Post-classical history


A highland region in southeastern Transylvania, known in Latin sources as Terra Bursa (Ger. Burzenland; Hung. Bar- casag). This region (mod. #ara Bîrsei, Romania), enclosed by the river Olt, the Carpathian Mountains, the Székelyfold plain, and the Persany Mountains, was settled by the Teutonic Order in 1211 at the invitation of Andrew II, king of Hungary (1205-1235).

Andrew II, dissatisfied with the defensive activity of Hungary’s Pecheneg population against the raids of the pagan Cumans, entrusted the order with the defense of the mountain passes of this frontier area. The Teutonic Knights, led by a certain Theoderic, promptly occupied the region and by 1222 had erected five castles at strategic points, identified as Kreuzburg (near the Tatar Pass), Marienburg, Feketehalom, Cetatea Neamļului (near present-day Rucår, Romania), and Holtovény.

On the basis of written sources and archaeological finds, recent scholarship has identified these castles as mixed structures of stone and wood. The region, described in the sources as deserted and uninhabited, was populated by the order with settlers from Germany and other parts of Transylvania. This activity was supported by royal privileges of 1211 and 1212 that exempted the order from royal taxation, the mandatory money-change, and the demand for hospitality of the voivod of Transylvania; the knights were also authorized to elect their own judge and to hold markets. From 1213 they were exempted from tithes and established their own deanery independent from the jurisdiction of the bishop of Transylvania, although the latter privilege was challenged by Bishop Reynald (1222-1240). Andrew II also came into conflict with the order by 1221, but this dispute was temporarily settled, perhaps as a result of the recent success of the order against the Cumans. The king enlarged the size of the original donation of land toward the south and permitted the order to erect castles of stone. However, in 1225 he expelled it from Burzenland for reasons that are still debated. It is known that the knights had infringed royal rights by occupying royal lands and minting their own coins. Moreover, the king’s policy was no longer to defeat the Cumans but rather to baptize them, which eventually took place in 1227.

After the expulsion of the order, territorial rights were transferred to the Cistercians by King Béla IV of Hungary (1235-1270), in 1240. Around the end of the reign of King Sigismund (1387-1437), the Teutonic Order unsuccessfully tried to resettle in the region.

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