A Remembrance of the Past; Building for the Future." ~ Eve Eckert Koehler

Remembering Our Danube Swabian Ancestors

Chapter 4

The Magyar Middle Ages

By Josef Schramm
Translation by Brad Schwebler

   At first the Magyars only settled the land sparsely and moved around with their herds. One tribe, or rather a large family possessed a thousand or even ten thousand horses and beef cattle.  For these animals one needed a very large pasture, then either pasture or stable feed or some other intensive methods could be used for these livestock breeds. The Magyars were the masters and considered land work as undignified for a free man. Slavic slaves regarded as farm hands did the grain cultivation.  With it they migrated from one permanent winter settlement annually to a new summer settlement.  Otto von Freising reported that on the occasion of the second crusade through Hungary the Magyars lived in tents in the summer and in wooden or reed houses in the winter.  How such housing looked we learn from K. Sebestyén: “In the house described as small cottages and earth huts that consisted of only one room, were buried in the earth and covered with wood, reed, and straw only the farm hands, the descendants of Slavs and other prisoners, lived. The Magyars were tent inhabitants.  Pelt tents held together with a pole framework like the nomadic Turks still use today, also appeared to be like the construction of living quarters for nomadic Magyars.  The ground construction consisted of man high, vertical, circular wood grid walls, its inner surface pulled together, or rather pushed apart to adjust, its diameter fluctuating between 3 and 10 meters.  Over this circular shaped wall which reminded one of a latticed summer house, curving in a spherical or cone shaped roof construction.  The roof work consisted of flexible poles whose lower ends were connected to the upper edge of the wall.”

   Gradually economic change took place.  The field cultivation was always of great importance as food for livestock breeds.  This development was extensively encouraged by the proselytizing the Magyars to Christianity and through the kingdom created by Saint Stephan in the year 1000.  Church organization and secular administration went hand in hand.  The Batschka was administered by three komitats (counties): the northeast by the Csongrád Komitat, the northwest by the Bodrogh Komitat, and the south by the Bach (Bács) Komitat.  The land’s church administration belonged to the Kalotschka archdiocese, yet it had its own cathedral capital in Batsch, which was on par with Kalotschka.  Church and state troubled themselves equally to shape a cultivated land.  For this purpose foreign people from different folk groups and languages were sent for who then in the course of the year and generations came to the Hungarian nation.  In greater numbers especially came Petschenegs (Bessier), Ismaelites (Chalisier), Kumans (Kuns), and Germans (called Franconians and Saxons) in the Batschka.  Among the nobility which one finds in the three Batschka komitats among others are the names Benz, Dether, Drach, Marhart, Einhard, Elber, Faber, Kelz, Potz, Sasha, Theutus, which hint at a German descent.

   Different secular and religious dignitaries of the middle ages appeared to be German, sometimes also of French or Italian descent.  The first Obergespan (top dignitary) of the Bodrogh Komitat known by name was called Lambert, the first archbishop of the Kalotschka Ascherich, other archbishops with origin from foreign lands were, among others,Fulbert, Johann von Meran, Berthold von Meran, Johannes Gümes, Dionys Hermann, Alois Helfenstein, Ladislaus Wingard.

   The most important place was the castle Bach (Bács) on the Moostung; a strong fortress, splendid bishop city, administrative seat of the komitat.  The following cities in this komitat are also to be mentioned: Arnath, Derzs, Funow, Futagh, Gyala, Kysdy, Parazthy, Pesth, Zentmarton, Zund, Thlek, Titel, Varad, and Vaskapu.  In the Bodrog Komitat to be mentioned: Apathy, Baya, Bathmonastra, Bodrogh, Hayzenthlewrinz, Halas, Madaras, Zabathka, Zenthgergh, Zeremlen, Thowankwth, Wyfalw.  In these cities are proven French, Wallonian, Italian, and German commercial activities.  All this shows how strong the western influence was since the time of the first Hungarian king, Saint Stephan, in the region of the central Danube. 

   The ruins of Batsch, with its gothic towers and windows, shows the past magnificence of the splendid middle age bishop’s seat.  

   On the flat land the field cultivation always increased more.  We really have little to introduce about the individual settlements.  It appears as if there are only a few settlers from the west in these villages.  At least we learn that there were already some German villages at the time: Rad, Lipolthfeld, Nemety, Nemdy, Wolfer, Vilmann.

   The endeavor of the government was to make a field cultivation region fom the Batschka.  Thanks to the favorable transportation possibilities on the Danube and Theiß it was easy to provide the more remote parts of the land with grain from here on.  This endeavor opposed the interests of the individual landowners.  Through purchase, exchange, inheritance, marriage, gifts, and forceful appropriations large land estates formed on which more livestock breeds were carried on as agriculture.  Repeatedly imperial commissions were used to check on the possessions without success.  The large estates were always more powerful.  The social position of the farmers were always worse from the rejection of the agriculture, and they rebelled in the year 1514 under the leadership of Georg Dôzsa.  This farmers’ uprising was bloodily suppressed by the large landowners but from their newly strengthened power they could not be protected for long, with the battle of Mohatsch in the year 1526 the Batschka came under the Ottoman Empire and from 1543 on it was administered by the Turks.

[Published at 19 Sep 2005 by Jody McKim Pharr]

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