People, Institutions, Relations. Slovakia and Hungary from the 11th to the 18th Century

by Ľudovít Marci (Volume editor)
©2020 Edited Collection 246 Pages


The book maps the development of Hungarian society and its way of thinking with a specific focus on the territory of Slovakia from the 11th to the 18th century. The intention of the contributors was to present a continuity of history by examining contemporary phenomena, activities of institutions, as well as the relations and opinions of specific people, who were part of creating everyday history. The volume provides insight into the depth of Slovak and Hungarian history; it is the result of research activities carried out by professionals from the Department of History at the Constantine the Philosopher University in Nitra. It helps to highlight the contours of the history of Slovakia and the Kingdom of Hungary and to more deeply understand the relations of European history.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title Page
  • Copyright Page
  • About the book
  • Citability of the eBook
  • Contents
  • Introduction
  • Medieval Roads and Written Sources
  • Informative Value of Urbariums from the 16th and the 17th Century
  • Municipal Statutes – Source of Law and Education in the Royal Free Towns in the Territory of Present-day Slovakia during the Early Modern Period
  • Hungarian Catholic Synods in the 16th and 17th Centuries and Their Meaning
  • Canonical Visitations and Chapter Statutes, Sources for Understanding the Local History of the Spiš Chapter in the Early Modern Period
  • Testimony of Single Items Deposited in the Archive of the Gemer Seniorate in the Town of Revúca on Testimony of That Seniorate in 1681–1792
  • Matthias Bel and Nyitra County
  • Conclusion
  • References


A new state appeared on the map of contemporary Central Eastern Europe during the 10th and the 11th century – Hungary. It was unified under the rule of the Árpáds, a princely line of Hungarians, who came to the Carpathian Basin at the end of the 9th century. They stepped into turbulent relations in this area with disputes for power between Great Moravia, a state of local Slavs and the Kingdom of East Franks. The position of Great Moravia was weakened by dynastic conflicts between the ruler Mojmir II and his younger brother Svätopluk II. The power vacuum created by the downfall of Great Moravia was filled by a coalition, which was quickly put together in order to stop Magyar raids. They were ultimately defeated in the Battle of Lech in 955 by Otto, the King of the Germans.

The new state and its Central European neighbors (Poland and Bohemia) that entered onto the European scene at the same time around the year 1000 had to face the close presence of the Holy Roman Empire and its permanent power interest. Especially at the beginning of Hungary’s existence, in the 11th and the 12th century, it was necessary to consider any and all political steps very closely, also with regard to the interests of another contemporary great power – the Byzantine Empire. The internal dynamics of the Kingdom of Hungary expressed by the formation of institutions, power structures and relations reflected the contemporary tendencies of European feudal development with inevitable local particularities. However, in the case of the Árpád domain, they also followed the tradition of institutions already existing in the territory of Great Moravia (the Christian Church, Duchy, system of roads, organization of servants). Since that period, the history of Slovakia became an integral part of Hungarian history. Not only within its medieval development, temporarily interrupted by the bloody crusade of the Mongol invasion (1241–1242), but also during centuries of the Modern Period, during the Renaissance, the Age of Discovery, the Reformation, as well as the Ottoman expansion.

The results of the Battle of Mohács (fought on August 29, 1526) opened the way to Central Europe for the Ottoman Turks and also introduced the rule of the Habsburg dynasty on the Hungarian throne. A new phase of Hungarian and Slovak history began with the Ottoman Empire as their constant neighbor as well as with the struggles between the Habsburg dynasty and its noble and religious opposition. Continuation of the more or less peaceful development ←7 | 8→of Hungarian and Slovak history emerged only after victory over the Ottoman Turks at the Battle of Vienna in 1683, their final expulsion from the territory of Hungary and cessation of rebellions against the House of Habsburg by the signing of the Peace of Szatmár (1711).

This book maps the development of Hungarian society and its way of thinking, with a specific focus on the territory of Slovakia from the 11th to the 18th century. The intention of the authors was to present a continuity of history by examining contemporary phenomena, activities of institutions, as well as the relations and opinions of specific people who were part of creating everyday history.

Also during the Middle Ages, the foundation for creating a certain geographical and political unit with a wider system of economic relations was based on the existence of a branched network of roads. The territory of Hungary and its northern regions, that is Slovakia, were connected with more distant areas of Europe, as well as with separate regions, localities, villages and also settlements at the local level, by these roads. The first chapter is an introduction to the problem of roads in the Middle Ages and at the same time an overview of the most important existing sources and specialized literature mapping mainly the territory of Slovakia. At the same time, the author also introduces the current state of research and possible directions for the investigation of the medieval network of roads in this area of Central Eastern Europe.

The second chapter deals with urbariums, written documents containing lists of properties of the owners, lists of “masters” of villeins, descriptions of their legal and property status and their obligations towards feudals. Urbariums were introduced in Hungary in the second half of the 15th century. The author focuses on examining the source value of urbariums from the 16th and the 17th century.

Towns are considered a specific environment of the medieval universe. Towns started to play a more important role in the 13th century in the Kingdom of Hungary and Slovakia, even though the history of some of them can be traced back to even earlier periods. In the centuries that followed, the first category of towns (royal free towns) were segregated, while the other towns remained at the level of feudal towns. By examining the position of royal free towns, particularly tavernical towns, in the Kingdom of Hungary and Slovakia, the author of the third chapter of this monograph decided to introduce the phenomenon of city statutes and legal regulations in the Modern Period, by which specific communities tried to coordinate and regulate different areas of community life according to their possibilities of self-government. The author focuses on the statute of the town of Trnava of 1604 in his analysis.

One of the pillars of medieval society was the Church. The Roman Catholic Church tried to maintain its position in the Kingdom of Hungary also after the ←8 | 9→introduction of the Protestant Reformation in Germany and its penetration into the territory of the state, which was in deep crisis after the death of King Louis II in the Battle of Mohács in 1526. The fourth chapter focuses on examining the place and importance of the Roman Catholic Synods in the 16th and 17th century in the Kingdom of Hungary.

Canonical visitations and capitular statutes provide a view of regional relations of the Roman Catholic Church in the Kingdom of Hungary and Slovakia, particularly regarding the life of chapters. With the help of the abovementioned types of sources, the author of the fifth chapter allows us to look into the internal history of the Spič Chapter from the 16th to the 18th century.

In the early Modern Period, the history of Slovakia and the Kingdom of Hungary was connected with Protestantism and the activities of Protestant churches. An overview of the history of the Gemer Seniorate from the 1680s to the 1790s is discussed in the sixth chapter.

The author of the last chapter introduces us to a scientific world of rationalism and the early period of the Age of Enlightenment. She introduces Matthias Bell, one of the most important scholars of contemporary Hungary, and presents insight into his world. However, by presenting the world of this scholar, she also introduces us to a part of the history of Slovakia and the Kingdom of Hungary by presenting information about Nyitra County in the first half of the 18th century.

This book provides insight into the depth of Slovak and Hungarian history; it is the result of research activities carried out by professionals from the Department of History at the Constantine the Philosopher University in Nitra. It helps to highlight the contours of the history of Slovakia and the Kingdom of Hungary and to more deeply understand the relations of European history.

Peter Ivanič

Medieval Roads and Written Sources

Medieval written sources contain important information about contemporary roads. In the past, roads were an important orientation line in the country they passed through. This is also supported by the fact that roads are often mentioned in medieval documents in connection with the demarcation of separate properties. Some historical roads were given special names in the past, such as the Czech Road (Via Bohemica) or Amber Road.1 The quality of the transport network reflected the development of the respective civilization. Ancient states systematically built major network of roads. This so far unprecedented boom in road construction was achieved within the Roman Empire. There was a massive transport system built during the Imperial era, which led from Gibraltar to Asia Minor and from Hadrian’s Wall in Britain to Northern Africa. The routes of Roman roads with information about postal stations, places for re-harnessing horses, as well as about distances between separate towns are preserved on the map known as Tabula Peutingeriana.2 The network connecting the Roman Empire with northern Europe was covered by a system of communication routes later known as the Amber Road. There was well-developed long-distance trade on this road, which was based on ancient production and trade centers and penetrated deeply inland into the European mainland up to the north of Europe. Merchants brought the latest achievements, such as jewelry, tools, weapons, metal products and luxury textiles, from south to north, and they transported amber, agricultural products, slaves, leather and furs from north to south. One side route of the Amber Road probably passed through the territory of today’s Slovakia from the Devín Gate through Bratislava along the River Dudváh to the village Čachtice and further along the River Váh to the town of Trenčín. From Trenčín it again connected to the main route through Vlara Pass, but one of its side routes continued through the towns of Žilina and Čadca and through the Jablunkov Pass ←11 | 12→to Silesia, where it once again connected to the main route.3 Another important ancient European trade road led in a west-east direction through the Danubian Lowland.4 Medieval communications were directly linked to prehistorical and ancient transport networks.

Slovak historiography has dealt only marginally with the research of roads. Several important works dealing with the problem of medieval roads in the territory of today’s Slovakia have been published in the last few decades.5 The last monograph about roads in the territory of the medieval Kingdom of Hungary was published by Magdolna Szilágyi.6

Research of these networks is possible, thanks to a multidisciplinary approach, so their reconstruction must be based on several types of sources: archaeological, written, and cartographic. Important information about routes of the roads can be also provided by toponyms. Most information about the communication ←12 | 13→network in the territory of today’s Slovakia in the Middle Ages is provided in preserved documents.


