Robert, Archbishop of Esztergom

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Archbishop of Esztergom
Róbert veszprémi püspök pecsétje, 1210.jpg
Seal of Bishop Robert, 1210
Installed13 March 1226
Term ended1 November 1239
SuccessorMatthias Rátót
Other postsBishop of Veszprém
Personal details
Liège (Lüttich), Holy Roman Empire
Died1 November 1239
Esztergom, Kingdom of Hungary
NationalityFrench, Hungarian
DenominationRoman Catholic
Alma materUniversity of Paris (?)

Robert (Hungarian: Róbert; died 1 November 1239) was a French-born prelate in the Kingdom of Hungary in the first decades of the 13th century. He was Archbishop of Esztergom between 1226 and 1239 and Bishop of Veszprém from 1209 till 1226. He played a decisive role in the establishment of the short-lived Diocese of Cumania. He was sharply opposed to the employment of Jews and Muslims in the administration of the royal revenues. He even put Hungary under interdict to force Andrew II of Hungary to dismiss his non-Christian officials.

Early career[edit]

Robert was of French noble origin, who was born in the territory of the Diocese of Liège.[1] It is presumable that he came to Hungary, when became a royal tutor of King Andrew's eldest son Béla (born 1206), replacing Bernard of Perugia, Archbishop of Split. In contemporary records, his name is referred to with the honorary title of "magister", demonstrating his university degree (possibly he studied in Liège or Sorbonne).[2] Some historians consider he is identical with that Robertus Anglicus, who, alongside Peter, provost of Esztergom, has stolen documents from the papal register of Pope Alexander III in order to disarm the jurisdictional claims of the Archdiocese of Kalocsa against Esztergom. Historian Dániel Bácsatyai argues a namesake member of the collegiate chapter of Esztergom, mentioned in 1183, is the same person as Robert.[3]

He simultaneously functioned as chancellor and provost of Fehérvár from 1207 to 1209.[4] In this capacity, he was a supporter of the so-called "new institutions", a new policy for royal grants introduced by Andrew. While recording the preliminaries of the royal charters throughout in 1208 and 1209, Robert characterized this reform as "the best measure of a royal grant is its being immeasurable." That sentence reflects Robert's knowledge of Novellae Constitutiones (one of the four parts of the Roman law), where the same phrase appears regarding the donations of the churches.[5]

Bishop of Veszprém[edit]

After the death of his predecessor Kalanda, Robert was elected as Bishop of Veszprém in 1209. His election was confirmed by Pope Innocent III in the next year.[6] Robert and his fellow bishop Peter of Győr were entrusted in 1211 to prepare a convention draft and submit to the Roman Curia in the subject of conflicts of jurisdiction between the archdioceses of Esztergom and Kalocsa.[7] The proposal contained that the right of coronation should belong to the role of archbishop Esztergom, except in case of deliberate rejection, obstacle, deteriorated health condition or sede vacante, when the process must be performed by the archbishop of Kalocsa. The so-called "second coronations" (during festive events) must be celebrated jointly. In addition, the document attached the collection of tithe after the coinage to Esztergom, but John of Esztergom had to waive his all right (i.e. superintendence over the royal churches, abbeys and provostries, ecclesiastical jurisdiction over the royal officials) in the territory of the church province of Kalocsa, in accordance with the proposal. The theses of the document was promoted by Andrew II himself too. However Pope Innocent refused to countersign the document on 12 February 1212, referring to its "harmful consequences" for the Kingdom of Hungary.[8]

Robert had a tense relationship with his metropolitan archbishop John, since Robert was the main preparer and submitter to the draft, which sought to reduce the privileges of Esztergom. They had conflicts in the subject of superintendence over the provostry of Óbuda, and the jurisdiction over the clerical staff in the royal court (mostly resided in Óbuda), in addition to the right of coronation of the queen consorts. The debate has been intensified during the marriage of Andrew II and his second spouse Yolanda de Courtenay in February 1215. Their wedding was celebrated in Székesfehérvár and John crowned Yolanda queen consort. In response, Robert sent a complaint to Pope Innocent III, because the coronation of the queens consort in Hungary had been traditionally the privilege of his see, according to his narration. After Robert's personal visit in Rome, the pope sent two legates, cardinals Pelagio Galvani and Stefano di Ceccano to Hungary in order to investigate the complaint and confirmed the privilege of the See of Veszprém in April 1216. The decision was confirmed by Pope Honorius III in 1220 too.[8] When John was prohibited from the free use of the archdiocese's income by the pope for his involvement in the consecration of the allegedly juvenile Bartholomew le Gros, Bishop of Pécs, John had to ask for permission to cover the necessary expenses from the pope's two appointed trustees, Thomas of Eger and his old antipode Robert of Veszprém. The two bishops were entrusted to become the guardians of Bartholomew until reach adulthood. However an official inquiry ordered by the Holy See ascertained that the new bishop had already attained 30 years, the age required by canon law. After that John was acquitted of the charges and regained the right to financial supervision, while Thomas and Robert's mandate has ceased by January 1221.[8]

Robert participated in the Fourth Council of the Lateran in 1215, along with the two archbishops, and additionally five Hungarian and three Dalmatian bishops.[1] Following that Robert became the most influential proponent of the Hungarian participation in the Fifth Crusade. In February 1217, Pope Honorius authorized him to absolve those noblemen from their vow, who were entrusted with protection of the realm, while Andrew II prepared for crusade. Robert even allowed Andrew to mortgage the gold crown of the first queen consort Gisela.[9]

Robert supported the foundation of monasteries in the territory of his diocese. For instance, he granted the collection right of tithe to the nuns of Veszprém Valley in 1210, upon the request of abbess Stella.[10] During his episcopate, the abbeys of Almád and Hahót were (re-)established, while the hermits of St. James commenced their activities (they elevated into the formation of the Order of Saint Paul the First Hermit decades later). Robert donated annually 100 silver denari to the chapter of Veszprém. He also donated the chapel of Bereg to the canons for the spiritual sake of the murdered Queen Gertrude of Merania in the first the anniversary of her burial.[8] Upon Pope Honorius' order, Knight Hospitaller Göncöl was ordained priest then consecrated Archbishop of Split by Robert in 1221.[10] Later he was criticized for this step by the local chapter.[8]

In 1225, Pope Honorius urged Andrew and Queen Yolanda to prohibit Muslims from employing Christians. Historian Nora Berend considers Robert, still as Bishop of Veszprém, was behind the charges, anticipating his future leading role on the issue. His appointment as archbishop in the next year showed his influence at the Roman Curia through his regular correspondence with the pope.[11]

Archbishop of Esztergom[edit]

Appointment by the Holy See[edit]

Thomas of Esztergom died around November 1224, after less than a year of episcopate.[12] The chapter could not agree unanimously about the new archbishop. Two rival factions emerged in the following months: a part of the canons nominated Desiderius of Csanád, while other members of the college supported James of Nyitra (or Nitra). Pope Honorius refused to recognize both elections. He referred those contradicted the canonical rules of procedure, thus he called for holding new elections, unless himself will appoint an archbishop to administer the province. In the second round, some canons continued to support Desiderius, while other emerging faction nominated archdeacon Thomas. Honorius again annulled the results and ordered four canons as envoys to Rome to represent their chapter by 6 January 1226. Three of them were guardian Nicholas and canons Andrew and John.[8] However, there they failed to agree on a candidate acceptable to everyone, thus Honorius appointed Robert, who was "worthy of both body and soul", as Archbishop of Esztergom on 13 March 1226.[12]

Persecution of non-Christians[edit]

Robert pledged to participate in Emperor Frederick II's crusade in 1227. But, instead, he had to postpone his intention of travel to the Holy Land;[8] the nearly contemporaneous Alberic of Trois-Fontaines recorded that a Cuman chieftain's son visited Robert in 1227, asking the archbishop to baptize him together with his 12 retainers.[13][14] The Cuman nobleman also announced that his father was also willing to come to Transylvania to be baptized along with his 2,000 subjects.[15] Archbishop Robert accepted the offer and went to Transylvania, together with three Hungarian prelates, Bartholomew of Pécs, Bartholomew of Veszprém and Raynald of Belleville,[16] Bishop of Transylvania.[17] 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.[18] At the meeting, the Hungarian prelates baptized Boricius and his retainers in the presence of Duke Béla.[19] Pope Gregory IX expressed his joy over the missionaries' success in "Cumania" and in the neighboring "land of the Brodniks" in a letter to Robert on 31 July 1227.[20] The conversion of thousands of Cumans was followed by the creation of the Diocese of Cumania. According to Alberic of Trois-Fontaines, Archbishop Robert consecrated a Dominican friar Theodoric bishop of the new diocese in 1228.[14][21] Pope Gregory confirmed the consecration and 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.[22] Initially the diocese was subordinated to the archbishopric of Esztergom, however, 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,[23] as the relationship between the Cumans and their priests was often tense during Robert's supervision.[24]

The employment of Jews and Muslims to administer the royal revenues led Robert and the other subordinated prelates into conflict with King Andrew II. According to Pope Gregory's letter ("the news reached us from the report made by you [...]"), Robert made a complaint about Andrew to the Roman Curia, because the king continued to employ Jews and Muslims despite his former conflict with the Holy See over the issue.[11] On 3 March 1231, Gregory authorized the archbishop to perform acts of religious censure to persuade Andrew to dismiss his non-Christian officials. Under duress, Andrew issued a Golden Bull in 1231, which confirmed that Muslims were banned from employment, and empowered the Archbishop of Esztergom to excommunicate the king if he failed to honor the provisions of the new Golden Bull.[25][26] The document emphasizes specifically coinage among the public offices forbidden to non-Christians (Jews and Muslims), as royal mint was located in Esztergom and was part of the privileges of its archbishop.[11]

Although Andrew pledged to respect the privileges of the clergymen and to dismiss his non-Christian officials in his Golden Bull, he never fulfilled the latter promise. Robert excommunicated Palatine Denis, son of Ampud and other royal advisors (e.g. Master of the treasury Nicholas[27] and a certain chamberlain Samuel of "Saracen" origin) and put Hungary under an interdict on 25 February 1232,[14] because the employment of Jews and Muslims continued despite the Golden Bull of 1231. He was the first prelate, who used this ecclesiastical censure against the kingdom. Since the archbishop accused the Muslims of persuading Andrew to seize church property, Andrew restored properties to the archbishop, who soon suspended the interdict.[28] Berend says Robert bemoaned the situation of the Catholic Church in the realm, as several clergymen lost their offices due to the presence of non-Christian financial experts.[28] Pope Gregory sought an agreement and persuaded Robert to suspend the interdict. Upon Andrew's demand, he sent Cardinal Giacomo Pecoraria as his legate to Hungary and promised that nobody would be excommunicated without the pope's special authorization. Thus Robert was overshadowed in the conflict by that time. On 20 August 1233, in the forests of Bereg, he vowed in the presence of Giacomo Pecoraria and Bartholomew of Veszprém that he would not employ Jews and Muslims to administrate royal revenues, and would pay 10,000 marks as compensation for usurped Church revenues.[25][29] Andrew repeated his oath in Esztergom in September before Robert, who absolved the king "from his sins".[14] For the remaining time, their relationship improved; when the elderly Andrew, who had been widowed, married the 23-year-old Beatrice D'Este on 14 May 1234, Robert crowned the new queen (as archbishop, despite his former protests as Bishop of Veszprém against John of Esztergom), even though the king's sons – his protege Béla and Coloman – were sharply opposed to the marriage.[14] John, Bishop of Bosnia, put Hungary under a new interdict in the first half of 1234, because Andrew had not dismissed his non-Christian officials despite his oath of Bereg.[30] Andrew and, this time, Archbishop Robert protested against the bishop's act at the Holy See.[30]

Ecclesiastical affairs and last years[edit]

Robert initiated the process of canonization for one of the 12th-century predecessors, Archbishop Lucas in 1231.[11] He entrusted Bulcsú Lád, Bishop of Csanád to conduct an investigation and send his report to Rome. When papal legate Giacomo Pecoraria arrived to Hungary in 1233, he also dealt with the issue, but the protocol was lost and the canonization process postponed and the initiative failed in silence due to the Mongol invasion of 1241.[24]

Béla's coronation
Béla is crowned king (from the Illuminated Chronicle) by Robert in 1235. The archbishop's portrayal is blurred.

The archbishop judged over the collection of tithe from the Szentes church (today Svätuše, Slovakia) in 1228.[31] Following a grant of privilege by Andrew II in 1232, Robert had the right to judge over subjects who lived in the territory of the Archdiocese of Esztergom. However royal churches did not recognize his jurisdiction; for instance, Pope Gregory excommunicated Albert, provost of Arad in 1235, because he refused to acknowledge the authority of the archbishop. Albert only yielded to Archbishop Stephen Báncsa in 1246, promising that he would attend at the synods convoked by the archbishop.[24] The abbey of Garamszentbenedek (today Hronský Beňadik, Slovakia) also protected against the archdiocese's suzerainty, as a result Robert seized one of their villages.[24]

Andrew II died on 21 September 1235. His son Béla IV was crowned king by Robert on 14 October 1235 in Székesfehérvár.[1] On 29 August 1236, Robert issued two charters; first, he approved that Béla donated the St. Gerard church of Kispest together with its accessories, the St. Andrew chapel of Sasad (today a borough in Újbuda) and the St. Martin chapel of Budaörs to the Cistercian monastery founded by him in Bélakút (i.e., Pétervárad, present-day Petrovaradin, Serbia), which belonged to the church province of Kalocsa. In his second charter, Robert made it clear that the priest of the St. Gerard church had to be confirmed by the chapter of Esztergom with prior approval.[32] Historian Géza Érszegi considers both documents as forgery, as a royal charter issued in 1243 confirms Béla granted the church to the Bélakút Abbey in that year. Béla founded the monastery itself in 1237, a year after Robert's two alleged documents.[33]

On 29 September 1239, a month before Robert's death, Béla gave permission to the archdiocese to build Víziváros (Latin: Civitas Archiepiscopalis, a neighborhood of Esztergom), under the royal castle and the St. Adalbert Basilica. The borough was started to build during the brief episcopate of Robert's successor Matthias Rátót. Béla called Esztergom as "locus primatis" in his royal charter.[24] On 18 October 1239, Robert baptized the new-born prince Stephen, heir apparent and oldest son of Béla IV.[34] Robert died on 1 November 1239.[35] Ascetic devices and cilices were found in his sacristy after his death.[34]


  1. ^ a b c Markó 2006, p. 325.
  2. ^ Beke 2003, p. 98.
  3. ^ Bácsatyai 2017, pp. 625–626.
  4. ^ Zsoldos 2011, p. 107.
  5. ^ Bácsatyai 2017, p. 625.
  6. ^ Zsoldos 2011, p. 100.
  7. ^ Solymosi 1994, p. 54.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Beke 2003, p. 99.
  9. ^ Bácsatyai 2017, p. 624.
  10. ^ a b Solymosi 1994, p. 57.
  11. ^ a b c d Berend 2006, p. 155.
  12. ^ a b Zsoldos 2011, p. 81.
  13. ^ Spinei 2008, p. 422.
  14. ^ a b c d e Beke 2003, p. 100.
  15. ^ Spinei 2008, pp. 422–423.
  16. ^ Zsoldos 2011, p. 89.
  17. ^ Spinei 2008, p. 423.
  18. ^ Spinei 2008, pp. 423–424.
  19. ^ Spinei 2008, p. 424.
  20. ^ Spinei 2008, pp. 425–426.
  21. ^ Zsoldos 2011, p. 92.
  22. ^ Spinei 2008, pp. 426, 429.
  23. ^ Spinei 2008, p. 430.
  24. ^ a b c d e Beke 2003, p. 101.
  25. ^ a b Engel 2001, p. 94.
  26. ^ Berend 2006, pp. 154–155.
  27. ^ Zsoldos 2011, p. 62.
  28. ^ a b Berend 2006, p. 157.
  29. ^ Berend 2006, pp. 158–159.
  30. ^ a b Berend 2006, p. 160.
  31. ^ Érszegi 1995, p. 31.
  32. ^ Érszegi 1995, pp. 34–35.
  33. ^ Érszegi 1995, p. 37.
  34. ^ a b Beke 2003, p. 102.
  35. ^ Zsoldos 2011, p. 348.


  • Bácsatyai, Dániel (2017). "II. András angliai követei [King Andrew II's Envoys in England]". Történelmi Szemle (in Hungarian). Hungarian Academy of Sciences. 59 (4): 621–632. ISSN 0040-9634.
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Political offices
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Bishop of Veszprém
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Archbishop of Esztergom
Succeeded by
Matthias Rátót