The priories of the Dominican Order in medieval Transylvania
At the time of the arrival in Transylvania of the first mendicant order - the Dominicans - in 1241, religious orders had been present in the principality for almost a century and a half. The first Latin-rite religious order to settle in Transylvania, the Benedictines, came in the eleventh century, and they were followed at the turn of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries by the Cistercians and in the first half of the thirteenth century by the Premonstratensians. During the period prior to the Mongol invasion, the Teutonic Order also made its appearance in Transylvania. In Transylvania (as also in Hungary), the Dominican order sought to establish itself in each of the major economic and political centres. Transylvania could serve as a good point of departure for the order's missionary activities: for instance, their attempts to convert the pagan Cumanians. The Dominicans liked to settle on the outskirts of towns or close to areas with the greatest amount of traffic (at the gates of cities, close to markets, etc). The friaries of the Dominicans in Transylvania counted as relatively old ones. Four of the nine friaries already existed before 1300 (Szeben: 1241, Gyulafehérvár: 1289, Segesvár: 1289, Alvinc: 1300), and we have data for an additional four friaries in the first quarter of the fourteenth century (Beszterce: 1303, Szászsebes: 1322, Brassó: 1323) and for the remaining two friaries at the end of the fourteenth century (Kolozsvár: 1397) and at the end of the fifteenth century (Udvarhely: 1496). The Dominican convents - with one exception (Szeben: 1502) - are first mentioned in the sources in the second half of the fifteenth century (Kolozsvár: 1450, Brassó: 1474, Beszterce: 1485, Segesvár: 1497). It should be noted that we do not know the exact year of foundation of the friaries/convents.. The only exceptions to this are the friaries of Szászsebes and Brassó. The general chapter in Vienna decided upon the establishment of the friary of Szászsebes in 1322, while the Brassó priory was established following a decision of the general chapter in Barcelona. Just seven of the original fourteen Dominican friaries/convents in Transylvania are still standing today. Archaeological research has been carried out at two of the building complexes - at Alvinc and at Udvarhely. The great number of pious donations proves that the friaries exerted significant influence by tending for the urban flock. Although their role in the process of urbanisation was not great, the Dominican friaries and convents contributed greatly to the consolidation of the ecclesiastical network of institutions in Transylvania. Indicative of the flexibility of the order was its ability to recognise the altered requirements of urban society and its patrons among the local nobility, and to respond to the challenge.
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