Torda (Turda, Thorenburg) is in Transylvania, Romania. Torda was the administrative center of the Transylvanian salt mines and this was a strategic function at that time. It is 32 km from Kolozsvár (Cluj, Klausenburg), on the River Aranyos. The settlement was founded on the road that connected the southeastern region of Europe with the west where the people of the plains and the mountains could exchange their products. Mining salt was one of the greatest incomes of the Hungarian kings, the Kingdom of Hungary provided Europe with 75% of mined salt before the Battle of Mohács in 1526. Salt mining in Transylvania was a flourishing business already in the 13th century.
Regarding Hungarian history, Torda’s first mention is from 1075 when King Géza collected taxes on mining salt there. The names “Turda” (Torda) and “Aranas” (Aranyos) were mentioned in the Hungarian language in the king’s document that was written in Latin. It is said that the Hungarian name “Torda” derives from the Hungarian surname “Turda” which means “turdi” (“remained”) in the ancient Turk language. One of the large salt mines is still open to the public, it is in the town. It had been operating between the 17th century and 1932 and is regarded as a great tourist attraction, just like the town’s salt spa. You can read more about the”white gold of Hungary”, the salt on my page:
Torda and its neighborhood have many ruins of several fortifications. Being in an important location, it seemed to have had a castle since humans appeared in the area. We know that the Dacians had a settlement called Dierna, then the ancient Romans took over the town and called it Potaissa. Some Roman ruins of Potaissa are still traceable in our days. The Romans were mining salt there already.
Szamosközy István was a historian who served in the court of Prince Bocskai István, he may have been regarded as the first Hungarian archeologist. He remarked that in his age, there was still standing a Roman statue of Pallas Athene on the top of the ruined main gate, on the „porta principalis”. The Pallas statue symbolized usually a victory, its shielded figure could be noticed from a great distance. It perished only in 1657.
The Hungarians’ castle was built in the 11th century, its ruins are still on the hill above the settlement called Várfalva (“castle’s village”). This first castle was destroyed in 1241 by the Mongols. Perhaps its location was not the best so another had to be constructed. There used to be a settlement called Szentmiklós on the western part of Ótorda (Old Torda) where Comes Mikud built a castle around 1275 but it was also wiped out in 1285, during the second Mongolian Invasion. However, it was built again in the 15th century and was mentioned last time in 1508.
King László IV gave the castle’s land called “Aranyos” to the Hungarian Székely people in 1289. It was the birth of the Aranyosszék Seat which was an administrative district of the Székelys. The first Diet (a formal deliberative assembly) was held here allegedly in the age of King Saint István in the 11th century. As Torda was a very important town in Transylvania, altogether 122 or more Diets were held during seven centuries. The noble Estates met in the church of Torda or on the nearby Keresztesmező Field, many of them were assemblies that prefaced military campaigns.
Let me summarize the history of the Diets held in Torda because it might provide great insight into the history of Hungary and Transylvania. These Diets were the assemblies where kings, high-ranking aristocrats, voivodes and vice-voivodes, noblemen, and officers came together. When the Transylvanian Principality was born, the Diets were chaired by the princes of Transylvania. Now, we have room to list only some of these Diets.
Torda was the place where the Hungarian estates, armed to the teeth assembled on 8 June 1288. It was when King Kun László joined them and led the army to beat the Cuman intruders who were chased out of the country. The Diet also announced the Bishop of Transylvania’s inauguration. The next famous Diet took place in 1321 when King Károly Róbert came to Torda with his soldiers to put down the rebellion of the German Saxons. At the same time, the king appointed Szécsényi Tamás as the Voivode of Transylvania. After this, Szécsényi proved worthy of his new rank and broke the Saxons’ resistance. (Please, note that I use the Oriental name order for Hungarians where family names come first.)
Károly Róbert summoned another Diet in Torda in 1324. This time, the king gave a tax exemption to the local noblemen, they did not have to pay taxes to the king anymore. He also confirmed the privileges of Torda’s town that had been granted by King Endre II. We had only one Habsburg king who was loved by the Hungarians, he was Habsburg Albert (ruled 1437-1439). This king held his court in Buda and not in Vienna. After defeating the devastating peasant uprising of Budai Nagy Antal at Kolozsmonostor in Transylvania, he summoned a Diet to Torda on 2 February 1438. It was when the Union of Kápolna was reinforced, namely, the Hungarian noblemen, the German Saxons, and the Hungarian Székely Border guards founded the famous Union of Three Nations.
Vlad Tepes of Wallachia signed a treaty with King Matthias Corvinus in 1461, and Wallachia denied to pay taxes to the Ottomans. In answer to that, the Turks attacked Wallachia in the spring of 1462. King Matthias hurried to Torda where he organized the Hungarian auxiliary troops to aid Vlad on 17 September but Vlad suffered a defeat before he could send them. The situation was getting serious and a Diet was held in Torda in 1463 where things were settled. King Matthias was in Torda in 1467 again when he made justice over the rebels. Voivode Szentgyörgyi János and the resentful noblemen appeared before him in black clothes.
The Three Nations of Transylvania held a Diet in Torda on 18 December 1505. Their task was to make a committee that was supposed to represent them on the following Diet of Segesvár. The last Diet before the Battle of Mohács (1526) was summoned by Voivode Szapolyai János of Transylvania on New Year’s Day of 1525. The estates were discussing how to prevent the approaching Ottoman peril. Finally, Szapolyai could not even participate in it because at that time he was losing a battle against the Turks on the border of the Banate of Temes. However, the Diet voted on the raising of a new army. It was an army of 10-15,000 men but Szapolyai could not reach the main army led by King Lajos II, he was late from the Battle of Mohács.
We know that the Turks took Buda castle in 1541 and the Kingdom of Hungary was partitioned into three parts. East Hungary was ruled by Queen Isabella, the widow of King Szapolyai János, and this part of the kingdom was slowly transformed into the Principality of Transylvania until the 1570s. The Diet of Torda in 1542 accepted Zsigmond János as the first Prince of Transylvania, and settled the issues of an independent Transylvania, focusing on the reorganization of the administrative offices. There are many people who think Transylvania was a mere vassal state of the Ottoman Empire but it is not the full truth. You can learn more about its semi-independence on my page here:
It was the Queen’s statesman, Prior Martinuzzi György aka “the White Monk” who actively shaped the future of Transylvania. He was an appointed tutor of the young King János Zsigmond and he had several conflicts with Queen Isabella. In 1542, the White Monk officially declined the claims of King Habsburg Ferdinand and quit the Treaty of Gyalu. The Diet voted on the tax to be paid to the Ottomans, the Union of the Three Nations was confirmed again, and the young János Zsigmond was elected as Prince of Transylvania. As for paying taxes to the Turks, note that Habsburg Ferdinand paid an even larger sum every year to them just to preserve the peace.
The Diet continued its work in 1543 when it allowed Queen Isabella to rule on behalf of his son until he would reach maturity. They also voted the tax to the sultan, their intention was to gain the right from Istanbul for holding free elections in the future. This Diet was a very important event regarding religious tolerance. As it was, the White Monk summoned the Protestant preacher, Honterus János to come to Torda. Instead of him, his fellow preachers arrived and they successfully gain the support of the Estates. Martinuzzi failed to block the spreading of the new faith, the noblemen were rather encouraging the preachers. It was when King Ferdinand was savagely harassing the Protestants in the Szepesség (Zipt) region of North Hungary. This Diet was a turning point for the mostly Protestant German Saxons of Transylvania who realized that an independent Transylvania would be a better home than Royal Hungary. Here is more about the Saxons of Transylvania:
The Diet of 1544 in April was about the confirmation of the Union of the Three Nations again, the Hungarian Estates, the Saxons, and the Székelys agreed in defending each other. They added that they would support the Homeland with both money and sword. The governor of Transylvania was given the right to give lands in Transylvania. Further religious reforms were limited, though. However, Queen Isabella summoned a new Diet in August. It was unique because it was the first time since the Battle of Mohács that the Hungarian estates from the Partium joined the Hungarian estates from Transylvania in the work of the Diet. This time, Martinuzzi wanted to achieve to get elected as the Governor of Transylvania but he failed to get this title. However, he was appointed as Chief Judge of Transylvania and the Trans Tisza Region, under the authority of Queen Isabella who had the right to judge major crimes. Also, Martinuzzi was obliged by the Diet to give an account of the income of the country to the Diet.
The next Diet met on 21 April 1545, and János Zsigmond was present. The estates voted for the amount of tax and banned all contact with the Austrians by penalty of death. It was when Protestantism was tolerated for the first time but they banned all further reformation of the faith. Without making a law, the freedom of religion was thus ensured because, by this time, most of the inhabitants of the towns, the Saxons, and the Hungarian Székelys (except for the ones living in the Csík Area) had already been Protestants. The Diet regulated the insurrection of the common people in case of war. The logistics were taken care of: every twenty peasant soldiers had to be supplied with a wagon loaded with food. The markets and the prices of food were also regulated. After the transactions, the people had to drink a glass of wine “so as to have witnesses of the business”.
There was another Diet in Torda this year in October when the members of the Three Nations voted 4,000-4,000 gold Forints for the expenses of the Queen’s court. An additional 62 silver Denarius had to be paid by each house owner, and 16,000 Gold Forints were to be allocated from this income to the Treasury. Strict laws were made against thieves but those criminals who were “clean” for at least three years, were not to be pursued. Allowing a “corrective action” for criminals was a rare thing in contemporary Europe, this regulation was a sign of advanced thinking in Transylvania.
In the Diet of 1548, the estates sent a committee to “aid” the work of Queen Isabella and Martinuzzi. They were supposed to limit the possibility of making secret treaties without the knowledge of the estates. The Three Nations (Saxons, Székelys, Hungarians) were obliged to keep 2,000-2,000 soldiers in readiness. They tried to ban the further reformation of faith and limit the moves of stray preachers. Of course, they voted for more money for taxes, too.
The next meeting was summoned by Martinuzzi in November 1550. This time, he called for action against the Turk and Moldavian troops intruding into Transylvania. From Torda, according to the order of Queen Isabella, he went to Marosvásárhely. He sent the “bloody sword” all over the country and soon 50,000 men arrived to defend the Homeland. It was how he could repel the enemy. In this Diet, the estates punished Balassa Menyhért severely for destroying the castle of Kend and robbing the treasures found there.
Martinuzzi was already on the side of King Habsburg Ferdinand when the next Diet was held, on 8 May 1551. This Diet was summoned against the Queen, and Martinuzzi summoned all able-bodied people who were able to carry a sword, under the penalty of death. With his army, he set out to besiege Gyulafehérvár castle. Then, he moved to Szászsebes where he forced Queen Isabella to cede the power to Ferdinand. There was a second Diet this year, it was summoned by Báthory Endre, the voivode appointed by King Ferdinand. They voted for more taxes and ordered the execution of Kövendi.
General Castaldo held a Diet in Torda in 1552. He tried to please the estates with the promise of religious freedom in case the Three Nations could finance 2,000-2,000 mercenaries. However, the Diet ruled against the sacks and blackmails made by mercenaries, and banned them to demand free labor from the peasants. During the next Diet in the same year, the desperate estates expressed that the rule of Castaldo was harsher and crueler than the Turks’. Finally, they agreed to take up arms only because Castaldo threatened them. As it turned out, the Hungarian soldiers who came together at Keresztesmező did not go against the Turks but they scattered the German mercenaries who were besieging Kolozsvár and looting Fejérvár and Szeben.
Voivode Dobó István and Kendi were inaugurated in the Diet held on 16 June 1553. They had to swear fealty in the presence of 2,500 soldiers but Kendi failed to do so because he was a Protestant and he did not like to swear on saints, and he was against the prosecution of his fellow Protestants, too. However, Dobó swore the oath but his eagerness about reorganizing the Catholic Bishopric of Gyulafehérvár angered utterly the numerous Protestants in Transylvania so much that they were thinking about giving the power back to Queen Isabella. There was another Diet the same year, the estates were complaining about losing their income from the salt. This meeting established rules about the power of the voivodes and the Treasurer, Haller Gábor was ordered to write together the several sources of the Treasury.
The Diet of 1557 declared that “everybody is allowed to live in the faith they wanted to if it is done without disturbing the other people’s practicing their religion.” It was the first step taken toward religious freedom. The Lutheran faith was legalized, and this thinking was improved during the diets of the 1560s.
King / Prince János Zsigmond held a Diet on 11 April 1561 in Torda where he offered amnesty to those who left their denominations. The estates voted on the tax, and modified a few laws, for example, the slander and defamation cases were allocated to the authority of the Diet. Also, the ruler gave permission to spend the taxes collected from the Partium on the reinforcement of the local forts in that area. The next year, the Diet gave authority to János Zsigmond to put down the rebellion of the Székely guardsmen. After the Diet, the army of the monarch hurried to do this job at once.
