Nagybánya (Baia Mare, Frauenbach, Neustadt) is in Transylvania, it can be found in Romania. It got its name after its plentiful silver and gold mines. The inhabitants were mostly Saxons, craftsmen, miners, and merchants who were settled there in 1142 by the Hungarian King Géza II. The city’s patron saint is Saint István (Stephen), the first Hungarian king. The town’s name used to be Asszonypataka until the 15th century. The city was mentioned first in 1327 in a document of King Károly Róbert, it was called as Zazarbánya, later in 1329 as Rivuli Dominarum and in 1332 as Rivulus Dominarum. The gold production has been going on here since the Roman Empire’s age, though.
King Nagy Lajos reinforced the rights of the city in 1347 and gave the burghers more privileges. thus, the place began to prosper and it became rich enough to be protected by a palisade wall and stone bastions. The city was renowned in distant lands for its great Saint István cathedral that was finished in 1387. The church is 50 meters long while its tower is 40 meters high. We know that there was a school in the town in 1380 whose schoolmaster was called Theodoricus from Brassó (Kronstadt). We know of a hospital from 1408, too. King Zsigmond gifted the town to the Serbian Despot, Stefan Lazarevics in 1411. It was György Brankovics who inherited it from the Despot, then it became the property of Hunyadi János in 1449. Hunyadi had his own house built on the main square of Nagybánya that is still there to see.
The area around the city was extremely rich in silver and gold. Soon, Nagybánya has become one of the largest gold-mining towns of the Kingdom of Hungary. The town was minting gold coins as early as 1468. In the time of King Matthias Corvinus, Nagybánya produced more than half of Hungary’s gold, and remember, the mining towns in Upper Hungary were very productive as well. You can read more about the northern mines of Hungary here:
It was King Matthias who gave a permit to the town to build fortifications because of the raids from Moldova. All kinds of artisans lived in the guilds of the city: carpenters, masons, furriers, potters, tailors, goldsmiths, and silversmiths, all had a very good reputation. Especially the goldsmiths were world-famous, one of them (Bánfihunyadi Ötvös János) became a professor at Gresham College in London. After the death of King Matthias in 1490, Polish soldiers took the town but they were driven out by King Ulászló II. during the next year.
After the Battle of Mohács in 1526, Nagybánya became the property of King Szapolyai János. King Ferdinand was able to take it in 1551 when his troops marched in, led by General Castaldo in 1551. The townfolks became Protestant in 1547 and the first Reformed college was established there in Transylvania. János Zsigmond, elected (and not crowned) King of Hungary, son of King Szapolyai János retook it in 1557 and again in 1564 when it was almost totally destroyed.
After the death of János Zsigmond, the Principality of Transylvania was about to take shape and the town was inherited by Prince Báthori Zsigmond. Unfortunately, the rich town’s profit had been lived off by usurers who got hold of the renting rights. Prince Bethlen Gábor took these rights away from them and freed the city from its unjust debt, gifting the mining rights to the city in 1620. In the 1630s, the city and its mines were owned by Prince Rákóczi György I.
Nagybánya was lucky enough to avoid getting besieged by the Ottomans. However, when Várad castle (Oradea) fell to the Turks in 1661, Nagybánya had to pay a huge ransom to Pasha Ali (16,000 Gold Forints) in order to prevent occupation. Nagybánya became the property of the Habsburg-ruled Royal Hungary in 1664. At the beginning of the anti-Habsburg struggles that we call the “kuruc”-age, Nagybánya’s German guards were chased away by the rebelling “kuruc” Hungarians in 1672. Soon, the Imperial army, led by General Cobb took it back and as a punishment, made the burghers pull down the walls and fortifications of their own town. Only the Butchers’ tower has remained intact.
The Jesuits took away the Saxons’ Reformed school and the church in 1687 and in 1691. No wonder, that the burghers supported the War of Independence of Prince Rákóczi Ferenc II in 1703. However, the privileges of the town were given back in 1712.
According to the data of 2011, there lived 123,738 inhabitants in the city: 97801 (79,0%) Romanians, 12 606 (10,2%) Hungarians, 1767 (1,4%) Gypsies, 140 Germans, 126 Ukrainians, and 115 other people.
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Here are more pictures of the town and its surviving fortification: