 1359 charter indicate that the border description was composed using the report of a comes (“prout idem comes nobis retulerat”). However, the borders were reported by the citizens according to the 1367 extract (“prout iidem cives eidem domino Ladislao regi retulissent”), and this form is also found in the 1813 copy, which rewrote the 1637 confirmation of the 1327 charter (“prout iidem cives nobis retulerunt”). The modern source publications by Ľubomír Juck and Tibor Almási publish the text in the latter way, and Iván Borsa also published the border description in this form, following the 1367 extract.46

A comparison of the surviving copies does not give a clear answer to the question, because the variants abound in misspellings and hiatuses. However, the historical geographical analysis clearly proves that the border description of the 1287 privilege charter covers territories that had belonged to other estates in the previous decades. Thus, the citizens couldn’t refer to these territories as their own property. As the 1287 protest made by the provost of Jászó reveals, Ladislaus IV promised compensation for the forests of the monastery. Thus, it is clear that the extension of the borders was initiated by the king to ensure the development of Gölnicbánya with more raw materials.47 Given this, I am concerned that the variants mentioning the comes in the beginning of the border description stand closer to the truth, and in the usual way, the king may have delegated a homo regius to designate the borders of the settlement. The pronoun “idem” suggests that he had been mentioned in the text before, but that part could have been lost the same way, as most of the known variants do not contain the 1287 date of the charter. The mention of the citizens in the 1367 extract and in the confirmations issued by the Habsburg rulers might have been the results of a mistake in the reading of the text.

Outlook: Gölnicbánya at the Beginning of the Fourteenth Century

As distinct from modern source publications, Bárdossy published the text based on the 1699 rewriting. He thought that the comes mentioned in the beginning of the border description was Andrew, son of Polanus mine judge (iudex montanus) of Gölnicbánya.48 Andrew was one of the ancestors of the Berzeviczy family, one of the most important noble families in Szepes since the beginning of the thirteenth century. The first estates of the clan lay at the foot of the Tatra Mountains. Later, the family got donations in the forests between the Spiš Magura and the Dunajec River, and they started collecting estates in Sáros County in the thirteenth century.49 One of them, Kakas, son of Rikalf, appears as mine judge of Szomolnokbánya in 1327, and Bárdossy assumed from this data that the family might already have held this position in Gölnicbánya at the end of the thirteenth century. In the previous decades, the Slovak secondary literature assumed the origins of the mine judge’s office of Szomolnokbánya may have led back to the end of the thirteenth century and that Rikalf had it when the office still worked in Gölnicbánya.50 However, this interpretation is inconsistent with the sources, because the members of the family didn’t hold any political offices in the Árpád Era. Although most of the clan stood with Wenceslaus III after the extinction of the Árpád line, Kakas pledged himself to Charles I. After the fall of the Aba kindred in 1311–1312, the king entrusted the castle of Szepes to Kakas, who later became court judge (curialis comes) in the county and appeared as the mine judge of Szomolnokbánya under the regional lordship of the Druget family.51 The chronology based on the sources clearly shows that Kakas got supervision over mining at this time, when his political career reached its high point. The sources concerning the town and its surroundings don’t let one assume that the office of the mine judge emerged in Gölnicbánya.

After the adherents of Charles I had expelled the armies of Wenceslaus from Szepes in the autumn 1304, the region fell under the control of Amadé of the Aba kindred, the most powerful landlord of northeastern Hungary at the time. The German citizens of Kassa descended upon the escort of Amadé and murdered the warlord in the September of 1311, and the king forced his widow and sons to give the castles, settlements, and all natural and material resources to the crown. In the third point of the Treaty of Kassa they undertook to give Szepes and the towns Gölnicbánya and Kassa, with all of their thirtieths, customs, taxes, and other incomes, back to the king (“Scepus, Gylnuch et Cassa cum universis tricesimus, tributis, censibus et quibusvis obvencionibus… resignamus domino nostro regi”).52 Charles I realized the political importance of the towns, and he supported their economic development from the beginning of his reign in order to create a stable home front during his fights against the oligarchs. The success and social popularity of this politics are proven by the Georgenberger Chronik, as it tells that Louis I and his father cared for the towns and improved their lots.53 In the case of Gölnicbánya, the 1318, 1327, and 1359 confirmations of the 1287 privilege charter clearly prove that the town enjoyed the support of the Angevin kings. In 1317, Charles I granted the people of Zsidópataka the freedoms that the citizens of Kassa and Gölnicbánya had already been enjoying, which also shows the importance of the town.54

The confirmation of the privileges was requested by Mayor Perenger in 1318 and then by notary Kolin in 1327. The 1330 last will of William Druget, ispán of Szepes, indicates that Mayor Perenger was hanged for his crimes by order of the ispán, but William left 30 marks to the town (25 for the homicide and 5 for masses) for the sake of his conscience.55 It is worth noting that William became the ispán of Szepes in the summer 1327, and it was notary Kolin, who asked the king for the confirmation in October of that year. These circumstances imply that William executed the mayor just after he had become the lord of region, then the notary, who temporarily took over the government of the town, turned to the king to defend the town’s rights before the ispán could have infringed on them. The mayor’s name and the notary’s name suggest that Gölnicbánya was ruled by the German-speaking elite.

The appearance of Kolin is very valuable, because the first written document of the town’s government survived only from 1395, but the mention of the notary proves that there was already some urban literacy in Gölnicbánya in the early fourteenth century. Although the imprint of the medieval seal of Gölnicbánya is known only from 1497, the two-barred cross depicted in the coat of arms refers to the thirteenth-century origin of the seal.56

Thanks to the development which took place during these decades, new settlements came into existence on the periphery of the town, but the villages, which emerged spontaneously, couldn’t secede from the mother town. This was only possible through direct foundation or royal support. According to a 1368 charter issued by Louis I, which is known only in extract, along with the abovementioned Korompa, Jekelfalva, Szentmargit, and Svedlér, other villages, namely Abucuk, Zakárfalva (today Žakarovce, Slovakia), Folkmár (today Veľký Folkmar, Slovakia), Kojsfalva (today Kojšov, Slovakia), Prakfalva (today Prakovce, Slovakia), and Kuncfalva also emerged in the territory of Gölnicbánya. With the exception of Kuncfalva, these settlements don’t appear in the sources from the previous decades, which proves their dependent status and also indicates that they came into existence in the first half of the fourteenth century.57 Kuncfalva was founded in 1326, when Thomas castellan of Szepes arrented an estate to Kunc from Szalók to settle it.58 The village Wagendrüssel (today Nálepkovo, Slovakia) emerged in the same way, as its territory was donated to a nobleman, count Batiz, in 1290, though he sold the village to a citizen of Gölnicbánya named Pecoldus in 1315.59 Szomolnokbánya became independent through royal support. The early settlement emerged on the estate of the Premonstratensian provostry of Jászó, but the territory was attached to Gölnicbánya in 1287. In 1327, the king granted the privileges of Selmecbánya (today Baská Štiavnica, Slovakia) to the town and founded a mint in the settlement. According to a source from 1338, almost the whole northeastern part of the kingdom was under the authority of the mint of Szomolnokbánya, including Szepes, Abaúj, Sáros, Zemplén, Ung, Gömör, Borsod, and Heves Counties. Some have even suggested that the beginnings of the mint may have led back to Gölnicbánya, but the sources don’t offer any convincing evidence in support of this theory.60


Over the course of a century in the late Árpád Era, Gölnicbánya became an important mining town and economic center of Upper Hungary. The settlement emerged in the beginning of the thirteenth century, when the German mining people from the Torna forest estate settled in the valleys of the Gölnic River, where Slavonic indigenous groups lived. After the county organization of Szepes was founded in the 1240s, Gölnicbánya became an important center of its southern part. The privileges donated by Béla IV and Stephen V led to the rapid development of the town, which became one of the most important economical centers of the region by the 1270–1280s thanks to its mining and markets, which brought high incomes. In these decades, the population of the surroundings of the town grew, settlements came into existence and began to move towards independence. These changes made it necessary to rearrange the status of the town. Ladislaus IV issued the first known privilege charter of Gölnicbánya in 1287, which indicates strategic town planning policies. Thanks to the support of Charles I in the beginning of the fourteenth century, Gölnicbánya reached the high point of its early development.

Archival Sources

Magyar Nemzeti Levéltár Országos Levéltára [Hungarian National Archives, State Archive], Budapest (MNL OL)

Diplomatikai Fényképgyűjtemény [The Photo Collection of Medieval Documents] (DF)

Diplomatikai Levéltár [The Archive of Medieval Documents] (DL)


Printed sources

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AOklt. = Anjou-kori oklevéltár [Cartulary of the Angevin Era]. 49 vols. Edited by Gyula Kristó et al. Budapest–Szeged: JATE–SZTE–Csongrád Megyei Levéltár–Szegedi Középkorász Műhely–Quintus, 1990–2020.

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CDES = Codex diplomaticus et epistolaris Slovaciae. 2 vols. Edited by Richard Marsina. Bratislavae: Academia Scientiarum Slovaca, 1971–1987.

Csáky = Oklevéltár a gróf Csáky család történetéhez [Cartulary to the history of the Csáky-family]. 2 vols. Edited by László Bártfai Szabó. Budapest: Stephaneum, 1919.

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MES = Monumenta ecclesiae Strigoniensis. 3 vols. Edited by Ferdinand Knauz, and Lajos Dedek Crescens. Strigonii: Typis descripsit Aegydius Horák, 1874–1924.

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Theiner = Vetera monumenta historica Hungariam sacram illustrantia. 2 vols. Edited by Augustinus Theiner. Romae: Typis Vaticanis, 1859–1860.

VMMS = Výsady miest a mestečiek na Slovensku [Privileges of the towns and markets in Slovakia], 1238–1350. Edited by Ľubomir Juck. Bratislava: Veda, 1984.

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1* The research on which this article is based on was supported by “Lendület” Medieval Hungarian Economic History Research Team of Research Centre of Humanities, Institute of History.

1278: ÁÚO, vol. 9, 204–5. The 1246 charter, which mentions the town Gölnicbánya, is a fake and was composed in the fourteenth century: CDES, vol. 2, 153. (RA, no. 2926).

2 1280: Theiner, vol. 1, 347 (RA, no. 3066). For the legation of Philipp, see Kovács, “Alter ego domini.”

3 1287: VMMS, vol. 1, 67–68; Almási, “Gölnicbánya.”

4 1317: VMMS, vol. 1, 88 (AOklt., vol. 4, no. 602).

5 For old and outdated syntheses, see Wenzel, Magyarország bányászatának, 75–79; Hajnóci, A szepesi bányavárosok, 66–68; Csánki, Magyarország történelmi földrajza, vol. 1, 251; Fekete Nagy, Szepesség, 126–36. For the Slovak research, see Martin Homza, “Gelnica,” in LSMS, 151–63.

6 Melich, A honfoglaláskori Magyarország, 374; Kiss, “A Felvidék víznevei,” 15.

7 Heckenast, “Vashámor,” 3–4.

8 1255: “ad fluvium Gylnych vocatum” – CDES, vol. 2, 345. The 1243 privilege of Béla IV, which mentions the river, remained only in a fourteenth-century transcription: RA, no. 744.

9 1282: MNL OL DF 262668 (RA, no. 3162); 1287: Almási, “Gölnicbánya,” 47 (RA, no. 3464); 1325: MNL OL DL 2393 (AOklt., vol. 9, no. 176).

10 1280: “de argentifodina nostra Guylnvchbana vocata circa Scepes” – MNL OL DF 289173 (RA, no. 3066).

11 1243: “hospitibus nostris in villa Ollassy de Tornava congregatis et congregandis” – CDES, vol. 2, 84 (RA, no. 742). For another interpretation, see Kristó, Vármegyék, 391. For the village of Olaszi, see Fekete Nagy, Szepesség, 123–24; Peter Labanc, “Spišské Vlachy,” in LSMS, 474–79. For Coloman and his presence in Szepes, see Font and Barabás, Coloman, 63–68.

12 Dénes, “Galyaság,” 279–80. For the geographical conditions of the region, see Skawiński, “Fyzicko-geográfické pomery,” 46–47.

13 On the German people of Szepes in the Middle Ages, see Kristó, Nem magyar népek, 144–49.

14 1271: VMMS, vol. 1, 55–56 (RA, no. 2116); 1317: VMMS, vol. 1, 89–90 (AOklt., vol. 4, no. 634). The 1299 historical record survived only in a copy from 1649: MNL OL DL 1541. For an outdated publication of the source, see SS, vol. 1, 433–36.

15 The destruction of the Szepes region is also proven by a 1249 charter of Béla IV. In that year, the chapter of Szepes requested that the king confirm their privileges given by Andrew II, because the archive of the church had burned down during the attack of the Mongols: CDES, vol. 2, 230 (RA, no. 910).

16 On German immigration in a Central European context, see Szende, “German Settlers.” On the ethnographic tendencies, see Bruckner, A Szepesség népe, 12–13.

17 May 31: CDES, vol. 2, 84 (RA, no. 742); June 2: CDES, vol. 2, 85–88 (RA, no. 744); June 7: CDES, vol. 2, 88–89 (RA, no. 745).

18 Dénes, Bódvaszilas, 36–48; Kristó, Vármegyék, 391–93. For data concerning the anonym notary, see Anonymus, 70–71. According to József Hradszky, Anonymus called the forests near the village Szepsi (today Moldava nad Bodvou) in Abaúj County the Forest of Szepes. See Hradszky, “Szepesvármegye,” 6.

19 1243: “Prima meta incipit in Genucz iuxta magnam viam, ubi Scumulnukan cadit in Genucz et per eandem aquam ascendit ad caput eiusdem Scumulnuk… ad caput fluvii Gulnucz, per quem, qui est pro meta, descendit ad praedictam metam Sumulnuk et ibi terminatur” – CDES, vol. 2, 87. For map, see ÁMTF, vol. 2, 470–71.

20 1255: “tendit ad fontem Sumugy Bulduafeu vocatum; relicto ipso fonte tendit ad alium fluvium Umulnukfeu vocatum et per eundem fluvium descendit ad fluvium Gylnych vocatum, qui separat a terris et metis Scepus et in eodem fluvio Gylnych vadit usque Nyznanou potoka et abinde descendit ad fluvium Bornanou potoka vocatum; et per eundem fluvium ascendit ad alpes Golcha vocatas et dividit ipsas alpes et transit versus orientem et ab inde descendit ad fluvium Ida” – CDES, vol. 2, 345. On the monastery of Jászó, see ÁMTF, vol. 1, 96–100.

21 József Hajnóci also thought that Gölnicbánya obtained its first privileges in 1243, but he didn’t give countenance to his concept: Hajnóci, Bányavárosok, 66–67. Hradszky mentions the date 1264 also without any argument: Hradszky, “Szepesvármegye,” 22, 69. Dezső Csánki then used this data in his historical geographical masterwork, which led to the acceptance of the date in the secondary literature: Csánki, Történelmi földrajz, vol. 1, 251. As distinct idea of Hradszky, Csánki cited a charter, although 1284 can be read in the date of the source, see MNL OL DL 26704. Richard Marsina drew a parallel with other privilege charters and argued that Béla IV released the first privileges to Gölnicbánya after 1248: CDES, vol. 2, 221. Marsina’s idea was accepted by Gyula Kristó: Kristó, Nem magyar népek, 148. Jenő Szűcs dated the town’s first privileges to the period “after 1255”: Szűcs, Az utolsó Árpádok, 53.

22 1261: CD, vol. 4/1, 162–64 (RA, no. 1778); 1267: RA, no. 1866; 1269: ÁOkl., 63. On the conflict between Béla IV and Junior King Stephen, see Zsoldos, Családi ügy.

23 1265: VMMS, vol. 1, 50 (RA, no. 1838); 1271: VMMS, vol. 1, 55–56 (RA, no. 2116).

24 Stephan released six charters to towns and hospes communities as junior king and five more as the king of Hungary. See Szende, “Kiváltságolás,” 56. On the reign and policies of Stephen, see Szűcs, Az utolsó Árpádok, 107–52.

25 Skorka, A gölnici bányajog, 30–36, 52–53. On the development of the mining towns, see Weisz, “Mining Town Privileges.”

26 Szűcs, Az utolsó Árpádok, 227–30.

27 For an analysis of the 1278 customs tariffs in detail, see Weisz, Vámok és vámszedés, 178–79, 451–52.

28 1256: CDES, vol. 2, 362 (RA, no. 1078); 1269: VMMS, vol. 1, 51–52 (RA, no. 1636); 1292: Csáky, vol. 1, 21–22. On Csütörtökhely, see Fekete Nagy, Szepesség, 191–96. On Szombathely: Fekete Nagy, Szepesség, 206–7; Karín Fábrová, “Spíšská Sobota,” in LSMS, 466–73. On Késmárk, see Fekete Nagy, Szepesség, 215–19; Karín Fábrová, “Kežmarok,” in LSMS, 171–82. On the markets in Szepes in the Middle Ages, see Weisz, Markets and Staples, 38–41, 191–93.

29 1286: MES, vol. 2, 208–13; 1329: MNL OL DF 281704 (AOklt., vol. 13, no. 95, 663).

30 On the civil wars, see Zsoldos, Adorján három ostroma, 28–51. For the archontology of the ispáns of Szepes, see Zsoldos, Archontológia, 205–6. The 1285 privilege charter of George: EO, vol. 1, no. 406.

31 On the urban politics of the oligarchs, see Kristó, Széttagolódás, 161–66.

32 1278: ÁÚO, vol. 9, 204.

33 1282: “quandam silvam nostram desertam et inhabitabilem a Gulnychbana incipiens usque ad fluvium Harnad et abhinc sursum usque campum Hasmezeu vocatum et deinde usque viam, per quam itur ad Kurumpah et ad Zepus a parte orientis, item a parte meridionali usque ad Balapatok, dehinc directe usque ad argenti fodinam Seyler vocatam” – RA, no. 3162.

34 1328: MNL OL DL 83199 (AOklt., vol. 12, no. 300).

35 1287: “Regali incumbit maiestati suos subditos, turbationibus et necessitatibus oppressos ab ipsa turbatione et necessitate misericorditer relevare, et eisdem in eorum iuribus indemniter conservare… Nos itaque, qui ex officio debiti et suscepti regiminis nostri subditos nostros oppressos turbationibus et iuribus eorum pro fidelitate nobis debita et impensa privatos relevare tenemur” – Almási, “Gölnicbánya,” 47. The commentary of Bárdossy, see SS, vol. 1, 331–32.

36 On the ban-mile right and its economic importance, see Fügedi, “Középkori magyar városprivilégiumok,” 33; Weisz, Markets and Staples, 38–41.

37 Weisz, “Mining Town Privileges,” 303–5. On the silviculture of the mining towns, see Magyar, Erdőgazdálkodás.

38 On the typical privileges of the mining towns, see Weisz, “Mining Town Privileges.”

39 On the identification of each point of the border description, see Hajnóci, Bányavárosok, 66–67; Jáchim, “Páni z Jakloviec,” 91. For the orology and hydrography of Szepes in the Árpád Era, see Števík, “Prírodno-geográfické pomery,” 103–14.

40 The charters released during the litigation were rewritten by the chapter of Lelesz in 1510: MNL OL DF 230080. See also: Csőre, Erdőgazdálkodás, 275.

41 The location of Szénkő is defined by a border description from 1260: CDES, vol. 2, 452–53 (RA, no. 1239). See also Števík, “Prírodno-geográfické pomery,” 110.

42 1255: “pertransit ipsum fluvium magna via, quae vadit versus Iazov per locum Heremitorii” – CDES, vol. 2, 343 (RA, no. 1061); 1284: “ad unam viam, qua venit de Gulnuch” – Hoklt., 101–3 (RA, no. 3329); 1318: “in unam viam, que transit de Stoina in Gelnyczbanyam” – CD, vol. 8/2, 186–88 (AOklt., vol. 5, no. 102); 1321: “in unam viam, que transit de Swyne in Gelnuchbaniam” – CD, vol. 8/2, 306–8 (AOklt., vol. 6, no. 270); 1325: “in viam magnam, per quam itur de Wyfolu versus Gelnikchbana” – MNL OL DF 269903 (AOklt., vol. 9, no. 569 and vol. 10, no. 573).

43 For Kassa, see ÁMTF, vol. 1, 102–8; Miroslava Slezáková and Katarína Nádaská, “Košice,” in LSMS, 194–216.

44 For the types of road tolls, see Weisz, Vámok és vámszedés, 13–14.

45 For the manuscript tradition of the 1287 charter, see Almási, “Gölnicbánya,” 45–46. Almási gathered four variants of the copies of the 1699 charter, and two more can be added based on the digital database of the Collection of Medieval Documents. These variants are signed by underline: 1359/1699: MNL OL DL 24805, 24896, 71419; MNL OL DF 258631, 287781, 291733; 1327/1637: MNL OL DF 276159; 1367: MNL OL DL 67376.

46 1287: VMMS, vol. 1, 67–68; Almási, “Gölnicbánya,” 47; RA, no. 3464. The latter listed the old, outdated publications.

47 Fügedi, “Középkori magyar városprivilégiumok,” 47.

48 For Bárdossy’s comment, see SS, vol. 1, 332.

49 On the early history of the family, see Labanc, Vývoj šľachty na Spiši, 17–43; Berzeviczy, “A Tarkőiek,” 414–25.

50 1327: MNL OL DL 68804. For the Slovak research with more references, see Labanc, Vývoj šľachty na Spiši, 41–42.

51 In 1302, Kakas supported Wenceslaus, who confirmed his rights to an estate donated originally by Andrew III. RDES, vol. 1, 92 (AOklt., vol. 1, no. 284). In 1308, Charles I also confirmed the donation made by Andrew III as a remuneration for Kakas’ services in the 1304 occupation of the castle of Szepes: MNL OL DL 1173 (AOklt., vol. 2, no. 436). Kakas was mentioned as curialis comes in 1314: CD, vol. 8/5, 91–92 (AOklt., vol. 3, no. 854). On the Druget family and its lordship in Szepes, see Zsoldos, A Druget-tartomány.

52 1311: RDES, vol. 1, 391–93 (AOklt., vol. 3, no. 150). On the events, see Kristó, A rozgonyi csata.

53 For the data of the Georgenberger Chronik, see SRH, vol. 2, 284. On the urban politics of Charles I, see Zsoldos, “Károly és a városok.”

54 1317: VMMS, vol. 1, 88 (AOklt., vol. 4, no. 602).

55 1330: MNL OL DL 71270 (AOklt., vol. 14, no. 473). According to Martin Homza, the mayor executed by Count William was not Perenger, who appeared in 1318. Martin, Homza, “Gölnicbánya,” in LSMS, 157. His misunderstanding is based on a publication by Charles Wagner, who wrote the mayor’s name incorrectly in the form Nerenger: AS, vol. 1, 127–31.

56 1395: MNL OL DL 83450 (ZsOklt., vol. 1, no. 4127). On the beginnings of urban literacy in medieval Hungary, see Szende, “Városi írásbeliség.” On the seal of Gölnicbánya, see Szende, “Hivatali írásbeliség,” 514–16.

57 1368: CD, vol. 9/4, 114–19.

58 1326: MNL OL DF 262903 (AOklt., vol. 10, no. 455).

59 1290/1315: MNL OL DL 74786 (AOklt., vol. 9, no. 44).

60 On Szomolnokbánya, see Daniela Dvořáková and Martin Štefánik, “Smolník,” in LSMS, 437; 1327: VMMS, vol. 1, 110–11 (AOklt., vol. 11, no. 227); 1338: MES, vol. 3, 306–12 (AOklt., vol. 22, no. 150). For the conception concerning the mint, see Weisz, “Váradi kamara,” 94–104.


Zadar, the Angevin Center of Kingdom of Croatia and Dalmatia

Judit Gál
Research Centre for the Humanities
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Hungarian Historical Review Volume 11 Issue 3  (2022):570–590 DOI 10.38145/2022.3.570

When royal power started weakening in Hungary in the last third of the thirteenth century, the Hungarian royal authority in the Dalmatian towns also started to lose influence, and by the first third of the thirteenth century, most of the towns previously under Hungarian rule had become Venetian territories. The reoccupation of these towns and even more lands on the Eastern Adriatic coast could be connected to King Louis I of Hungary, who defeated Venice in 1358 in the war between Hungary and the Italian city state. This study focuses on the king’s exercise of power in Dalmatia, particularly the economic aspects of royal policy and the place of Zadar in this policy. My analysis also focuses on the formation of a Hungarian center in Dalmatia from the twelfth century and on how King Louis turned away from the policies of the previous kings of Hungary. My intention is to highlight the economic importance of Zadar, the process of the formation of an economic and trade center of Hungary, and also the formation of the Dalmatian elite, with a particular focus on the citizens of Zadar, who were in the closest circles of the Hungarian king. The focus will be also on the integration of the coastal territories into the mainland of Hungary under the reign of King Louis I. 

Keywords: urban history, Kingdom of Hungary, Dalmatia, economic history, Angevin dynasty

Zadar under Hungarian rule

Zadar fell under the control of several different centers of power during the period that began with the early eleventh century and concluded with the early twelfth. This began with the conquest of the city by Peter II Orseolo at turn of the tenth and eleventh centuries, who brought Zadar, a coastal town which had spent centuries under Byzantine authority, under the rule of the doge of Venice.1 By the second half of the eleventh century, Croatian rulers had extended their influence over the city.2 The reign of the Trpimirović dynasty came to an end at the end of the eleventh century, when King Zvonimir (1075–1089) died in 1089 without leaving an heir and was replaced by Stephen II (1089–1091), an elderly relative of King Krešimir IV (1058–1074). When Stephen II died after a short reign of only two years in 1091, the Croatian dynasty died out with him.3 The resulting power vacuum ushered in a decade of turbulence and upheavals in the lives of the Dalmatian cities. Zvonimir’s brother-in-law, King Ladislaus I of Hungary, launched a campaign to conquer Croatia and Dalmatia in 1091.4 In the course of this campaign, Croatia fell into Hungarian hands, but the Hungarian forces were unable to capture the Dalmatian cities until the rule of Coloman, king of Hungary. Coloman eventually secured his hold on power in Croatia in 1102, when he was crowned king of Croatia and Dalmatia in Biograd na Moru.5 Although Vekenega, abbess of the monastery of the Virgin Mary in Zadar, had the privileges the city had enjoyed confirmed by the new ruler,6 neither Zadar nor any other Dalmatian city actually came under the rule of Coloman at the time. This did not happen until 1105, when the ruler conquered northern and central Dalmatia.7 Coloman’s conquest of the cities of Dalmatia did not last long, however. In 1116, Zadar, like some other Dalmatian territories under Hungarian rule, fell into Venetian hands and remained under the rule of Venice until 1181.8 The city of Zadar rose up against Venice in 1159, 1164, 1168, 1170, and 1180.9 The rebellion in 1180 was successful, because by then, Zadar was able to count on the support of King Béla III, who was leading successful military campaigns in the Balkans. The Hungarian conquest only lasted for about two decades, and by the time of the fourth crusade in 1204, Zadar was again the control of Venice.10 In the thirteenth century, the city briefly fell into Hungarian hands again when Béla IV fled to Dalmatia to escape the Mongol invasion. The king supported the citizens of Zadar, who were rebelling against Venetian rule, and in 1242, he managed to bring the city under his control. This success, however, was only temporary. Some of the denizens of Zadar fled the Venetian counterattack for Nin, and in January 1244, Béla IV made peace with Venice.11 Béla IV made no further attempts to take the city, and after his death in 1270, the Hungarian royal house was weakened by civil strife and the unexpected death of the former king’s heir to the throne in 1271. This meant that Zadar had to find an ally other than the Hungarian ruler if it wanted to challenge Venetian rule. Eventually, the city found this new ally in the Šubić family, who had established themselves as a provincial power and, by the end of the thirteenth century, had seized control of all the cities of central and northern Dalmatia except Zadar. Essentially, they had emerged as the greatest political power in Croatia.12 In 1311, Mladen Šubić conquered Zadar (which again was rebelling against Venice) in the name of King Charles I of Hungary, but he was only able to hold the city for two years.13 The next attempt to wrest the city from Venetian control was made in 1345, during the reign of Louis I, when the denizens of Zadar rebelled against Venice. The Hungarian king, however, didn’t offer any meaningful support due to entanglements with affairs in Naples. The rebellion failed, and Venice punished the city with unprecedented austerity.14 Louis I launched another war against Venice in 1356–1358, from which he emerged triumphant. His victory was crowned by the Peace of Zadar on February 18, 1358, which made him the ruler of all Dalmatia.15

The Comes of Zadar and Hungarian Administration in Dalmatia

In order to further a more nuanced understanding of the place of Zadar within the Kingdom of Hungary, I will first analyze the relationship between the secular leadership of the town, especially the so-called comes (a position in the hierarchy of feudal Europe comparable to a count) who governed Zadar, and the royal administration in Dalmatia (Croatia). Before delving into the matter in detail, however, it is worth taking a moment to note that, as mentioned in the overview above, in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, Zadar came under the rule of the Kingdom of Hungary only temporarily, sometimes for no more than one or two decades. It was only after 1358 that the city found itself under Hungarian rule continuously, for periods of several decades. For this reason and also because of the scarcity of surviving sources, it is not possible to offer an in-depth analysis of the place of the city in the Árpád Era. When Zadar fell under the rule of the Hungarian king, this did not bring significant changes to the administration of the city. The only real shift concerned the terms used for the city leader. The term that had been in use, prior, was replaced with the aforementioned term, comes.16 The surviving sources offer the names of two comeses in Zadar in the decade between 1105 and 1116: Cesar, who is mentioned in a document from 1105 and was probably of Hungarian origin,17 and Kledin, who must have held the title around 1116.18 Some Croatian historians have suggested that they were one and the same person and that Kledin had in fact assumed leadership of Zadar in 1105, but his name was written incorrectly in the document.19 The name Cesar is not found in any other document, while there are many sources about Kledin, assuming that the two were not identical. After Croatia and Dalmatia had fallen under the control of the Hungarian crown, King Coloman made Kledin the ban (who was a representative of royal power), though we do not know precisely when. The sources are admittedly scarce, but it is nonetheless not unreasonable to assume that there was an overlap between his time in office as ban and his tenure as comes of Zadar. His name is also mentioned in the Zadar laudes, which the denizens of the city were required to sing in honor of the king during certain festive days.20 As mentioned above, the sources are scarce, but we know of no other city that had a Hungarian comes in the early twelfth century. Split was the only settlement in which the surviving sources indicate that a representative of the Hungarian king ended up, though Manasses did not become a comes, but rather was archbishop of Split.21 Thus, after having captured Dalmatia, Coloman placed his man at the head of the ecclesiastical and secular center of the region, which also had a particularly important military-defensive role, especially in the case of Kledin. In 1116, the ban defended the city against Venice, and he did so with the royal Hungarian armies under his command. After Coloman’s death, Zadar ended up in the hands of Venice, and though the city rose up against Venetian rule several times, hoping instead to come under the rule of the Hungarian king, this situation did not change until 1181.22 After the triumphant military campaign led by Béla III, Zadar remained in Hungarian hands for more than 20 years. Béla III made Maurus the comes of Zadar,23 who also held the office of ban of the maritime region (a position created in a somewhat ad hoc manner next to the bans of Slavonia) in 1182.24 Maurus was succeeded in 1183 by Damianus, who remained comes of the city until his death in 1199.25 Damianus referred to himself as comes by the grace of God and the king, which indicates that his appointment to this position was not simply the result of a decision reached by the city but rather was the consequence of direct royal intervention.26 We find a similar example in the mid-thirteenth century, when the posts of comes of Trogir and comes of Split were held by the bans of Slavonia.27 In 1251, Mihailo the castellan of Klis, who had been entrusted by ban Stephen to serve in the position of comes of Split, referred to himself as comes of Split by the grace of God and the king and the consent of the ban.28

Turning back to Zadar, the fact that Damianus remained in the position of comes in Zadar until his death offers a clear indication of the influence and power of the king. In addition to his position as leader of the city, the sources also indicate that he was the ban of the maritime region in 1188.29 The essential common point in their careers was that both Maurus and Damianus were given the title of ban of the maritime region for one year when the Kingdom of Hungary was at war with Venice.30 When Zadar fell back into Hungarian hands in 1242, there was no similar pattern of events, which was perhaps because Hungary was not able to assert its rule in the city. It was not until 1311 that the municipal administration and the Hungarian royal administration again merged. Mladen Šubić seized the city in the name of King Charles I of Hungary and assumed the office of comes, which he held for two years, from 1312 as ban of Croatia, until Venice retook the city.31 It is worth noting, however, that Mladen’s position as someone who held two offices differed from the above examples. He was not appointed as the leading figure in the city by the Hungarian royal power but rather acquired this place himself. Charles I, after all, could hardly have been a powerful figure in the region at this time. Mladen used his own army to take the city, and his conquest of Zadar was not in the interests, first and foremost, of the Kingdom of Hungary, but rather furthered the consolidation of the power of the Šubić family in Dalmatia.32 After 1358, the Hungarian administration and the office of the comes of Zadar remained closely linked until the end of the reign of King Louis I in 1382. The ban of Dalmatia and Croatia, Nicholas Szécsi was the first person to serve in this office, a post he held from 1359 until 1366.33 He was followed by Kónya Szécsényi, who served as both ban and comes from 1366 until 1368.34 When Emeric Lackfi replaced Kónya as ban in 1368, he was also given the office of comes of Zadar in that year.35 Lackfi held both titles for one year and was succeeded in both by Simon Mauritius, who held these offices from 1369 until 1371.36 This pattern was broken by Peter Bellante in 1371–1372, who was not a ban of Croatia and Dalmatia, but rather received the titles of comes of Počitelj and Bužan from the king.37 In 1372, John de Surdis, who was Bishop of Vác and royal governor of Dalmatia and Croatia, became the comes for a short time.38 His brother, Rafael, succeeded him that same year, who held the same two posts and later was made archbishop of Esztergom.39 It is worth noting that at the time, the title of ban of Croatia and Dalmatia was held by the Duke Charles of Durazzo, 40 and thus really the person who replaced him was given the title of comes. It should also be noted that, from the perspective of Zadar, Charles of Durazzo occupies something of a special place in the succession of Hungarian kings and dukes of Slavonia. After receiving the title of duke of Slavonia from Louis I in 1370, he made Zadar his seat and established his court there, thus transforming the city into the administrative center of the territories south of the Drava Rive and he was the first duke who made a Dalmatian town his seat since the beginning of the twelfth century.41 Although Nicholas Szécsi became the ban of Croatia and Dalmatia first in 1374–1375 and again in 1376,42 he only acquired the office of comes of Zadar in 1378, and he held it until 1380.43 He was succeeded by Emeric Bebek, who held both offices between 1380 and 1383.44 It is thus clear that the office of comes of Zadar and, first and foremost, the benefits that came with it belonged to the highest official representative of the king. The only exception to this was the brief period in 1371–1372, when the office was held by ban Peter Bellante.45 If we compare the position of comes of Zadar with the office of comes in other cities, we find only one case in which there was a similar pattern during the rule of Louis I. The admiral of the royal fleet was permanently granted the title of comes of the islands of Brač, Hvar, Korčula, and Vis.46

As is evident from this discussion, during the period under study, the offices of comes and ban were closely related, but before diving into a detailed analysis of this, it is worth pausing to clarify exactly what the office of ban meant for each of the people listed above who held this title. When King Coloman conquered Dalmatia, he placed a ban at the head of Croatia and Dalmatia whose Latin name for a long time was simply banus. This term remained in general use until about 1235. After the power of the ban was extended to the territories south of the Drava River at the end of the twelfth century, beginning in the 1220s, the title of ban of all Slavonia gradually came into widespread use, and the territory that belonged to this office covered most of the lands south of the Drava including Croatia and the Dalmatian towns under Hungarian rule.47 The ban of whole Slavonia was replaced on an ad hoc basis by the aforementioned bans of the maritime region in areas along the coast and in Croatia48 until, towards the end of the thirteenth century, the office of ban of Croatia was separated from the office of ban of Slavonia, first under the reign of Nicholas, son of Stephen (I) from the kindred Gutkeled, and then under Paul Šubić.49 Under Louis I, the division survived, and the Dalmatian-Croatian territories and Slavonia were governed by separate bans. The rulers of the Árpád Era and those of the Angevin Era placed their own comeses at the head of Zadar, ignoring the city’s right to elect the person to hold this office. In the Árpád period, too, there was a connection between the office of the comes of Zadar and the office of the ban. In the case of Kledin, given the scarcity of sources, we do not know whether he held the two titles at the same time from 1105 onwards, but there was clearly some overlap between the two around 1116. Maurus and Damianus, who served as comeses of Zadar in the 1180s, both held the title of the ban of the maritime region, though only for one year each, at least as far as one can tell on the basis of the surviving sources. Since with regards to Maurus’ position as comes we only have data from 1182, we can presume that there was indeed some overlap in the period when he held this office and the period when he served as ban of the maritime region. In the case of Damianus, however, though he served as comes for a long time, he held the position of ban of the maritime region only briefly during this period. Both Maurus and Damianus were given the title in a time of war, when Béla III was fighting Venice for control of the Dalmatian cities and the comeses of Zadar also served as the commanders of the royal forces. The combination of the office of comes with that of ban in the Árpád Era was really more a matter of necessity than anything else, as it enabled the king to ensure that he had a reliable representative of royal interests at the head of the most important trading city in Dalmatia and also made it possible to organize the military defense of the territory more effectively as the ban was the commander of the royal forces in the region. In the Angevin era, it was a priority to protect the city against Venice, and this could provide the motivation to link the two offices. Another reason behind the linking could be that the office of comes of Zadar was one of the most lucrative municipal positions in all Dalmatia so the royal appointment was a huge financial honor as well for the recipients. Furthermore, Hungarian King Louis I exercised his prerogative to choose the leaders of the Dalmatian cities (the city of Dubrovnik was an exception, as it enjoyed full autonomy).50 The comeses were appointed by him, and the city councils could make decisions concerning who held the office only as a matter of form.51 The comeses usually did not exercise their functions in practice, but rather entrusted them to a deputy, especially in the case of the larger cities. As will be clear later, these offices were used by the ruler to reward his supporters in a given settlement and build a local elite, and Zadar was no exception. In the period between 1358 and 1382, with only one exception, the person who was given the title of comes of Zadar was a local representative of royal power, either the ban or the vicarius generalis.

Zadar as the Hungarian Economic Center of Dalmatia

Among the Dalmatian cities, Zadar was not only the most important political center, it was also one of the most important economic center and trade hub, alongside Dubrovnik and Kotor. The development and economic structure of the Dalmatian settlements varied considerably: some towns relied primarily on trade with the Balkan interior (Dubrovnik), while others built economies on agriculture among others. Zadar was important and strong in no small part because of its excellent location, but also due to its close relationship with the Croatian hinterland and its spontaneous integration with it. Over the course of the twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth centuries, while this hinterland was primarily part of Hungary and Zadar was under the control of Venice, the symbiosis between the two nonetheless grew steadily stronger. Agriculture was the economic driving force of the city thanks to this expansive hinterland, as well as the salt trade, which began playing an increasingly important role in the city’s economy after 1358. Salt was produced mostly on the nearby island of Pag,52 and the income from this and from the salt trade became the city’s main source of wealth.53 The policies of the rulers in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries gave the Dalmatian cities a remarkably high degree of autonomy and did not integrate either Croatia or Dalmatia into the Kingdom of Hungary, so the economic institutions, taxes, and other duties in place in the Hungarian territories were unknown in the cities, including Zadar. The only income to which the king had claim was a third of the port toll.54 Furthermore, according to data from the thirteenth century, the obligation to provide accommodation to the king was only introduced later.55 As the influence of the royal court in the region was weak during the reign of Charles I, no significant changes took place. After the conquest of the area by Louis I in 1358, however, Hungarian policy differed significantly from the prevailing practices of the previous centuries. Louis I sought to link Dalmatia and Croatia into the Kingdom of Hungary more and strengthen his authority, and so new economic institutions began to appear in the region.

These institutions mostly affected the salt trade and trade in general. With regards to the salt trade, there is no indication in any of the sources that the Hungarian rulers of the Árpád Era interfered in any way in the regulations in Zadar, nor is there any sign that they levied any taxes or customs duties. As the statutes from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries make abundantly clear, Zadar’s ambition (and indeed the ambition of every city on the seaside) was to hold a monopoly on the salt trade in all the cities. This economic aspiration clashed with the politics of Louis I when the city came under Hungarian rule in 1358. Instead of adopting policies similar to those of his predecessors and allowing the city to enjoy a considerable degree of autonomy, the Hungarian king seized the monopoly on the salt trade and introduced a new tax, the tricesima or thirtieth, in Croatia and Dalmatia. The conclusion of the Treaty of Zadar also meant the establishment of the Dalmatian-Croatian salt and thirtieth tax chamber.56 We do not know the precise date of this, given the lack of sources, but it must have taken place shortly after Hungary took control of the region, because a charter from Trogir dated August 5, 1359 makes clear reference to the payment of the thirtieth and the ways in which salt was traded.57 It is worth noting, however, that Dubrovnik was an exception when it came to the efforts of the Hungarian ruler to integrate the cities of Dalmatia into his kingdom, due to the Treaty of Visegrád between the king of Hungary and the town, as the chamber did not expand its influence to this city in the relatively distant south, and it was not brought into the Hungarian tax system. The chamber existed until the beginning of the fifteenth century and only ceased to function when Venice captured the city of Zadar in 1409. Thanks to its prominence and the position and natural features of the city, Zadar became the center of the Hungarian economic administration in Dalmatia. Regrettably, very little information has survived concerning the functioning of the chamber, but we can be plausibly assumed that the leader of the Zadar chamber also stood at the head of the Dalmatian-Croatian salt and thirtieth chamber and that this was also the largest source of local income for the king. Baltasar de Sorba, admiral of the royal navy, was the first known manager of the chamber, a position he assumed in 1366. He was succeeded by Frisonus de Protto, the vicar of Senj, who served until 1369. In 1372, George de Zadulino, a patrician from Zadar, was at the head of the chamber.58 In the mid-1370s, however, control of the chamber was taken over by Florentines, who assumed an ever-larger role in the salt trade, alongside the Zadar merchants who earlier had held the leading positions.

The presence of the king of Hungary meant not simply the introduction of new institutions but also significant changes for the cities, especially Zadar and Dubrovnik, from the perspective of trade. Venice, which earlier had dominated trade along the shores of the Adriatic Sea, was pushed to the margins, and the rival Dalmatian cities—in particular Zadar, which had endured harsh retaliations after 1345—suddenly had a chance to rise to positions of influence, and Zadar become the Hungarian trading center along the Adriatic. The Venetians, who previously had not had to pay any duties, were obliged to pay the thirtieth, and the Hungarian king ensured that the cities could trade freely on the Adriatic.59 The king did not simply make Zadar the administrative economic center, he also regarded the city as one of the major trading powers of the Kingdom of Hungary. To facilitate the flow of goods, Louis I also strove to improve trade between Dalmatia and the Saxon cities around Hermannstadt (or Nagyszeben by its Hungarian name and Sibiu by its current Romanian name) in Transylvania and Pressburg (or Pozsony by its Hungarian name and Bratislava by its current Slovak name). In 1361, the king exempted the citizens of Pressburg from customs duties on goods imported from Dalmatia, in particular from Zadar, with the stipulation only that they pay the Zadar thirtieth.60 In 1366, the denizens of Pressburg were again granted an exemption, though this time there was no mention of any obligation to pay the Zadar thirtieth.61 In 1370, the king granted a similar exemption to the people of Hermannstadt, with the provision that they would pay no customs duties whatsoever except the Buda thirtieth.62 The Transylvanian city of Kronstadt (or Brassó by its Hungarian name and Braşov by its current Romanian name) was then granted a similar exemption, and later the king exempted all the merchants in the country from the obligation to pay customs duties on trade between Buda and Zadar.63 By the 1370s, Zadar had become the driving force and firmly established center of Hungarian trade on the Adriatic.

The Denizens of Zadar as Knights of the Court: The Dalmatian Elite of King Louis I

One of the interesting features of Hungarian rule in the Árpád Era was that the cities were given a relatively high degree of autonomy. The royal court had no permanent representative in Dalmatia, and the rulers very rarely interfered in the election of city officials. The office of the comes of Zadar, however, was an exception, and there was a period during the reign of Béla IV in which the same was true of the office of comes in the cities of Split and Trogir. As noted above, this situation changed after Louis I took the throne, as the new king regarded it as his prerogative to appoint the people who would serve as comes. Also, with the connecting of Croatia and Dalmatia into the Kingdom of Hungary, Hungarian institutions and officials became common in the region.

Under the reign of King Louis I, with the flowering of chivalric culture, the number of knights of the court (miles aulae regiae) increased,64 and this was true of Dalmatia as well, where for the most part the knights were denizens of Zadar.65 Ágnes Kurcz has already called attention to the unusually large number of knights in the court who were from Dalmatia and, first and foremost, Zadar.66 This tendency is also significant because the knights of the court were among the king’s closest circle of consorts, and they were rewarded by the monarch with prominent offices and missions. Two members of the de Georgio family from the city of Zadar were among the knights of the court. The name Francis is mentioned in sources from 1345 as a member of the Zadar delegation which sought military assistance against Venice,67 and his son Paul is first referred to with this title in the sources from 1377.68 Among the members of the Cesamis family, Jacob was the first to be given this title by Louis I. He was held captive by Venice until 1352 after taking part in the rebellion in 1345.69 He was first mentioned in the sources as a knight of the court in 1358, before the Peace of Zadar, when, together with Daniel de Varicasso and George de Georgio, he came before Louis I as a delegate from Zadar to ask the king to confirm the old privileges the city had enjoyed.70 Stephen de Nosdrogna (Stephanus de Jadra) was probably one of the first of the denizens of Zadar to be given the title of knight, and he is mentioned as such in a source from 1358.71 John de Grisogono was a member of the Zadar delegation that sought out King Louis in 1357 and asked him to put the city under his protection. One can plausibly assume that he was granted the title in connection with the role he played as part of this delegation.72 Paul de Grubogna first appeared before the king as a figure of some influence in 1345, when, together with Francis de Georgio he too went as part of a delegation to the Hungarian king’s court.73 Unlike his predecessors, Mafej de Matafaris did not catch the attention of the king in the 1340s and 1350s, as he was too young to have done so. He was first mentioned in the sources as a knight in 1376.74 Jacob de Varicasso is first mentioned in the sources from 1357, when he appeared before the king as a member of the aforementioned delegation from Zadar, and presumably, like John de Grisogono, he was knighted at the time, though in the sources, he was only referred to by this title in 1363.75

The knights of the court had very different family, economic, and political backgrounds, and they caught the attention of the Hungarian king primarily during the wars against Venice or through later shows of personal valor. Some of them hailed from families in the Croatian hinterland, and they maintained their links with this territory, where they owned expansive estates. One finds among them members of the de Nosdrogna family, a branch of the Draginić family, who, in addition to having become part of the Zadar elite, gradually assumed control of the clan over the course of the fourteenth century, thanks in no small part to the support of King Louis I. In 1359, the Hungarian king gave the estates which had belonged to the Grabovčane branch of the Draginić family (which had died out in the meantime) to Francis de Nosdrogna, and they continued to acquire territories which had belonged to their kindred but had been left without an heir.76 The Cesamis family, who begin to be mentioned in the Zadar sources from the thirteenth century, also came to the city from the Croatian hinterland.77 The de Varicasso family followed a similar path, also appearing in Zadar in the thirteenth century.78 The first mention of the de Georgio family dates to the thirteenth century. Initially, they did not have any considerable influence in Zadar. This shifted because of Francis and the role he accepted in the court of Louis I.79 The de Grubogna family begins to pop up in the sources from the twelfth century onwards, and members of the clan held offices of various importance in the city. Their rise in prominence is linked to the name of Paul, a member of the family who distinguished himself before Louis I.80 The de Grisogono and de Matafaris families were among the oldest and most influential members of the Zadar nobility, both economically and politically.81 The de Matafaris also had a special place among the members of the Angevin dynasty, and they were in close association with them and supported the family’s ambitions both in Zadar and the region well before the accession of Charles I to the throne.82 Indeed, the family included the lily in its coat-of-arms because of its ties to the Angevins.83 Of the families to which the knights of the court belonged, the de Varicasso, de Matafaris, and de Grisogono clans were among the economically elite of Zadar, and they were the only such families about which we know that they were involved in the salt trade.84 The other people from Zadar who belonged to the elite around King Louis I derived their incomes primarily from their extensive land holdings, their acquired offices, and their royal mandates, and they were more dependent on the whims and wishes of the court than the families listed above.85

The Zadar elite occupied a much higher place in the royal court than the ruling stratum of any other Dalmatian city. Louis I relied on the aforementioned knights of the court who were part of his closest circles for diplomatic and military matters in Dalmatia and Croatia. They took part in missions entrusted to them by the ruler, for instance when John de Grisogono and Jacob Cesamis, together with Dalmatian-Croatian ban Nicholas Szécsi, negotiated with the Venetian envoys on questions which arose in the wake of the war.86 Mafej de Matafaris was among the confidantes of Queen Elizabeth who helped her make a reliquary dedicated to Saint Simon.87 In 1373, because of the war underway with Venice, King Louis I ordered de Georgio to leave his position as comes of Trogir and return to Zadar, where he was made commander of the military forces.88 The aforementioned charter of 1377 issued by Queen Elizabeth lists him and his son Paul, who was also a knight of the court, as confidantes in the matter of the relic, much as it lists de Matafaris. In 1381, he took part as a delegate of the Hungarian king in the Hungarian-Venetian negotiations before the Peace of Turin, and he played an important role in the Hungarian takeover of Kotor.89 Louis I used other means, in addition to these kinds of missions, to show his favor for his closest loyal supporters from Zadar. He regarded it as his right to appoint the person to serve as comes, as the case of Split in 1367 clearly illustrates. The city wanted to elect the Dalmatian-Croatian ban to serve as comes, but the king ordered them to choose his candidate,90 the aforementioned John de Grisogono, who was entrusted with several offices by Louis I after 1358. He held the title of comes of Nin from 1359 to 1369,91 and from 1363 to 1369 he was comes of Split.92 Mafej de Matafaris held this office between 1374 and 1379.93 In 1358, Jacob Cesamis was given the title of admiral of the emerging Hungarian fleet in the Adriatic,94 which he held until his death in 1366.95 Stephen de Nosdrogna served as comes of Omiš from 1358, but the few surviving sources do not reveal when his term in this office came to an end.96 Stephen also was made deputy to ban Nicholas Szécsi in Šibenik, where the latter was also head of the city.97 In 1358, Francis de Georgio was given the office of comes of Trogir by King Louis I,98 a position which was taken from him in 1373 by Paul, the son of the knight of the court, for one year99 because of de Georgio’s duties in Zadar. Later, Francis held the title again until the end of 1377.100 Paul was given the office again in 1384, and he also held the position of comes of Rab from 1376 to 1378. In no other Dalmatian city did the elite manage to secure for themselves positions of influence comparable to the offices held by the Zadar elite, nor for that matter did any other Dalmatian city have among its leaders, people of such prominence in the Hungarian administration. Alongside the denizens of Zadar, the control of the cities was mainly in the hands of the leaders of the Hungarian royal administration, such as the ban or the admiral. The knights of the court from Zadar, furthermore, were not the only ones who benefitted from the privileges of their positions. Their extended families also enjoyed similar advantages. Like Jacob Cesamis, his son Mathias was made admiral of the Hungarian fleet under the reign of Queen Mary.101 Like Francis de Georgio, his son Paul was given the title of knight of the court, and, as noted in the discussion above, the king rewarded him with various offices. In the case of Philipp, brother of Stephen de Nosdrogna, the sources do not offer any indication that he ever had the title of knight, but he held important positions in the Dalmatian administration. Between 1361 and 1366, he was castellan of Omiš, and he also had jurisdiction over the market of Drijeva at the mouth of the Neretva River at the order of the ban.102 Alongside these individuals who enjoyed advantages because of the influence of their family members, several members of the de Grubogna, de Varicasso, Cesamis, de Grisogono, and de Georgio families served as vicars in the Dalmatian cities in the second half of the fourteenth century.103

As a last point in this discussion, it is worth noting in connection with the role of Zadar that, as the Angevin center of Dalmatia, the city had a strong economic and political appeal for the people who settled in it. In addition to the figures mentioned above, several members of the Dalmatian elite of Louis I settled in the city in the second half of the fourteenth century. Although their prominence was not linked to this move, their very presence in the city is a clear indication of Zadar’s appeal and its economic and political importance. Among these individuals, one should mention Baltasar de Sorba, the admiral of the king, who was born in Genoa, and his son, Rafael de Sorba, who, like the people discussed above, was given a knighthood and lived in Zadar even after Louis I had died. Admiral Simon Doria, also from Genoa, settled in Zadar, and he was accompanied by his brothers Hugolin and Bartol. Frisonus de Protto from Senj, who was among the leaders of the salt and thirtieth chamber, also moved to Zadar, as did jurist Jacob de Raduchio, also from Senj. Jacob de Raduchio was very close to King Louis I, having served as comes of Trogir between 1377 and 1379 and having participated in the negotiations for the Peace of Turin. Over the course of the years, de Raduchio became a respected member of the Zadar elite, and his descendants played significant roles as prominent denizens of the city. 104


In the Árpád and Angevin Eras, both capturing and holding the Dalmatian city of Zadar were among the main goals of the Hungarian rulers. The city fell into the hands of the Hungarian kings for only brief periods during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, but the occupation of Zadar by Louis I in 1358 ushered in almost five decades of Hungarian rule. While the Árpád rulers had granted the cities considerable autonomy and had only rarely interfered in their internal affairs, Louis I began the process of the economic and political integration of the maritime territories into the Kingdom of Hungary. Zadar had been the political center of Dalmatia since the early Middle Ages, and this did not change under Hungarian rule. It is thus not surprising, given the city’s importance, that for the whole period under study, the Hungarian kings intervened in some way in the election of its leaders. In the Árpád period, the comes could be a person appointed by the monarch, who could also hold the office of ban on an ad hoc basis if the foreign policy and military exigencies so dictated. In contrast, under the reign of Louis I, the king considered it his right to appoint the person to serve as comes, and the office was linked to the position of the ban or to the highest local official of the king’s court. Zadar also emerged as the center of Hungarian economic administration and trade in Dalmatia, and although the rights of the city to control of the salt trade were curtailed, the conditions created by Louis I brought prosperity to Zadar. The local Dalmatian elite consisted almost without exception of people from Zadar. In contrast to the rulers of the Árpád Era, Louis I did not seek to win over the local political elite in order to secure his hold on power. Rather, he strove to create his own elite, based on the knights of the court, among whom the knights who hailed from Zadar were in the vast majority in Dalmatia. These knights, like the elite of Louis I in Poland, for example, did not play any part in the affairs of other parts of the country, but they occupied a very prominent and influential place in the governance of Dalmatia and Croatia.

Archival Sources

Arhiv Samostana Sv. Marije u Zadru [Archive of the Monastery of Saint Mary in Zadar] (ASM)

Kaptolski arhiv u Splitu [Chapter Archive of Split]

Nadbiskupski Arhiv u Splitu [Archbishopric Archive in Split] (NAS)

MS 528, 531–542 Rukopisna građa Ivana Lučića

Hrvatski Državni Arhiv u Zadru [Croatian State Archive in Zadar]

HR–DAZD–31-ZB Petrus Perençanus

Magyar Nemzeti Levéltár Országos Levéltára [Hungarian State Archives] (MNL OL)

Diplomatikai Fényképgyűjtemény (DF)


Printed sources:

CDCr = Codex diplomaticus regni Croatiae, Sclavoniae et Dalmatiae. Vol. 1–18. Edited by Tadija Smičiklas. Zagreb: JAZU, 1904–1934.

Inventari = Inventari fonda veličajne općine zadarske Državnog arhiva u Zadru godine 1325–1385 [Inventar of the fonds of the Municipality of Zadar in the Zadar State Archive 1325–1385]. Edited by Robert Leljak. Zadar: Državni arhiv u Zadru, 2006.

Listine = Listine o odnošajih izmedju južnoga Slavenstva i Mletačke Republike [Documents on the relations between the Southern Slavs and the Republic of Venice]. Vol. 1–10. Edited by Šime Ljubić. Zagreb: Albrecht, 1868–1891.

Rački, Franjo. “Notae Joannis Lucii.” Starine (JAZU) 13 (1881): 211–68.

Thomae archidiaconi Spalatensis Historia Salonitanorum atque Spalatinorum pontificium. Edited by Damir Karbić, Mirjana Matijević-Sokol, and James Sweeney. Budapest: CEU Press, 2006.

UGDS = Urkundenbuch zur Geschichte der Deutschen in Siebenbürgen. Vol. 1–7. Edited by Gustav Gündisch et al. Hermannstadt–Bucharest: Franz Michaelis, Georg Olms. 1892–1991.


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1* The research on which this article is based was supported by the Ministry of Innovation and Technology from the National Research, Development, and Innovation Fund of the Ministry of Innovation and Technology (NKFI Fund), on the basis of the TKP2021-NKTA-15 support charter.

Klaić and Petricioli, Zadar, 96.

2 Nikolić, “Madijevci,” 10.

3 Gál, Dalmácia helye, 11.

4 Pauler, A magyar nemzet, 201.

5 Gál, Dalmácia helye, 12–13.

6 1102: CDCr, vol. 2, 9.

7 Györffy, “A 12. századi,” 49.

8 Makk, The Árpáds, 14, 18–21, 96–99; Ferluga, Vizantiska uprava, 127–53; Gál, Dalmácia helye, 14.

9 Klaić and Petricioli, Zadar, 165–69.

10 Thomae archidiaconi, 151.

11 Makk, The Árpáds, 122–23.

12 Karbić, “Šubići bribirski,” 18.

13 Klaić and Petricioli, Zadar, 212–15.

14 Bertényi, Nagy Lajos, 60–62; Klaić and Petricioli, Zadar, 291–315.

15 Brković, “Ugovor.”

16 Novak, Povijest Splita, 300.

17 1105: CDCr, vol. 2, 15.

18 1116–1117: CDCr, vol. 2, 393.

19 Lončar, “Pjesma na grobu,” 48.,

20 1116–1117: CDCr, vol. 2, 393.

21 Gál, Dalmácia helye, 41–42.

22 Makk, The Árpáds, 14.

23 February, 1182: CDCr, vol. 2, 179–81.

24 February, 1182: CDCr, vol. 2, 180.

25 First mention: February 9, 1183: CDCr, vol. 2, 184. Last mention: October 3, 1199: CDCr, vol.2, 326–28.

26 “…dei dominique Hungarici regis gratia eiusdem ciuitatis comes Dalmacieque princeps…” – March 28, 1188: CDCr, vol. 2, 223–24.

27 Gál, Dalmácia helye, 128–31.

28 “Dei gracia et regie maiestatis et consensu Stephani ban comes Spalatensis” – October, 1251: CDCr, vol. 4, 461.

29 March 28, 1188: CDCr, vol. 2, 223.

30 Jászay, Velence és Magyarország, 20.

31 October 21, 1311: CDCr, vol. 8, 295.

32 Karbić, “Šubići bribirski,” 19; Engel, Archontológia, vol. 1, 22.

33 April 23, 1359: CDCr, vol. 12, 564; November 17, 1366: CDCr, vol. 13, 587; Engel, Archontológia, vol. 1, 23.

34 The first mention of Kónya Szécsényi as comes is found in the records of the notary Petrus Perençanus, held in the notarial records of the Zadar State Archives, on December 6, 1366. l. HR-DAZD-31-ZB Petrus Perençanus, b. 1, fasc. 4. fol. 7–8; February 1368: CDCr, vol. 14, 117–18; Engel, Archontológia, vol. 1, 23.

35 May 5, 1368: CDCr, vol. 14, 129; February 25, 1369: CDCr, vol. 14, 175; Engel, Archontológia, vol. 1, 23.

36 June 5, 1369: CDCr, vol. 14, 193; March 9, 1371: CDCr, vol. 14, 311; Engel, Archontológia, vol. 1, 23.

37 March 6, 1371: CDCr, vol. 14, 309; June 21, 1371: CDCr, vol. 14, 356; March 23, 1372: CDCr, vol. 14. 411.

38 June 28, 1372: CDCr, vol. 14, 426; Engel, Archontológia, vol. 1, 23.

39 November 1, 1372: CDCr, vol. 14, 458; March 12, 1373: CDCr, vol. 14, 502; April 24, 1378: CDCr, vol. 15, 360.

40 Engel, Archontológia, vol. 1, 23.

41 Klaić and Petricioli, Zadar, 335.

42 Engel, Archontológia, vol. 1, 23–24.

43 October 28, 1378: Inventari, vol. 1, no. 39; October 18, 1380: CDCr, vol. 16, 3, 128.

44 December 31, 1380: CDCr, vol. 16, 140; June 20, 1383: CDCr, vol. 16, 373; Engel, Archontológia, vol. 1, 24.

45 Engel, Archontológia, vol. 1, 23.

46 Juhász, “A késő Anjou-kori,” 7; Klaić, “Admirali ratne mornarice,” 36–37.

47 Zsoldos, “Egész Szlavónia,” 269–81.

48 Gál, Dalmácia helye, 117.

49 Zsoldos, Magyarország világi, 48.

50 Gál, “A dalmáciai városkiváltságok,” 264.

51 Ibid., 269.

52 Granić, “Paško-zadarski odnosi,” 67–79.

53 Dokoza, “Zadarsko plemstvo i sol,” 86.

54 Gál, Dalmácia helye, 97–110.

55 Ibid., 99.

56 Raukar, “Zadarska trgovina,” 24.

57 August 5, 1359: CDCr, vol. 12, 589–92.

58 Raukar, “Zadarska trgovina,” 25–26.

59 Fekete, A magyar-dalmát, 52–53.

60 January 23, 1361: MNL OL, DF 238 791.

61 February 21, 1366: DF 238 835.

62 1370: UGDS, vol. 2, 337–39.

63 1370: UGDS, vol. 2, 361.

64 Veszprémy, “Az Anjou-kori,”12.

65 Kurcz, A lovagi kultúra, 290–97.

66 Ibid., 27.

67 Grbavac, “Prilog,” 38.

68 Grbavac, “Zadarski plemići,” 95.

69 Ibid., 97.

70 February 10, 1358: CDCr, vol. 12, 451–52.

71 July 27, 1358: CDCr, vol. 12, 497.

72 Grbavac, “Zadarski plemići,” 103.

73 December 31, 1345: CDCr, vol. 11, 260–61.

74 Grbavac, “Zadarski plemići,” 107.

75 Ibid., 109.

76 Majnarić, Plemstvo zadarskog zaleđa, 227–30.

77 Grbavac, “Zadarski plemići,” 96.

78 Ibid., 109.

79 Ibid., 93.

80 Ibid., 105.

81 Dokoza and Radauš, “Grisogono,” 205–10; Grbavac, “Zadarski plemići,” 106.

82 On the relationship of Zadar and the Angevins before 1301: Peričić, “Zadar,” 31–46.

83 Babić, “Anžuvinski biljezi,” 323.

84 Ibid., 101.

85 On the families and historical demography of medieval Zadar, see Đokoza and Andreis, Zadarsko plemstvo, 74–77, 81–591.

86 January 16, 1360: Ljubić, Listine, vol. 4, 17–20.

87 July 5, 1377: CDCr, vol. 15, 296.

88 Grbavac, “Zadarski plemići,” 95.

89 August 8, 1381: Listine, vol. 4, 163–69.

90 June 30, 1367: CDCr, vol. 14, 52.

91 October 1, 1359: CDCr, vol. 12, 629; May 2, 1369: ASM, sv. 4., nr. 259.

92 November 29, 1372: ASM, SSR, nr. 1183; January 22, 1369: Kaptolski arhiv u Splitu, MS. 64. fol. 13.

93 September 17, 1374: NAS, Rukopisna građa Ivana Lučića Lucius, MS 536. fol. 118; January 25, 1379: Rački, “Notae,” 243.

94 February 10, 1358: CDCr, vol. 12, 451–52.

95 Grbavac, “Zadarski plemići,” 98.

96 November 4, 1358: CDCr, vol. 12, 520–21.

97 Grbavac, “Zadarski plemići,” 101.

98 November 22, 1358: CDCr, vol. 12, 528.

99 March 26, 1373: CDCr, vol. 14, 504.

100 October 18, 1377: CDCr, vol. 15, 319.

101 Grbavac, “Zadarski plemići,” 98.

102 Ibid., 102.

103 June 22, 1383: CDCr, vol. 16, 375; December 10, 1373: NAS MS 536. fol. 118. etc.

104 Begonja, “Zadarsko plemstvo,” 194–200.


Silver and Spices in the Runtinger Trade with Prague

Isabel Scheltens
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Hungarian Historical Review Volume 11 Issue 3  (2022):622–646 DOI 10.38145/2022.3.622

In the late medieval period, a prominent trade route led from Prague through Regensburg to Venice. Silver mined in the Bohemian hinterland was traded for luxury items from the Near East. The Regensburg merchant house of Runtinger made vast profits by buying cloth and luxuries cheaply in Venice—in particular spices from India—and selling them in exchange for comparatively large quantities of silver in Prague. This study treats their ledger, Das Runtingerbuch (1383–1407), as a case study for an analysis of the Prague economy. The Runtingers sold the same types of spices and cloth in Regensburg and in Prague during the same span of years, which makes it possible to use their records as sources with which to compare the two markets. The Runtingers are shown to have market power in the Prague spice market but no market power in the Prague cloth market or the Regensburg markets. The reasons for these market differences are theorized in reference to the socioeconomic positions of the Regensburg and Bohemian elites. Luxury items were traded for silver or silver coins, constituting a continuous drain of silver from Bohemia towards Regensburg, which led to a degree of stagnation in the local economy in Bohemia.

Keywords: Runtingers, Das Runtingerbuch, silver, spices, long-distance trade


“In Bohemia, a pig eats more saffron in a year than a German in his whole life,” notes a German chronicler.1 Trivial as this contention may seem, to understand this Bohemian taste for Eastern spices, one must grasp a complex web of trade routes and the shifting interests of those who desired, sought, and sold these luxury items and got rich along the way. The Bohemian taste for Indian spices underscores the character of European economy and European society. It also offers a perspective from which to study the evolution of this economy and this society. Bohemia was in many ways an obscure and ignored corner of medieval Europe. Connected to the surrounding lands only by dangerous roads through dense forests and bypassed by the main thoroughfares of trade, it was ruled by a lesser-known local dynasty. Bohemia remained largely ignored in the early medieval period. With the discovery of silver in the thirteenth century, much changed. Bohemia was thrust into an important role in the European economy, which came to rely heavily on Central European silver for coins. Demand for silver was particularly strong in the city-states of northern Italy, which maintained an unfavorable trade balance all over the Mediterranean. Meanwhile, suddenly acquired wealth caused sudden demand in Bohemia for Mediterranean luxuries. South German merchants took advantage of geography to become middlemen and make a handsome profit.

The impact of Bohemian silver on the rest of Europe has been well explained,2 but what of the effect of Europe on Bohemia? Only vague answers have been given to this question, in part because Bohemian traders left only three fragments of their records behind.3 Thankfully, their south German counterparts were somewhat more thorough. Few ledgers have survived,4 but Das Runtingerbuch contains surprisingly complete information about Bohemia over a relatively wide timespan. Based on the available sources, it also can be said to offer an adequately detailed record of contemporary Regensburg long-distance trade during the period in question.5 This makes it useful material for a case study. The Runtinger family of Regensburg emerged as merchants in the late 1300s and early 1400s. Das Runtingerbuch records the years between 1383 and 1407. Runtinger activities varied widely. They operated a mint, held public office in Regensburg, and dealt in Flemish cloth.6 They also traded with Bohemia and Venice. Although this ledger has been thoroughly studied as a source on economic and civic life in southern Germany, it has not been extensively used to analyze the Bohemian economy.

This article focuses on spices for many reasons: they were the most profitable item sold; they can be easily divided into subgroups, such as pepper, ginger, and cloves; they were bought and sold frequently; and they were sold both in Regensburg and in Prague. In other words, quantitative data on the same commodities are available for comparison across different years and different markets. Furthermore, spices not only position Bohemia in a much wider network of trade, but as exotic luxury items, their purchase offers an indication of the prosperity of the customers in a given year. All this raises the following questions: why were spices the most profitable part of the Runtinger trade with Prague? And what implications did this trade have for Prague and the greater Bohemian economy?

Silver and Spices in Bohemia and Venice

Before grappling with the ledger of a single company threading its way across a continent of jostling competitors, it is worth taking a moment to recall the established economic patterns within which the Runtingers acted. Both Central European silver and the Venetian spice trade affected Europe’s economy in fascinatingly profound ways; they not only bound geographically distant societies together by shared—if not always equal—interests, they were also catalysts for change within these societies over time.

Silver was discovered in several sites in Central Europe, first in Freiberg in Meissen in 1168, then in Jihlava around 1230s,7 and in Kutná Hora in the 1280s.8 The volume of output in Bohemia reached ten tons a year towards the end of the thirteenth century and 20 tons in the first half of the fourteenth.9 Some of this was used to make coins. Around 1300, more than six tons of coins were minted annually in Kutna Hora, which was the most prolific of these mines. Gold was also discovered in Banská Štiavnica, Slovakia, and in the early thirteenth century, these mines yielded around 600 kilograms a year.10 Later in the fourteenth century, more gold was mined in Kremnica.11 Burgeoning mining towns, each in turn the largest in Central Europe, stimulated the whole economy by generating centers of demand.12 Silver was also nearly the only serious Bohemian export. In the thirteenth century, wax and certain other regional products were exported. By the fourteenth century, few of these exports are mentioned in the sources.13 The wide availability of fabrics from the Low Countries also appears to have depressed the local industry in Bohemia.14 Thus, the overall tendency in Bohemia was to export raw materials in the form of precious metals and import finished products.

The wealthy elite in these areas naturally demanded all manner of luxurious paraphernalia. Spices certainly ranked high among them. Spices had a versatile and complex connotation, since they were used not only for cooking, but also as medicines and disease preventatives and in perfumes and as a liturgical incense. Spices were thought to promote the body’s equilibrium and come from a mysterious paradise just west of the garden of Eden.15 With the connotion of spices as wonderous in many ways, their use became an expensive mark of class distinction, indicating gracious and sophisticated sensual pleasure.16 The medieval category of spices was comparatively vague and expansive. It included dates, raisins, rice, dried grapes, aromatic but inedible substances, dyestuffs such as alum, madder, and indigo, medical borax, aloes, and dried rhubarb from China. Nevertheless, by far the most common spices were pepper—which amounted to two-thirds of the Venetian culinary spice import17—cinnamon, ginger, and saffron. Nutmeg, cloves, and galangal were also widely used, but in smaller amounts.18 Spices such as pepper and ginger were grown on the western coasts of southern India and Sri Lanka.19 Saffron, by contrast, was cultivated in the Mediterranean, especially Tuscany. Its expense was connected to the labor required to harvest it. Each crocus contains only three stigma, which meant it took 70,000 flowers to produce one pound.20

Although the spice trade had considerable cultural importance, its formed only a small fraction of total trade. Around 1400, Venice imported an estimated 500 or 1,000 tons a year.21 However, the extreme value of spices relative to their compact size meant that they dramatically impacted the balance of payments.22 While Europe imported thousands of ducats of goods from the east, far less in terms of value flowed in the other direction. The balance therefore had to be paid in coins. Table 1 indicates the balance of payments per year in the fifteenth century, as proposed by Peter Spufford with reference to Eliyahu Ashtor. A striking quantity of coins was paid eastward—net 370,000 Venetian ducats in coins on a total trade worth 660,000 ducats a year! This constituted an ongoing drain of Europe’s silver supply, so that Europe became dependent on continuous mining to support trade, upon which much of the developed economy came to be built. Indeed, Spufford argues that when silver mines dried up and closed down in the 1440s, the economy of Europe ground to a halt on all levels by the 1460s, plunging into a depression which lasted as long as the bullion famine.23

Regensburg, the Runtingers, and Their Ledger

During the late medieval period, expanded sea routes from Italy, the consequent decline of the Champagne fairs, 24 and the Central European boycott of Vienna conspired to give merchants from the Holy Roman Empire an expanded role in international trade. After the boycott of Vienna was codified in the 1335 treaty of Visegrád, Regensburg possessed a clear geographical advantage as a replacement intermediary between Prague and Venice. It was centrally located, and its vicinity to the Danube offered easy access to the Rhine.25 Autumn and Eastertide fairs in Frankfurt-am-Main supplied merchants in the Holy Roman Empire with cloth from the Low Countries. There, the northerners brought their goods from Russia, Scandinavia, and England, and the southerners brought their goods from Spain.26 Regensburgers sold wares from Frankfurt mostly in Vienna or Venice, while the Bohemian merchants found their own way west to Flanders and Brabant, competing fiercely enough to cause Holy Roman merchants to focus on exporting other items to Bohemia.27

Regensburg rapidly became the most important city in Bohemian trade, developing earlier and stronger ties with Prague even than Nuremberg. Even before the treaty of Visegrad, trade appeared to be regular and varied. The following goods were confiscated from Regensburger merchants in Prague, presumably on account of customs infractions: In 1321, seven merchants: 189 rolls of fustian, seven from Ypern, one from Tornai, and 80 pieces of fine linen, two knives and 30 schock 19 groschen. The fustian seems to have been produced in Regensburg. In 1324, 16 merchants: eight sacks and 289 pounds of saffron, 102 pieces of fustian, 40 pieces of cloth from Ypern, a hook, three horses, eight flutes, two loads of coins, seven pairs of scales, two pieces of fine linen, three rolls of rough cloth, three colts, two barrels of Italian wine, three pieces of white linen, a knife, a silver belt, and some cash.28 Clearly, many merchants and a wide variety of goods were involved, and a great deal of money as well.

The importance of Regensburg merchants to Venice was codified by their position in the Fondaco dei Tedeschi. Prominent cities had rooms at their private disposal—the Regensburgers possessed one called la volta di San Piro29and all “German” cities had representatives at a common table, where the Regensberg coat of arms took the highest place.30 Displeased, their rivals the Nurembergers31 tried to supersede by force in 1347–48.32 Because the Regensburgers owed their status as a free town partially to this position, they could not afford to lose. They dispatched merchants and money to the markets, buying more in a day than the Nurembergers could buy in a year. When the Nurembergers reprised the issue some years later, Matthäus Runtinger and Franz Pütreich of Regensburg beat them with sticks. The matter was brought before the Venetian doge, who, pressured by economic interests, granted the Regensburgers the highest place “forever.” 33

Matthäus’s role in this escapade hints at the Runtingers’ prominence in Regensburg. His father, Wilhelm Runtinger, married into the patriciate and rapidly rose to high public office. In 1388, he was appointed the Frager, who took absolute control in times of war like a Roman dictator, as well as the Kämmerer, who saw to revenues, represented the mayor in his absence, and settled minor disputes during regular hours at the town hall. Wilhelm was also the head of taxation, the head of excise, and the bridge master.34 Because long-distance trade and wine production were crucial to the town, many council members represented these occupations in the town council, including Wilhelm in 1383/84 and Matthäus in 1399.35

While father and son formed the core of the Runtinger business, they also formed limited, temporary partnerships with their servants, pooling capital and sharing risks for specific purchases and then splitting the profit correspondingly after sale.36 According to the Regensburg customs book of 1340–41, most or all of the 14 highest capital trading companies were family-based. Their economic activity was not limited to trade. The Runtingers held vineyards and Matthäus ran a mint for silver Pfennige along with its money exchange after 1392. They occupied a large house in which they lived, did administrative work, and stored goods.37 Regensburg produced cotton cloth, and the Runtingers participated in its export. They also bought cloth from the Low Countries in Frankfurt and even sent servants to Brabant to buy it straight from the source. Such wares were purchased in exchange for cash for resale in Vienna.38

Wilhelm hired servants for a salary, noteably Ulrich Furtter, to stay in permanent premises in Prague for months at a time.39 The wares sent to the Prague office were almost universally sold wholesale to regular clients, among them Poles and Silesians as well as Bohemians. While the former were likely middlemen, the latter were often grocers or apothecaries who sold to consumers, such as Friedrich of the Apothecary. Goods, therefore, would have been marked up again before the individuals intending to consume them bought them on the market. The more detailed record book of this outpost has not survived, but Furtter frequently returned with summaries, which were included in Das Runtingerbuch.40

In volume one of his published edition, Franz Bastian summarized this data by calculating the original prices, travel costs, amounts sold, markups, and profits for the goods for different years. These figures are averages or sums derived from individual entries which usually contain smaller amounts of multiple goods, making patterns difficult to identify. For ease of comparison, these numbers are calculated in Venetian ducats and Venetian weights, although the Runtingers often had to exchange their money and often recorded figures in local weight and currency. I will be focusing on information relevant to trade with Venetian goods, taken from volumes I and II.

Interrogating Das Runtingerbuch

The main wares that Runtingers sold in Prague fall into two categories: spices and cloth. The Runtingers purchased some cloth, primarily wool, from the Low Countries. Other cloths, primarily fustian, were produced in Regensburg, and silk from the east was purchased in Venice. What made spices the most profitable commodities in the Runtinger trade with Prague? To answer this question, I first compare spices sold in Regensburg with spices sold in Prague. I then do the same for cloth. This analysis will show that spices yielded a higher and more stable level of profit than cloth on the Prague market, but not in Regensburg. Finally, I offer an interpretation of this trend based on the relevant scholarship.

Spices in Regensburg

The Runtingers traded primarily in pepper, saffron, cloves, and ginger, although they also purchased small amounts of spices such as anis, coriander, and sugar.41 Table two presents data on the four main spices. Unless otherwise stated, all data are calculated in Venetian ducats and Venetian weights. The Venetian pound (hereafter V.lb.) for spices was equal to 297.5 modern grams.42 The Runtingers were able to sell saffron in Regensburg at a 19.6 percent markup in 1383, but at a 13.8 percent markup only in 1400–1401–a 5.8 percent decrease. The profit decreased by the same percentage. The price the Runtingers paid in Venice decreased slightly and transportation-related expenses remained constant, so the reason for this change cannot have depended on the Venetian market. The price customers paid decreased from 2.48 to 2.45 ducats/V.lb, and sales increased by 40 percent. This shows that customers were extremely responsive to a small reduction in price. Here we see that when the Runtingers sold at a lower markup, they made less profit as well.

Pepper was sold in 1383, 1400–1401, and 1403–1404. Markup steadily rose, but profitability dipped betweeen 1383 and 1400–1401. This dip can be explained by a 3 percent increase in transportation expenses and an increase in prices on the Venetian market. Hoping that prices would continue to rise in Regensburg, the Runtingers held back the remaining pepper from that lot,43 selling it off at a 27 percent profit and thus creating a 50 percent increase in profits. When the price rose, customers bought less. Ginger appears to have been comparatively unimportant, as in Regensburg it was only sold once, in 1400, in a relatively small amount at a profit of only 9.25 percent. While cloves were sold in Prague, they are not mentioned in any of the sources related to Regensburg.

To summarize, the Regensburg market responded keenly to price changes in both directions. When prices fell, customers bought more, and when they rose, customers purchased less. Furthermore, we can already deduce that the Runtingers scrutinized the market. When they noticed profits decreasing, they sold. When market prices rose, they held back in hopes of selling for a greater profit later on. In other words, the Runtingers had no market power in Regensburg, and they used spices for speculation.

Spices in Prague

In Prague, in contrast, spices were sold with comparative regularity between 1395 and 1404. Transportation expenses remained constant during this period. For all spices except saffron, markup, prices, and profit remained relatively stable. As shown in table three, between 1395 and 1401, both the amount of saffron sold and the markup varied noticeably. The price of saffron in Venice rose from 1.54 Venetian ducats per pound to 2.54 ducats in 1399, a 54 percent increase. Nevertheless, the Runtingers managed to increase their Prague sale price by 62 percent and the amount that they sold only fell by 22 percent. In contrast, by 1401, the price of saffron in Venice had fallen by 15 percent from its 1399 price. The Runtingers decreased their Prague sale price by 14 percent and sold 16 percent more. This shows that saffron customers were more responsive to a decreased price but less responsive to a price increase. This indicates high demand at every price and a relatively gently sloping demand curve. If the demand curve were steeper, we would expect to see a change in the amount sold inversely proportional to change in price. When the good becomes 40 percent more expensive, for example, 40 percent less is sold, and when the good becomes 40 percent cheaper, sales increase by 40 percent. Note that in spite of these fluctuations, profit remained nearly steady at 20 percent.

If we consider these data against the backdrop of the high and stable profitability of other spices during this time, we can conclude that the demand for spices in Prague was very high and stable over time. The fact that the Runtingers could substantially increase their prices without sacrificing much profit suggests that they possessed some measure of market power.

The Roll of Spices

Spices were overall more than twice as profitable in Prague as in Regensburg—with the exception of the speculation with pepper in Regensburg in 1403–04, when pepper returned a 27 percent profit in Regensburg and a 42.5 percent profit in Prague. Even that is a very considerable difference. Ginger was somewhat less profitable in Prague, but it was traded in comparatively small amounts and seems to have played a minor role in the Runtingers’ trade overall. The average profitability of all spices in Regensburg was 16.83 percent, while in Prague it was 25.51 percent. Since profit margins usually ranged from 10-20 percent during the period in question,44 the profits made in Prague were extraordinarily high.

In terms of amount, we see similar amounts of saffron and ginger sold on both markets, but a startling difference in pepper and cloves. A moderate amount of cloves was sold in Prague for a 30.7 percent profit, but none was sold in Regensburg. Most striking of all, between 1395 and 1404, the Runtingers sold 3,219.24 V.lb. of pepper in Regensburg, compared with only 63.75 V.lb. in Prague. In modern kilograms, that is equivalent to 957.72 kg in Regensburg, compared with only 18.97 kg in Prague.45

Thus, it is evident that spices played a different role in Prague than in Regensburg. In Regensburg, the market responded elastically to price changes, while in Prague, demand was very high even when prices rose. While in Regensburg we see the Runtingers acting as price takers, waiting for the market to change to get a better price, in Prague we see them acting as price makers to a certain extent. In other words, they were able to raise the price without substantially affecting overall profits.

The Role of Cloth

The Runtingers traded in many types of cloth including silks and raw cotton from Venice, fustians produced in Regensburg, and wool from Flanders. The Runtingers seemed to have used cotton as a packing material while transporting goods from Venice.46 It was only rarely sold for money. In 1383, 43.2 Venetian pounds were sold in Regensburg at 22.5 percent profit.47 In Prague, some cotton was sold at a loss in 1399, after it had served as packing material twice.48 Instead, the cotton was mainly part of their fustian trade.

In 1400, the Runtingers dealt with eight Fustian weavers. The following is a typical example of their arrangement:

.E Charpf parichantter.

.E Item dez mitichen von Laurenti chauft der alt Charpf von mir 3 zennten pawmwoll, je 1 zennten umb 11 parichant richtten auf weichnachten schirst. (Aug. 4)

a L Item mir gab der Charpf parchanter 32 parchant dez pfingtztags vor weinachten. – Er peleib mir ain virtail ains parchant noch schuldig.49 (Dez. 23.)


In their dealings with all eight weavers, the Runtingers bartered cotton at one zentner—51 modern kilograms50—for 11 “fustians,” or 18-meter lengths of cloth, to be delivered by a date which had been agreed upon. The Runtingers exchanged a total of 17 zentners and 612 Venetian pounds of cotton for approximately 222 fustians.51 Most of these were sent to Prague and sold in 1401–02, as summarized in table four. Transportation costs rose while the price in Prague decreased, leading to a drastic decline in profit. Here, we see a fluctuating price on the Prague market and the Runtingers acting as price takers. While the Runtingers traded in wool from Flanders, they never attempted to sell it in Prague. The Runtingers also sold silk bought in Venice. These silks came in many types and from many places. The following excerpt from April 29, 1383 details silks bought in Venice and shows just how varied this trade was:

. R Venedig.

.R Item ich chauft ze Venedig 5 atlas umb 60 Tukat: gron, satgrab, plab, sborcz, prawn.

.R Item und 5 samat umb 224 Tukat: 2 sbarcz, 1 prawn, 1 gron, 1 plab.

.R Item 16 Pfund 2 uncz ze 4 ½ Tukat: 72 ½ Tukat 1 ½ g., grab, leichtplab, satplab, prawn, sborcz, weis, gron d R seid.

.R Item 6 Pfund ziegelvar seid ze 5 ½ Tukat suma 32 Tukat.

.R Item 6 walikin ze 12 Tukat, suma 72 Tukat, 2 gron auf prawnem podem, 2 prawn in prawn, 2 weis in weis.

.R Item 6 tuch von Tomask ze 18 Tukat, sum 108 Tukat; 2 prawn, 2 gron, 2 sbarcz. Er gab mir 2 Pfund Chreichisch seid in den chauf.

.R Item 5 pfund Chriechisch seid ze 30 g., suma 6 ¼ Tukat. Da sin(d) dy anderen 2 pfund pey.52 53

The different types and weights of silk have already been analyzed elsewhere.54 It suffices here to note the great variety of silks from the perspectives of type, quality, and price. Silk was sold both finished and unfinished, but always by length, not tailored. Silk sold in Prague in 1383 is displayed in table five. Four types of luxury silks were sold with an average profitability of 26 percent, compared with a 25.51 percent average profit on spices in Prague in 1395–1404.

The popularity of silk was apparently short-lived. In 1383, six of twelve bundles of unfinished silk from Bologna were sold in Regensburg at a 25 percent markup and 20 percent profit. The rest was sent to Prague, where it sat unsold for four years before being sent back to Regensburg. Osana, a clerk who worked in the Runtinger’s shop, managed to sell a piece of it in 1405 for cash. The rest she sold against credit at a 3.3 percent markup the following year.55

Likewise, finished silks were sold in Regensburg in 1400 for a 13.2 percent markup, which returned somewhat more than a 12 percent profit. The rest was sent to Prague. Half a pound was sold in Breslau along the way, and nearly 2.5 pounds were sold in Prague for a 20 percent markup, but the rest was immediately sent back to Regensburg. Once again, Osana sold it in small amounts in 1404. She brought in an average of 23 percent markup and a 20.5 percent profit.

A Comparison of Prague and Regensburg

Table six offers a comparison of the average profitability of all goods. Several clear conclusions can be drawn. Spices were much more profitable in Prague than in Regensburg. The Regensburg market for spices and the Regensburg market for other goods were not markedly different. In Prague, the market for spices was quite stable, while the market for cloth was volatile. The Runtingers could therefore depend on a higher profit for spices in Prague than in Regensburg, while selling cloth in Prague was a risk which did not always pay off.

Regensburg owed its prominence, if not its existence, to the intersection of two major trade routes at its location. Regensburg was primarily invested in transit trade. Its merchants depended on remaining efficient and profitable middlemen by staying well-informed about which goods were on offer and which goods were in demand at markets across various geographical areas.56 A wide variety of goods from a wide variety of places regularly passed through Regensburg. The Runtingers were by no means the only merchants to bring wares from Venice. Klaus Fischer mentions Konrad Dürrenstetter, Stephan Notangst, Heinrich Altmann, and Jakob Ingolstetter alongside Matthäus Runtinger in the Kämmerrat as representative of Venice-Regensburg-Prague trade in 1383.57 Thus, it is easy to understand why the Runtingers did not appear to possess market power in Regensburg: numerous suppliers meant fierce competition. Therefore, the Runtingers sold comparatively larger amounts for a comparatively smaller markup and profit but at lower risk to themselves (as opposed to the risk incurred by transport to Prague). They even occasionally profited from a favorable change in market price, as with their sale of pepper in 1400–1401.

The situation in Prague was considerably more complex. The cloth market in Prague could be divided by social strata: inexpensive, low-status cloth for daily use and luxury cloth designed to indicate elevated social position. The Runtinger trade in fustian falls into the former category. While the Bohemian textile industry was not known for export even into the sixteenth century, some domestic production for the immediate hinterland did exist, so the Bohemians had substitutes when fustian became especially expensive. Silks from Venice and wool from the Low Countries, on the other hand, were luxury items. Although the Runtingers acquired such wool in Brabant and Frankfurt, they never attempted to sell it in Prague. This is likely because Bohemian merchants already imported wool from Brussels, Tournai, Ghent, Lowen, and Ypern.58

Spices, however, have no substitutes. Except for limited amounts of saffron, they cannot be grown in Europe, and after the 1335 treaty of Visegrad, Regensburg surely had a strong hand in Bohemian trade with Venice. This is not to claim that they were without competitors; Nuremburg fought them,59 as did others. However, Prague lay outside the network of banks, so everything was paid in silver,60 which discouraged merchants from selling large amounts of the precious spices at once, as this would have forced them to transport large quantities of silver. Political instability in Bohemia also led the Runtingers to close their permanent branch in 1389.61 This explains the 195 kilograms of spice sold in Prague, compared with 2,155.5 kilograms in Regensburg, much as it also explains why the Runtingers were careful not to transport more than 2,000 gulden at once.62 Competition and caution thus combined to limit the supply of spices in Bohemia, and the Runtingers could demand much higher prices in Prague than in Regensburg.

Another factor allowed the Runtingers to charge more for spices in Prague: customers in Prague could pay more. Regensburg was home to merchants and craftsmen, and it had a population of between 10,000 and 11,000 people.63 Prague housed a university, an archbishopric, and the Holy Roman Emperor’s court.64 Smahel estimated its population at around 37,500 in 1378.65 Because of the mines, luxury goods were comparative inexpensive for members of the upper class in terms of silver.66 Prague therefore became a consumption market, with customers willing and able to pay much higher prices for the prestigious spices. This created a situation in which the Runtingers competed with other Regensburgers for a much smaller, less wealthy population of customers in Regensburg, but in Prague, they competed with merchants from many other cities (probably including others from Regensburg) for a much larger, wealthier consumer base.

In addition to these larger economic factors, the Runtinger transactions were also affected by certain practicalities. After 1389, the Runtingers no longer had a permanent branch in Prague.67 In Regensburg, their employee Osana was able to sell individual pieces of silks to veil makers,68 thereby selling merchandise at reasonable profit which the Runtingers could not sell profitably wholesale. Perhaps if the Runtingers had had such an opportunity in Prague they could have sold more items profitably.

For a more exact explanation of the Bohemian preferences, one must consider what Bohemian nobles were wearing at the time. Perhaps they preferred wool over silk because of the climate. Likewise, to explain why saffron was in such high demand in Prague—roughly eight times as much saffron was sold as pepper, although pepper was most popular spice elsewhere—one must explore Bohemian cuisine and other uses.69 From Das Runtingerbuch, we can only conclude that these things were important. The question of the uses to which they were put (i.e. the reasons why they were important) lies beyond the scope of this inquiry.

What Implications Did This Trade Have for the Prague/Bohemian Economy?

The answer to this question involves a detailed analysis of the trade balance. I consider three factors which may yield insights: the real value of the goods sold in Prague and the money obtained thereby; the raw resources in silver that the Runtingers purchased in Bohemia; the nature of these respective goods in relation to stimulating local industry.70

In 1372, during the construction of a new cathedral in Prague, a mason could earn 2.5 to three groschen a day, whereas a stone setter could earn three to five groschen a day. A carpenter could earn two to three groschen—although the tariffs one and 2.5 also appear—and an unskilled day laborer could earn eight to 14 parvi, which converts to roughly one half or one whole groschen.71 Table 7 presents the amount of spices sold calculated in modern kilograms, as well as their prices in terms of groschen per 100 modern grams. Saffron, the most popular and most expensive, sold for up to 24 groschen for 100 grams. In terms of unskilled labor, that is approximately a month’s labor for a wage laborer hired at a groschen a day (assuming a six-day work week.) The price of this spice varied considerably, but it never dropped below 14 groschen for 100 grams. Even cloves, the cheapest and least popular spice, sold for .84 groschen for 100 grams—nearly a day’s work for an unskilled laborer.

The total money paid to the Runtingers for spices between 1395 and 1404 comes to 28,019 groschen.72 That would be approximately equivalent to employing 90 unskilled laborers for one year.73 By contrast, the total cloth goods discussed above sold for 10,011.75 groschen, the yearly wages for approximately 32 laborers. Altogether, this suggests that the Runtingers took in at least 38,030.75 groschen during this nine-year period: enough to hire 122 people. Note that these figures are not exhaustive; they do not take into account every good that the Runtingers ever sold, but only those which they sold regularly and in large amounts.

While they did not export finished goods, the Runtingers did buy one local resource: silver in the form of gebegen gelt, or damaged groschen. The Prague groschen was intended to be an eternal coin, with unchanging weight and fineness. Originally, it was minted from silver of up to 15 lots—essentially the Medieval standard of pure silver.74 Although it was debased gradually, it retained a very high and stable value relative to other coins of the period. When worn or damaged coins were removed from circulation, they were sold by weight for their silver. The Runtingers bought this gebegen gelt and sold it both in Regensburg and in Venice. Their trade in this commodity can be divided into two periods: 1384–87, when father and son traded together and operated a permanent branch in Prague, and from 1392 onwards, when Matthäus Runtinger struck coins. I focus on the earlier period.

Matthäus Runtinger rode to Prague for the express purpose of buying this silver in December 1385/January 1386, May 1386, and March/April 1387. I analyze the 1387 journey in detail because it offers a concise demonstration of how this trade functioned. First, on March 6, Wilhelm Runtinger recorded the following:

Item ich santt gein Prag dez mitichen in der andern vastwochen in ainem pallen newn sekch und ainen chlainen sakch mit pfeffer. Da waz in 1382 pfeffers; da hab wir drew jar in dem hauz von verzirt und ze weinachten auzgesanntt.75

Considerable amounts of pepper were not profitably sold in Regensburg until 1395.76 Evidently, the Runtingers gave pepper as Christmas presents only in years when it did not bring a good price. On the same day, Wilhelm added the following:

E Item mir furt der Pakerl von Chamb den pfeffer gein Prag; ich gib im ye von ainem saum 98 grozz. Ich gab im 7 guldein daran, da er auzfur; so gab ich dem Taberstorfer 9 guldein, da sol er den wagenman von richtten ze Prag. Er sol den pallen in dem franhof wegen; waz der wigt, da lon ich im nach.77

A saum equals roughly 200 kilograms,78 about the amount that a packhorse could comfortably carry. Here, we see that the Runtingers loaned their carriers enough money to get them to Prague and then paid them the difference based on what was successfully delivered and weighed by government officials. This gave the carriers a high incentive to protect the goods. Five days later, Wilhelm sent his son Matthäus to Prague:

a E Item ez rait mein sun Matheus der Runttinger gein Prag dez Montag vor mittervasten, er furt mit im 1800 fugspalg, di sol er da ynn verchauffen und sol ein wegzel darumb pringen, alz er wol waiz. Ez rait mit im hie auz Hanns und Hainreich di Portner. b R Und 4 fuchspalig. Di sind verchauft ye ainer umb 18 g. und 8 haler, suma an gelt pringt 551 sxn. 14 g. 8 haller. B R Item dez piper vaz 1475 pfund; der ist verchauft ye 1 zent umb 10 sxn. G., suma der piper 147 ½ sxn. G.

b R Suma uberal der piper und di fugspalig pringent 708 sxn. 44 g. 8 haler.79

From this account, it becomes clear that the Runtingers sent designated goods to Prague, sold them for money, and then bought silver with these proceeds and took it back to Regensburg. This saved them the expense and risk of transporting money unnecessarily. The profit from the pepper and “fox pelts” was not their primary object; they stood to gain more from the low prices of silver.

The “fox pelts” mentioned here are a curious anomaly. The corresponding silver purchase in May 1386 records 1,000 red squirrel pelts. Bastian suggests that these furs are shorthand for actual gulden. While Wilhelm writes of 100 squirrel pelts in 1386, Matthäus refers to them as gulden in the next entry. Also, the squirrel pelts were each sold for 18 groschen and four haller, while the fox pelts sold for 18 groschen and eight haller, which is odd because fox was usually much more expensive than squirrel. On the other hand, these prices seem like reasonable numbers for a slightly fluctuating gulden-groschen exchange rate over this ten-month period. Finally, based on other sources, furs typically traveled from Prague to the south, not the other way around.80 Interestingly, this shorthand is only used by Wilhelm and only in connection with Prague silver trade, never concerning trips to Frankfurt, for example. Coupled with Wilhelm’s shorthand wegzel in this entry, it may indicate that Wilhelm wanted to avoid drawing attention to this trade.

This intriguing but somewhat speculative digression aside, on April 16, Matthäus recorded the following.

b R Item so han ich chauft 469 march an 2 lot gebegener g., suma pringt an gelt 698 ½ sxn. 3 g. 8 haler, chumpt ye 1 march umb 1 ½ sxn. an 6 haler.
Di ist (!) in acht stuchen.81

The rest of the entry details some of the proceeds from resale in Regensburg and the money Matthäus owed Wilhelm. Proceeds from fustian in 1386 were used in a similar way.82 The modus operandi, then, was to send valuable goods to Prague, sell them off, reinvest the proceeds in gebegen gelt, and bring the silver to Regensburg or Venice for resale. In this case, low silver prices were more likely to influence their decisions than high sale prices for other goods.

Frantisek Graus has already calculated the total amount of money that was sent from Prague back to Regensburg during the period between 1384 and 1387 (see table eight). A schock of groschen equals 60 coins and a gulden was equal to 18 groschen around 1385.83 We can see that a total of 320,236.5 groschen were removed from Prague. In terms of unskilled labor, that is the annual salary of 877 people. To give these numbers further perspective, Graus notes that the biannual income of the Prague Archbishop, who was one of the wealthiest Bohemian landowners, was 1,338 schock and six groschen in cash, 1382/83.84 That is equal to 80,286 groschen total. Comparing this figure with table eight, we see that the amount of money the Runtingers removed from Bohemia was on average comparable to the biannual income of the very wealthiest Bohemian nobles.

It is abundantly clear that the Runtinger family drained enormous amounts of money and silver from Prague on a regular basis. This was accentuated by the fact that the Runtingers were selling finished consumer goods for raw materials. This meant that the trade did not stimulate economic growth. When the Runtingers traded in cotton with the fustian weavers in Regensburg, for example, the Regensburg economy was stimulated because Regensburg fustian weavers were employed. The weavers added value to the product and some money stayed in Regensburg as their wages. In contrast, when the Runtingers brought silver, they stimulated no such local industry. The mine owners, miners, and other personnel only turned a profit as long as the silver lasted. The same principle applies to the spice trade. Some luxury consumer items could lead to local industry. Imported Islamic glass was gradually mingled with Venetian imitation and eventually replaced by production in Bohemia in the fourteenth century.85 Spices, however, could not be grown or imitated in Bohemia,86 but only purchased for money. Precious metal therefore flowed out of Bohemia in two forms: money and raw silver. Finished goods flowed in, raw materials flowed out.


Das Runtingerbuch is a rich source, and this article has certainly not exhausted it. For example, I have not explored the role of credit in Prague or the exact role of the money trade. Without the trade in gebegen gelt, would Prague have attracted spice merchants? To answer this question, one could analyze the entire Runtinger financial operations involving silver. One could also compare rival merchants for the Prague market, i.e. Regensburg and Nuremburg.

Neither has this article placed the Runtinger activities fully in context. Since the Runtingers sold wholesale, the spices would have been marked up yet again. To fully understand the role of spices in the Bohemian economy, one must consider the end customers and the prices they were paying. One might investigate the travel accounts of Henry of Derby, for example, who bought many luxury goods during his stay in Prague. One might also examine the impact of events in Bohemian political history and the activities of other trading companies, be they from Frankfurt, Cologne, or Nuremburg or even Jews from Prague.

At the same time, this case study supports our existing understanding of the trends: Prague was a silver supplier and was consequently blessed with economic prosperity, but it remained relatively passive and undeveloped in its economic activity. The treaty of Visegrad testifies that the Bohemian rulers understood the significance of their silver and the power it gave them. Nonetheless, they were content to rely on the offices of assertive foreign merchants such as the Runtingers. Certainly, we see some progress, such as the presence of Bohemian merchants in Flanders and some amount of domestic textile production. At the same time, compared with Regensburg and Venice, such development was slow and unimpressive. Yet this long-distance trade did promote Prague as a political and intellectual center. Like the Syrian glass found in the Old Town of Prague, the spices indicate a refined (or at least pricey) dining culture, reflecting the desire of the Bohemian nobles to raise their status by participating in wider trends typical of high society. A French manuscript made in 1378 depicts Charles IV and Wenceslaus IV of Bohemia at a feast at the court of Charles V of France. Along with the usual trappings of this kind of ceremonial occasion, we see two silver boat-shaped spice dishes prominently displayed in front of the two men. These two things, the silver and the spice, are symbols of the new position Charles IV wished to obtain (and temporarily achieved) for Bohemia.


Table 1. The European imbalance of payments in the fifteenth century

The European Balance of Payments

The Venetians brought back

The Venetians sent out

400,000 ducats of spices from farther east

300,000 ducats in coins

880,000 ducats of goods from the Near East

200,000 ducats in goods

20,000 ducats in coins




Other Europeans brought back

Other Europeans sent out

130,000 ducats of spices from farther east

100,000 ducats in coins

20,000 ducats of goods from the Near East

60,000 ducats in goods

10,000 ducats in coins



Source: Spufford, Power and Profit: Te Merchant in Medieval Europe, 346.


Table 2. Spices in the Runtinger trade: A comparison of Prague and Regensburg







Amount (in V.ilb.)



Amount (V. Ilb.)



































































Source: Bastian, Das Runtingerbuch, vol. 1, 616–27, 636–38.

Table 3. Saffron sold in Prague





Amount sold (in V. Ilb)




Ducats per pound in Venice




Ducats per pound in Prague









Source: Bastian, Das Runtingerbuch, vol. 1, 636–38.


Table 4. Fustian sold in Prague




Amount sold



Sale price: Venetian ducat per length of Fustian



Transportation costs










Source: Bastian, Das Runtingerbuch, vol. 1, 639–40.


Table 5. Silks sold in Prague in 1383














1 piece, red, from Venice




1 red, 1 gray from Lucca




Source: Bastian, Das Runtingerbuch, vol. 1, 634–35.


Table 6. Average profitability















(none sold)







All spices





(none sold)





(Sold; unprofitable)



17.5% after 1400.

26% in 1383; afterwards little to no profit


Gold thread


(Sold; unprofitable)


Source: Bastian, Das Runtingerbuch, vol. 1, 618–38, derived.


Table 7. Spices in Prague in modern kilograms, 1395–1404


Amount sold, modern kg.

groschen/100 g.







Safran, 1395



Safran, 1399



Safran, 1401







Source: Bastian, Das Runtingerbuch, vol. 1, 636–38, derived.


Table 8. Total money removed from Prague by the Runtingers, 1384–1387


In actual currency

Recalculated in groschen


1,919 gulden 1,098 schock 49 groschen 2 hellers

100,471 groschen 2 hellers


1,696 gulden 558 schock 58 ½ groschen

64,066.5 groschen


1,186 schock 51 groschen

71,211 groschen


1,408 schock 8 groschen 8 hellers

84,488 groschen 8 hellers


3615 gulden 4252 schock 46.5 groschen 10 hellers

320,236.5 groschen 10 hellers


Source: Graus, “Die Handelsbeziehungen Böhmens,” 107–8.


1 This figure deliberately overlooks the sale of pepper in 1383 for a profit of 14.2 percent. This sale will be discussed in detail below. It suffices here to say that it constitutes an exception or outlier, and including it would not help give a clear picture of the normal state of the market.

2 Here again the sale of 1383 for a 70 percent profit is not considered. See 92.

3 Since my object is to offer a general impression of the markets, I am comparing all silks sold in Regensburg with silks sold in Prague from 1383, when there was a real market for them. I am excluding the slight sales in Prague after 1400.


Primary sources

Das Runtingerbuch. Edited by Franz Bastian. Regensburg: Die Historische Komission bei der Bayernischen Akadamie der Wissenschaften 1930.


Secondary literature

Bilek, Jaroslav. Kutnohorské dolování. Vol. 9, Historický přehled k problematice poddolování, hald a Vrchlické přehrady [Kutná Hora mining. Vol. 9, Historical overview of the problems of mining, piles at the Vrchlice Dam]. Kutná Hora: Kuttna, 2001.

Demetz, Peter. Prague in Black and Gold: The History of a City. London: Penguine Books, 1998.

Denzel, Markus A. The Merchant Family in the “Oberdeutsche Hochfinanz” from the Middle Ages up to the Eighteenth Century. Firenze: Firenze University Press, 2009.

Eikenburg, Wiltrud. Das Handelshaus der Runtinger zu Regensburg. Ein Spiegel süddeutschen Rechts-, Handels- und Wirtschaftslebens im ausgehenden 14. Jahrhundert. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1976.

Fischer, Klaus. Das “Runtingerbuch als Quelle zum Wirtschaftsleben Regensburgs im Spätmittelalter.” In Regensburg im Spätmittelalter, edited by Peter Schmid, 215–30. Regensburg: Schnell und Sneier, 2007.

Fischer, Klaus. Regensburger Hochfinanz. Regensburg: Universitätsverlag, 2003.

Freedman, Paul. Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2008.

Gilomen, Hans-Jörg. “Die ökonomischen Grundlagen des Kredits und die christlich-jüdische Konkurrenz im Spätmittelalter.” In Ein Thema – zwei Perspektiven. Juden und Christen in Mittelalter und Frühneuzeit, edited by Evelin Brugger, and Birgit Wiedl, 139–69. Innsbruck: Studien Verlag, 2007.

Graus, František. “Die Handelsbeziehungen Böhmens zu Deutschland und Österreich im 14. und zu Beginn des 15. Jahrhunderts. Eine Skizze.” Historica. Historical Sciences in Czechoslovakia 2 (1960): 77–110.

Lopez, Robert S., and Irving W. Raymond, eds. Medieval Trade in the Mediterranean World. New York: Columbia University Press, 1995.

Spufford, Peter. Power and Profit: The Merchant in Medieval Europe. New York: Thames & Hudson, 2003.

Spufford, Peter. Money and its Use in Medieval Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989.

Stromer, Wolfgang von. “Nuremburg in the International Economics of the Middle Ages.” The Business History Review 44, no. 2 (1970): 210–15.

Suchý, Marek. “St. Vitus Building Accounts (1372–378): The Economic Aspects of Building the Cathedral.” In Money and Finance in Medieval Europe during the Late Middle Age, edited by Roman Zaoral, 222–46. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016. doi: 10.1057/9781137460233_15

Eikenberg, Wiltrud. Das Handelshaus der Runtinger zu Regensburg. Ein Spiegel süddeutschen Rechts-, Handels- und Wirtschaftslebens im ausgehenden 14. Jahrhundert. Göttingen: Veröffentlichungen des Max-Planck-Instituts für Geschichte, 1976.

Milejski, Pawel. “Weight debasement of Prague groschen of Wenceslas IV (1378–1419) based on Polish and Lithuanian hoards.” In From ore to money, mining, trading, minting. Proceedings of the Tallinn (2018) Conference, edited by George Depeyrot, and Ivar Leimus. Collection Moneta 202, 99–112. Wetteren: Moneta, 2018.

Musílek, Martin. “Zlomek knihy vydání, v níž jsou jména Židů ‘Nově objevený’ rukopisný zlomek kupeckého rejstříku a jeho výpověď pro pražský obchod ve středověku” [A fragment of an edited book containing the name of Jews: The newly discovered manuscript fragment of a merchant register and its informative value for Prague trade in the Middle Ages]. In Pražský sborník historický 44 (2016): 141–66.

Zaoral, Roman. “Silver and Glass in Medieval Trade and Cultural Exchange between Venice and the Bohemian Kingdom. The Czech Historical Review 109, no. 2 (2011): 284–310.

1 Eikenburg, “Das Handelshaus der Runtinger zu Regensburg,” 130.

2 See Spufford’s book Money and its Use in Medieval Europe.

3 These were published by Frantisek Graus in 1956, and one was published more recently by Musilek. Musílek, “Zlomek knihy vydání, v níž jsou jména Židů,” 141.

4 Graus, “Die Handelsbeziehungen Böhmens,” 100.

5 Fischer, Regensburger Hochfinanz, 140, 161.

6 Eikenburg, Das Handelshaus der Runtinger zu Regensburg, 88, 97.

7 Spufford, Money and its Use in Medieval Europe, 109, 119, 124.

8 Bilek, Kutnohorské dolování.

9 Zaoral, “Silver and Glass,” 285.

10 Spufford, Money and its Use in Medieval Europe, 123–24.

11 Ibid, 268.

12 Spufford, Power and Profit, 372.

13 Graus, “Die Handelsbeziehungen Böhmens,” 81, 83–84.

14 Spufford, Money and its Use in Medieval Europe, 340.

15 Freedman, Out of the East, 13–14.

16 Ibid, 46–47.

17 Spufford, Power and Profit, 310.

18 Freedman, Out of the East, 19–20.

19 Spufford, Power and Profit, 310.

20 Freedman, Out of the East, 134.

21 Spufford, Power and Profit, 310.

22 Lopez and Raymond, Medieval Trade in the Mediterranean World, 342.

23 Spufford, Money and its Use in Medieval Europe, 360.

24 Spufford, Power and Profit, 400–1.

25 Fischer, Regensburger Hochfinanz, 38.

26 Ibid., 208.

27 Eikenburg, Das Handelshaus der Runtinger zu Regensburg, 105–6.

28 Graus, “Die Handelsbeziehungen Böhmens,” 97, 99–100.

29 Fischer, Regensburger Hochfinanz, 260.

30 Eikenburg, Das Handelshaus der Runtinger zu Regensburg, 70–71.

31 Stromer, “Nuremburg in the International Economics of the Middle Ages,” 211.

32 Fischer, Regensburger Hochfinanz, 261.

33 Eikenburg, Das Handelshaus der Runtinger zu Regensburg, 70.

34 Ibid, 23–25, 42–44.

35 Fischer, Regensburger Hochfinanz, 75, 78.

36 Denzel, The Merchant Family, 372–73.

37 Eikenburg, “Das Handelshaus der Runtinger zu Regensburg,” 52, 62–63.

38 Ibid., 88, 97.

39 Ibid., 102.

40 Ibid., 102, 108–10.

41 Das Runtingerbuch, vol. 2, 112–13.

42 Eikenburg, “Das Handelshaus der Runtinger zu Regensburg,” 289.

43 Das Runtingerbuch, vol. 1, 626.

44 Gilomen, “Die ökonomischen Grundlagen des Kredits,” 153.

45 Superficially, it would seem that there was an inverse relationship between amount sold and profit, but after a more detailed analysis of the sale of individual spices diachronically and across both markets, this relationship breaks down. These discrepancies involved more nuanced factors.

46 Das Runtingerbuch, vol. 2, 627.

47 Ibid., vol. 1, 627.

48 Ibid., vol. 1, 640.

49 Das Runtingerbuch, vol. 1,150. Translation: Item On the Wednesday of Laurenti, Karpf the elder bought three Zentner of cotton from me, each zentner for 11 fustians, to be delivered by Christmas. Item Karpf the fustian weaver gave me 32 fustians on the Tuesday before Christmas. He still owes me a quarter of a fustian.

50 Eikenburg, Das Handelshaus der Runtinger zu Regensburg, 289.

51 Das Runtingerbuch, vol. 2,150–51.

52 Ibid., vol. 2,44–45.

53 Translation:
Item: In Venice, I bought five atlas silks for 60 ducats: green, deep gray, blue, black, brown.

Item: and five sammats for 224 ducats: 2 black, 1 brown, 1 green, 1 blue.
Item: 16 pounds two ounces for 4½ ducats: 72½ ducats 1½ g. gray, light blue, deep blue, brown, black, white, green silk.
Item: six pounds brick colored silk, for 5½ ducats, 32 ducats total.

Item: six Bagdad silks for 18 ducats each, total 108 ducats; two brown, two green, two black. He gave me two pounds of Greek silk with the purchase.
Item: five pounds Greek silk for 30 g., total 6¼ ducats. This includes the other two pounds.

54 Cf. Eikenburg, Das Handelshaus der Runtinger zu Regensburg, 120–24.

55 Das Runtingerbuch, vol. 1, 628–29.

56 Fischer, Regensburger Hochfinanz, 59.

57 Ibid., 76–77.

58 Eikenburg, Das Handelshaus der Runtinger zu Regensburg, 84, 137.

59 Stromer, “Nuremburg in the International Economics of the Middle Ages,” 211.

60 Spufford, Power and Profit, 37.

61 Eikenburg, Das Handelshaus der Runtinger zu Regensburg, 115.

62 Cf. Table 8.

63 Fischer, Regensburger Hochfinanz, 70–72.

64 Demetz, Prague in Black and Gold, 82.

65 Smahel, Husitská revoluce, 356.

66 Zaoral, Silver and Glass in Medieval Trade,” 299.

67 Eikenburg, Das Handelshaus der Runtinger zu Regensburg, 115.

68 Das Runtingerbuch, vol. 2, 159–67.

69 One must keep in mind that not all spices were consumed in Prague; some were exported further into the hinterland.

70 Certainly, these factors are not exhaustive: the role of credit, politics, and Matthäus Runtinger’s involvement in the money trade are other possible factors. The question concerning the extent to which the Runtinger trade in goods and trade in money were connected is beyond the scope of this article.