If we want to write about roads, we must define basic terms: road (communication), road (transport, communication) network. For example, in the first volume of the Encyclopedia of Slovakia, we can find roads defined as trackless land communications used for the transport of people and freight7 and road network as a network of land communications that are used for transport of people and freight8. Jan Martínek understands the term road (communication) as a general name for land communication that can be recognized in the terrain or on a map.9 The term historical road (historical route) is also used. It is defined as a transport corridor connecting important localities or settlement regions, which is linked to a certain historical period. The corridor should be easily recognized in the terrain thanks to distinct footprints or landmarks in the country (particularly hollows) that were created by the repeated crossing of individual parts of the corridor. One corridor may contain several dozens of concurrent hollows that can form several units.10 Martínek also recognizes the term “old road”; it means communication used in a part that no longer exists is not used or has lost its importance.11

The Slovak literature dealing with the issue of medieval communications almost completely misses the basic division of roads. Ján Hunka and Matej Ruttkay distinguish roads in terms of their localization to internal communications in settlement areas and external communications between settlements, micro-, mezo- and macro-regional settlements, including international communications.12 In his monograph, the Czech geographer and geologist Radan Květ divides roads into three types: distant, regional and local. Basically, the term regional road is understood as a connector that shortened distances for traversing distance routes. According to his opinion, a network of local roads is linked to ←13 | 14→one regional or distance road. As stated by the abovementioned author, the difference between regional and local routes is only very small.13 A more detailed division of roads was developed by the German explorer Dietrich Denecke. He divided roads into several groups and subgroups according to different factors. On the basis of their regional importance, he divided them into distance trade roads, suburban trade roads, roads of local importance and residential roads and according to their relief into mountain, valley, slope, marginal and entrance (pass) roads. From their position in the road network, he distinguished main roads, side roads and cross roads. On the basis of their natural state and the character of their construction, he distinguished natural and artificially constructed, while natural roads included excavated, rail, sand, mud, and grass roads and the artificially constructed included trunk roads, stone roads, slab roads, and bank roads. According to the character of transport, he distinguished roadways, freight transport roads and roads for horses and for walkers. He divided roadways into roads for wagons and carriages and roads for walkers into mountain pavements and routes of linear settlements. From a functional perspective, he distinguished roads of supra-regional importance (pilgrimage, military, trade and postal roads) and of regional importance (church, agricultural, industrial roads and roads of regional trade). According to legal qualifications, he divided the roads into public (via publica), real military (strata legitima), forbidden (e.g. thievish), customs, accompanying, vicinal, and private.14 The abovementioned divisions made by Dietrich Denecke for the Middle Ages cannot be accepted without reservations. Another German explorer, Wolfgang Haubrichs, divided the names of preserved roads into eight groups: 1. the legal character and the status of roads; 2. the function and utilization of the roads; 3. the position and characteristic of the roads; 4. Chronology; 5. starting point and destination; 6. an important event or person, such as a founder or owner; 7. metaphoric denominations and 8. metonymic.15 Peter Csendes prepared a categorization of communications on the basis of their names for Lower Austria. It included the following categories: 1. terms involving ←14 | 15→the name of a nation and thus indicating the direction of the communication; 2. terms locating roads in the landscape; 3. a term referring to the roads’ state of being old and 4. a term involving places names, where the farther the settlement, the longer the road section is.16 The latest classification of the roads in the medieval Kingdom of Hungary was published by MagdolnaSzilágyi. She based her classification primarily on preserved written sources. She divides the communications into several main groups, taking into consideration their hierarchy, legal aspect, functional aspect, mode of traveling and transport, topographic relations between roads, physical properties, vegetation and age. According to hierarchy, she divided roads into distance (via magna, via regia, via exercituum), provincial (via salifera), regional (via forensis, via castrensis) and local (semita, trames, via graminosa). From a legal aspect, she divided communications according to their ownership and administrative use into public (via/strata publica, libera via), common (via /strata communis) and private (via privata); royal authority (via regia, királyút) and those having a legal or illegal character (via recta, via iusta; via falsa, via sinistra). According to their function, she distinguished pilgrim, military (via exercituum, via exercitualis; hadút, hadiút), trade, church, agricultural and industrial communications. Trade roads are further divided into salt (via salifera; sóút; sajtosút), wine (borhordóút) and market (via forensis, via ad fórum; vásárút, vásárosút) roads. In the case of clerical roads, she mentioned the Church (via/semita ad ecclesiam) and deadly roads (holtasút, halotthordóút). Agricultural roads are divided into roads for herds (via gregis, via gregum; csordaút, csordauta), transport of hay (szénahordóút) and mill roads (via molendinaria; malomút, malomlóút). Industrial roads are divided into roads used for the transport of stone (kőhordóút) and wood (via lignaria; erdőlőút). According to the mode of traveling and transport, she distinguished roads for walkers (semita, trames; gyalogút), horse riders (száguldóút), wagons (via currus, via currium; szekérút) and sledges (szánút). On the basis of topographic relations between the roads, she distinguished inter-crossing roads, crossroads (via crucis, crux viarinn; via bifurca(ta), bivium), byways (via média, általút, kisáltalút) and relative position (alsóút, középút, felsőút). According to material and surface, she distinguished communications made of earth (strata terrea), clay (via agyagos, agyagosút) and stone (via lapidosa, via saxosa; kövesút). According to morphology, roads are divided into causeways (hochstraß) and incavated (via cavernea; horhó, horhosút, mélyút). On the basis of vegetation, she distinguished ←15 | 16→between whether vegetation grows along the road (via (h)erbosa, via (h)erbida, via graminosa; füvesút) or it covers the road (nyárút, sásút). When speaking about age of roads, she uses terms such as via antiqua, via vetus or via nova.17

However, in general we can divide medieval roads according to the method of transport into either land or water and according to their importance into either distance (main or regional or local).

Written Sources

Most information about roads in the Middle Ages is provided by contemporary written materials, mainly letters and narrative sources. From the perspective of the research on roads, the most valuable part of the documents is the so-called demarcation – it means a detailed description of the borders of an aggrieved plot, where important geographical points or lines are roads or phenomena connected with these roads (bridge, ford, toll, etc.). We can also learn from these sources the direction of the particular road or its name.

Medieval documents are archived in the network of state archives both in Slovakia and Hungary. A significant part of the documents has been published in source editions that are also available on the Internet.18 The most extensive source edition of the medieval Hungarian documents is Codex diplomaticus Hungariae ecclesiasticus, compiled by György Fejér in the first half of the 19th century. This Codex diplomaticus consists of 40 volumes and describes the period from 104 to 1440.19 Although it is a significant work for that time, it quite often contains inaccurate data (personal names, local names), and so this material source must be compared with later source editions. The re-edition of some incorrect documents was published in the work Codex diplomaticus patrius.20 Hazai oklevéltár was published in 1879.21 Also important for the period of the Árpád dynasty ruling are the editions of Codex diplomaticus Arpadianus ←16 | 17→continuatus22 and Regesta regum stirpis Arpadianae critico-diplomatica.23 Sources for the period of the rule of the Anjou dynasty are depicted in the seven-volume work Codex diplomaticus Hungariae Andegavensis (Anjoukori okmánytár).24 Anjou regesta is being published at the moment.25 Paper material from the rule ←17 | 18→←18 | 19→of Sigismund of Luxemburg is included in the edition Zsigmondkori oklevéltár.26 Twelve volumes have been published so far and they contain documents from 1387 to 1425. For the period of the Hunyadi rule, the work published by Csánki Dezső27 and József Teleki28 is important.

←19 | 20→

Documents that are related to the territory of Slovakia and were compiled between 805 to 1266 were published by Richard Marsina in the two-volume work Codex diplomaticus et epistolaris Slovaciae.29 Vincent Sedlák processed the period between 1301 to 1323 in the form of regesta.30 In addition to all-Hungarian or all-Slovak editions, documentary material was also published in county or city diplomatic editions or regesta, as well as in diplomatic editions and regesta of family lines.31

Documentary material dealing with the Chapter of Esztergom is important for the territory of the Archdiocese of Esztergom. A large part of this material was published in the edition Monumenta ecclesiae Strigoniensis. The first two volumes were compiled by Nándor Knauz32, the third volume by Lajos C. Dedek,33 and the fourth volume was published by a composite of authors only recently.34 A diplomatic edition for Hont County was compiled by Ferenc Kubinyi.35 All these editions contain material related to the entire territory of the medieval Kingdom of Hungary. Ctibor Matulay processed administrative and judicial written ←20 | 21→documents for the town of Banská Bystrica up until 1536, which also contained references to roads and tolls in Banská Bystrica and its surrounding.36


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2019 (November)
Kingdom of Hungary Middle Ages Early Modern Era Historical Sources Documents Written culture
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2020. 246 pp., 16 fig. b/w.

Biographical notes

Ľudovít Marci (Volume editor)

Ľudovít Marci, Faculty of History, Constantine the Philosopher University in Nitra (Slovakia)


Title: People, Institutions, Relations. Slovakia and Hungary from the 11th to the 18th Century
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248 pages