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Louis I of Anjou in Alba Iulia

Louis I of Anjou (1342-1382), also known as Louis the Great (1342-1382) was the son of Charles Robert of Anjou (1301-1342), the king who succeeded in putting an end to anarchy and the tendencies towards autonomy of oligarchs, thus reinstating royal authority in the Kingdom of Hungary during the first three decades of his reign. During his four decades long reign, King Louis visited Transylvania seven times. In three instances—the visits of 1344, 1359, and 1366—his stay in Alba Iulia occasioned the convocation of general assemblies of the representatives of Transylvanian estates or the issuance of important royal decrees

Louis I was a knight king. He headed an aggressive external policy and launched military expeditions in all directions almost every year. His troops fought either under his command or that of his trusted aristocrats in Italy, the Balkans, Poland, Bohemia, and on the south and east of the Carpathians. The long visits that he made to Transylvania, where he remained for a few months in some years, occasioned military interventions against the princes of Wallachia and Moldova at a time when the king of Hungary still hoped that he could dispose them. The presence of the king in various parts of Transylvania is attested by documents issued by the royal chancellery for various individuals or urban communities. During his Transylvanian visits he stayed in Alba Iulia for shorter or longer periods.

His first visit to Alba Iulia was recorded in 1344, two years after his accession to the throne of Hungary. He traveled from Lipova to Brașov in June, then he went to Biertan, where his presence was attested in the first half of July. In Alba Iulia he was present for certain on 27 July 1344, when he issued a royal charter that fixed some issues regarding the spheres of authority of lay and ecclesiastic tribunals which were generating tensions between the Transylvanian nobility, Saxons, and Szeklers and Bishop Andrew of Transylvania. The charter attempted to reinstate harmony and to remove the reasons for disagreements between Catholic inhabitants of the province and the representatives of the Roman Catholic Church.

The second visit of King Louis to Alba Iulia was recorded five years later, in 1349. The king appeared in Hațeg in mid-July, but instead of traveling eastwards he turned back to Timișoara where he remained for a couple of weeks. He restarted his travels in Transylvania in mid-August. On 26 August he was in Vințu de Jos (a small town located ca. 15 km south of Alba Iulia). On 29 August his presence in Alba Iulia was recorded. From here he continued the journey northwards, being mentioned on 9 September in Vințu de sus (today Unirea), then on 15 September we find him in Bistrița, then, on 26 September he was in Târgu Mureș, on 5 October in Sebeș, and again in Alba Iulia on 11 and 20 October and 2 and 5 November. On 8 November, the king was in Deva, where he issued a mandate for the detention of Bishop Andrew, who was pronounced guilty of lack of fealty. The bishop had refused to open the gates of Alba Iulia fortress or to ask the guards to do it. Since according to the dates of issuance of charters, the king had by then spent several weeks in Alba Iulia, from 11 October to 5 November, the refusal to open the gates is difficult to interpret. A possible explanation is that the bishop was fed up with the eventual excesses of the king’s retinue. Why would the bishop run the risk of stirring the king’s wrath by making such a decision? We do not have any explanation, but certainly he succeeded. The king’s decision to punish the bishop is hardly surprising knowing the harshness that Louis had towards the Angevins of Italy whom he blamed for the assassination of his brother Andrew. The consequences of this gesture could have been dire; nevertheless, it seems that other mechanisms were at work and they saved Bishop Andrew, who kept his office in Alba Iulia after this incident.

The king came back to Transylvania only after ten years, in 1359. During that trip he spent his longest time in Alba Iulia, from 29 November 1359 to 3 January 1360. On 6 December 1359 he convoked a general assembly (generalis congregatio) as testified by one of the numerous documents issued by the royal chancellery in this city.

Six years later, in 1366, the king made another trip to Transylvania and arrived in Alba Iulia on 17 April. He remained in the city until the first days of May. On 9 May he was in Turda. Then he visited one by one the royal cities Cluj, Bistrița, Gurghiu fortress, and finally Târgu Mureș, where his presence was recorded on 26 June. Two days later, on 28 June 1366, the monarch issued the famous decree which permitted the nobles to apply a faster juridical procedure in prosecuting wrongdoers of any ethnicity, and especially the Romanians (signanter Valachi) but which also indicated that the value of the testimony of a knez (Romanian village chieftain, landowner) had equal value to that of a nobleman. According to the chronology of documents, the king stayed in Alba Iulia from before 1 July to 14 July 1366. His chancellery issued documents on almost every day during this interval. His presence in Transylvania during that summer was connected with a military campaign that the king was preparing to launch against the principality of Moldova.

In 1368, in April and May, the king traveled to the eastern parts of Transylvania, yet in June the same year he returned to Visegrád. He came back to Transylvania in 1370. This time he was first recorded at Turda, from where he travelled to Alba Iulia. He was in this city on 15 April. Next he was mentioned on 23 April in Mediaș, and then his itinerary continued in Cetatea de Baltă, Târgu Mureș, Borșa, Dej, and Zalău.

The last time he visited Transylvania was in 1375. In early June the king appeared in Hațeg, then he went on to Sibiu, Jimbor, and finally on 17 July his chancellery issued one document in Alba Iulia. From here, his itinerary indicates that he traveled eastwards, to Jimbor, and from there, in mid-August he went to Cluj. In late August 1375 he was in Timișoara.

We may imagine the ceremonial receptions that the bishops of Transylvania, Andrew (1320-1356), Dominic (1357-1368), and Demetrius (1368-1376) might have organized during the visits of the monarch in the episcopal city, considering analogies with other cities, such as Zadar, on the Dalmatian coast, which has preserved an image of such an event. From the seven visits Louis I of Anjou made to Alba Iulia, there are preserved only documents issued by the royal chancellery here. None of the clergy of the city wrote any narrative about such moments and the events they occasioned. We can reconstruct the chronology of trips that the king made and some of the judicial decisions taken during his stay in Alba Iulia. Two of his visits to Alba Iulia stand out as special, namely those of 1344 and 1349, when the king convoked the general assemblies of the province in this city. This is a special situation because the traditional location of such assemblies was Turda. By organizing the assemblies in Alba Iulia, Louis I was, however, no innovator; previously, in 1291, the last Arpadian king, Andrew III, had organized an assembly of the Transylvanian estates in Alba Iulia, thus conferring upon the city a special political significance. (C.P.G.)