71 Suchy, “St. Vitus Building Accounts,” 228, 230.

72 Das Runtingerbuch, vol. 1, 636–38.

73 Laborers were paid once a week. They were hired as needed, and tariffs could change, so this is an incredibly crude approximation, not a concrete historical case. It does, however, give a general idea of the scale of the opportunity cost.

74 Milejski, “Weight debasement of Prague groschen,” 99.

75 Das Runtingerbuch, vol. 1, 86.

Translation: On Wednesday of the second week in Lent, I sent nine sacks and also a small sack of pepper in a bale. Inside were 1,382 pounds of pepper; we ate of it three years in the house and sent some out as Christmas presents.

76 See table 2.

77 Das Runtingerbuch, vol. 1, 87.

Translation: Pakerl of Chamb took the pepper to Prague for me; I am to give him 98 groschen for each saum. I gave him seven gulden thereof, as he is traveling; likewise I gave Mr. Taberstorfer nine gulden for the wagon man to Prague. He is to weigh the bundles in the Fronhof [customs courtyard]; I will pay him according to what it weighs.

78 Eikenburg, Das Handelshaus der Runtinger zu Regensburg, 290.

79 Das Runtingerbuch, vol. 2, 87.

Translation: My son Matthäus Runtinger rode to Prague on the Monday before Miterfast. He took 1,800 fox pelts, which he is to sell there and bring back an exchange, as he knows. Hanns and Hainreich, the porters, rode with him. b.R and four fox pelts. They were sold for 18 groschen and eight heller each, total of 551 marks 14 groschen and eight haller. B.R. item the pepper was altogether 1475 pounds, they are sold at ten marks of groschen, per Zentner, total for pepper 147½ groschen. b.R Total of both pepper and fox pelts 708 marks 44 groschen eight haler.

80 Das Runtingerbuch, vol. 2, 86–88.

81 Ibid., 88.

Translation: Item I bought 469 marks and two lots devalued groschen, total money 698½ schock 3 groschen and eight heller, which comes to one mark for 1½ schock six haler. They are in eight pieces.

82 Das Runtingerbuch, vol. 1, 83.

83 Eikenburg, Das Handelshaus der Runtinger zu Regensburg, 278.

84 Graus, “Die Handelsbeziehungen Böhmens,” 108.

85 Zaoral, “Silver and Glass in Medieval Trade, 301.

86 Saffron might have been an exception.


Tender Contracts, Speculation, and Monopoly: Venice and Hungarian Cattle Supply between the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries

Andrea Fara
Sapienza University of Rome
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Hungarian Historical Review Volume 11 Issue 3  (2022):647–672 DOI 10.38145/2022.3.647

The livestock production and trade structures that connected the Italian peninsula and, in particular, the city of Venice with the vast Hungarian lands have been the subject of various inquiries in the secondary literature. Nevertheless, many questions remain. In this essay, I analyze the meat market in Venice (where the complex supply chain and slaughterhouse activities had considerable economic and social importance) in relation to the production and exchange structures of meat in the Hungarian lands (where the breeding of livestock and, in particular, cattle underwent considerable growth and specialization over the course of the centuries). I contend that Venice was an important end market for Hungarian beef exports. In other words, growing Venetian demand and the similarly growing Hungarian export of beef met and connected with mutual satisfaction, although not always in an entirely efficient way, giving rise to several cases of shortage and sometimes starvation and famine on the lagoon city markets. And this is a second point to investigate. If the individual and institutional Italian and Hungarian intermediaries that were interested in beef as an item of commerce can in a large part identified, many questions still surround the involvement of these economic operators in food crisis phenomena and economic practices aimed to give rise to famines in order to obtain greater profits (such as hoarding, raising prices, speculation, and export to more profitable markets). In this sense, I seek to clarify the link between the activities of operators and companies involved in the cattle trade from Hungarian territories and the famines (understood as “high price phenomena”) created in part by the lack of beef on the Venetian markets. I also examine the causes and functions of legislation and practices adopted in response to (and to prevent) starvation and/or famine and the roles of the attitudes of specific groups and economic actors involved in the meat market. Ultimately, I seek to further a more nuanced assessment of the connections between the Hungarian markets and the Italian markets between the late Middle Ages and early modern period.

Keywords: cattle trade, market, speculation, crisis, famine, Hungary, Venice

The livestock production and trade structures that reached the Italian peninsula and, in particular, the city of Venice from the vast Hungarian lands have been the subject of several inquiries in the secondary literature.1 Nonetheless, very little information is available to clarify the link between the activities of operators and societies involved in this trade and the famines which were caused in part by a lack of beef on the Venetian markets, perhaps in part as a deliberate strategy to drive up prices. At the current state of research, many questions remain. While the individual and institutional intermediaries (both Italian and Hungarian) involved in these trades have been identified, their involvement in food crises and economic practices aimed at creating famines (such as hoarding, price gouging, speculation, and diversion to more profitable markets) remains largely in the shadows. Similarly, legislation and practices intended to prevent famine (contra caristiam) that were intended to exert an influence on the activities of specific groups and economic actors involved in the meat market remain to be investigated. Fabien Faugeron’s recent in-depth work offers important information and insights from the Venetian point of view, with a careful analysis of food market structures and sites in Venice. As Faugeron notes, there is no specific research on slaughterhouse activities in the complex chain in Venice, despite the economic and social importance of this sector for the survival of one of the largest urban centers in Europe, with an estimated population of 110,000 in 1338, 85,000 in 1442, and 150,000 in 1548.2

The inquiry if offer here, therefore, is an analysis of the specific meat market in Venice in relation to the production and exchange structures of this commodity in Hungary, where livestock breeding and in particular cattle breeding grew and became increasingly specialized over the centuries, finding an important end market in the Venice. In other words, it is a question of describing a market, that of meat, in which the growing Venetian demand and the equally growing Hungarian supply met, to their mutual satisfaction, although not always in an entirely efficient way, giving rise to cases of shortage and sometimes outright famine on the lagoon city markets. In order to examine the ways in which the interrelationships between the supplier (Hungary) and the consumer (Venice) influenced both the price and availability of this export (meat), I jump back and forth at times between sources originating in Venice and sources originating in Hungary. In order to do this, it is necessary to move “on the fly” between Hungary and Venice several times.

I offer first a brief overview of the economic structure of the Kingdom of Hungary between the late Middle Ages and the early modern period. By virtue of a rather favorable geographical position, the Kingdom of Hungary maintained profitable trade relations with a large part of Europe, from Venice to Florence, from Vienna to Nuremberg, from Krakow to Lviv, from Wallachia and Moldavia to the Black Sea ports, up to the Near East. Hungarian lands were described as rich in opportunities to make easy profits through the exchange of Western luxury products (especially textiles, which always represented one of the kingdom’s primary imports) for local raw materials (first and foremost, cattle), as well as spices and other items of Levantine origin. Specifically, the low population density and the available pastures and lands always made extensive farming easy and profitable, especially on the so-called Great Plain.3

The sources offer countless references to the ease of breeding and the abundance and affordability of cattle in Hungarian lands, as well as the existence of trade routes for beef, whether over short, medium or longer distances. In the thirteenth century, there was a well-organized butchers’ guild in Buda engaged both in live cattle trafficking and in the meat trade. In 1305, sources from Nuremberg record the expression corria hungarica, and in 1358 a merchant from Nuremberg bought cattle in Buda. In 1327, Hungarian oxen were mentioned in the Wrocław (Breslau) customs tariff, and in 1473 and 1492 it was possible to find Hungarian cattle on the markets in Basel and Cologne markets, if in a somewhat unusual way.4 In the mid-fourteenth century, in his Chronicle, Matteo Villani also highlighted the importance of cattle breeding and exploitation in the Hungarian economy, noting the great multitude of oxen and cows, which did not work the land and, as they had large pasture on which to graze, fattened quickly, offering more potential for exports of leather and fat.5 It was also during this century that the Hungarian cattle trade towards the Italian peninsula, in particular towards Venice, seems to have undergone notable growth but the information in the available sources remains scarce.6 In 1433, the Burgundian knight Bertrandon de la Broquière noticed that on the Hungarian markets, a fine Italian textile roll cost about 45 gold florins, which was the price of ten to 15 cattle, and thus a head of cattle was between three and four and a half gold florins.7

I turn now to a discussion of the main characteristics of the meat market in Venice between the late Middle Ages and the early modern period. The Venetian authorities were constantly striving to organize efficient supply structures in the lagoon city, both for grain and meat. As was the case in any sector, for the meat market, this involved arriving at a compromise between the many public and private actors involved, from merchants to butchers and retailers up to the many administrative offices, and balancing their often conflicting interests. The supply system was further complicated by the fact that the Venetian lands were unable to ensure the meat requirements for Venice, and the lands closest to the lagoon city were not large enough for the breeding of large livestock. Therefore, the meat supplies had to come from distant places, mostly from Romagna, Lombardy, Dalmatia, and to an increasing extent from the fourteenth century, from Hungary.8

Fabien Faugeron has shown that, to guarantee adequate meat on the city market in Venice or to encourage an increase in the meat supplies in times of difficulty, the Venetian authorities put in place a real “arsenal de mesures”: centralization of supplies, stimulation of import prices, bonuses or a donations system, tax relief, price controls, direct sales by foreign operators, and particular tax concessions. In the fifteenth century, more often than not, it was preferred to resort to an increase in consumer prices rather than to lower customs tariffs (though at times customs were lowered, though only under exceptional circumstances). Difficulties related to supply therefore weighed on the consumer rather than on public finances.9 The first piece of relevant information about this in the sources is dated to 1283, when, to remedy a lack of meat on the city markets, the authorities established a price increase of 7 denari per pound for beef and 13 denari per pound for pork.10 In August 1367, there was a great shortage of mutton, and the authorities argued that this shortage had been caused by the high price of beef, because butchers had failed to supply mutton “propter magnum lucrum quod ipsi consequantur ex carnibus manzinis.”11 In 1370, meats of every variety were in short supply on the Venice markets. This time, the Consiglio dei Quaranta pointed the finger at the higher prices that were being charged at the nearby fairs, in particular in Mestre, Murano, and Mazzorbo, which drew sellers to these markets instead of Venice. A recommendation was made to limit the sale price in these markets in order to encourage sellers to bring meat to the markets in Venice. On August 1440, the Senate prohibited Venetian butchers and “mercatores cranium” from selling meat and livestock on markets other than those of Venice.12 But, as mentioned, in order to cope with a shortage situation, the city authorities most often focused on increasing the margin of butchers and other importers through an increase in consumer prices. This happened, for example, in May 1371 (with all meats) and in April 1407 (in particular with mutton and lamb) and again in the following years.13

The data collected by Faugeron also show how in the fifteenth century the meat market in Venice was strongly segmented. The trade involving the meats that were most in demand (oxen, calves, and castrates) was mainly in the hands of major operators, such as butchers-entrepreneurs (who were later replaced by customs duty tenants). When it came to trade in pork and lamb, in contrast, these operators gave way to a multitude of occasional players, small and medium, who ensured the market in a timely manner and for specific products, after having practiced slaughter domestically and in more or less clandestine way, or by resorting to the macellum services when it came to the production of particular cured meats (in winter, for instance, or for the supplies of lamb during the Easter period).14 In 1436, the Provveditori alla Beccaria estimated that 12,000 head of cattle were coming in from “de partibus Sclavoniae” (that is, Croatia, Bosnia, and Serbia, lands part or all of which were under the influence of the Hungarian Crown) without bills (bolletta): the continuous complaints made by the Venetian butchers show the importance of supply lines created with Bosnian, Kosovar, and Montenegrin breeders and cattle merchants.15 But Venice constantly had to fight against the diversion of herds destined for its markets. Treviso, for instance, which lay at the confluence of many trade routes towards the lagoon city, periodically tried to take part of supplies destined for Venice, even after its submission to the Republic in 1339. On the far shore of the Adriatic, Zadar also claimed to stop a quarter of animals passing through its territory.16 On other occasions, such as in the 1440s, the Venetian authorities had little success in their attempts to secure meat supplies at a time of severe shortage on the city markets, since Morlach breeders preferred to transport the animals to other ports which were more profitable.17 It therefore became necessary better to organize the meat supply sector, essential to economic and social life in Venice. And when, during the fifteenth century, the demographic growth in Venice put increasing demands on the city’s meat supply, a search for new and safer markets began, and the local authorities turned with increasing attention to sources of meat in Central and Eastern Europe, including Styria, Carinthia, Tyrol, Bavaria, and Hungary in particular.18

As the sketches offered above make clear, Hungarian cattle breeding and trade, intensely practiced in the vast domains of the Kingdom of Hungary, were not only able easily to satisfy the internal demand for meat on the Hungarian market but also allowed a large export of meat to Western Europe, including Venice, where demand was growing. Likewise, the rich Venetian market was an important market for Hungarian production.

The 1457–1458 Bratislava (Pressburg, Pozsony) customs registers are the first to provide interesting information on this trade. Undoubtedly, these registers do not take into account the Kingdom of Hungary as a whole, but they provide clear proof that as early as the mid-fifteenth century, the city represented one of the major export centers of Hungary for any type of livestock, primarily bovine. In that year, about 55 percent of Hungarian exports through these customs on the western borders of the kingdom consisted of livestock, mainly cattle and sheep, for a total amount of about 11,000 gold florins on just over 8,000 heads of various kinds of livestock. Similarly, about 75 percent of imports consisted of textiles, especially cheap ones from Bohemia, Moravia, England, Italy, and German and Flemish regions, for more than 130,000 gold florins. The surplus of imports (89 percent of the total value, against the 11 percent brought in by exports) was offset by the release of gold and silver in the form of money.19

From the second half of the fifteenth century, some 75 percent of Hungarian exports consisted of live cattle (mainly bovine) and animal products (various hides), and a similar percentage of trade consisted of imports in textile articles. This exchange was so profitable that even nobles and prelates trafficked directly with the Italian peninsula, and above all with Venice, through their own intermediaries. This was the case, for example, of Bishop Zsigmond Ernuszt of Pécs (1473–1501), who, according to Ludovico Tubero, “ita quaestui deditus erat, ut ne a mercatura quidem abstineret. Emebat enim institorum suorum opere magnam vim boum, quod genus pecoris leui pretio in Hungária paratum, apud lanios Venetos magno venibat.”20 In 1488, Matthias Corvinus commissioned Mathias Harber, civis of Buda and one of the major city merchants, to transfer and sell livestock from the royal lands to Venice. He then used the proceeds from this trade to buy valuable goods for the crown on the markets in Venice.21

The advances of the Ottoman Empire did not nullify the importance of Hungarian exports, nor did they dramatically transform the characteristics of the Hungarian economy. On the contrary, they accentuated some of the features of this economy and made some aspects of the export trade more important. In the period between the fall of the Kingdom of Hungary following the battle of Mohács in 1526 and the final partition of what had been the Hungarian domains among the Habsburgs, the Ottoman Empire, and the Principality of Transylvania in 1541, there was a temporary decline in population. Although there were considerable differences between one territory and another, this favored the further expansion of grazing and cattle breeding in the Great Plain, while in the western regions of the former kingdom, wine production and trade played a greater role.22 The population growth that was occurring simultaneously in much of Western Europe stimulated the strong specialization of Hungarian production structures, which in the course of the sixteenth century became even more oriented towards the export of livestock (particularly cattle) to meet the growing demand for meat. Prices in this sector tended to increase in the Hungarian lands as well, but they remained lower than in the West. Thus, in spite of almost endemic wars, cattle breeding and trade were able to attract considerable capital and investment, with large guaranteed profit margins.23 In this context, it is not surprising that the breed was carefully selected, as can be seen in the appearance of references to the well-known “magnus cornuotes boves Hungaricos” in sixteenth-century documents.24 There are essentially two hypotheses that attempt to explain the origins of the Hungarian great gray ox. According to the first, the breed was the result of cross-breeding with wild oxen. According to the second, it was related to an archaic breed originating from the eastern steppes that arrived in the Carpathian basin around the thirteenth century in connection with the Cumans settlement in these lands. There is no conclusive evidence in favor of either of these theories. Drawing on extensive archaeological investigations, László Bartosiewicz has shown that in the period between the tenth and twelfth centuries, Hungarian cattle lacked the traits of the Hungarian cattle of the sixteenth century, i.e., their large size and wide horns, so it is likely that these elements are the result of a long and careful process of species selection for commercial purposes, further enhanced by the recognized taste and quality of the meat. One thing that is quite certain is that in the mid-sixteenth century, a Hungarian ox weighed on average between 300 and 350 kilograms, and thie figure went up to 450–500 kilograms by the early seventeenth century, while the European standard was 200 kilograms.25

Sources that were created in the sixteenth century and later contain more precise quantitative data on the Hungarian cattle exports to the Venetian markets. In this context, while in Venice there was an increasingly dominant monopoly organization in order to avoid any lack of meat on the city markets (though there were still difficulties and it was ultimately impossible to ensure that there would never be famines),26 from the Hungarian point of view, interest in the Venetian market always remained strong, and indeed it increased, leading to a further specialization of cattle breeding and trade infrastructure towards the lagoon city.27Approximately 100,000 cattle were exported annually from Hungary, with peaks of up to 200,000 cattle in exceptional years. A further 10,000 cattle could be added, exempt from customs duties, which the authorities (especially the Habsburg authorities) often granted to individual merchants as payment for an outstanding loan. In times of high demand, additional cattle arrived from Moldavia and/or Wallachia via Transylvania.28 Roughly 80 percent (on average between 80 and 85 thousand) were destined for the Austrian, German, Moravian, and Hanseatic markets (in particular the cities of Vienna, Augsburg, Nuremberg, Munich, Württemberg, Ulm, and Strasbourg). Roughly 20 percent (on average between 15 and 20 thousand) reached Venice. A small share was destined for the Ottoman Empire.29 Sales and transfers of herds to the central and northern European markets were carried out through individual contracts between western traders and major Hungarian owners and traders, who as a rule used skilled labor for each individual stage of cattle breeding and transfer.30 This was not the case for Venice, where trade was regulated on the basis of a single contract in favor of a merchant operating on his own or in partnership, who undertook before the city authorities “à far la carne.” Thanks to the import of between 15 and 20 thousand Hungarian cattle, Venice organized an almost constant supply and ensured about two thirds of its domestic needs.31 The merchant or company holding the privative contract had to conclude appropriate commercial agreements with the authorities from the other countries who might be interested in the trade. This included the part of the Holy Roman Empire that was ruled by the Habsburg dynasty (which wanted to concentrate business on the Vienna market place), the Principality of Transylvania (through the territories of which cattle from non-Carpathian regions passed), and the Ottoman Empire (which was affected by the passage of the herds); a tribute was due to each customs, of course. Once contracts had been signed, livestock could be obtained in the major markets in Buda and Pest, in the agricultural centers on the Great Plain or at the fairs along the western borders of the former Hungarian dominions. By the end of the sixteenth century, most of the herds were bought or concentrated in Győr. Once collected, the Hungarian herds reached Venice after a journey of more than a month if they came from the Great Plain and about twice as long if they arrived from outside the Carpathian region, crossing Transylvania, then the regions under Turkish control, the Hungarian royal territory and the Habsburg domains, and finally reaching the lands surrounding Venice. Routes already in use since the fifteenth century were followed, marked by pastures and fountains which were maintained with care, sometimes by the central authorities though more often by the merchant or the company that had been contracted to purchase and sell the livestock. This was all part of the work necessary to keep the animals healthy.32 The trade routes crossed the Great Plain and southern Transdanubia, passing the Danube River and then the Mura or the Drava River, depending on the chosen route, going towards Ptuj (Pettau, Pettovia, in present-day Slovenia). Two routes to Gorizia started from here: 1) the “strada di sopra” (the upper road), which passed through Celje (Cilli), Ljubljana (Lubiana), Vrhnika (Vernich), Logatec (Longatico), Planina, Postojna (Postumia), Hrenovice (Crenovizza), Razdrto (Resderta), Vipava (Vipacco) and 2) the “strada di sotto” (the lower road), which passed through Novo Mesto, Krka, Lož, and Planina and then rejoined the first route. From Gorizia, the route continued onward to Udine and finally Portogruaro, and then went by sea to Venice or by land, to take further advantage of pastures, crossing the Piave near Maserada and then heading for Marghera and Venice. Another route involved moving from Ptuj to Bakar (Buccari, on the coast of present-day Croatia), from where the cattle were shipped to Venice. This made it possible to avoid Habsburg customs duties by passing through lands belonging to the noble Zrinyi family, whose estates stretched from the Croatian coast to the confluence of the Mura and Drava Rivers (where, around 1610, a weekly market was organized in the nearby center of Légrád (today Legrad, Croatia), where cattle bred on the Hungarian plains under Turkish rule were concentrated, ready to be easily transferred to Venice).33

Thus, the transfer of Hungarian cattle to Venice and to central and northern Europe could yield large profits, but it required a high availability and a large advance of capital. Likewise, as mentioned, in order to meet the supply needs and avoid a lack of meat on the city market, the Venice authorities were constantly engaged in the organization of this sector, which was essential for the city’s economic and social life.34

In 1529, Marin Sanudo estimated the annual meat needs in Venice at 14,000 cattle, 13,000 calves, and 70,000 “anemali menudi” (pigs, rams, lambs) for a population estimated at around 120,000.35 The meat retail price was capped, and the city authorities endeavored to maintain this cap for long periods. As early as the fifteenth century, prices remained essentially stable, with the exception of brief periods of increase in connection with particular war events or the spread of foot-and-mouth disease.36 Over the next century, the price of beef remained stable at three soldi per pound, rising to four soldi in 1586 and five in 1594. Prices generally rose by one soldo per pound during Lent. But the failure to adjust prices to market levels often discouraged meat imports into the Venetian marketplace because operators preferred to divert meat to more profitable markets.37 Compared to the previous century, in the sixteenth century, there was a preference for lowering import duties rather than increasing consumer prices. The meat supply had become a real obsession for the Venetian authorities, and the dazio delle beccherie was increasingly granted not to the highest bidder in money, but to the one who undertook to bring the largest quantity of livestock into the city.38 In 1507, the dazio was contracted out for 141,000 lire and in 1508 for 152,000 lire. In 1509 and 1510, there were no operators willing to take on the contract. In 1511, it was possible to conclude a discount contract for 101,300 lire. In 1512, there was a moderate increase to 116,000 lire, and in order to combat the meat high price, there were also plans to abolish the tithe on contracts, but with little success.39 In 1513, the Hungarian cattle supply to the Venetian markets was further jeopardized by the strong friction between the Venetian Republic and Emperor Maximilian,40 to which was added the following year the reigning insecurity in the Hungarian lands due to the peasants’ revolt led by György Dózsa.41 It was in response to this possible crisis that, in 1513, Johannes Pastor (Zuan Pastor, Jan Pasztor, or Sowan Pastoir), a Florentine merchant active at the time in Zagreb, promised to supply the Republic of Venice 7,000 cattle by transporting them by sea along the Dalmatian routes, avoiding Habsburg customs. So, in 1515, using the Bakar (Buccari) route, Pastor supplied the Venetian markets with some 5,000 head of cattle, albeit at considerable loss. Although crisis had been averted, the following year, the venture was abandoned, as peace between Venice and the emperor allowed the reopening of usual and safer overland livestock transfer routes.42

The Venetian markets experienced a new meat shortage on the eve of Easter in 1526, when, following the Battle of Mohács, the Kingdom of Hungary fell to the Ottoman Turks. The transport across the border of cattle that had already been purchased was blocked, causing a sudden increase in prices in Venice. The city authorities immediately intervened. They summoned the merchants and butchers and decided to impose severe penalties on those who failed to supply the markets, evidently engaging in illegal hoarding, speculation, and diversion of meat, causing increases in prices.43 The shortages persisted in 1527, and so an attempt was made to encourage the importation of livestock through the premium system. The following year, there was also a reduction in customs duties, and eventually a total exemption was granted.44 But new difficulties related to the so-called Little Hungarian War from 1529 onwards45 triggered a prolonged meat famine in Venice. The authorities required the Venetian mainland to supply just under 15,000 cattle a year, but the provinces were completely unable to meet this demand, especially given the technical backwardness of local breeding practices. Difficulties continued in the following years. At the beginning of 1532, the import of meat was finally liberalized and exempted from customs duties, provided that the meats were sold only in public markets. This expedient measure had the desired effect, and Venetian markets began to be better supplied. This was repeated in 1535, 1537, and 1541, and it led to a marked improvement in the situation in Venice, despite the new and increasing insecurity and floods in the Hungarian lands in 1533. In 1536, it was even possible to draw up a new contract for the dazio delle beccherie, albeit at a price of only 110,000 lire, with a clause to terminate the contract in favor of the assignor in of the roads were to be closed by any authority.46

1542 was a year of particular political and military difficulties. The Hungarian dominions were finally definitively divided between the Habsburgs and the Ottoman Empire, with the Principality of Transylvania largely managing to retain its independence. Customs records of some Hungarian cities on the western borders attest that while textiles continued to account for just under 69 percent of imports, at a value of around 100,000 gold florins, livestock alone now made up about 93 percent of exports, for a total of 300,000 gold florins. About 275,000 gold florins came from the bovine cattle trade, calculated for that year at just over 27,000 heads. And if in 1457–1458 in Bratislava (Pressburg, Pozsony) the export tax on an ox was 2.83 gold florins, in 1542 it had risen to about 10 gold florins per head, while the import tax of a medium quality textile piece dropped from 6.57 gold florins in 1457–1458 to 5.33 gold florins in 1542. Obviously, the customs values do not allow one to calculate the exact market price of a single commodity, much as the sixteenth-century increase in prices and the inflation trend must also be taken into consideration. But these data allow us to imagine the interests and opportunities associated with these transactions.47 In this period, between 1544 and 1564, Peter Valentin, in the sources often identified as Pietro l’Italiano, civis of Ptuj (Pettau), traded Hungarian cattle on the Venetian market for various articles of Western origin, in particular textiles. At the end of this period, he declared that he had paid taxes for a total of 360,000 gold florins, valued at 340,000 by the Vienna Chamber.48

However, despite the numerous precautions taken, it is clear that the Venetian meat market was highly unstable on the supply side. Many heads of cattle arrived exhausted from the long journey, and others did not survive the trip. Furthermore, particular meteorological events, political conflicts, and war clashes could make it difficult to move or keep the animals. All this could lead to shortages, rising prices, and possibly meat famines on the end markets. Indeed, some of the moments of greatest difficulty in procuring meat on the Venetian market are related to the Turkish military campaigns, the consequent insecurity of the trade routes, and the confiscation of animals for war reasons (with repercussions, as seen, in 1526, 1529, 1532, and 1552). Similarly, floods in the Hungarian lands (for example in 1533) could also lead to increases in prices and to famines, as could diseases, such as the cattle diseases that spread in 1566 (with negative impacts in 1569–1571).49

One of the initial responses from the Venetian authorities was the election of two Provveditori alle Beccherie in 1545, who were charged with the task of ensuring that the city remained adequately supplied with meat, even if this required the use of force, on the basis of the model adopted in 1529, albeit with the reduction of requests to 8,000 heads of cattle a year. However, this policy could not have been successful, because in stark contrast to the specialization in the Venetian territories, which were oriented towards the more profitable crops of cereals, rice, and mulberry (useful for the silkworm) or towards sheep breeding (which, moreover, provided the wool necessary for production of clothing and textiles). On the contrary, meat from the Hungarian lands remained cheaper and more practical.50

The next step, therefore, was to encourage the creation of a real monopoly on meat in Venice that would be held in private hands,51 both the merchants interested in this sector and the Venetian authorities, whose objective remained ensuring a safe supply of meat to the city. More often than not, Venetian operators tended to organize themselves into companies to ensure the necessary advances of capital and share the numerous risks associated with the business. To facilitate trade, someone also decided to settle and become civis in main centers along the cattle transit routes between the Hungarian lands and Venice, in particular Ptuj (Pettau) and Ljubljana (Lubiana). In this way, thanks to greater liquidity and economic capacity, not to mention citizenship (after it had been obtained), which also meant the commercial privileges guaranteed to the city and its residents (among all the ius stapuli), these operators were able to monopolize the purchase of cattle on the Hungarian markets, buying up the best animals, outperforming the Austrian and German merchants, and thus obtaining enormous profits.

Around 1566, new unknowns weighed on the Venetian markets meat supply. The first of these unknowns was livestock diseases, which, as noted earlier, spread that year.52 The second was the prospect of a new clash between the Habsburgs and the Turks on Hungarian lands.53 Fearing a decline in meat supplies, the Venetian authorities favored the creation of the Compagnia del partido della beccaria, a special office the sole objective of which was to guarantee a continuous supply of meat. This office was contracted out for periods of five or six years to a single operator or, more often, to companies of several operators who were interested in finding new investment opportunities and an adequate return on their capital. Thanks to an immediate and considerable availability of capital, the Compagnia was able to implement a very aggressive commercial policy. This involved, first, hoarding the best animals available on the various Hungarian fairs and, second, the creation of obstacles to the purchase of animals by other merchants. Furthermore, in 1572, the members of the Compagnia obtained from the Archduke Charles of Habsburg the privilege of buying cattle directly on the Hungarian markets, despite ius stapuli privileges enjoyed by Ptuj (Pettau) and Ljubljana (Lubiana). This skillful political and economic strategy greatly benefited the merchants coming from the lands around the Serenissima, and in a short time, it led the Compagnia to dictate prices on the market and even secure a monopoly position in the trade of cattle among the Hungarian lands, Venice, and the Italian peninsula. Between 1566 and 1572, Iseppo de Francesco was in charge of the Compagnia. Between 1572 and 1577, the office was contracted out by Francesco Cicogna, together with and supported by the capital of a dozen wealthy merchants. In this period, the Compagnia definitively affirmed its monopoly position. From 1577 to 1583, the Compagnia was contracted out to the society of Lucas Bazin, a Venetian who had become civis of Ptuj (Pettau). In this period of six years, it was possible to bring roughly 120,000 bovines to Venice. Lucas Bazin himself maintained a leading role in the cattle trade until 1587 and again between 1593 and 1597.54 To achieve its goal, the Compagnia resorted to every means. When, for example, in 1583–1584 the Habsburg authorities increased the duty from four soldi to 48 per head in the Gorizia transit station, Venetian operators and Hungarian breeders made an agreement with the Buda pasha. Using an old route, they were able to lead the herds through the Turkish territory as far as Zadar, from where the cattle were shipped to Venice, with a considerable reduction in customs and transport costs. The pasha also ensured an armed escort, while Venice guaranteed the maintenance of the roads and also pledged to cut the woods near Zadar to create a vast grazing area. 9,000 animals were brought to the markets in Venice in this way. The attempt, however, was short-lived, mainly due to the loss of livestock due to transport by sea, and already in 1586–1587, the normal route through the Habsburg customs was resumed. Nonetheless, this and many other episodes clearly show that commercial relations with the Turks were not excluded a priori and indeed could prove very advantageous.55

The Compagnia del partido della beccaria organization and its acquisition of a monopoly position did not completely solve the problems with the supply of meat and, therefore, meat famine in Venice. Political conflicts, war events, and various kinds of calamities were always possible, and they threatened totally or partially to compromise the transport of animals, thus triggering meat shortages, price increases, and famine on the Venetian markets. In this sense, new difficulties arose in 1569 and again between 1570 and 1573 in relation to new clashes between the Habsburgs and the Ottomans, which made the roads unsafe and led to the confiscation of animals for war reasons.56 In 1599, similar problems were caused by a new Hungarian cattle infection.57 But certainly the Compagnia’s office was of mutual benefit both to the Republic of Venice and the merchants involved. The Serenissima succeeded in assuring itself a more reliable supply of meat (except, of course, in the case of some unforeseeable event), and the Venetian merchants found in this contract a further opportunity for investment and profit, protecting themselves from the risk (always present and linked to uncontrollable factors) through complex forms of economic and financial collaboration, as well as personal collaboration, with operators who were able to support Venice’s long-term needs. The position of the Hungarian operators, however, was less favorable, and in the long run, they returned for the most part to carry out the sole breeders’ function.58

The roles of individual operators and companies active in the meat trade between Venice and the Hungarian lands in the problems of scarcity or shortages of beef and/or the consequential famines in Venice are still unclear. If Venetian demand and Hungarian supply met to generate a coherent market, this did not completely protect Venice from a crisis and/or a famine in meat, despite the countless and diversified efforts put in place by the city authorities over time. And in this sense, albeit briefly, the sources highlight the most “usual” economic practices aimed at developing famine and possibly hunger, from hoarding to high prices, speculation, and shifts to more profitable markets. Nonetheless, the available data highlight the relevance of Hungarian livestock to the Venice market, as well as, vice versa, the importance of the market in Venice as an outlet for the growing and increasingly specialized Hungarian production. They also offer some insight into how, in all this, the individual and institutional intermediaries participating in this trade maintained political and economic interests of absolute importance.

It is worth recalling the words of two great intellectuals of the Venetian Republic. In 1525, the Venetian Vincenzo Guidotti described the Kingdom of Hungary as one of the most beautiful kingdoms in the world (“tra i regni del mondo bellissimo”), where it was easy to get not only gold, silver, marcasite, rock salt, and cereals, but also animals large and small, of all kinds, and in large numbers (“animali grossi e minuti d’ogni sorta in numero grandissimo”).59 In 1598, in his Geografia, the Paduan Giovanni Antonio Magini (1555–1617) celebrated the now well-known and renowned Hungarian cattle, recalling that the Kingdom of Hungary was most abundant in all the goods that nature offered, because it gave an infinite quantity of excellent products. It was so rich in domestic animals, such as sheep and oxen, that with great wonder it sent them to other countries, and especially to Italy and Germany. Moreover, a single farmer could keep a hundred oxen grazing for several years, seeing them grow up to three times their original size. Almost the whole of Europe, Guidotti claimed, could be fed with meat from this region alone.60

And yet, despite crises which lasted for shorter and longer periods of time, this finally testifies to the deep integration of the Hungarian market into the European context between the late Middle Ages and the early modern period.


Printed sources

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1 Pickl, “Der Handel Wiens und Wiener Neustadts”; Mákkai, “Der ungarische Viehhandel”; Zimányi, “Esportazione di bovini ungheresi”; Tucci, “L’Ungheria e gli approvvigionamenti”; Pickl, “Der Viehhandel von Ungarn”; Blanchard, “The Continental European Cattle Trades”; Pickl, “Die Handelsbeziehungen”; Fara, “Il commercio di bestiame ungherese”; Fara, “An Outline of Livestock Production and Cattle Trade.”

2 Faugeron, “Nourrir la ville. L’exemple,” 53–70; Faugeron, Nourrir la ville. Ravitaillement, 440–49.

3 For an in-depth bibliography, see the recent The Economy of Medieval Hungary, and before Gazdaság és gazdálkodás a középkori Magyarországon.

4 Pickl, “Der Viehhandel von Ungarn,” 40; Kiss, “Die Bedeutung,” 105; Stromer, “Zur Organisation,” 173, 188; Vilfan, “L’approvisionnement,” 61, 64; Carter, Trade and urban development, 241–51.

5 Villani, Cronaca, c. VI, 773–77: “‘n Ungheria cresce grande moltitudine di buoi e vacche, i quali no· lavorano la terra, e avendo larga pastura, crescono e ingrassano tosto, i quali elli uccidono per avere il cuoio, e il grasso che ne fanno grande mercatantia”; cf. Miskulin, Magyar művelődéstörténeti mozzanatok, 72–73.

6 Vilfan, “L’approvisionnement,” 64.

7 Broquière, Voyage d’Ouţremer, 233.

8 Tucci, “L’Ungheria e gli approvvigionamenti,” 156–57.

9 Faugeron, “Nourrir la ville. L’exemple,” 56–57.

10 Deliberazioni del Maggior Consiglio di Venezia, vol. 3, 52.

11 Le deliberazioni del consiglio dei XL della Repubblica di Venezia, vol. 3, 120.

12 Faugeron, “Nourrir la ville. L’exemple,” 68.

13 Faugeron, Nourrir la ville. Ravitaillement, 238–39. In the sixteenth century, the preference was to reduce import duties rather than increase consumer prices. See the disc on the following pages.

14 Ibid., 449.

15 Bilanci generali della Repubblica di Venezia, vol. 1/1, 85; cf. Faugeron, “Nourrir la ville. L’exemple,” 58; Tucci, “L’Ungheria e gli approvvigionamenti,” 157.

16 Faugeron, Nourrir la ville. Ravitaillement, 386 (for Zara), 368 (for Treviso).

17 Ibid., 386.

18 Idid., 370.

19 Other exported items, after cattle, were wine (roughly 23 percent), copper (just under 4 percent, though the transfers of copper were much more considerable and took place through other customs), and other agricultural and animal products in varying, smaller percentages. In imports, after textiles, German and Austrian knives and iron objects followed for 10 percent, spices and Levantine articles for just under 5 percent, and other goods in varying and smaller percentages. The source is published in Kováts, Nyugat-Magyarország áruforgalma; for an analysis, see Pach, “The Role of the East-Central Europe”; cf. Nagy, “Magyarország külkereskedelme,” 253–76; Nagy, “The Problem of the Financial Balance,” 13–20; Nagy, “The Study of Medieval Foreign Trade,” 65–76.

20 Information about the economic involvement of Bishop Zsigmond Ernuszt of Pécs in the livestock trade can be found in Lvdovici Tvberonis, 81. The work of Ludovico Cerva Tubero, also known as Cervarius (1459–1527), offers a vivid and contemporary testimony of political, economic, and social characters and events that involved the Kingdom of Hungary from the death of King Matthias Corvinus (1490) until the death of Pope Leo X (1521), first published in 1603: cf. Kubinyi, “Budai kereskedők udvari szállításai,”104; Teke, “Rapporti commerciali,” 150–52.

21 See again Kubinyi, “Budai kereskedők udvari szállításai,”104; Teke, “Rapporti commerciali,” 150–52.

22 An overview in Engel, The Realm of St. Stephen, 345–71; Engel et al., Histoire de la Hongrie médiévale, 369–400; cf. next note.

23 With further bibliography, from an archaeological and environmental point of view: Bartosiewicz, “Animal husbandry”; Bartosiewicz, “Turkish Period Bone Finds”; Bartosiewicz and Gál, “Animal Exploitation”; Csippán, “Meat Supplies”; Rácz, “The Price of Survival”; cf. Hungarian Archaeology, 60–64; 405–13: 411; from an economic point of view: Zimányi, “Esportazione di bovini ungheresi”; Blanchard, “The Continental European Cattle Trades”; Ágoston, “The Costs of the Ottoman Fortress-System”; Fara, “Crisi e carestia.” Looking at the northern regions of historical Hungary (present-day Slovakia), Zimányi, “Esportazione di bovini ungheresi,” 148–49 recalls that: “before the ‘price revolution’ in the 1520s, for the price of an ox it was possible to have Moravian cloth [of average quality and largely accessible] sufficient for an item or an item and a half of clothing; after the differentiating effects of the ‘price revolution’ around the 1580s, in exchange for an ox, it was possible to buy cloth sufficient for two and a half items of clothing, and, in the 1600s, for three and one third. […] Livestock breeding, therefore, involved, temporarily, greater advantages than cloth production.”

24 Milhoffer, Magyarország közgazdasága, 74.

25 Mákkai, “Economic landscapes”; Kiss, “Agricultural and Livestock Production”; Topolski, “A model of East-Central European continental commerce”; Blanchard, “The Continental European Cattle Trades”; Bartosiewicz, “Cattle Trade”; Bartosiewicz, “The Hungarian Grey Cattle”; Bartosiewicz , “Animal husbandry”; Bartosiewicz , “Turkish Period Bone Finds”; Hoffmann, “Frontier Foods”; Bartosiewicz and Gál, “Animal Exploitation”; Bartosiewicz, “Animal Bones”; Rácz, “The Price of Survival.”

26 Faugeron, Nourrir la ville. Ravitaillement, 171–292.

27 Fara, “Il commercio di bestiame ungherese.”

28 Sixteenth-century sources record numerous commercial enterprises engaged in livestock trade between the two sides of Carpathians and also managed or participated in by operators of Italian origin. For example, between 1520 and 1521, the Italian Vincenzo di Giacomo and his Moldovan partner Drăghici were involved in buying and selling cattle between Moldova and Transylvania. Documente privitoare la istoria românilor, vol. 15/1, nr. 447 (10 September 1520); Quellen zur Geschichte der Stadt Kronstadt, vol. 1, nr. 367 (26 November 1521), 368 (5 December 1521); see Goldenberg, “Notizie del commercio italiano,” 255–88: 262. On the cattle registered as “Hungarian” but coming from the Romanian Principalities (Wallachia and Moldavia) see: Murgescu, “Der Anteil der rumänischen Fürstentümer,” 61–91; Murgescu, “Balances of Trade and Payments,” 961–80; Murgescu, “Participarea Ţărilor Române la comerţul,” 207–26: 210–16. Finally, a case study in Luca, “Un tentativo d’importazione,” 303–22.

29 On the basis of historical analyses and archaeological data, it is estimated that in 1580, the total number of herds was about three million, which means that, at least for that year, exports did not exceed 6 percent of the available livestock. Mákkai, “Der ungarische Viehhandel”; Pickl, “Die Auswirkungen der Türkenkriege”; Zimányi, “Esportazione di bovini ungheresi”; Tucci, “L’Ungheria e gli approvvigionamenti”; Vilfan, “L’approvisionnement”; Żytkowicz, “Trends of Agrarian Economy”; Kiss, “Agricultural and Livestock Production”; Blanchard, “The Continental European Cattle Trades”; Sárközy, “Mercanti di bovini”; Rădvan, “On the Medieval Urban Economy”; cf. Carter, Trade and urban development, 241–51.

30 In 1518, an anonymous Nuremberg resident claimed that all of Germany is supplied with meat from Hungary (“tutta la Germania è rifornita di carne”): Lütge, Strukturwandlungen, 6, and Blanchard, “The Continental European Cattle Trades,” 435 note 37.

31 In 1569, an anonymous Venetian cattle trader apologized to the Venetian authorities for not being able to supply the city with the necessary meat, because on the Dalmatian route it was not possible to bring 7,000 or 8,000 animals a year, as was customary (“per la via di Dalmatia non si è potuto condur li anemali si come per avanti se faceva, quali erano al numero de 7 in 8 miliar all’anno”); moreover, Charles of Habsburg had forbidden the transit of Hungarian cattle through Austria. The same person recalled that Hungarian livestock was in the highest demand on the Venetian meat market, and for a good part of the year, since the animals that could be bought for the subjects of the Serenissima were barely enough to satisfy the city markets for only a third of the year (“detti animali della Ongheria li quali erano quelli che mantenivano le beccarie di carne per il piu, et la maggior parte dell’anno, se donche li animali che si comprano nelli mercati et lochi suditi alla vestra serenita non sono bastanti per il terzo del tempo dell’anno a mantener dette beccarie”). Zimányi, “Esportazione di bovini ungheresi,” 154–55.

32 Hungarian cattle were so sought after that even when an animal was injured and required excessive care and was therefore unable to continue the long journey, it could be easily exchanged for local cattle; so much so that many accidents were deliberately caused by the cattlemen in order to speculate on replacement. Tucci, “L’Ungheria e gli approvvigionamenti,” 165–66.

33 For a description of possible routes and the duties that were due at individual customs, from Moldova to Venice, see Pickl, “Die Auswirkungen der Türkenkriege,” 88; Zimányi, “Esportazione di bovini ungheresi”; Teke, “Rapporti commerciali”; Tucci, “L’Ungheria e gli approvvigionamenti,” 160–61, 164–65, 171; Vilfan, “L’approvisionnement,” 62–63; Blanchard, “The Continental European Cattle Trades.”

34 Faugeron, Nourrir la ville. Ravitaillement, 171–292.

35 I Diarii di Marino Sanuto, vol. 50, 65.

36 Faugeron, “Nourrir la ville. L’exemple,” 56.

37 Tucci, “L’Ungheria e gli approvvigionamenti,” 156.

38 Faugeron, “Nourrir la ville. L’exemple,” 70.

39 Bilanci generali della Repubblica di Venezia, vol. 1/1, 182; cf. Tucci, “L’Ungheria e gli approvvigionamenti,” 155.

40 And this forced transport by sea: ibid.

41 Recently, with bibliography: Péter, “The Other Way”; and other papers on the topic in Armed Memory.

42 Pickl, “Die Auswirkungen der Türkenkriege,” 85–86; Tucci, “L’Ungheria e gli approvvigionamenti,” 155; Budak, “I fiorentini nella Slavonia,” 694–95; Faugeron, Nourrir la ville. Ravitaillement, 370.

43 I Diarii di Marino Sanuto, vol. 41, 165; cf. Tucci, “L’Ungheria e gli approvvigionamenti,” 155.

44 Ibid.

45 See the overview in Bérenger, La Hongrie des Habsbourgs, 85–104.

46 See Tucci, “L’Ungheria e gli approvvigionamenti,” 156–57.

47 In imports, after textiles, came German and Austrian knives and iron objects at nine percent, followed by spices and Levantine articles at just under four percent. In exports, after livestock, there was wine, which fell to just under two percent (perhaps because it was exempt, at that time, from the border tax due to the political vicissitudes in the kingdom), and copper, at just 0.33 percent (again because it was mostly transferred via other customs). Pach, “The Role of the East-Central Europe.”

48 Pickl, “Die Auswirkungen der Türkenkriege,” 96–98; Zimányi, “Il ruolo degli Italiani,” 176–77; Vilfan, “L’approvisionnement,” 64–65.

49 Tucci, “L’Ungheria e gli approvvigionamenti,” 157–58, 162–63.

50 Ibid., 158–59.

51 Faugeron, Nourrir la ville. Ravitaillement, 171–292.

52 See note 49.

53 Again Bérenger, La Hongrie des Habsbourgs, 85–104.

54 Pickl, “Die Auswirkungen der Türkenkriege,” 98–104; Tucci, “L’Ungheria e gli approvvigionamenti,” 159–63, 168–71; Zimányi, “Il ruolo degli Italiani,” 177–78, with a detailed description of these and many other contracts; see Pakucs-Willcocks, SibiuHermannstadt, 104–39; Ciure, Relaţiile dintre Veneţia şi Transilvania, 143–211.

55 See Pach, “The Role of the East-Central Europe.” The Hungarian and Italian merchants’ agreement with the pasha of Buda is described and analyzed in Pickl, “Die Auswirkungen der Türkenkriege,” 117; Zimányi, “Esportazione di bovini ungheresi,” 151; Zimányi, “Il ruolo degli Italiani,” 177–78; Tucci, “L’Ungheria e gli approvvigionamenti,” 166–67. A similar use of Dalmatian routes was attempted in the early sixteenth century by Johannes Pastor, a Florentine nation merchant working in Zagreb: see note 42. On the organization and management of the Hungarian borderlands occupied by the Turks through the implementation of a careful policy of controlling costs and the settlement and taxation of the population favorably engaged in agriculture and livestock breeding for commercial purposes, see Ágoston, “The Costs of the Ottoman Fortress-System.” The Adriatic Sea economic and commercial vitality, with particular reference to the Dalmatian coasts and the Balkan area, is the subject of a vast literature; with further bibliography, see: Raukar, “I fiorentini in Dalmazia”; Budak, “I fiorentini nella Slavonia”; Moroni, “Le Marche e la penisola balcanica,” 199–220; Moroni, “Mercanti e fiere”; Moroni, Tra le due sponde dell’Adriatico, 1–54; Moroni, L’impero di San Biagio.

56 See note 31.

57 Tucci, “L’Ungheria e gli approvvigionamenti,” 170–71; on the difficulties of procuring Hungarian meat for the Venetian market between the end of the sixteenth century and the beginning of the seventeenth (with an interesting French point of view), see also Sahin-Tóth, “A velencei magyar marhaexport.”

58 Fara, “Il commercio di bestiame ungherese.”

59 Document in Tucci, “L’Ungheria e gli approvvigionamenti,” 153, note 4.

60 Magini, Geografia, vol. 1, 112: “Ella [Hungary] è abondantissima di tutte le più prestanti cose, che può far natura, perché dà infinita copia d’ottimi frutti […]. È tanto ricca d’animali domestici, come di pecore, e di buoi, che negli esterni paesi, e specialmente nell’Italia, e nella Germania, manda tante, e sì gran schiere di buoi, e di pecore, che è un stupore. Percioche si come riferisce un certo, spesse volte un villano solo alquanti anni mantiene cento buoi à paschi, dove li vede à tre doppi cresciuti. Perché quasi tutta l’Europa potrebbe da questa sola Regione essere nudrita di carni.” Cf. Tucci, “L’Ungheria e gli approvvigionamenti,” 153, note 5.


Administration and War Finance: Extraordinary Taxes in Hungary at the Beginning of the Reign of King Matthias (1458–1466)

István Kádas
Research Centre for the Humanities
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Hungarian Historical Review Volume 11 Issue 3  (2022):591–621 DOI 10.38145/2022.3.591

In the first decade of the reign of King Matthias Corvinus, extraordinary taxes were imposed to provide revenues with which the state could recover the Holy Crown, fund the campaigns against “Czech” mercenaries who were causing upheavals in the northern parts of the kingdom, and make preparations for imminent conflicts in the south because of the continuous threat of Ottoman attacks. The extraordinary taxes were mostly used for military purposes, more specifically, to finance the wars and military campaigns against the Czech warbands and the Turks. However, the manner in which these taxes were administrated varied considerably, as did their scope. During the period in question, there were particular taxes for some counties or rather regions (especially for the northeastern) and countrywide levies. Furthermore, it was possible for the nobility to be granted an exemption from the obligation to serve in the military in person or provide soldiers for the military (the so-called militia portalis) by paying an extraordinary tax (and thus essentially purchasing this exemption). There was a close connection between the administration of the extraordinary tax and the process of recruitment. Members of the royal court who served as officers in the royal army often took part in the taxation as tax collectors, and they probably used these taxes directly to pay their mercenaries.

Keywords: Taxation, extraordinary tax, medieval Hungarian Kingdom, Matthias Corvinus, militia portalis, military obligation of the nobility, royal campaigns

When Hungarian King Matthias Hunyadi took the throne in 1458, the most pressing problem he faced was not simply the need to regain the Holy Crown, which was essential to his claim to power and important as a symbol that would ensure some measure of stability, but also to end the rule of the “Czech” mercenaries in the so-called Northern Parts (Partes superiores) of the kingdom.1 Furthermore, the threat of Ottoman incursion remained a constant issue. In order to finance the campaigns, pay his soldiers, and regain control of the castles (and the crown) by paying the ransoms which had been put on them, he needed money, money, and more money, the primary source of which was various taxes. In this essay, I examine the methods used to finance war between the accession of Matthias to the throne and the treasury reform of 1467, including an array of extraordinary taxes. The year 1466 and the beginning of 1467 can also be seen as a pivotal moment in terms of military finances, as the later sources no longer make any mention of the captains in the Northern Parts,2 and it was also a turning point in Matthias’ policy towards the Turks.3

The lucrum camerae or chamber’s profit, which was the usual annual tax in the kingdom, was of course continuously collected during the period in question at the rate of one-fifth of one gold forint per serf plot,4 and the tax was usually levied and collected at the beginning of the year.5 This tax also played an important role in military financing before and after the launch of a campaign, with individual barons and knights of the royal court often receiving the tribute from certain counties to pay for their military expenses.6 The ordinary and extraordinary taxes paid by the royal towns also played a key role in providing finances for war. The cities contributed to the campaigns with military equipment, soldiers, money, and various extraordinary taxes, but they also paid extraordinary taxes to the Holy Crown.7 The extraordinary taxes levied on the serfs of the kingdom were also generally justified with reference to the military situation (the Czech and Turkish questions), and the recovery of the Holy Crown was another matter of national importance for which taxes were offered.

The extraordinary tax is most commonly referred to in the sources from the period as contributio (contribution), the term subsidium (aid) being applied to the extraordinary portal tax from 1468.8 It was often simply referred to as taxa (tax), however, a term which was also used as a synonym for contributio.9 The levying of a contributio was very common in the period in question, with records of some kind of extraordinary contribution, usually to provide financing for military campaigns, surviving from every year between 1458 and 1467. In some cases, the sources indicate that several different taxes were levied in a single year. However, though one might be tempted to associate this with King Matthias’ burdensome tax squeeze, it is worth first taking a closer look at the individual taxes levied. In addition to the nationwide taxes which were levied on all counties, there were also frequent individual taxes covering only certain counties or groups of counties. This was particularly the case in the Northern Parts, where the county nobility repeatedly offered the captain general some kind of extraordinary contribution to suppress the Czech presence and ultimately drive the Czechs from the region. Also, on many occasions during the period in question, the county nobility offered sums of money in exchange for not having to take part in the military campaigns personally (noble insurrection) or not having to send soldiers, the number of which depended on the size of the nobleman’s estates (militia portalis).10 The sources which contain records of the various taxes that were collected are uneven from one area to another, depending on the family or town archives where these non-legal documents were held. Perhaps not surprisingly, in the case of the northeastern region and Szabolcs County many such sources have survived, while for other regions we have only scattered bits of information.

Regional Taxes Levied in the Northern Parts

The “Czech” mercenaries arrived in the Northern Parts during the civil war of the 1440s, fighting in the service of Jan Jiskra, the ispán (comes) of Sáros,11 who had been appointed captain by Queen Elizabeth in 1440. The influence of Jiskra and his captains extended from roughly Zólyom to Zemplén and Ung, and they commanded many of the castles.12 When Jiskra refused to submit to Matthias in 1458 but recognized instead the Polish King Casimir IV and then the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III as the Hungarian king, Matthias had to reconquer the castles and settlements that had fallen into Czech hands with arms and money.13 Jiskra finally surrendered and recognized Matthias as king in the spring of 1462, but some Czech captains and mercenaries continued to hold sway in the region, and thus the campaigns for control of the territory (and its castles) continued for a few more years.14

Military operations in the Northern Parts were led by persons holding the rank of captain and captain general. Richárd Horváth has examined this institution in considerable detail, including its financial aspects. His research reveals that local sources, meaning incomes from county and towns taxes, were often used to finance military operations and pay soldiers in the Northern Parts.15 For the most part, this meant that certain sums from the ordinary and extraordinary taxes of the counties concerned were paid to the captains or a captain received the entire county tax to cover his expenses. In August 1461, for example, Imre Szapolyai, the royal treasurer and captain general, gave receipts to two tax collectors in Sáros for the 106.5 gold forints he had received from them to pay his soldiers and for the 76 gold forint paid to Captain István Szapolyai by the tax collectors during the siege of Újvár (today Hanigovský hrad, Slovakia).16 In addition to the monies thus provided by the county of Sáros, the one forint tax collected in the neighboring Szepes was also used to pay Szapolyai’s soldiers, and in September 1461, King Matthias ordered that the entire tax income of Sáros and Szepes be paid to István Szapolyai.17 At the diet in Buda in March 1461, an extraordinary tax was levied on every county of the kingdom for the benefit of the public to provide funds for military campaigns against the enemies of the country.18 This national tax was also used to finance military operations in the Northern Parts (the sieges of the castles of Sáros [today Hrad Šariš, Slovakia] and Újvár).19

In addition, the lords, prelates, and nobles of the counties concerned in the Northern Parts sometimes offered special taxes to the captain general. It is worth mentioning the decisions reached by the 1454 assembly in Terebes (in Zemplén County, today Trebišov, Slovakia) as a kind of precursor to such extraordinary taxes. The barons and nobles gathered at Terebes made Osvát Rozgonyi captain and charged him with the task of restoring order. They levied a tax of a quarter-forint per plot of land on their serfs to pay his army. The administration of the tax was carried out by the counties through elected tax collectors, and the counties were allowed to dispose of any remaining monies after the army had been paid.20

In the spring of 1459, an extraordinary tax was again levied in the Northern Parts. At the end of March 1459, Master of the Doorkeepers Simon Cudar and Judge Royal László Pálóci were appointed to the head of the army, both as captains general.21 The two captains levied a tax in the counties of the Northern Parts which they referred to with the term contributio exercitualis. This tax was one gold forint per four serf plots, or again, a quarter-forint contribution per plot.22 The sources reveal that this tax was also offered by the prelates, barons, and nobles of the counties of the Northern Parts for the defense of their part of the kingdom, and it was used primarily to pay and supply the soldiers defending the town of Eperjes (today Prešov, Slovakia).23 The task of collecting this tax was left to the liegemen24 of the captain generals, which in the case of Ung County meant Zsigmond Csicseri, a loyal adherent to Pálóci, while in Sáros, Simon Cudar was in charge of the tax on the estates belonging to the Bártfa estate (today Bardejov, Slovakia).25

The spring-summer campaign of 1459 ended with a short peace, but in the meantime the Czech mercenary captain Jan Talafúz, Jiskra’s lieutenant, built a fortress at Komlós (today Chmeľovec, Slovakia) on the Tapoly River. Thus, in October of that year, the nobles of Zemplén went to war again. At the request of the people of Zemplén, the king made László Pálóci the leader of the army and ordered the towns of Kassa (today Košice, Slovakia), Bártfa, and Eperjes to join the campaign with their troops.26 The noblemen of the counties that had gone to war with Pálóci offered the captain general a new tax to provide money to pay the soldiers, and Pálóci sent his own liegemen to the counties to impose and collect this tax.27 In April 1460, Pálóci and the barons who had joined him in the campaign (István Perényi and Bertalan and István Homonnai) reached an agreement with the Czech captains of Komlós to destroy the castle and to keep a ceasefire until Christmas.28 The captains of Komlós concluded this truce with five counties (Abaúj, Sáros, Szepes, Zemplén, and Ung) and three cities (Kassa, Bártfa, and Lőcse, today Levoča, Slovakia). Their troops were allowed to take part in the campaign. Pálóci and the others promised the Czechs 4,250 gold forints, 250 of which were immediately turned over to the Czechs, while the remainder was paid in installments, with the last installment to be paid four weeks later. This money may well have been generated from the tax.

In early July 1460, some kind of tax was collected in Sáros County to pay the Czechs (ad solutionem Bohemorum). The brief missilis offers no other information concerning the purpose of this tax, though we know that it was levied on all estates, including those of Bártfa, by order of King Matthias.29 By this time, King Matthias was personally waging war against the Czechs, and at the time at which the letter was composed and in the preceding weeks, he had been laying siege to the Hussite fortress built in Pata (today Gyöngyöspata, Hungary) in Heves County.30 The aforementioned charter, however, makes no mention of military action against the Czechs but refers, rather, to payments made to them. Thus, it is more likely that the document is related to the abovementioned payment to the captains of Komlós or to the ransom for the redemption or destruction of another fortress.31

In the Northern Parts of the country, the national tax may also have taken a distinctive form. The monies were generally used in this part of the country to finance war or to redeem castles in Bohemian hands. In November 1458, at the beginning of the reign of King Matthias, the extraordinary contribution, which was originally issued to cover the costs of the military operations in Serbia against the Ottomans,32 was definitely collected in this region for the defense of the Northern Parts.33 The money was presumably used to cover a military campaign against the Czechs, which was led by Bishop László Hédervári of Eger and Master of the Doorkeepers Simon Cudar.34 In 1462 the extraordinary tax to reobtain the Holy Crown was also used to redeem Késmárk (today Kežmarok, Slovakia) and other places in the counties in the Northern Parts.35

In 1464, however, another tax was levied in the Northern Parts which was certainly not the same as the tax paid in the same year by the nobility to avoid having to serve in the military campaigns (I address this in detail in the next chapter), but which, rather, was levied in addition to it. As had been the case in 1454 and probably 1459, it was offered by the local nobility of the counties which belonged to the Kassa chamber district, this time for Captain István Szapolyai, who could then use it to hire mercenaries. The offer was in fact a response to a specific military threat, as in the autumn of that year, Czech soldiers threatened the Szepesség region and occupied the monastery of Stóla (today Štôla, Slovakia).36 This extraordinary tax amounted to one gold forint per five serfs and was presumably collected by the county nobles.37

These regional taxes (1454, 1459, 1464) offered by the barons, bishops, and nobles of the Northern Parts usually did not amount to a whole forint, but rather were contributions of a quarter or a fifth of a forint. They were intended to provide finances for a specific purpose, a specific military campaign, and they were also intended to be used in a specific area, the Northern Parts, and in particular for campaigns and undertakings in the eastern counties (or at least, sources regarding these campaigns and undertakings have survived). Essentially, these extraordinary taxes were intended to cover the wages of soldiers fighting in the armies of the captains in the Northern Parts. They were “supplementary” taxes, but in addition to them, a share of the national tax collected from the region was also diverted to cover “regional” purposes, for instance in 1462. The administration of the tax was also carried out in different ways in these few cases. The sources clearly reveal that in 1454, the counties chose their tax collectors themselves, and this was probably also the case in 1464. In 1459, in contrast, the tax was collected by the captain generals’ men.

The “War Tax”

These extraordinary taxes, thus, were specifically “war taxes,” and they were generally used to pay mercenaries and feed soldiers. In essence, the same could be said of all the extraordinary portal taxes of the period, probably including even the 1462 contributio, which, admittedly, was levied nationally to redeem the Holy Crown in principle, but the monies were probably used in the end for military supplies in Transylvania to secure the position of Wallachia.38 However, in the secondary literature, one finds references to a specific “war tax” for this period, the so-called taxa exercitualis, which was also used as war money.39 In his seminal study on the state organization of the period, András Kubinyi wrote the following about this tax: “the surviving sources contain data referring to a war tax (taxa exercitualis) that was levied five times between 1459 and 1471 which was not the same thing as ‘aid’ (subsidium) but which, rather, was used to cover the costs of providing soldiers or, more precisely, the costs incurred by the nobility in exchange for not having to provide soldiers according to the size of their estates for the royal army.”40 Kubinyi did not aim to analyze this type of tax in detail. Rather, the contention cited above is offered merely as a general, summary statement. This contention can be modified on several points. As the sources from the five years cited (1459, 1463, 1464, 1467, and 1471) clearly reveal, the use of terminology was hardly consistent. The term taxa exercitualis occurs in only two cases, and these taxes are referred to as contributio exercitualis or simply contributio or perhaps subsidum (after 1468), similar to the “classical” extraordinary taxes.41 Furthermore, the sources cited by Kubinyi for the most part did not concern (or not only) taxes paid by the nobility to avoid having to provide soldiers depending on the size of their estates.42 One of these taxes was the aforementioned extraordinary tax collected in the Northern Parts in the spring of 1459, which, although it was intended for a specific war purpose (the payment of mercenaries stationed in Eperjes), was not used in exchange for the military service or the militia portalis. The 1467 source refers to a tax paid by the Romanians of Fogaras, while the data from 1471 refer to the tax offered by the nobility to avoid having to participate in the military campaigns themselves.43

There were earlier examples of the nobility paying taxes to avoid having to take part in the military campaigns themselves. In the summer of 1460, King Matthias personally led a campaign against the Czech fortifications in Heves, Borsod, and Gömör Counties. The royal army won a victory at Pata (in Heves County) in July and then captured Sajónémeti (in Borsod County) in August and Serke (in Gömör County, today Širkovce, Slovakia) in September.44 The battles continued in October and November in Abaúj and Sáros Counties in the north until late November,45 when the Transylvanian Voivode Sebestyén Rozgonyi, the army’s captain general, concluded a ceasefire with the Czech captain of Újvár.46 The nobility of Szabolcs County also took part in the campaign at the order of the king, and from the Pata military camp, the king called on the nobility of Szabolcs and ordered that each nobleman join the campaign in person with their cavalry and infantry without delay.47 At the end of August, however, during the siege of Sajónémeti, the nobles of Szabolcs decided to return home, and instead of continuing the war, they promised the king a one-forint tax for successful battles against the Czechs. This tax, which was clearly offered as a substitute for participation in the fighting, is referred to in the sources as a one-forint contributio, like any other extraordinary tax.

King Matthias sent his tax collectors to collect the promised contribution, of course, and he called on the county authorities and especially Miklós Várdai, the ispán of Szabolcs, to assist in this.48 The taxes began to be collected at the end of August, but the process went slowly, and at the end of October, the king had to call on the people of Szabolcs to allow the tax collectors to perform their function and gather the taxes.49 According to the charters, this tax was offered specifically by the nobility of Szabolcs County as a substitute for active participation in the fighting. Thus, it can be regarded as an extraordinary tax. The nobility of Szabolcs, however, was not alone in adopting this solution. In September 1460, a one-forint tax was also collected in Heves County, which was also affected by the military campaign. King Matthias used the monies from this tax to pay certain sums to Detre Gyulafi of Kaza, presumably for his war expenses.50 Probably after the front had moved somewhat to the north, the nobility of Heves County also preferred to pay taxes than to participate in the fighting. In addition to Szabolcs and Heves Counties, the nobility of Ung and Pilis may also have been among the noblemen who went to war but returned home early. In the case of these counties, we also know of an extraordinary tax of one forint, although the reference to the collection of this tax in Ung County is from a source five years later,51 while the source for Pilis dates from December 1460. At that time, the tax collector Miklós Jenkei had to find a way to make a payment from the taxes that had been collected to a certain Master István52 at the order of Palatine Mihály Ország. Considering that in the case of Szabolcs County there were still problems with the levying and payment of the tax at the end of October, we can perhaps also link the one-forint tax paid by the nobility of Pilis to the military campaign. In other words, this tax may have been paid as an alternative to active participation in the campaign.

If we wish to take a closer look at the practice by the nobility of paying taxes to avoid having to take part in military campaigns or send soldiers depending on the size of their estates, we should consider the data from 1463 and 1464. In both years, the nobles were called on to participate in the fighting and send soldiers, and the sources from both years contain references to a one-forint contributio. Furthermore, the term taxa exercitualis comes from the sources from these two years.53 In the spring of 1463, Sultan Mehmed II invaded Bosnia and executed Bosnian King Stephen Tomašević. The Ottoman armies also ravaged the region known as Temesköz (roughly, the flatlands between the Maros, Tisza, and Danube Rivers) and the Szerémség (the region between the Danube and Sava Rivers, also known as Syrmia), and King Matthias feared that they might lay siege to Nándorfehérvár (today Belgrade, Serbia).54 In response to the attacks by the Ottomans, in March, a diet was held in Tolnavár (today Tolna, Hungary).55 The diet ordered nobles with less than ten serf plots to take part in the military campaigns in person, and nobles with more than ten serf plots were to provide one mounted soldier for every ten plots on their estates. The counties were responsible for recruiting and mobilizing soldiers for the army, a task which was assigned to the ispán or his deputy (alispán, vicecomes) and also to a local nobleman chosen for this purpose by the nobility. The serf plots only had to be recounted for the militia portalis in places where no extraordinary tax was collected or the Turks had already removed part of the population. Otherwise, the numbers recorded when the one-forint tax was collected were used.56 The one-forint tax was the contributio that had been levied a year earlier to recover the Holy Crown (and which was slowly trickling down), which the tax collectors from Ung County, for instance, only offered an account of at the Tolnavár diet.57

The measure makes no mention of offers of money to avoid having to provide soldiers, but the term “taxa exercitualis” does appear in the sources from that summer and autumn. The decree also does not mention that an extraordinary tax was levied in Tolnavár, but we know from a receipt issued in June that the king and the royal council (prelati et barones) decided to levy a new one-forint contributio at the diet or at least that in Sáros County this tax was to be given to István Szapolyai.58 It is worth comparing the data concerning the collection of the taxes referred to as taxa exercitualis and contributio, as well as the data relating to recruitment.59

According to the decision of the diet, armies from the southern counties had to arrive in Pétervárad (today Petrovaradin, Serbia) on May 29, while the inhabitants of the more distant part of the country were given two weeks to come. The assembly of the army and the collection of taxes took place almost simultaneously, one right after the other, with the usual slowness, of course. On June 5, 1463, the king, who had already gone into war and was staying in Bács (today Bač, Serbia), relieved Miklós Schlick of the obligation to take part in the campaign. A royal order from the following month reveals that Schlick was exempted not only from the obligation to go to war but also from the one-forint contribution collected at the time from his estates in Nyitra County.60 A letter from Schlick has also survived, which reveals that János Forgács (from Nyitra County) sent his man with the king’s man (or rather, Captain Balázs Magyar’s man)61 to collect the contributio.62 Forgács was cautioned by several people, however, to stop collecting taxes from people who had gone to war.63

By the end of June 1463, the first part of the contribution had been collected in Sáros County, or at least János Szinyei and Simon Sós, the two tax collectors of Sáros County, handed over a significant amount of money from the collected tax to István Szapolyai for the first time.64 The tax flowed in slowly (summer work in the fields undoubtedly hampered the process), and between June 21 and September 24, Szinyei and Sós handed over the monies collected in several instalments.65 The figure at the end of September can definitely be seen as a tax arrears. From the same region, on June 25, we have the first record of a contribution referred to as taxa exercitualis, when Imre Szapolyai disposed of the tax from Abaúj County. Szapolyai asked for the money to be sent to Buda so that he could use it to pay his mercenaries.66 On September 24, King Matthias called on the tax collectors of Ung County because of a delay in the payment of the taxa exercitualis. This too can be thought of as arrears.67 In Zemplén County, taxes were still being collected in September.68 Moreover, in the case of the Kassa tax district, the taxes seem to have been collected in a similar manner, whether the tax was called contribution or taxa exercitualis. Here, the tax was administered by two or three wealthy or middle-ranking nobles from the county who had probably been elected by the county community.69 Thus, it seems that the eventual military levy and the contribution were paid at the same time and in the same way and to the same people. This suggests that the same taxes were paid under both names. Recruitment was also taking place at the time, carried out by the counties on the basis of numbers gathered earlier concerning serf plots, so the tax collectors and the recruiters (sollicitatores) may have worked together.

There are also indications in the sources of some one-forint taxes that were partly collected and partly in arrears in November 1463 in Szatmár County and January 1464 in Bodrog County.70 A second tax may even have been levied, as Matthias was expecting some kind of new subsidium in the autumn of 1463.71 However, considering the terminology used at the time and the long delays in the collection of taxes, which could last up to a year, I think it is more likely that this was the same tax and taxa exercitualis of one forint that was levied in Tolnavár. The identities of the tax collectors in Szatmár also suggest that this was the case. Péter Tegzes of Anarcs and Gergely Ders of Petri, two wealthy noblemen and acting alispáns from the county,72 were the dicators of Szatmár County, which also indicates that the tax was administrated at the county level.

The 1463 data therefore show that the same tax that elsewhere was referred to as a one-forint contributio was collected as taxa exercitualis. The latter name obviously refers to the use of the tax for military purposes, just as the 1459 extraordinary tax for mercenaries stationed in Eperjes in the Northern Parts was called contributio exercitualis for the same reason. The term itself does not reveal whether the tax was paid as an alternative to serving in the campaigns or to providing soldiers, the aforementioned data from Nyitra County confirm that the tax collector could not claim the one-forint contribution from the estates of those who had gone into battle. Furthermore, as we know from the Tolnavár decree, no new census was taken of serf plots in 1463. The militia portalis was based on the lists from the extraordinary tax collected the previous year.

The tax collection from 1464 shows a clear picture. Following the coronation of King Matthias on March 29 in Fehérvár (today Székesfehérvár, Hungary), the estates were again order to provide soldiers. Although Jajca (today Jajce, Bosnia and Herzegovina) had been captured after three months of siege during the campaign the previous year and other Bosnian fortresses had surrendered by the end of January 1464, there was a well-founded fear that Sultan Mehmed II would soon launch an army to retake Bosnia.73 Thus, it was important to half a properly equipped army on hand. This time, the sources with the precise regulations concerning the militia portalis have survived, indeed in multiple editions and addressed to two different counties, Heves and Ung (which unfortunately both belonged to the Kassa chamber district).74 According to the regulations, estate owners had to provide one mounted soldier for every twelve serf plots or pay ten forints. This regulation encouraged the nobles to choose taxation, as the one-off payment of ten forints was probably cheaper than the cost of a soldier’s salary for months. The framework for the assembly of the army and the collection of the tax was the chamber’s profit districts, or the so-called cultelli.75 Two or three people were appointed from among the prelates and barons to each district, and a local nobleman from each county was selected by them to assist them. Given the sources which have survived, from among the chamber’s profit districts (or cultelli), we again have the most data from the tax district of Kassa, and we know that Judge Royal László Pálóci and the aforementioned Master of the Doorkeepers Simon Cudar of Ónod were responsible for the census of plots and the administration of the tax. The king contacted the counties concerned from Fehérvár on April 6 and informed them of the method of counting the serf plots and collecting the tax and also of the appointment of Pálóci and Cudar.76

The next data we have comes from Zemplén County. Pálóci and Cudar wrote a letter to the county nobility on April 15 about the tax referred to as contributio. This tax is unquestionably the money that was paid by the nobility to avoid having to take part in the campaigns or send soldiers depending on the size of their estates. Pálóci and Cudar referred to the decree of Fehérvár and the fact that the king and the diet had appointed them to implement it. The document is incomplete, but it also names the tax collectors who were used by the lords, who were chosen from among their liegemen.77 Thus, the term contributio could and did mean money paid to avoid having to serve or send soldiers as part of the militia portalis.

Not surprisingly, the collection of this tax also went slowly. According to an order sent by King Matthias to Szepes County on May 27, the county nobility had not yet decided whether to send soldiers or pay taxes.78 In the end, the king tired of waiting, and on July 17, he sent his own man, Lőrinc Temesvári, the chancellery notary, to the Kassa district to speed up the process. The royal order reporting this draws a distinction between the nobles who chose to pay taxes and those who chose to go to war, a decision each nobleman was able to make for himself. Those who chose to serve had to present themselves ready for war, with their troops, to Lőrinc and the barons so that they could go to the military camp at Futak (today Futog, Serbia) on the feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of Saint Mary Major (August 5).79 The barons thus also had the mandate to collect taxes because they led the army that was assembled and they (or more precisely their men) hired the mercenaries from the monies collected. Tax collection went slowly not only in the north, but also in the south, or at least in Bodrog County the payment of taxes was still underway in the summer months.80

The other surviving data takes us to Slavonia, to Zagreb County. The source which offers any information concerning tax collection in the county is a complaint from January 1465. According to this complaint, around Easter 1464, László Grebeni Hermanfi and Tamás Roskoványi collected a one-forint tax in Zagreb County.81 Easter in 1464 fell on April 1,82 so from a perspective of a half year later, it can certainly be linked to the tax collection in early to mid-April. The mention of the one-forint tax can also be explained by the same six-month time span, as the regulation for providing soldiers and/or paying taxes was also in effect in Slavonia.83 In the Slavonian counties, which were of particular importance from the perspective of the Bosnian campaign, Imre Szapolyai, governor of Bosnia and bán (banus) of Slavonia, Dalmatia, and Croatia, was responsible for collecting taxes.84 At the beginning of April, Szapolyai even retained the office of treasurer,85 and the aforementioned Tamás Roskoványi was one of Szapolyai’s liegemen (although according to the charter, the king ordered him to levy the tax in Zagreb).86 In addition to Roskoványi, who was from the northern part of the country, Hermanfi from Slavonia provided knowledge of the local conditions.87 In the case of Pozsega County, we also learn about the 1464 tax in connection with an abuse. Allegedly, István Dezsőfi of Csernek did not levy the royal contribution against the estates of the abbey of Rudina according to the king’s order, rather had them pay one gold forint per household.88

A source survives in the archives of the city of Sopron that is interesting from the perspective of the 1464 taxa exercitualis or one-forint tax. The document is dated September 8, 1465, and it concerns the extraordinary tax of that year. The king informed the authorities of Sopron County, the connumeratores et sollicitatores who were counting the serf plots on the estates and recruiting soldiers for the campaign that was underway that, given that the city of Sopron was poor, he had waived the current tax, or one-forint contributio (taxam presentem sew contributionem unius floreni auri), which the royal council had levied because of the campaign in accordance with the provisions of the decree of Fehérvár.89 The Fehérvár decree clearly refers to the coronation diet of the previous year and the decisions reached there,90 so in 1465 soldiers again were recruited in accordance with the provisions of the previous year and those who did not wish to fight or send soldiers could pay a one-forint tax.91 This suggests that in this case too, the one-forint tax was paid specifically as a means of being granted an exemption from military service. Furthermore, it also offers support for the conclusion that this tax was called a one-forint tax even though only 10 forints were paid for every 12 plots. The charter is also interesting because it suggests that the tax was collected by the connumerators and sollicitators who were responsible for military mobilization. The aforementioned 1464 tax was also collected by the connumerators of the militia portalis.

In September 1465, the king set out on a campaign, and he set up military camp at the ford of the Sava River.92 Tax records from the northern counties have also survived alongside the sources found in Sopron. A letter written by Imre Szapolyai to Balázs, the provost of Lelesz (today Leles, Slovakia), in November 1465 reveals that the count of Szepes was acting on royal orders and with the approval of the royal council in the collection of taxes. The letter is regrettably terse, but it may well refer to this extraordinary tax, which was administered by Imre Szapolyai’s men some of the counties in the Northern Parts.93

There may have been a link between the extraordinary tax and the obligation to provide soldiers in 1466 as well. The diet discussed the possibility of a summer campaign against the Ottomans in early February and March 1466. In response to a request made by the nobility, the king ordered the nobles, in accordance with their old privileges, to fight in person. Shortly after the diet, however, because of the threat of a Turkish attack, the king and the royal council reorganized the army. The barons and nobles had to provide soldiers according to sizes of their estates.94 The imposition of the new tax may have been linked to this change by the royal council.95 Although the surviving sources which contain mention of abuses committed by the tax collectors were issued only in November 1466,96 recruitment of soldiers and the collection of the extraordinary tax may have taken place simultaneously. King Matthias wanted to go to war as early as the beginning of May, and tax collection in the county of Szabolcs may have begun as early as April. The tax collectors, however, ran into problems in the Transtisza counties. The serfs fled rather than pay taxes. The situation was resolved by the royal captains László Upori and Gergely Horvát of Gáj. They seized estates (Berkesz, Szabolcs County) and called on the runaway serfs to return and pay their taxes.97 In Margittafalva (today Marghita, Romania) in Bihar County, Upori and Horvát even went into battle with the serfs who were refusing to pay taxes, and in the course of the conflict the settlement itself was set ablaze.98 The 1466 tax may also have been intended as an alternative to the obligation to provide soldiers, which justified the swift action taken by the royal captains.

The data from 1467 and 1471 referred to by Kubinyi are both related to obtaining an exemption from the obligation to go into battle in person.99 There is also evidence of a one-forint tax that was levied after 1471, again to free the nobles of the obligation to fight in person. In 1477, for example, a subsidium was levied to cover the costs of mercenaries instead of requiring the nobles to fight.100 Likewise, the nobility again “appealed to” the monarch to allow them to pay a one-forint tax instead of having to take part in the fighting, as the nobility of Szabolcs County had done in 1460. The royal orders addressed to the counties of Tolna and Közép-Szolnok in 1471 also indicate that the counties offered the tax in lieu of going to war, asking the ruler in return to release them from the obligation to wage war for a year.101 Moreover, the possibility of using taxes as a way to avoid having to fight existed even before the reign of King Matthias.102

However, Kubinyi’s statements cited above cannot be completely dismissed. Sometimes, extraordinary taxes were also collected from the serfs of members of the landowning nobility who served as soldiers, so sometimes the one-forint tax and the monies paid in exchange for an exemption from the obligation to fight were collected in parallel. This was not a separate tax collection, however. It was handled by the same administration. The only difference was that those who did not go to war had their serfs taxed twice as much as those who took on the burden of going to war. This was true, for instance, in the case of the tax offered to László Pálóci by the nobility of the northern Hungarian counties in the autumn of 1459. The noblemen who had gone to war also decreed, when offering taxes in the war camp, that their fellow nobles who evaded the obligation to go to war would pay twice as much tax.103 In 1467, according to the sources, the tax collected from the Romanians of Fogaras was to be one forint if they were soldiers and two forints if they were not.104 But in these cases, too, the taxes were administered by the same people. Thus, in the period under discussion, no separate extraordinary tax or separate military tax was collected. Rather, a single extraordinary military tax was levied.

The Administration of the Extraordinary Tax

In the case of tax collection, the administrative system varied from year to year, from one tax collection to the next. Furthermore, the administration of the extraordinary tax was closely connected to the recruitment of soldiers. Extraordinary taxes offered by the Northern Parts were collected for the captains and the captain generals, to whom they were given by the dicators, who were either a captain’s liegemen or local noblemen selected for this task by the counties. The tax collectors usually took part in the military campaigns themselves, and they hired soldiers. Zsigmond Csicseri, who collected the extraordinary taxes in Ung County in 1454, 1459, 1460, and 1462 (and possibly also in 1463), was in the military camp during the 1458 tax collection, and he definitely took part in the battles against the Czechs in 1465.105 János Szinyei, who collected the ordinary and extraordinary taxes in Sáros County on several occasions, also may have taken part in military campaigns, and in 1462, Imre Szapolyai promised that he would write to his brother about the monthly wages for his ten to twelve mounted soldiers.106 Szapolyai was both captain general and treasurer at the time, and the fact that he held both of these positions certainly made the financing of the campaigns go more smoothly.107 The sources also clearly indicate that Lőrinc of Bajoni,108 who served as vice-treasurer, played a role in the case of the extraordinary taxes: in 1461 he passed on the order to the chancellery to issue a royal charter addressed to the tax collector János Szinyei to hand over the taxes of Szepes and Sáros Counties to István Szapolyai,109 and in 1463, the receipts for the tax collectors of Ung County were issued on the authority of Bajoni for their account of the contribution of 1462.110

The royal council or at least certain barons and prelates also played a crucial role in the administration of the extraordinary tax. In March 1461, King Matthias ordered István Várdai, archbishop of Kalocsa and Bács, to use the one-forint contributio to pay the monthly salary of 32 forints for the ten mounted soldiers of George Balai, who was fighting at the siege of Sáros.111 Balai had estates in Külső-Szolnok, Heves, Abaúj, and Borsod Counties,112 and the fact that the king entrusted the payment to Várdai was presumably because the administration of the extraordinary tax of 1461 was handled, at least in part, by the archbishop of Kalocsa.113 The tax collectors had to account for the 1462 tax (which as noted earlier was levied to recover the Holy Crown) to certain members of the royal council, presumably to the barons and prelates who also gave a guarantee that King Matthias would not levy any more extraordinary contributions. Although the charter itself has not survived, a later reference suggests that the orders that were issued to the counties concerning the method of tax collection for that year were given not in the name of the king, but in the name of the prelates and barons.114 Later, at least in the case of the Kassa tax district, a baronial delegate (one of the aforementioned László Pálóci’s men) was given a role in the middle-level administration, alongside the king’s envoy.115 In the case of the 1464 tax paid to free a nobleman of the obligation to provide soldiers or serve in the military, two barons or prelates were appointed for each chamber district, and the king could also send his own men to accompany them. These barons, who were in charge of collecting the tax, undoubtedly used the money collected from the territories assigned to them by their men to hire soldiers. The king also justified the practical solution of levying the war tax on the grounds that it would not constitute a violation of the promise of 1462 not to levy an extraordinary tax, nor would it mean breaking the oath taken by the prelates and barons to that effect.116

The (earlier) chamber districts seem to have played a decisive role in the middle-level administration of the extraordinary taxes. In particular, the Kassa district,117 which included Abaúj, Borsod, Gömör, Heves, Sáros, Szepes, Torna, Ung, and Zemplén Counties, is mentioned several times in the sources in connection with extraordinary taxes.118 In the case of the 1462 tax, the tax was levied in the counties of this district and the monies which came in were used to redeem Késmárk. The tax was administered in the center of the district, in Kassa, where Domokos Kálmáncsehi, the provost entrusted with this task by the king, and László Pálóci’s liegeman were given the money from the county tax collectors.119 In 1464, the counties of the chamber district offered an extraordinary tax in Kassa,120 and in all likelihood, the aforementioned extraordinary taxes of the spring and autumn of 1459 were also levied in this area. The Kassa and Körmöcbánya (today Kremnica, Slovakia) districts also had a defensive-administrative function at the time.121 This kind of expansion of the role of the chamber districts can also be assumed for the other districts.122 The regulation mentions six chamber districts, which were probably the districts of Buda, Kassa, Körmöcbánya, Lippa (today Lipova, Romania), Szatmár (today Satu Mare, Romania) and Szerém, which existed as administrative districts in the period of King Sigismund and the mid-fifteenth century.123 In addition to these units, in the counties of Slavonia, Transylvania, and even Croatia, a similar system of providing soldiers and collecting taxes was used in 1464 (and perhaps also in 1465).124

Data on tax collectors are scattered and varied. Tax collectors could be sent by the royal court or the baron in charge of tax collection or even of putting the monies collected to use, or they could be selected by the county itself. According to Kubinyi, in the period under discussion, the tax collectors were usually a chancellery notary and a nobleman from the given county.125 The county noblemen were also important in this process because of their knowledge of local conditions, but as far as the question of who selected them is concerned, the picture is strikingly varied. The scattered sources from the second half of the fifteenth century reveal that in some cases a tax collector was chosen to accompany the only royal tax collector of the county,126 and in some cases, the two centrally appointed tax collectors were accompanied by other elected nobles, in addition to the noble judges.127 The 1464 regulation also mentions an elected county nobleman tax collector,128 while in the case of the 1467 royal treasury tax (tributum fisci regalis) and the extraordinary tax of that year, there is data indicating that the king or, more precisely, the chancellery asked a nobleman with knowledge of local conditions to assist.129 In addition, one some occasions, both tax collectors were chosen by the county.130 Thus, in many cases, it is not possible to determine whether the county chose the local tax collector or not. Much as the county could choose a tax collector who had access to the royal court, the court could also appoint a tax collector with knowledge of local conditions to the county.131

With regards to the extraordinary tax collectors of the period in question, we find among them some who belonged to the wealthy or middle-ranking nobility of the given county and some who were also the deputy ispán of the county at the time of tax collection, but we also find liegemen of barons from within the county or arriving from outside the county.132 In the case of the rare treasury liegemen, one finds for the people entrusted by Imre Szapolyai to handle military affairs and issues concerning military finances, and not any kind of “treasury apparatus.” A good example of this is Tamás Roskoványi, one of Szapolyai’s liegemen from northern Hungary who collected an extraordinary tax in Zagreb County in 1464.133 Roskoványi, who performed various military and administrative tasks alongside Szapolyai, collected taxes in Zagreb at a time when tax collection and the assembly of soldiers provided by the nobility were supervised by barons appointed for each region. Imre Szapolyai was a clear candidate to oversee recruitment there, and Roskoványi’s role can probably be traced back to this time.

The people who levied and collected the extraordinary taxes acted in the name of the king, even if they were appointed by the county or a baron, they were still “royal tax collectors.”134 In the case of the tax collectors of the period, however, many of them belonged to the royal court. Bertalan Sitkei, the tax collector of Zala county in 1459, was a knight of the court,135 and Józsa Tímári, who collected taxes in Bács in 1461, and Mihály Zsuki, who were responsible for collecting taxes in Transylvania in 1464, were royal familiares,136 but we can also assume that János Szinyei, the ispán of Sáros, and István Dezsőfi of Csernek, who collected taxes in Pozsega, were in the service of the court.137 As Kubinyi has pointed out, the tax collecting duty of the chancellery notaries can also be explained by their affiliation with the court,138 as indeed is confirmed by the later mention of Mihály Debreceni, the chancellery notary who collected the tax of Szabolcs county in 1460, as aulicus.139 In the case of the members of the royal court, it can also be assumed that they were responsible for the use of the money after the taxes had been collected and that they were able to hire mercenaries directly from these funds. The chancellery notaries and aulices, furthermore, ensured tighter royal control, with King Matthias sending Provost Domokos Kálmáncsehi in 1462 and chancellery notary Lőrinc Temesvári in 1464 to the Kassa district, where they worked alongside the barons’ men.140

As with the collection of taxes, in order to determine the number of soldiers that a given nobleman would have to provide based on the size of his estates, it was necessary to do a census of the serf plots, which was carried out by enumerators (connumeratores). In the case of the 1459 order to provide such soldiers, the sources contain no reliable data concerning any money paid in exchange for an exemption from this obligation, but the serf plots still had to be counted, so the royal court sent out connumerators in much the same way as it sent tax collectors in other cases. The serfs of Veszprém County were counted by Mihály Váti and Pál Essegvári,141 the former a tried and tested Hunyadi liegeman and earlier a chancellor to the governor, the latter a wealthy local and one of Miklós Újlaki’s men.142 In 1464 and 1465, with some help of the military recruiters (levatores et sollicitatores), the connumerators of the militia portalis also collected the one-forint tax paid in exchange for an exemption to the obligation to provide soldiers. In 1466, it is likely that László Upori, a court liegeman, and Gergely Horvát of Gáj, ispán of Gömör and Heves Counties, as royal captains, were responsible for the recruitment of soldiers and the hiring of mercenaries in the Transtisza counties (the area of the Szatmár tax district143) and were therefore able to take immediate action against anyone who tried to avoid paying the tax. They were not the tax collectors, the court also sent special dicators to the counties in question.144 Presumably, these tax collectors later handed over the money that had come in to the two captains.

It is also worth dwelling for a moment on the length of the tax collection period. Based on the scattered evidence, the collection of extraordinary taxes seems to have been a slow process, much slower than the collection of the chamber’s profit. Naturally, this was due to the “exceptional nature” of the tax payments, and also to the fact that they were collected more often in the summer months, when work was being done in the fields. The slow inflow of arrears can be best examined in cases in which several consecutive tax records from a county from different stages of the process have survived for the same year. The one-forint tax collected in Szabolcs County in 1460 is one such case. This tax was offered by the county nobility at the end of August in lieu of military service. Two months later, the king was still having to call on ispán Miklós Várdai because some of the noblemen of Szabolcs County refused to allow the tax to be levied on their estates and refused to pay it.145 In the case of the tax of 1461, the tax arrears of Sáros County came in even more slowly. The extraordinary tax for 1461 may have been offered in March, and in April, the process of collecting this tax began.146 As noted earlier, the tax collectors of Sáros County got a receipt from Imre Szapolyai on August 23 for the money they had given him,147 which, with the taxes collected in April, suggests a period of five months. However, even then the tax had not been collected from everyone in the county, and on March 12, 1462 (almost a year after the tax had been levied), János Szinyei handed over tax arrears to István Szapolyai.148 And in May, the extraordinary tax of that year was already levied in the county, so the collection of the extraordinary tax of 1461 and 1462 almost overlapped.149 The process of collecting the 1462 tax was similarly slow. Despite the fact that it was levied in May, the collection of this tax in the counties of the Kassa tax district only began to go a bit faster in August, while in the case of Borsod, Heves, and Abaúj Counties, the monies paid only ended up in the hands of the people appointed to administer the tax towards the end of August. Ung County was called on pay the tax as late as the end of September, and the two tax collectors from Ung only provided an account of these monies in April 1463, at the next diet.150 True, both Sáros County and Ung County were in the Kassa tax district, where the consequences of the war and the destruction it had caused slowed down the process of collecting taxes.


The extraordinary taxes levied between 1458 and 1467 reveal a varied approach. These extraordinary taxes could be offered and levied on the national level, in the diet, or, even more so, at meetings of the royal council, but there were also particular taxes in the Northern Parts at the time which were offered to the captains general by the counties concerned in order to facilitate the elimination of the Czechs from the region. The military campaign against the Czechs and the threat of the Ottoman incursions justified the levying of various military contributions. Noblemen could be granted exemptions from the obligation to go to war in person and provide soldiers by paying taxes, and the extraordinary taxes levied between 1463 and 1466 mostly served this purpose, i.e. they were paid by a nobleman in exchange for not having to take part in the military campaigns or provide soldiers. There does not seem to have been a separate extraordinary tax and a separate war tax during this period, but rather just an “extraordinary war tax.” Although various methods seem to have been used to administrate the collection of taxes depending in part on the roles played by the barons or the counties in the process, in general, the collection of the extraordinary tax during this period was closely linked not only to the actual military event but also to recruitment and the provision of soldiers. The practice of paying a tax instead of taking part in or providing soldiers for a military campaign was facilitated by the creation of a mercenary army. The monies that were collected with these taxes were openly used for this purpose. However, the extraordinary tax often came in only very slowly. The administrative process was not smooth, and sometimes, the royal captains had to be entrusted with the task of providing the necessary manpower to ensure that these taxes were collected.

Archival Sources

Magyar Nemzeti Levéltár Országos Levéltára [Hungarian National Archives] (MNL OL)

Diplomatikai Levéltár [Diplomatics Archive] (DL)

Diplomatikai Fényképgyűjtemény [Diplomatic Photocopy Collection] (DF)


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Pest megye történetének okleveles emlékei 1002–1599-ig [Sources of the history of Pest County 1002–1599]. Edited by László Bártfai Szabó. Budapest: edited by the author, 1938.

Sopron szabad királyi város története [The history of free royal town Sopron]. Vols. 1–2. Edited by Jenő Házi. Sopron: Székely, Szabó és társa könyvnyomdája, 1921–1943.

UGDS = Urkundenbuch zur Geschichte der Deutschen in Siebenbürgen. Vols. 1–7. Edited by Gustav Gündisch, Konrad G. Gündisch, Herta Gündisch, Georg Müller, Gernot Nussbächer, Carl Werner, and Franz Zimmermann. Hermannstadt–Bukarest: 1892–1991.

Zichy = A zichi és vásonkeői gróf Zichy-család idősb ágának okmánytára. Codex diplomaticus domus senioris comitum Zichy de Zich et Vasonkeo. Vols. 1–11. Edited by Imre Nagy, Iván Nagy, Dezső Véghely, Samu Barabás, Antal Áldásy, Ernő Kammerer, Ferenc Dőry, and Pál Lukcsics. Pest−Budapest: Magyar Történelmi Társulat, 1871−1931.


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1* The research on which this article is based was supported by the Ministry of Innovation and Technology from the National Research, Development, and Innovation Fund of the Ministry of Innovation and Technology (NKFI Fund), on the basis of the TKP2021-NKTA-15 support charter.
See Pálosfalvi, “Szegedtől Újvárig,” 352–53. I use the term Northern Parts to refer essentially the northern region of the medieval Kingdom of Hungary. It was in this region that Jan Jiskra established his influence, and the counties or occasionally designated groups of counties were under the jurisdiction of the captain generals of the Northern Parts. Horváth, “A Felső-Részek,” 935–36.

2 Horváth, “A Felső-Részek,” 950.

3 Pálosfalvi, From Nicopolis, 228.

4 July 20, 1464. Tóth-Szabó, A cseh-huszita mozgalmak, 446–47.

5 January 1, 1466. MNL OL, DL 28 285. See December 17, 1447. MNL OL, DL 31 570. Additional data: January 10, 1458 (Sopron County): Házi, Sopron, vol. 1/4, 255. February 28, 1461 (Szabolcs County): Zichy 10:137. February 14, 1463. (Vas County): MNL OL, DF 262 566. February 10, 19, 1465. (Zemplén County): MNL OL, DF 234 787, 223 087.

6 Kubinyi, “A Mátyás-kori államszervezet,” 98–99. See Pálosfalvi, “Monarchia vagy rendi állam,” 147.

7 Kubinyi, “Városaink háborús terhei”; Kádas, “Késmárk visszavétele,” 24–26.

8 For instance, to the subsidium: December 1471: MNL OL, DL 45 482. December 16, 1474. MNL OL, DL 17 628. July 10, 1477: MNL OL, DF 270 404. The term contributio was also in use, for instance March 2, 1475. MNL OL, DL 85 05 4. May 30, 1475. MNL OL, DL 17 696.

9 October 18, 1459. MNL OL, DL 44 929. September 8, 1465. Sopron, vol. 1/5, 203.

10 The militia portalis was first decreed by King Sigismund and the Diet of Temesvár (today Timişoara, Romania) in 1397. The decree obliged the nobility of the country to provide soldiers depending on the sizes of their estates, according to a predetermined quota. This quota at the time was one archer for every 20 serfs, but later the number to which the nobility was held changed frequently. Bárány et al., “A késő középkor hadtörténete,” 237–39; Borosy, A telekkatonaság, 15–63.

11 The ispán was the head of the county authority appointed by the king.

12 Tóth-Szabó, A cseh-huszita mozgalmak,182–84.

13 Pálosfalvi, “Mátyás: az ország koronázatlan királya,” 44, 46. Tóth-Szabó, A cseh-huszita mozgalmak, 311–13.

14 Horváth, “A Felső Részek kapitánysága,” 930.

15 Ibid., 947–48.

16 August 23, 1461. Neumann, Szapolyai, 56.

17 September 14, 1461. MNL OL, DL 70 261; March 12, 1462. Neumann, Szapolyai, 58–59.

18 April 19, 1461. Zichy, vol. 10, 144; May 5, 1461. MNL OL, DF 275 441.

19 The tax was of course also intended to provide funds for the protection of territories to the south, and in March of that year the king sent Péter Szakolyi, a royal captain to the southern regions, and Szakolyi also took part in the collection of the tax. Zichy, vol. 10, 139. See Pálosfalvi, From Nicopolis, 203.

20 November 22, 1454. Hazai okmánytár, vol. 7, 470–75; Kádas, “Az adószedés megyei kezelése,” 137.

21 March 27, 1459. MNL OL, DF 270 349.

22 May 10, 1459. MNL OL, DL 31 711.

23 July 19, 1459. Tóth-Szabó, A cseh-huszita mozgalmak, 422–24.

24 These liegemen were, more specifically, so-called “familiáris.” The “familiáris” was a sort of vassal or liegeman to a feudal lord in Hungary, but unlike vassals in the feudal hierarchies of Western Europe, the “familiáris” was not necessarily rewarded with estates but rather was paid in money or in kind, and he was able to break the relationship with his lord if he no longer saw it as in his interests.

25 April 23 and 25, 1459. MNL OL, DF 213 795, 213 796.

26 Bártfa, vol. 1, 179–80 (nos. 1141, 1145, 1146).

27 November 15, 1459. MNL OL, DL 31 728. In November 1459, an extraordinary tax was levied in Zala County in the other half of the country. November 10, 1459. MNL OL, DL 15 418. The two taxes may have been independent of each other, however.

28 April 15, 1460. Diplomatarium, 66–69. The peace talks may have begun as early as December: December 19, 1459. Bártfa, vol. 1, 181 (no. 1157).

29 July 4, 1460. MNL OL, DF 213 904.

30 Horváth, Itineraria, 66.

31 See June 6, 1460. MNL OL, DF 213 898; July 29, 1460. MNL OL, DF 213 917.

32 Pálosfalvi, From Nicopolis, 196–97.

33 November 12, 1458. MNL OL, DL 31 696.

34 October 3, 1458. MNL OL, DF 213 732.

35 Kádas, “Késmárk visszavétele,” 15–16. See Pálosfalvi, “Koronázástól koronázásig,” 155–57.

36 September 14, 1464. Neumann, Szapolyai, 98–99; December 13, 1464. Neumann, Szapolyai, 100–1.

37 December 30, 1464. Neumann, Szapolyai, 103.

38 Pálosfalvi, “Mátyás: az ország koronázatlan királya,” 48; Horváth, “Mátyás és Havasalföld,” 5–6.

39 Bárány et al., “A késő középkor hadtörténete,” 239.

40 “1459-től 1471-ig bezárólag öt alkalommal maradt fenn adat hadi adóra (taxa exercitualis), amely nem azonos a ‘segéllyel,’ hanem a katonáskodás, pontosabban a telekkatonaság megváltására szolgált.” Kubinyi, “A Mátyás-kori államszervezet,” 110.

41 May 10, 1459. MNL OL, DL 31 711. July 19, 1459. Tóth-Szabó, A cseh-huszita mozgalmak, 422–24. July 18, 1463. MNL OL, DL 59 498. June 21, 25, 1463. Neumann, Szapolyai, 74–75. September 24, 1463. MNL OL, DL 31 811. April 15, 1464. MNL OL, DL 67 000. June 29, 1464. MNL OL, DL 74 679. 35. July 18, 1464. Zichy, vol. 10, 319. November 9, 1467. MNL OL, DL 67 837. December 1471: MNL OL, DL 65 105. DL 45 482. The term taxa exercitualis was already used in the case of the extraordinary tax of 1443. István Bicskele of Zelnavár, who collected taxes in the areas south of Sava River, used this term to refer to the tax administered by László Töttös of Bátmonostor in Slavonia. June 10, 1443. Zichy, vol. 12, 197. The decree issued by the national diet, however, referred to this tax only as a contributio. March 1443: DRH, vol. 1, 318.

42 Kubinyi, “A Mátyás-kori államszervezet,” 144, note 394.

43 November 9, 1467. MNL OL, DL 67 837. December 1471: MNL OL, DL 45 482, 65 105.

44 August 30 and October 2, 1460. Bártfa, vol. 1, 192 (nos. 1226 and 1228).

45 October 15, 1460. MNL OL, DF 213 929.

46 November 19, 1460. MNL OL, DF 213 938. Bártfa, vol. 1, no. 1241.

47 June 17, 1460. MNL OL, DL 88 351.

48 August 28, 1460. MNL OL, DL 81 396, DL 81 397. September 25, 1460. Zichy, vol. 10, 117.

49 October 21, 1460. MNL OL, DL 88 357.

50 September 11, 1460. MNL OL, DL 90 032. In 1461, Detre got the chamber’s profit from his own estates. June 30, 1461. MNL OL, DL 90 034.

51 March 23, 1465. MNL OL, DL 31 840. The charter only mentions the year, and it could even be linked to the extraordinary levy in mid-November 1459.

52 December 19, 1460. MNL OL, DL 15 529.

53 September 24, 1463. MNL OL, DL 31 811. July 18, 1464. Zichy, vol. 10, 319.

54 Bárány et al., “A késő középkor hadtörténete,” 277.

55 King Matthias stayed in Tolnavár between March 15 and April 2, to which period the diet can be dated. Horváth, Itineraria,73.

56 March 29, 1463. DRH, vol. 2, 134–36.

57 April 2, 1463. MNL OL, DL 31 807. See Kádas, “Késmárk visszavétele,” 34–35.

58 June 21, 1463. Neumann, Szapolyai, 74.

59 It is worth noting that in the summer of 1463, while the preparations for the war were underway, negotiations were also held on the Holy Crown, which was finally received by the Hungarian delegation on July 24. Pálosfalvi, “Koronázástól koronázásig,” 158–59. In May 1463, treasurer Imre Szapolyai agreed with the city of Pozsony on an extraordinary tax of 2,000 forints for the redemption of the crown. May 15, 1463. MNL OL, DF 240 480.

60 June 5, 1463. MNL OL, DL 59 498.

61 June 29, 1463. MNL OL, DL 59 499.

62 July 28, 1463. MNL OL, DL 59 401.

63 July 26, 1463. MNL OL, DL 60 132. August 11, 1463. MNL OL, DL 59 502.

64 June 21, 1463. Neumann, Szapolyai, 74.

65 August 2, 1463. Neumann, Szapolyai, 76–77. August 24, 1463. Neumann, Szapolyai, 78. September 24, 1463. Neumann, Szapolyai, 82.

66 June 25, 1463. Neumann, Szapolyai, 74–75.

67 September 24, 1463. MNL OL, DL 31811.

68 September 2, 1463. MNL OL, DF 234 371.

69 Abaúj: János Kornis and Miklós Korlát; Sáros: János Szinyei and Simon Sóvári Sós. Kádas, “Az adószedés megyei kezelése,” 149–51. Zemplén: Simon Szécsi and Mihály Kazsui. September 2, 1463. MNL OL, DF 234 371.

70 November 5, 1463. Kádas, “Az adószedés megyei kezelése,” 157. January 26, 1464. MNL OL, DL 81 545.

71 January 27, 1464. Mátyás király levelei, vol. 1, 46.

72 November 5, 1463. Kádas, “Az adószedés megyei kezelése,” 157.

73 Pálosfalvi, From Nicopolis, 212–13.

74 April 6, 1464. DRH, vol. 2,152–54. 1464: MNL OL, DL 31 837.

75 Engel, Kamarahaszna-összeírások, 6. The chamber’s profit districts were erected between 1375 and 1383. They corresponded to the districts of the fourteenth-century chambers. Weisz, “A váradi kamara,” 108.

76 April 6, 1464. DRH, vol. 2, 152–54; 1464: MNL OL, DL 31 837.

77 April 15, 1464. MNL OL, DL 67 000. Two names are mentioned: the deputy of Judge Royal Pálóci, András Butkai from Zemplén County, and Gergely Csobádi from Abaúj, but the latter’s name is crossed out. Butkai was clearly a trusted liegeman or “familiáris” of Pálóci, while Csobádi, if he was indeed a tax collector, was related to Simon Cudar, who had served alongside him in the past. November 9, 1452. MNL OL, DL 14 590.

78 May 27, 1464. MNL OL, DL 45 095. See Pálosfalvi, From Nicopolis, 215.

79 July 17, 1464. MNL OL, DF 223 007.

80 July 18, 1464. Zichy, vol. 10, 319.

81 January 20, 1465. MNL OL, DL 107 576.

82 Szentpétery, Oklevéltani naptár, 78 (11th calendar).

83 DRH, vol. 2, 153. According to a charter from October 1464, at the request of the Slavonic nobility, Matthias exempted them from the obligation to fight in the war in exchange for half-forint contributions and twice the amount of the so-called marten’s fur, a tax collected in the region to the south of the Drava River in the medieval Kingdom of Hungary. October 11, 1464. Kaprinai B 64/138. 568–69.

84 See October 11, 1464. Kaprinai B 64/138. 568–69.

85 C. Tóth et al., Magyarország világi archontológiája, vol. 1,129.

86 Ibid., vol. 2, 20, note 8. Kubinyi, “A Szapolyaiak és familiárisaik,” 247; Horváth, “Adalékok,” 104. For more on the family, see Kádas, A megye emberei, 100–2.

87 Pálosfalvi, “Grebeni Hermanfi László,” 278–79.

88 June 29, 1464. MNL OL, DL 74 679. 35.

89 September 8, 1465. Sopron, vol. 1/5, 203. The fact that in March of that year King Matthias had already asked the city for 2,000 forints in aid for his upcoming campaign may have played a role in the king’s decision to grant Sopron an exemption. March 10, 1465. Sopron, 1/5, 168.

90 Pálosfalvi, “A középkori magyar országgyűlések,” 54.

91 In the case of Slavonia, a different kind of regulation was used to determine a nobleman’s obligation to provide soldiers for the king’s army. Here, in addition to the nobleman himself, one armed man had to be provided for every 20 serfs. August 9, 1465. MNL OL, DF 256 102.

92 Horváth, Itineraria, 79–80.

93 November 29, 1465. Neumann, Szapolyai, 112. At the same time, Máté Kamolyi, who was a liegeman of Szapolyai, received 250 forints from Bártfa. The receipt does not mention the legal title of this payment, but it could be linked to this tax. November 23, 1465. MNL OL, DL 214 299.

94 April 12, 1466. DRH, vol. 2, 159–60; Borossy, A telekkatonaság, 39.

95 See: “presentis contributionis pro communi necessitate regni nostri ex deliberatione prelatorum et baronum nostrorum institute.” November 13, 1466. DRH, vol. 2, 157, note 5.

96 November 1466: Mátyás király levelei, vol. 1,153–55. November 15, 1466. MNL OL, DL 16 435.

97 April 20 and May 13, 1466. MNL OL, DL 31 857, 31 858.

98 November 26, 1473. Csáky, vol. 1, 438–40. March 26, 1478. Zichy, vol. 11, 211–13; See Kádas, “Lázadó parasztok.”

99 November 9, 1467. MNL OL, DL 67 837. December, 1471: MNL OL, DL 45 482, 65 105.

100 July 10, 1477. MNL OL, DF 270 404. According to Kubinyi, after 1471, King Matthias did not order the nobility to send soldiers (the number of which would depend on the size of their estates), but he did sometimes mobilize the nobility. Kubinyi, “Mozgósítási és hadseregellátási problémák,” 50–51.

101 December, 1471: MNL OL, DL 45 482., 65 105.

102 September 2, 1455. MNL OL, DF 267 763. King Sigismund had already made it possible to “buy” an exemption from having to fight. Bárány et al., “A késő középkor hadtörténete,” 239.

103 November 15, 1459. MNL OL, DL 31 728.

104 November 9, 1467. MNL OL, DL 67 837.

105 April 15, 1465. MNL OL, DL 31 822. In spite of the fact that King Matthias exempted him from military service in 1461 because of his old age and his merits. July 27, 1461. MNL OL, DL 31 770.

106 March 17, 1462. Neumann, Szapolyai, 59–60.

107 Horváth, “A Felső Részek kapitánysága,” 948.

108 C. Tóth et al., Magyarország világi archontológiája, vol. 1, 129.

109 September 14, 1461. MNL OL, DL 70 261.

110 April 2, 1463. MNL OL, DL 31 807. Bajoni also appears as a relator in the collection of the extraordinary tax from the royal towns: June 23, 1463. MNL OL, DF 270 379, 214 160.

111 March 26, 1461. Zichy, 140.

112 December 28, 1461. MNL OL, DL 95 374. October 15, 1466. MNL OL, DL 83 772. October 17, 1465. MNL OL, DL 90 064.

113 It is possible that Demeter, the prebend from Bács who collected taxes in Sáros, also acted as a man of the archbishop of Kalocsa-Bács. August 23, 1461. Neumann, Szapolyai, 56; C. Tóth, A kalocsa-bácsi főegyházmegye, 63.

114 Kádas, “Késmárk visszavétele,” 17. See Pálosfalvi, “Koronázástól koronázásig,” 156–57.

115 Kádas, “Késmárk visszavétele,” 24–29.

116 April 6, 1464. DRH, vol. 2, 153.

117 September 8, 1457. MNL OL, DF 213 674.

118 “sub cultello Cassoviensi.” August 17, 1462. MNL OL, DF 270 551. “in cultello Cassoviensi.” December 30, 1464. Neumann, Szapolyai, 103.

119 Kádas, “Késmárk visszavétele,” 23–24.

120 December 30, 1464. Neumann, Szapolyai, 103.

121 Horváth, “A Felső Részek kapitánysága,” 925.

122 April 6, 1464. DRH, vol. 2, 153–54.

123 See Weisz, Archontológia (manuscript).

124 April 6, 1464. DRH, vol. 2, 153.

125 Kubinyi, “A Mátyás-kori államszervezet,” 98–99, 110; Kubinyi, “A kincstári személyzet,” 26.

126 1455: MNL OL, DL 31 671.

127 March 29, 1478 and March 29, 1482. DRH, vol. 2, 239, 257.

128 April 6, 1464. DRH, vol. 2, 154.

129 April 17, 1467. MNL OL, DL 31 889. November 9, 1467. MNL OL, DL 67 827.

130 Kádas, “Az adószedés megyei kezelése,” 132–42.

131 See Pálosfalvi, “A középkori magyar országgyűlések,” 113–14.

132 Kádas, “Késmárk visszavétele,” 29–34; Kádas, “Az adószedés megyei kezelése,” 138, note 45, 142–44, 150–52.

133 January 20, 1465. MNL OL, DL 107 576.

134 See Kádas, “Késmárk visszavétele,” 30–31.

135 Sitkei: November 10, 1459. MNL OL, DL 15 418. April 8, 1462. MNL OL, DF 214 104.

136 Tímári: March 24, 1466. MNL OL, DL 16 323. September 1, 1458. MNL OL, DL 106 551. Zsuki: December 4, 1464. MNL OL, DF 255 167. December 14, 1462. MNL OL, DF 255 166. See Nógrády, “A lázadás ára,” 133.

137 Engel, Magyarország világi archontológiája, vol. 1, 509; C. Tóth et al., Magyarország világi archontológiája, vol. 2, 184, 201–2. Éble, A cserneki és tarkeői Dessewffy család, 18.

138 Kubinyi, “A Mátyás-kori államszervezet,” 82.

139 February 24, 1466. MNL OL, DL 100 753. See Kristóf, Egyházi középréteg, 59, 200; C. Tóth, “Debreceni Mihály,” (manuscript).

140 Kádas, “Késmárk visszavétele,” 24–27. Chancellery notaries and royal lieutenants could also take part in the collection of extraordinary taxes levied on cities. June 23, 1463. MNL OL, DF 270 379; UGDS, vol. 6, 150–51.

141 January 9, 1459. MNL OL, DL 102 541; Borosy, A telekkatonaság, 38.

142 Bónis, A jogtudó értelmiség, 165–66, 170, 173, 220. Engel, Magyarország világi archontológiája, 327.

143 Weisz, “A váradi kamara,” 110; Weisz, “A szatmári kamara,” 85.

144 May 13, 1466. MNL OL, DL 31 858.

145 October 21, 1460. MNL OL, DL 88 357.

146 March 26 and April 19, 1461. Zichy, 140, 144.

147 August 23, 1461. Neumann, Szapolyai, 56.

148 March 12, 1462. Neumann, Szapolyai, 58.

149 Kádas, “Késmárk visszavétele,” 16.

150 Ibid., 34–35.