The Romanian Church in the Seventh to Fourteenth Centuries

This long period in the history of the Romanian people and Church is rather obscure, as the historical and archaeological sources are scarce. From the third to the end of the thirteenth century, a series of migrating peoples, of Germanic, Slavic and Asian descent, heading for western Europe, invaded this territory: Goths, Vandals, Gepids, Huns, Avars, Slavs, Hungarians, Pechenegs, Cumans and Mongols. Even when they were warrior minorities, they dominated, if temporarily, parts of Romanian geographic and ethnic space, and hindered the process of state consolidation.

As the process of Christianization had been accomplished, the Romanians assimilated part of these peoples, and even converted some of them to Christianity. Only the

Slavs left their imprint on the Romanian language and managed, for a while, to impose 'Old Church Slavonic' on the Romanian Orthodox religion. Larger numbers of Slavs settled south of the Danube. A reverse phenomenon occurred here: an important part of the Romanized population was assimilated by the Slavs, whereas another part was displaced to the south, and split into ethnic groups, which still exist in Macedonia, Albania and Greece.

South of the Danube, in present-day Bulgaria, the brothers Cyril and Methodius, the 'Apostles to the Slavs', introduced the 'Slavic-Byzantine rite', namely the liturgy and the other services officiated in the Old Slavonic spoken around Thessaloniki. In the tenth century, isolated from both Constantinople and Rome, surrounded only by Slavic peoples, the Romanians were obliged to adopt the Slavic-Byzantine rite to the detriment of the Latin one.

Gradually, after the great Avar-Slavic invasion, the political and clerical organization of the Romanians improved, even if, after 602, the bishopric sees in Scythia Minor and in the territories south of the Danube disappeared. Therefore, in the seventh to fourteenth centuries, profound social, political, ethnic and cultural changes occurred. The first Romanian political forms of organization appeared, and were to develop into the future medieval Romanian states: Transylvania, Vallachia and Moldavia. It was now that Romanians were first mentioned in history, under the Germanic name 'Vallachians', which was taken over by the Slavs and denoted a Latin speaker. Archaeological research has revealed the continuity of Romanian Christianity in this period. All over Romanian territory, archaeologists have discovered bronze crosses, clay pots with cross inscriptions, cult objects and church bells.

There is evidence of a superior hierarchy in former Scythia Minor. Two inscriptions dating to the tenth or eleventh centuries mention the Metropolitans of Tomis, Anicetus and Basil. In the fourteenth century, a Vallachian bishopric also existed in present-day Bulgarian and Serbian territories.

In the territories within the Carpathian Mountains (Transylvania, Banat, Crisana and Maramures), political units - principalities and voivodates - developed in the tenth or eleventh centuries. The voivodates of Menumorut in Crisana, Gelu in Transylvania and Glad in Banat are mentioned in the Magyar chronicle Gesta Hungarorum. The same document mentions another one in southern Transylvania, with a seat in Balgrad (nowadays Alba-Iulia). It is believed that each of these political rulers had a religious ruler in his fortress.

The medieval Magyar kingdom, which was consolidated in the first half of the eleventh century, began the gradual annexation of Transylvania, which was to continue until the thirteenth century. The Romanian political units were replaced with new political and administrative units, the 'royal counties'. A similar thing occurred in the Church, as Orthodox bishoprics were replaced with Catholic ones, in Biharea, Morisena, Cenad and Alba-Iulia. The strong Romanian resistance caused the kings of Hungary to bring representatives of the Papal Inquisition to Transylvania, in order to convert the Orthodox believers to the western rite. Their attempts were nevertheless unsuccessful.

In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, a significant number of Magyars settled in Transylvania, and their number increased as many Romanian nobles were converted to Catholicism. The Magyar kings brought two other Catholic ethnic groups here: the Szeklars (whose origins are disputed) and the Saxon colonists from Flanders, the Rhineland and Saxony.

Romanian Orthodox clerics existed in the territories outside the Carpathian Mountains. A letter of Pope Gregory IX in 1234 mentioned the activity of the 'pseudo-bishops of the Greek rite', who could only be Romanians. In 1247, a diploma issued by King Bela IV of Hungary mentioned the existence of political units outside the Carpathian Mountains; the text also mentioned 'archbishops and bishops', undoubtedly Romanians. Medieval documents, particularly Russian ones, also mention a Romanian prestate territorial organization in the future medieval state of Moldavia.

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