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The Cistercian Mission in Transylvania

In: Frankokratia
Authors:
Adinel C. Dincă Babeș-Bolyai University Cluj-Napoca Romania

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Chris Schabel University of Cyprus Nicosia Cyprus

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Abstract

Just before 1200 and just after 1240 two Cistercian abbeys, first a male house at Cârța, not far from Sibiu (Sancta Maria in Kerz), and then a nunnery in Brașov (Sancta Katherina), were established in Transylvania, a borderland of the territories ruled by the Hungarian crown inhabited by Eastern-rite Christians, especially Romanians. Conventionally, often following the model of older historiography on Frankish Greece, modern scholars have understood the arrival of the Cistercian Order in this remote area as an effort at conversion initiated by the papal see. Reassessing older evidence within a new historiographical paradigm and adding newly discovered documentary sources, this paper argues instead that the Cistercian mission in Transylvania was tied to local factors, cultural, social, and economic, and thus the White Monks endured as long as their cooperation with the elite of the German colonists in southern Transylvania remained fruitful. In the light of the evidence, and similar to parallel developments in Frankish Greece, neither ethnic conflict nor a desire to convert non-Latins played a determining role in the historical evolution of the Cistercian presence in Transylvania.

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