Roman Catholic Diocese of Cumania
The Diocese of Cumania was a Roman Catholic bishopric west of the Siret River (in present-day Romania) between 1228 and 1241. The lands which were incorporated in the diocese had been dominated by the nomadic Cumans since about 1100. Catholic missions among them commenced after Andrew II of Hungary granted Burzenland to the Teutonic Knights in 1211. After the same king expelled the Knights from the territory in 1225, Dominican friars continued the Cuman mission. Two years later, Robert, Archbishop of Esztergom baptized an influential Cuman chieftain, Boricius.
Archbishop Robert ordained a Hungarian Dominican friar, Theodoric, as the first bishop of Cumania in early 1228. Pope Gregory IX confirmed Theodoric's consecration on 21 March. The diocese was directly subordinated to the Holy See from 1229. The episcopal see was situated on the Milcov River, but its exact location is unknown. The diocese included Burzenland in addition to lands east of the Carpathian Mountains. The Vlachs, or Romanians, who adhered to the Orthodox Church, made up a significant part of the population of the diocese. They did not answer to the Catholic bishop and even persuaded many Catholic Hungarians and Saxons to accept the jurisdiction of their Orthodox bishops.
The diocese was destroyed during the Mongol invasion of Europe in 1241. The property of the bishopric was seized by neighboring landowners. A Franciscan friar was ordained to the see in 1334, but he and his successors, who bore the title Bishop of Milkovia, could not restore the bishopric and its estates.
Background (before 1211)
The nomadic Cumans controlled the lands north of the Lower Danube and east of the Carpathian Mountains from around 1100. Archaeological research shows that most settlements in the same territory had by that time been abandoned. A Byzantine army which invaded the Kingdom of Hungary in 1166 "had passed through some wearisome and rugged regions and had gone though a land entirely bereft of men" before entering Hungary across the Eastern Carpathians, according to the contemporaneous John Kinnamos.
The 12th-century Sicilian Muslim geographer, Muhammad al-Idrisi, wrote that the Cumans' two groups (the "Black Cumans" and the "White Cumans") were separated from each other by the Dniester River. When describing the eastern borders of the Kingdom of Hungary around 1150, Otto of Freising mentioned the "open land of the Patzinaks and the Falones", referring to the Pechenegs and Cumans, respectively. He described the same territory as a "very fine hunting ground practically untouched by plow and hoe", suggesting the lack of agriculture. However, archaeological research has demonstrated that the local inhabitants practised agriculture in the permanent settlements which existed in the wider region of the river Prut in the 11th and 12th centuries. According to Hypatian Codex, Ivan Rostislavich who claimed the Principality of Halych, or Galicia, for himself "did harm to the Galician fishermen" on the Lower Danube, implying that at least parts of the lands between the Eastern Carpathians and the river were controlled by the princes of Halych.
It was at the borders of Halych that "the Vlachs, who had heard rumors" of the escape of Andronikos Komnenus, a rebellious cousin of the Byzantine Emperor Manuel I, captured him in 1164, according to Niketas Choniates's chronicle. Choniates's report evidences that Vlachs, along with Slavs and Cumans, also inhabited the lands between the Carpathians and the Lower Danube. The Vlachs' close cooperation with the Cumans against the Byzantine Empire is well documented. Already in 1094, local Vlachs showed "the way through the passes" of the Balkan Mountains to the Cumans who invaded the Byzantine lands south of the Lower Danube, according to Anna Comnena. Peter and Asen, who were the leaders of the 1186 rebellion of the Bulgarians and Vlachs against Byzantine rule, crossed the Lower Danube to seek assistance from the Cumans in the summer of 1186 and returned "with their Cuman auxiliaries" to continue their fight. In 1199, the "Cumans with a division of Vlachs crossed" the Lower Danube and invaded Thrace.
On the other hand, conflicts between the Cumans and the Vlachs were also recorded. After "three chieftains from Cumania" rebelled against Boril of Bulgaria in the early 1210s, King Andrew I of Hungary dispatched Joachim, Count of Hermannstadt, to lead an army of Saxon, Vlach, Székely and Pecheneg warriors to assist Boril in Bulgaria, according to a 1250 royal charter. The reference to the Vlachs' participation in Joachim's campaign is one of the earliest evidence of existence of Vlach communities subjected to the Hungarian kings' rule. The Vlachs had a special status which distinguished them from other commoners in the Kingdom of Hungary. They paid special in kind taxes, such as the quinquagesima, or "fiftieth", on their herds; being Orthodox, they were even exempt of the church tithes, payable by all Catholic peasants.
Conversion of Cuman tribes (1211–1228)
Andrew II of Hungary granted Burzenland in southeastern Transylvania to the Teutonic Knights in 1211, tasking them with the defence of the borders of his kingdom and the conversion of the neighboring Cumans. The king also authorized the Knights to erect wooden fortresses and to expand their authority over the Carpathians. The Knights were also allowed to invite colonists to their lands and those who settled in the Knights' land were exempted of the church tithes. The Knights' territory expanded as far as the Lower Danube and the "borders of the Brodniks" (in the region of the river Siret) in 1222, according to a non-authentic papal bull which was written almost a decade later. Papal letters also stated that an unspecified number of Cumans were willing to convert together with their wives and children after the Knights defeated them. The Cumans' power sharply diminished after the Mongols' victory over a coalition of Rus' princes and Cuman chieftains in the Battle of the Kalka River on 23 May 1223.
The Teutonic Knights attempted to get rid of the suzerainty of King Andrew and asked Pope Honorius III to put their lands under his protection. The king invaded the Knights' domains and expelled them by force in 1225. Next year, Andrew II of Hungary made his oldest son, Béla, Duke of Transylvania. Duke Béla, who wanted to expand his authority over the neighboring Cuman tribes, supported the missionary activities of the Dominican friars among them.
The founder of the Dominican Order, Saint Dominic had already "wanted to save all men, Christian and Saracens, but especially the Cumans and other pagans", expressing "his desire to go to the Cumans and other infidels", according to Friar Rudolf of Faenza's testimony during the process of Dominic's canonization. The Dominican province of Hungary, which was one of the first territorial units of the Dominican Order, was created in the early 1220s. Paulus Hungarus, the first head of the Hungarian province, "decided to send some virtuous brothers" to the Cumans in the early 1220s, but they were forced to return without any success, according to The Lives of the Brethren, a work written in the 1250s by Friar Gerard de Frachet. The next Dominican mission among the Cumans reached the Dnieper River, but the friars "suffered hunger, thirst, lack of covering and persecutions; some of them were held captive and two were killed", according to Friar Gerard's work.
Nevertheless, as historian Claudia F. Dobre writes, the "way for the Cumans' conversion was opened" after their defeat at the Kalka River and due to Duke Béla's support to the Dominican missionaries. The nearly contemporaneous Alberic of Trois-Fontaines recorded that a Cuman chieftain's son visited Robert, Archbishop of Esztergom in Hungary in 1227, asking the archbishop to baptize him together with his 12 retainers. The Cuman nobleman also announced that his father was also willing to come to Transylvania to be baptized along with his 2,000 subjects. Archbishop Robert accepted the offer and went to Transylvania, together with three Hungarian prelates, Bartholomew le Gros, Bishop of Pécs, Bartholomew, Bishop of Veszprém, and Raynald of Beleville, Bishop of Transylvania. They met the Cuman chieftain, who was one "Boricius, fourth in rank among the major Cuman leaders", according to the chronicle of the Frisian Emo. At the meeting, the Hungarian prelates baptized Boricius and his retainers in the presence of Duke Béla.
The number of Cumans who received baptism together with their chief varies from source to source: Emo wrote of a "large number", Alberic mentioned 15,000 Cumans, while the Chronicon Austriacum and other Austrian chronicles knew of 10,000 converts. Before long, another Cuman chieftain, who was "an even more important leader", was baptized together "with about a thousand of his kinsmen", according to The Lives of the Brethren. Pope Gregory IX expressed his joy over the missionaries' success in "Cumania" and in the neighboring "land of the Brodniks" in a letter to Archbishop Robert of Esztergom on 31 July 1228.
Creation and fall (1228–1241)
The conversion of thousands of Cumans was followed by the creation of the bishopric of Cumania. According to Alberic of Trois-Fontaines, Archbishop Robert of Esztergom consecrated one Theodoric bishop of the new diocese in 1228. The consecration of Theodoric, who had been a monk in the Dominican province of Hungary, was confirmed by Pope Gregory on 21 March. The pope urged the head of the Hungarian Dominicans to send new missionaries to the Cumans and praised Duke Béla who had decided to visit Cumania in the company of Archbishop Robert.
According to Pope Gregory's letter of 1228, the nomadic Cumans were also willing to settle in newly established villages and towns and to build churches. However, relationship between the Cumans and their priests was often tense: the pope recommended Bishop Theodoric of Cumania in 1229 to show mercy to the newly converted Cumans who had attacked clerics and to refrain from punishing them for minor crimes. On 13 September 1229, the pope exempted the Diocese of Cumania of the authority of the Archbishops of Esztergom, subjecting its bishop directly to the Holy See. Gregory IX even urged King Andrew II of Hungary to allow the Teutonic Knights to return to Cumania in at least four letters between 1231 and 1234. Nevertheless, Hungary remained the principal ally of the Holy See in Southeastern Europe and Andrew II emphasized his claim to the newly conquered lands by adopting the title "King of Cumania" in the early 1230s. On 25 October 1234, Pope Gregory wrote to Duke Béla, reminding him to his previous offer to erect a church in Cumania and encouraging him to grant landed estates to the bishop of Cumania.
The pope next letter, which was written on 14 November 1234, revealed that there were "certain people within the Cuman bishopric named Walati", or Vlachs. The Vlachs did not receive the sacraments from the Catholic bishop, but "from some pseudo-bishops of the Greek rite". The pope also complained that the Vlachs even persuaded the "Hungarians, Saxons and other Catholics" who had settled in Cumania to join the Orthodox faith. Gregory IX authorized Bishop Theodoric to consencrate a Catholic bishop for the Vlachs and asked Duke Béla to assist Bishop Theodoric to impose his authority over the Vlachs. The pope's letter suggests that the Vlachs formed a significant, possibly the majority, group among the peoples of Cumania and they had their own local church hierarchy.
The Bishopric of Cumania was destroyed during the Mongol invasion of Central Europe in 1241. One Bochetor and "other kings" lead the Mongol army to the "land of the bishop of the Cumans" where they annihilated the local army, according to the contemporaneous Roger of Torre Maggiore. The invaders destroyed the episcopal see and murdered many Dominican friars during their invasion.
After much hard work, by God's help, a convent was established, and the brothers began to preach confidently among the people. Only God can count the number of people who were converted to the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ day after day. While the brothers' fervour and zeal for the conversion of these pagans was increasing more and more, God's hidden judgment permitted a persecution from the [Mongols]. This not only impeded the preaching of our brothers, but forced many of them to go sooner to the heavenly kingdom. Up to ninety brothers flew to the kingdom of heaven, some by the sword, others by arrows, spears or fire. The mission to these pagans was interrupted while, as a result of the [Mongol] persecution, the Cumans were scattered to different parts of Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia and other nearby regions. Finally most of them came to Hungary, where the king welcomed them.
Aftermath (after 1241)
The Holy See did not abandon the idea of proselytizing in Cumania even after the Mongol invasion. Pope Innocent IV praised the Dominicans for their successful missions among the Cumans in 1253. On the other hand, Pope Nicholas III mentioned in a letter on 7 October 1278 that the Catholics disappeared from the Diocese of Cumania because no bishop had lived there since the destruction of the see of the bishopric. The pope urged his legate in Hungary, Philip, Bishop of Fermo, to make inquiries about the situation in the former bishopric.
The Franciscan friars played an important role in the Catholic missions in the lands east of the Carpathians. The Holy See had already in 1239 authorized the Franciscans to administer the sacraments, to build churches and to grant indulgences in Cumania, and the same privileges were repeated in 1245. The missionaries risked their life in the lands that were subjected to the Mongols in the first half of the 14th century: "Saracens" murdered Friar Pietro da Unghera in the lands near Transylvania in 1314, and Friars Blasius and Marcus suffered martyrdom in Siret in 1340.
Pope John XXII contemplated the restoration of the bishopric in 1332. In a letter addressed to the Archbishop of Esztergom, he mentioned that "the powerful of those lands" had seized the property of the Diocese of Cumania. In the hope of receiving royal support for his plan, the pope decided to make the Franciscan Vitus de Monteferreo, who was the chaplain of Charles I of Hungary, bishop of Milkovia. Two years later the pope confirmed Vitus's ordination as bishop, but there is no evidence that he ever visited his diocese. During the next century, further bishops were ordained to the see of Milkovia, but all their attempts to regain the properties of the Diocese of Cumania were unsuccessful.
Territory and see
The borders of the Diocese of Cumania cannot be exactly determined. Roger of Torre Maggiore's wrote that the Mongols crossed the Siret River before entering the Diocese of Cumania, which shows that the Siret was the eastern border of the bishopric. A 1235 list of the Premonstratensians' houses in Hungary mentioned that "Corona" (now Brașov in Romania) was situated in the Cumanian diocese, suggesting that the bishopric included the southeastern regions of Transylvania. Historian Victor Spinei writes that "southeastern Transylvania was included within the bishopric most likely to secure a constant source of revenue from the collection of tithes for the emerging ecclesiastical structure during the first years after the conversion of the Cumans". He also says that the Trotuș River must have formed the northeastern border, and the Buzău River the southeastern frontier of the diocese.
The exact location of the see of the diocese is subject to scholarly debates. In his 1278 letter, Pope Nicholas III wrote that civitas de Mylco, which was located on the Milcov River, had been the seat of the Cumanian bishop. Nicolae Iorga identified civitas de Mylco with Odobești, Constantin C. Giurescu first with Reghiu, then with Odobești, and Carol Auner with the Crăciuna Citadel at Câmpineanca. Archaeologists Adrian Andrei Rusu and Anton Paragină say that the see of the bishopric was located in Focșani or Vârteșcoiu where the remains of 13th-century small forts were excavated. Two Cuman chieftains were buried "in the chapel of the Blessed Virgin", according to the The Lives of the Brethren, which shows that at least one chapel was built in the see of the bishopric. The 1278 letter of Pope Nicholas also referred to the cathedral which had been destroyed by the Mongols.
List of bishops
|1228–1234 or later||Theodoric O.P.||Robert||Papal documents refer to an unnamed bishop of Cumania in 1235 and 1238|||
- Sălăgean 2005, p. 156.
- Curta 2006, p. 311.
- Curta 2006, p. 304.
- Spinei 2009, pp. 192–193.
- Deeds of John and Manuel Comnenus by John Kinnamos (6.3.261), p. 196.
- Curta 2006, pp. 316–317.
- Spinei 2009, p. 260.
- The Deeds of Frederick Barbarossa (1.32), p. 66.
- Spinei 2009, p. 130.
- Curta 2006, p. 307.
- Curta 2006, p. 315.
- O City of Byzantium, Annals of Niketas Choniates (2.4.131) , p. 74.
- Makkai 1994, p. 183.
- Spinei 2009, p. 132.
- Makkai 1994, pp. 183, 187–188.
- Sălăgean 2005, pp. 156–157.
- Anna Comnena: The Alexiad (10.3.), p. 299.
- Spinei 2009, p. 122.
- Sălăgean 2005, p. 157.
- O City of Byzantium, Annals of Niketas Choniates (5.1.374) , p. 206.
- Spinei 1986, p. 47.
- Sălăgean 2005, pp. 168–169.
- O City of Byzantium, Annals of Niketas Choniates (6.1.499) , p. 275.
- Spinei 2009, p. 145.
- Pop 2013, p. 288.
- Curta 2006, p. 385.
- Makkai 1994, p. 189.
- Pop 2013, p. 284.
- Spinei 1986, p. 49.
- Engel 2001, p. 90.
- Rădvan 2010, p. 118.
- Makkai 1994, p. 182.
- Curta 2006, p. 405.
- Spinei 2008, pp. 417–418.
- Sălăgean 2005, p. 172.
- Curta 2006, p. 406.
- Dobre 2009, p. 21.
- Makkai 1994, pp. 192–193.
- Engel 2001, p. 95.
- Lehner, Francis C., O. P. (1964). "The process of canonization at Bologna (ch. 32.)". St. Dominic—Biographical Documents. The Thomist Press. Retrieved 14 February 2015.
- Dobre 2009, p. 14.
- Spinei 2008, pp. 414–415.
- Spinei 2008, p. 419.
- Dobre 2009, p. 18.
- De Frachet, Gerard, O. P. "The mission to the Cumans (6.1.)". Lives of the Brothers (Translated by Joseph Kenny, O. P.). http://www.dhspriory.org. Retrieved 14 February 2015. External link in
- Spinei 2008, p. 421.
- Spinei 2008, p. 422.
- Dobre 2009, pp. 22–23.
- Spinei 2008, pp. 422–423.
- Zsoldos 2011, p. 89.
- Spinei 2008, p. 423.
- Spinei 2008, pp. 423–424.
- Spinei 2008, p. 424.
- Spinei 1986, p. 52.
- Spinei 2008, pp. 425–426.
- Sălăgean 2005, pp. 172–173.
- Spinei 2009, p. 154.
- Kristó 2003, p. 154.
- Spinei 2008, pp. 426, 429.
- Spinei 2008, p. 429.
- Spinei 2008, p. 432.
- Spinei 2008, p. 430.
- Spinei 2008, p. 435.
- Spinei 2009, pp. 157–158.
- Spinei 2008, p. 433.
- Curta 2006, p. 408.
- Spinei 2008, pp. 433–434.
- Makkai 1994, p. 193.
- Spinei 1986, p. 58.
- Rădvan 2010, pp. 118–119.
- Dobre 2009, p. 26.
- Master Roger's Epistle (ch. 20), p. 167.
- Spinei 2008, pp. 432, 436.
- Spinei 1986, p. 170.
- Dobre 2009, p. 27.
- Spinei 2008, p. 444.
- Sălăgean 2005, p. 197.
- Dobre 2009, p. 28.
- Dobre 2009, pp. 65–66.
- Spinei 1986, p. 178.
- Dobre 2009, pp. 31–32.
- Spinei 1986, pp. 179–180.
- Spinei 1986, p. 56.
- Spinei 2008, p. 436.
- Dobre 2009, p. 25.
- Spinei 2008, pp. 436–437.
- Spinei 2008, p. 437.
- Rădvan 2010, p. 515.
- Dobre 2009, pp. 25–26.
- Zsoldos 2011, p. 92.
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- Deeds of John and Manuel Comnenus by John Kinnamos (Translated by Charles M. Brand) (1976). Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-04080-6.
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- Makkai, László (2001). From the Hungarian Conquest to the Mongol invasion: The Cumanian Country and the Province of Severin. History of Transylvania. I:From the Beginnings to 1606. Institute of History of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 15 February 2015.
- Makkai, László (1992). Les trois ethnies de la Transylvanie (1172–1241): Les Roumains en Transylvanie et en Coumanie jusqu'à l'invasion des Mongols. Histoire de la Transylvanie (in French). Akadémiai Kiadó. Retrieved 15 February 2015.
- Makkai, László (1990). Die drei Völker Siebenbürgens (1172–1241): Die Rumänen in Siebenbürgen und Kumanien bis zum Mongolensturm. Kurze Geschichte Siebenbürgens (in German). Akadémiai Kiadó. Retrieved 15 February 2015.