The rebellion of the Székelys was also discussed in the Diet of 1563 where the uprising of Balassa and Majláth was addressed, too. The estates gave again their permission to János Zsigmond to get involved in negotiations, under the condition that the independence of Transylvania should remain intact. They also increased the taxes by 60% just to aid the king. The Diet made a decision about preaching customs, too: if there were two denominations in a settlement but just one church, they had to share its usage. This settled many problems in the Székely Land. Read more about the Székelys here:
The Diet of 1564 went a step further about religious freedom: they declared that the teachings of Luther and Calvin are equal. Thus, the Swiss Reformed Church became the “mainstream” way of worship for the Protestants. Two years later, the Ottoman sultan sent a ceremonial document in which he swore to accept the free election of Transylvania’s ruler and promised to defend its land against the attack of Habsburg Maximilian. Right after this, János Zsigmond summoned a Diet on 10 March 1566 where the assembled estates declared that every nobleman and Székely man must join the army in case of war. Those Catholic priests who were secretly “plotting” with the Austrians, were made to leave the country, and the Chapter of Várad was disbanded. The Hungarian noblemen from Royal Hungary were also invited to this Diet but General Lázár Schwendi banned the delegates to participate.
It was a very important thing that from this date on, the laws of Transylvania had been edited and written in the Hungarian language until 1714. There was a second meeting in 1566 in May, it was when Hagymási Kristóf, Báthory Kristóf, and Majláth Gábor were elected to command the Transylvanian army. At the same time, 5,000 soldiers were assembled on the Keresztesmező (“Crusaders’ Field”) where further officers were appointed. The estates voted on the sum of the tax, the amount of butter and flour that János Zsigmond was personally delivering to Sultan Suleiman who had summoned him to Nándorfehérvár (Belgrade). You can read more about the events of this year here:
The next Diet took place on 4 March 1567, its cause was the German attack. After the meeting, János Zsigmond could set out at once because the armed estates had already gathered on the “Crusaders’ Field” near Torda. However, the most famous Diet held in Torda was in 1568 when the freedom of religion was declared, for the first time in Europe. Four religions were free to practice: the Roman Catholic, the Lutheran, the Reformed, and the Unitarian. You can read more details about it here:
The next year, the king announced his decision to get married, and everybody who owed taxes to him was allowed to keep the sum. The Diet of 1569 regulated the prices of the products of artisans. The Diet of 1571 took care of the regulation of issuing documents by the local Chapters. It was the year when János Zsigmond passed away. Accordingly, a Diet had to be summoned in 1572, it was Báthory István who held it. This time, the Unitarian Dávid Ferenc was appointed to supervise the religious affairs, he was instructed not to permit further reformation. He declared that anyone who would introduce reforms that update his doctrines should be sued on behalf of the prince. The Diet also ruled about restrictions against Csáky Mihály, new laws were made about the punishment of criminals. Also, they banned any aid to Voivode Bogdan, and a heavy fine was elected against those estates who would not attend the Diet next time.
The Diet of 1577 banned the export of “small animals” from Transylvania and it was necessary to create a general law against criminals. More tax was voted and ordered the retaking of certain properties slipped out of the grip of the Treasury. The issues about trade were also settled. When Báthory István became King of Poland, he moved there and appointed Báthory Kristóf to run Transylvania. The Jesuits gained ground and it showed its signs in 1577 when the Diet of Torda limited the Unitarians to hold their synods. From this time on, the Unitarians were allowed to hold them only in Torda and in Kolozsvár (Klausenburg, Cluj). At the same time, Reformed priests were authorized to visit Székely Land and convert the Unitarians. The estates decided to make the army in readiness because of the troubles in Moldova, and more tax was voted for the expenses of the country and for the reinforcement of Várad castle. Here is more about Báthory István:
The next important Diet took place in 1594 when Prince Báthory Zsigmond brought up his plan of breaking up with the Ottoman Empire. However, Kendi János convinced the estates not to discuss it. They decided that Transylvania would leave the Ottomans’ alliance only if Buda castle was taken by the Habsburgs. There was an armed Diet taking place later this year at Torda where the estates demanded Báthory Zsigmond swear his oath on the Constitution of Transylvania. This document included the loyalty to the Ottomans, though. It was timely because Báthory Zsigmond reached maturity.
Also, they organized an army against the Crimean Tatars who attacked Transylvania. Even the troops of Báthory were enlisted in this army and the young prince was offended. He resigned, took himself in Kővár castle, and handed over the command to Báthory Boldizsár, his cousin. The Diet also decided that Gerendi János, the general in charge of recruiting mercenaries was not permitted to hire run-away peasants and servants. You can read more about the harmful deeds of Prince Báthory Zsigmond here:
It was in 1598 when the estates reelected Báthory Zsigmond who had returned from Oppeln to Transylvania. He swore to keep the Constitution. It included to maintain the free election of the next prince of Transylvania and restricting the presence of the Jesuits. After this time, they were allowed to preach only in Kolozsvár. Also, Báthory had to agree not to appoint foreigners to high offices. The third Diet that year took place in November and the estates confirmed the custom of editing and writing the laws in the Hungarian language.
During the bloody campaign of General Basta and his Austrian mercenaries in 1601, the inhabitants of Torda took refuge behind the walls of their Reformed church built in Gothic style in 1455. Although it had been ruined by the mercenaries of Castaldo in 1551, the fort was still strong in 1601. The thick wall was reinforced with six semi-circular bastions, and cannons and loop guns were deployed at the numerous loopholes. The gate was guarded by a square bastion on the southern side, it was supplied with a draw bridge. It is quite likely that the moat was filled with the water of the Rákos and the Sós Stream.
However, General Basta had his cannons brought up there and destroyed its walls, killing everybody inside. There was a fierce battle near Torda where the Imperial troops defeated the army of Voivode Michael II (Vitéz Mihály), now a huge park commemorates the event, it was built in 1978. Today, we can see only one surviving bastion where the ringer of the church lives now. After the destruction of the mercenaries, three-meter-high walls were still surrounding the church. The last traces of the fort were wiped out in 1706 by the Danish soldiers of the Austrian General Tiege.
Prince Bethlen Gábor of Transylvania gave the depopulated settlement to salt miners in 1614. It was when salt production restarted. According to the decision of the Diet of Gyulafehérvár in 1665, the towns of Torda and Dés received a collective nobility, similar to the Hajdú towns in the Partium. Torda was able to keep this privilege until 1711 when Prince Rákóczi Ferenc II’s War of Independence was put down.
The next Diet was summoned by Prince Rákóczi I György on 16 September 1636. He also called together the armed estates on the Crusaders’ Field. They decided on leading the army against the usurper Bethlen István, and after this, they set out toward Nagyvárad castle. Here is more about Prince Rákóczi I György:
There were no diets for several decades in Torda because of the devastations of General Basta and Vovioode Michael who had thoroughly destroyed the settlement and depopulated it. There were no proper buildings to accommodate the estates and the locals were decimated, too. It was the reason why the diets took place rather in Gyulafehérvár, Kolozsvár, and Marosvásárhely. After the disastrous Polish campaign of Prince Rákóczi II György, Transylvania began to decline. You can read more about this war here:
The Diet in Torda was held in 1691 where the estates had to adjust the laws according to the profound changes in the administration, punishment of criminals, and the validity of seals. They accepted the text of the “Alvincziana resolutio” issued by Emperor Leopold I. This document was regulating the religious and administrative affairs of Transylvania until 1848. The Diet in 1692 was establishing the number of taxpayers. This document made a promise to the Székelys that they do not need to fight outside the borders of the country. Those who disobeyed the order of the Habsburgs’ Governor, had to pay 200 gold Forints, they added.
Rákóczi Ferenc, later Prince of Transylvania was present at the Diet of Torda on 16 July 1694. He wanted to get his Transylvanian properties back but the estates did not approve his claim. The last Diet came together at Torda on 20 July 1697, and the estates discussed the case of Bethlen Miklós who was the Chancellor of Transylvania between 1691 and 1704. This Diet voted for even more taxes to pay to support the Habsburgs’ military presence in Transylvania. As for Bethlen Miklós, he wrote a book about the “Sad history of Transylvania” and General Rabutin imprisoned him for this until he died.
The significance of Torda, after the fall of Transylvania, ceased to exist. Count Mikes Mihály invited Paulinian monks into the city in 1714. According to the census in 1910, there were 13,455 inhabitants in Torda at that time, 9,674 Hungarians, 3,389 Romanians, and 100 Germans. However, most of the Hungarians moved to Kolozsvár (Cluj, Klausenburg) after 1940. There was a pitched battle near Torda in 1944 when the German-Hungarian forces were holding back the Soviet-Romanian army for a whole month. There were 55,887 people living in Torda in 2002, with 47,442 Romanians, 5,618 Hungarians, 2,703 Roma, and 83 Germans.
Near Torda (7 km), there is the Torda Pass (Tordai Hasadék) where a small fort was guarding the road. You can see its pictures in the gallery, too.
Sources: the Hungarian Wikipedia and https://muvelodes.net/enciklopedia/a-regi-torda-nevezetessegeirol
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Here are more pictures of Torda: