Egyed / Nagyenyed

Photo: Țetcu Mircea Rareș

Enyed or Nagyenyed, (Aiud or Stroßbrich, Straßburg am Mieresch) is in Transylvania, in Romania. It is 30 km to the north from Gyulafehérvár / Alba Iulia, on the right bank of the Maros River. The fortification was built on the site of a Castrum from ancient Roman times. Later, it used to be a Saxon city, first mentioned in 1293, but after the tragic Saxon exodus, there were only 15 German people there in 2011. A few years ago the non-German inhabitants consisted of 16,955 Romanians, 3,364 Hungarians, and 930 Gypsies; not to mention those 1,598 people who didn’t say anything about their ethnicity. The name of the place derives from the patron saint of its church, Saint Egyed. 

Source: Benő Gyula

It is assumed that the settlement was born (or re-born?) after the Mongolians’ destruction in 1242. After the invasion, King Béla IV invited Saxon settlers to Hungary, including Transylvania. The settlers were already building a flourishing town in Enyed or Stroßbrich in 1293. The place belonged to the Prebend of Gyulafehérvár (Alba Iulia) at that time. During the Middle Ages, the settlement could not become a free royal town, it always had a landlord who owned it. You can read more about the Saxons of Transylvania here:

Enyed Photo: Lánczi Imre

We know that the first fort was built between 1333 and 1335. The typical Árpád-age castle was enlarged around the end of the 14th century, eight towers were guarding its walls. However, the rebelling peasants were able to take it in 1437 but they soon surrendered it. The Ottoman Empire sent raiding parties to southern Transylvania in the 15th century and the Saxon and Hungarian settlements began to build walls around their churches. Enyed was following their examples.

Source: Szegedi Szabolcs

The first bigger siege of the castle took place in 1551 when the troops of Brother Martinuzzi György tried to take it. Brother György was a strong-handed statesman, he played a significant role in bringing about the Principality of Transylvania. The agricultural town of Enyed was prospering, the German Saxons were Lutheran while the Hungarians were of the Reformed faith; they shared the church in a brotherly manner during the 16th century. Unfortunately, the wealthy town has always attracted hungry mercenaries. Its fort was burned by the Wallachian Prince Mikhael in 1600 and soon after by the general of the Habsburgs, Basta. The place was almost totally depopulated in this age so Prince Bethlen Gábor had to bring new settlers in 1609.

Photo: Lánczi Imre

During the reign of Prince Rákóczi György II, 317 Hajdú soldiers were awarded nobility and settled in Enyed in 1658. Most sadly, the Crimean Tatars looted it in the same year. The burghers took shelter in the fort and tried to offer lots of gold to the Tatars to go away. The Tatars didn’t accept the ransom and began the siege in earnest. The Hajdús and the Saxons were fighting until the end but then, they had to surrender.

Enyed Photo: Lánczi Imre

The Tatars took away all the treasures of the people, according to the legend, the burghers had to give them three beautiful virgins in addition. If you walk around on the ramparts of the walls, starting from the gate tower to the right, you can find towers and bastions that were guarded by different guilds. There are the Butchers’ Tower, the Tailors’, the Bootmakers’, the Skinners’, the Tanners’, the Potters’, the Kalantos (perhaps metal craftsmen), and the Locksmiths’ bastions.

Enyed Photo: Lánczi Imre

The town was a renowned cultural center and famous for its Reformed College, founded by Prince Bethlen in 1622. General Rabutin put it on fire in 1704. According to the sources, 30 students fought in the rebels’ army against the Habsburgs but only two of them survived the battle. 

The massacre on 8 January 1849

There was one more tragic event in Enyed: during the Hungarian War of Independence in 1849, the Habsburgs instigated the Romanians against the Hungarians. At that time, the Hungarian men served in the army so their families in Nagyenyed were without any protection. General Anton von Puchner, commander-in-chief of the imperial royal troops in Transylvania, allegedly ordered the destruction of the town to prevent the Hungarian army from using it as a base. The order was carried out by Romanian insurgent leaders Ioan Axente Sever and Simion Prodan.

Nagyenyed today

As a result of the Habsburgs’ instigation, nearly 10,000 Romanian irregulars, led by the Orthodox popes Axente Sever and Simion Prodan, sacked the place, killing 1,000 Saxon and Hungarian civilians (women and children) and chased the other 1,000 to die in the hills at Christmas time. It was a massacre because the men were fighting in the Hungarian army, far away from home. The destruction devastated much of the town, including the buildings, library, and equipment of the Reformed College. The famous library’s books of the College were hoarded in piles inside its halls and were put to the torch. 

Enyed Photo: Lánczi Imre

A contemporary recollection of Kőváry László: “In two days, the flourishing town was reduced to ashes, leaving hardly 20-30 houses standing. My famous Reformed College was burned down, along with its precious library and collection of 25-30,000 manuscripts, its precious museum, its rich collection of medals and minerals was burnt down by robbers and flames. Those who could escape ran to Torda, Felenyed, Újfalu, and Csombord. But the extreme cold froze many on the way.”

The attackers were joined by other camps and marauders from surrounding villages, with an estimated 16-20 thousand looters in the city at the same time. The Hungarian inhabitants were killed with indiscriminate cruelty, many after hours of torture; shooting, and beating to death with iron spikes or axes was common. The churches that historically provided shelter were worthless. Nothing was sacred, nothing was expensive enough not to be destroyed, and nothing and no one deserved mercy. Tribune Ioan Nemeš broke into the church on horseback and chased out those seeking shelter. Outside, the unfortunates were killed…It is said that the massacre was so loud that it could be heard as far as Mihálcfalva, 22 km from Nagyenyed. The attacks lasted until January 11 but continued for several days after that.

The statue of Axente Sever in Nagyenyed (Photo: Gazda Árpád)

It is shocking, but the leader of the massacre received a glorious statue in Nagyenyed / Aiud in 1993 which portrays him as a hero. I do not know whether it is standing there in 2020 or not but this happening could not be left unmentioned in this article. It is still a dividing question between Hungarians and Romanians. Allegedly a Romanian historian, Silviu Dragomir has already declared it a barbarian deed. Hopefully, one day this sad event can be settled according to 21st-century values.

Nagyenyed / Aiud today

There used to be a wide moat around the castle, now there is a park in its place with a walkway; the mass graves from 1849 are located in the moat, too. As for Axente Sever, he was born in the nearby Saxon settlement that now is wearing his name: however, Germans call it  Frauendorf while Hungarians say it is Asszonyfalva. Note, that the contemporary Austrian authorities acquitted the rebel leader of responsibility for the Enyed massacre.

You can read about the fortified church of Frauendorf / Asszonyfalva / Axente Sever here:

The memorial plaque of the massacre in Nagyenyed was made in 1904, at the moat where the victims were buried (Photo: Kiss Gábor)

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Here are lots of pictures of Nagyenyed: