Count of the Székelys

The Count of the Székelys (Hungarian: székelyispán, Latin: comes Sicolorum) was the leader of the Hungarian-speaking Székelys in Transylvania, in the medieval Kingdom of Hungary. First mentioned in royal charters of the 13th century, the counts were the highest-ranking royal officials in Székely Land. From around 1320 to the second half of the 15th century, the counts' jurisdiction included four Transylvanian Saxon districts, in addition to the seven Székely seats (or administrative units).

The counts also held important castles outside the territories under their administration, including their seat at Görgény (now Gurghiu in Romania). They were the supreme commanders of the Székely troops; their military campaigns against Bulgaria and the Golden Horde were mentioned in royal charters and medieval chronicles. The counts presided over the general assemblies of both the individual Székely seats and the entire Székely community. They also heard appeals of the decisions of the supreme court of Székely Land.

Beginning in the late 14th century, Hungarian monarchs appointed two or three noblemen to jointly hold the office. From the 1440s, at least one of these joint holders was also regularly made Voivode of Transylvania, because frequent Ottoman raids against Transylvania required the centralization of the military command of the province. The offices of the count and the voivode were in practice united after 1467. From the late 16th century, the princes of Transylvania (as successors to the voivodes) also styled themselves as counts of the Székelys. After the integration of the principality with the Habsburg Empire, in the early 18th century, the title was in abeyance until Maria Theresa revived it at the Székelys' request. She and her successors on the Hungarian throne used the title until 1918.


The origin of the office is obscure.[1] The Hungarian-speaking Székelys were a "well organized community of warriors" in the medieval Kingdom of Hungary.[2] They originally lived in scattered groups along the frontiers of the kingdom.[3] In Transylvania, they first settled along the rivers Kézd (Saschiz), Orbó (Gârbova), and Sebes (Sebeș),[3] but started to migrate to the easternmost region of the province when the ancestors of the Transylvanian Saxons began to arrive around 1150.[4]

Bishop Otto of Freising mentioned that "two counts" commanded the archers in the vanguard of the Hungarian army in the Battle of the Fischa, in 1146.[5][6] The Hungarian chronicles recorded that Székelys and Pechenegs formed the vanguard of the Hungarian army in that battle, thus the bishop's report may contain the first reference to a count of the Székelys, according to Attila Zsoldos, Gyula Kristó, and other historians.[5] On the other hand, as historian Zoltán Kordé emphasizes, 13th-century royal charters mentioned other royal officials who ruled Székely groups, suggesting that the office had not been established in the previous century.[6] For instance, a royal charter tells of an army of Saxon, Vlach, Székely, and Pecheneg troops fighting in Bulgaria under the command of Joachim, Count of Hermannstadt (now Sibiu in Romania), in the early 1210s.[6]

The earliest royal charter mentioning a "count and commander of the Székelys" was issued in 1235.[7][8] It refers to a military campaign launched against Bulgaria in 1228. Thus, the office must have existed in that year at the latest,[7] but the count was not the sole ruler of all Székelys for decades after.[9] For instance, a diploma of Béla IV of Hungary refers to the count of the Székelys of Nagyváty in Baranya County.[10] Lack Hermán, who held the office from 1328 to 1343, was styled as "count of the three clans of the Székelys"; but the exact meaning of the title is unknown.[11]


The Székelys were organized into special administrative units (originally known as "lands", "districts", "communities" or "universities") in Transylvania.[12][13] These units were known as "seats" beginning in the second half of the 14th century.[12][14] Székely Land was divided into seven seats.[2] Udvarhelyszék, Marosszék, Csíkszék, Kézdiszék, Orbaiszék, and Sepsiszék formed a contiguous territory in south-eastern Transylvania; Aranyosszék was located apart from them in the central region.[2][12]

Székely Land (in blue) in Transylvania within the medieval Kingdom of Hungary

The jurisdiction of the counts was not limited to Székely Land.[15] The Saxon district of Mediasch (now Mediaș in Romania) was subject to them until Sigismund of Luxemburg, King of Hungary, exempted the inhabitants from the counts' authority in 1402.[16][17] The counts were almost continuously also the rulers of the Saxons of Bistritz (present-day Bistrița in Romania) from 1320.[16] This district was granted to John Hunyadi by Ladislaus V of Hungary in 1453.[18] The Saxons of Kronstadt and Burzenland (now Brașov and Țara Bârsei in Romania) were also under the jurisdiction of the counts from 1344 until the mid-15th century.[16]

The counts held one of the most important honors in the Kingdom of Hungary.[16] The system of honors allowed a great officer of the realm to enjoy all royal revenues connected to his office.[19][20] The fines imposed in the Székely seats were to be paid to the counts.[16] Each seat was also required to give a horse to the new count at his installation.[16] The counts also received the royal revenues from the Saxon territories under their jurisdiction.[16] However, most of their revenues came from the estates attached to the royal castles that they held outside Székely Land.[16][15] The counts kept the right of possession of these royal castles after most high officers of the realm had lost such rights around 1402.[21] The counts most frequently held court in the castle of Görgény, in Torda County (at present-day Gurghiu in Romania).[16][22] The castle was first mentioned as being in the counts' possession in 1358.[23] It was granted to Hunyadi in 1453.[23] The castle of Höltövény in Alsó-Fehér County (now Hălchiu in Romania) was first mentioned as the counts' honor in 1335.[24] The counts also seized the castles of Törcsvár and Királykő in Felső-Fehér County (now Bran Castle and Oratea Fortress in Romania), the latter being listed among the castles held by Hunyadi's sons in 1457.[25]

The counts were the supreme commanders of the Székely troops.[22][26] They were responsible for the regular supervision of the Székely warriors' military equipment.[26] Bogomer, the first known count, was captured during a military campaign in Bulgaria in 1228.[26] Lack Hermán, who held the office from 1328 to 1343, also styled himself the commander of the royal army stationed between the rivers Rába and Rábca during a campaign against Austria in 1336.[27] Andrew Lackfi and his Székely troops inflicted a crushing defeat on the Tatars of the Golden Horde in early February 1345.[28] The counts Michael Jakcs and Henry Tamási helped the Hungarian noblemen against rebellious Transylvanian peasants in 1437 and 1438.[29] They commanded the Székely army in the first battle against the peasants at Bábolna (now Bobâlna in Romania) in the summer of 1437.[29] They signed the agreement between the leaders of the noblemen, the Saxons, and the Székelys that declared their "Brotherly Union" against their enemies on 16 September.[30]

The counts had important judicial functions in Székely Land and the Saxon districts subject to them.[26][31] They headed the general assemblies of each Székely seat and the entire Székely community.[16] Such an assembly was first recorded in 1344.[14] Thereafter, the assemblies developed into important forums for the administration of justice.[14][16] Lack Hermán was mentioned as the "judge of the Székelys" in the first half of the 14th century, evidence that the counts had acquired significant judicial authority by that time.[11] The medieval judicial system of Székely Land is poorly documented.[31] Available data suggests that the court of Udvarhelyszék was an appellate court, hearing appeals of the decisions of the courts of other seats.[31] Appeals of the decisions of the court of Udvarhelyszék were heard by the count.[31] The courts of justice in the seats were initially presided over by elected officials, the seat judge, and the captain.[14][32] New officials, known as royal judges, appear in the sources in the 1420s.[14] Appointed by the count, royal judges supervised the activities of the elected officials.[14][33]

Monarchs and countsEdit

Törcsvár (now Bran Castle in Romania), a fortress held outside Székely Land by the counts

The counts represented the kings of Hungary in the territories under their jurisdiction[26][34] and were independent of the voivodes of Transylvania.[15] This separation of the two offices helped preserve the Székelys' special legal status.[35] However, the kings never appointed a Székely to the office, which they tended to give to a kinsman of the voivode.[26][36] The counts were regarded as barons of the realm, although they were not listed among the great officers in royal charters.[15]

Ladislaus Kán took control of the whole of Transylvania after the death of Andrew III of Hungary in 1301.[8] During the ensuing interregnum, Kán also usurped the administration of Székely Land.[8] Royal authority was restored only after his death in about 1315.[8] In that year, Charles I of Hungary made the brothers Thomas and Stephen Losonci counts.[8] Their successor, Simon Kacsics, was dismissed in 1327 or 1328, because he had committed "serious crimes", according to a contemporaneous royal charter.[8] Thereafter, the office was almost continuously held by the Lackfis for about 50 years.[37][38]

The Lackfis and their immediate successors were the kings' loyal supporters,[11] but Sigismund of Luxemburg appointed close allies of John Kanizsai, Archbishop of Esztergom, to the office, for helping him seize the throne in 1387.[11] Sigismund strengthened his position after he punished a rebellion by Kanizsai and his allies in 1403.[11] Thereafter, he regularly appointed two noblemen to jointly hold the office.[11] The 15th-century counts rarely visited Transylvania, and their deputies, the vice-counts, took over much of the performance of their duties.[11] The existence of new officials (known as "governors", "captains", or "supreme captains of the Székelys") among the Székelys in this period is also documented, but their duties cannot be determined.[11]

End of the officeEdit

Maria Theresa, who started to style herself count of the Székelys at their request

The Ottomans made a series of plundering raids against Transylvania in the 1420s and 1430s, which led to better coordination of the defense of the province.[36] Wladislas I, who was elected King of Hungary over the minor Ladislaus the Posthumous in 1440, decided to centralize the command of the southern border of Hungary.[39] After his two principal military commanders, John Hunyadi and Nicholas Újlaki, annihilated the army of Ladislaus's supporters in early 1441, Wladislas made them joint voivodes of Transylvania and counts of the Székelys.[39][40] This was the first occasion that the offices of voivode and count were conferred upon the same persons.[41]

The unification of the two offices lasted for decades.[41] Initially, between 1446 and 1467, two or three noblemen were jointly made voivodes and counts, and some of them occasionally held both offices.[41] The two offices were in practice united after the death of John Daróci in 1467.[41][42] Thereafter, the same person was made voivode and count until 1504; furthermore, the offices of vice-voivode and vice-count were also unified.[14][43] A decree of 1498 still separately obliged the voivode and the count to muster troops; but after 1507, no separate counts were appointed.[43]

The title of count was continuously used by the voivodes, and later by the princes of Transylvania, for almost two centuries.[43] After the integration of the Principality of Transylvania into the Habsburg Empire in the late 17th century, the Habsburg monarchs did not style themselves counts of the Székelys.[43] The title was revived at the Székelys' request by Maria Theresa.[43] Thereafter, all kings of Hungary used the title.[43]

List of countsEdit

Thirteenth centuryEdit

Term Incumbent Monarch Notes Source
1228 Bogomer, son of Szoboszló Andrew II "count and commander of the Székelys"; first known holder of the dignity [5][44]
1291 Mojs Ákos Andrew III [5][44]
1294–1299 Peter Bő the Toothed Andrew III according to a non-authentic charter also in 1300 [5][44]

Fourteenth centuryEdit

Term Incumbent Monarch Notes Source
1315–1320 Thomas Losonci Charles I [44][15]
1315 Stephen Losonci Charles I [44][15]
1321–1327 Simon Kacsics Charles I also ispán of Krassó County, and of Somlyó (now Șemlacu Mare in Romania), Mediasch and Bistritz [44][15]
1328–1343 Lack Hermán Charles I, Louis I "count of the three clans of the Székelys"; also ispán of Mediasch and Bistritz, and of Csanád County [3][11][15][45]
1343–1350 Andrew Lackfi Louis I also ispán of Mediasch, Bistritz and Kronstadt, and of Szatmár and Máramaros Counties; the counts administered Mediasch, without styling themselves its ispán from 1350 to 1402 [45][46]
1350–1352 Nicholas Báthory Louis I also ispán of Kronstadt [47]
1352–1356 Leukus Raholcai the Tót Louis I also ispán of Kronstadt, and Master of the cupbearers and of the stewards; the counts administered Kronstadt, without styling themselves its ispán from 1355 [45][15]
1356–1360 John Zsámboki, Jr. Louis I [45][15]
1363–1367 Nicholas Lackfi, Jr. Louis I also ispán of Szatmár, Máramaros, Ugocsa and Kraszna Counties [45][15]
1367–1371 Stephen Lackfi of Csáktornya Louis I [45][15]
1373–1376 Ladislaus Losonci, Sr. Louis I [45][15]
1377–1380 Nicholas Derencsényi Louis I [15][48]
1380–1382 Nicholas Perényi Louis I [15][48]
1382–1385 Nicholas Losonci Louis I, Mary [48][49]
1387–1390 Balc Béltelki Sigismund brothers; also ispáns of Szatmár and Máramaros Counties [49][50]
Drag Béltelki
1390 John Bélteki the Vlach Sigismund [49][50]
1390–1391 Simon Szécsényi Sigismund [49][50]
1391–1395 Stephen Kanizsai Sigismund [49][51]
1395–1397 Francis Bebek Sigismund [49][51]
1397–1401 Peter Perényi Sigismund together with John Maróti (1397–1398); also ispán of Szatmár and Ugocsa Counties, and (from 1398) of Ung County [51][52]
1397–1398 John Maróti Sigismund together with Peter Perényi (1397–1398) [49][51]

Fifteenth centuryEdit

Term Incumbent Monarch Notes Source
1402–1403 George Csáki Sigismund also ispáns of Szatmár and Ugocsa Counties [51][53]
Denis Marcali
1404 John Harapki Sigismund [49][51]
Ladislaus Monostori
1405–1422 Michael Nádasi Sigismund [49][51]
1422–1426 Peter Bebek Sigismund [49][51]
1426–1432 John Jakcs Sigismund together with Michael Jakcs (1426–1432) [54][55]
1426–1438 Michael Jakcs Sigismund together with John Jakcs (1427–1431) and Henry Tamási (1437) [54][55]
1437–1438 Henry Tamási Sigismund together with Michael Jakcs (1437) [54][56]
1438–1441 Emeric Bebek Albert together with Francis Csáki [54][56]
Francis Csáki first time; George Csáki's son; together with Emeric Bebek [54][57]
1440–1441 Stephen Bánfi Ladislaus V contested by Emeric Bebek and Francis Csáki; appointed by queen mother and regent Elizabeth of Luxembourg [54][56]
1441–1446 John Hunyadi Wladislas I also voivode of Transylvania, ban of Macsó, commander of Nándorfehérvár (Beograd, Serbia), and ispán of Arad, Csanád, Csongrád, Keve, Közép-Szolnok, Krassó, Temes (1441–1446), ispán of Máramaros County (1443–1445), ispán of Bihar County (1443–1446), ispán of Szabolcs and Ugocsa Counties (1444–1446), ispán of Kraszna County (1445), ispán of Szatmár County (1445–1446) [58][59]
Nicholas Újlaki also voivode of Transylvania, ban of Szörény, commander of Nándorfehérvár, and ispán of Arad, Bács, Baranya, Bodrog, Csongrád, Keve, Máramaros, Szerém, Temes, Tolna and Valkó Counties (1441–1446), ispán of Fejér County (1441–1443), and ispán of Torontál County (1444–1446), ispán of Somogy County (1444–1446) [59][60]
1446–1448 Francis Csáki second time [56][59]
1449–1453 Raynald Rozgonyi first time; together with John Rozgonyi (1449) [56][59]
Oswald Rozgonyi
1449 John Rozgonyi first time; together with Raynald and Oswald Rozgonyi [56][59]
1454–1457 John Ország Ladislaus V together with Emeric Hédervári (1454), with Oswald Rozgonyi (1454–1457), with Raynald Rozgonyi (1454–1457), and with John Rozgonyi (1457) [56][59]
1454 Emeric Hédervári Ladislaus V together with John Ország (1454) [56][59]
1454–1458 Oswald Rozgonyi Ladislaus V second time; together with John Ország (1454–1457), with Raynald Rozgonyi, and with John Rozgonyi (1457) [56][61]
1454–1458 Raynald Rozgonyi Ladislaus V second time; together with John Ország (1454–1457) and Oswald Rozgonyi [56][61]
1457 John Rozgonyi Ladislaus V second time; together with John Ország and Oswald Rozgonyi (1457); also voivode of Transylvania [56][61]
1458–1460 John Lábatlan Matthias I also ispán of Temes County (1459–1460); together with Ladislaus Paksi (1458–1459) [61][62]
1458–1459 Ladislaus Paksi Matthias I together with John Lábatlan (1458–1459) [61][63]
1460–1461 Oswald Rozgonyi Matthias I third time; together with Ladislaus Losonci (1460–1461), and with Sebastian and Raynald Rozgonyi (1461); also ispán of Abaúj County (1460–1461) [61][63]
1460–1461 Ladislaus Losonci Matthias I together with Oswald Rozgonyi (1460–1461) [61][63]
1461 Sebastian Rozgonyi Matthias I together with Oswald and Raynald Rozgonyi (1461); also voivode of Transylvania and ispán of Temes County [61][63]
1461–1463 Raynald Rozgonyi Matthias I together with Oswald and Sebastian Rozgonyi (1461); also ispán of Abaúj and Zemplén Counties [63][64]
1462–1465 John Pongrác of Dengeleg Matthias I first time; also voivode of Transylvania, ban of Szörény, and ispán of Közép-Szolnok County [63][64]
1465–1467 Count Sigismund Szentgyörgyi Matthias I also voivode of Transylvania [63][64]
Count John Szentgyörgyi
Bertold Ellerbach of Monyorókerék
1467 John Daróci Matthias I [64][65]
1467–1472 John Pongrác of Dengeleg Matthias I second time; together with Nicholas Csupor of Monoszló (1468–1472); also voivode of Transylvania, ispán of Közép-Szolnok County, and ispán of Temes County (1470–1472) [66]
1468–1472 Nicholas Csupor of Monoszló Matthias I together with John Pongrác of Dengeleg (1468–1472); also voivode of Transylvania and ispán of Verőce County [66]
1472–1475 Blaise Magyar Matthias I also voivode of Transylvania, ispán of Közép-Szolnok County, and ispán of Temes County (1473–1475) [66]
1475–1476 John Pongrác of Dengeleg Matthias I third time; also voivode of Transylvania [66]
1477–1479 Peter Geréb of Vingárt Matthias I also voivode of Transylvania [66]
1479–1493 Stephen (V) Báthory of Ecsed Matthias I, Wladislas II also judge royal, voivode of Transylvania, and ispán of Somogy, Zala and Zaránd Counties [67]
1493–1498 Bartholomew Drágfi Wladislas II together with Ladislaus Losonci, Jr. (1493–1494); also voivode of Transylvania, ispán of Közép-Szolnok, Kraszna, Szabolcs, Szatmár and Ugocsa Counties [67]
1493–1495 Ladislaus Losonci, Jr. Wladislas II together with Bartholomew Drágfi of Béltek (1493–1495); also voivode of Transylvania and master of the treasury [67]
1498–1504 Count Peter Szentgyörgyi Wladislas II first time; also judge royal and voivode of Transylvania [68]

Sixteenth centuryEdit

Term Incumbent Monarch Notes Source
1504–1507 John Tárcai Wladislas II [65]
1507–1510 Count Peter Szentgyörgyi Wladislas II second time; also judge royal and voivode of Transylvania [68]
1510–1526 Count John Zápolya Wladislas II, Louis II also voivode of Transylvania, ispán of Liptó, Sáros, Sopron, Torna and Trencsén Counties, and ban of Szörény (1513–1516) [68]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Kordé 2013, p. 64.
  2. ^ a b c Engel 2001, p. 115.
  3. ^ a b c Engel 2001, p. 116.
  4. ^ Engel 2001, pp. 114, 117.
  5. ^ a b c d e Zsoldos 2011, p. 239.
  6. ^ a b c Kordé 2013, p. 66.
  7. ^ a b Kristó 2003, p. 133.
  8. ^ a b c d e f Kordé 2016, p. 175.
  9. ^ Kordé 2013, p. 69.
  10. ^ Kordé 2013, p. 67.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i Kordé 2016, p. 176.
  12. ^ a b c Kordé 2016, p. 171.
  13. ^ Pop 2005, p. 254.
  14. ^ a b c d e f g Pop 2005, p. 255.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Engel 1996, p. 192.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Kordé 2016, p. 174.
  17. ^ Engel 2001, p. 114.
  18. ^ Engel 2001, p. 293.
  19. ^ Engel 2001, p. 151.
  20. ^ Kontler 1999, p. 89.
  21. ^ Engel 2001, p. 216.
  22. ^ a b Dörner 2005, p. 307.
  23. ^ a b Engel 1996, p. 321.
  24. ^ Engel 1996, p. 329.
  25. ^ Engel 1996, p. 446.
  26. ^ a b c d e f Kordé 2016, p. 173.
  27. ^ Kordé 2016, p. 311.
  28. ^ Kordé 2016, p. 312.
  29. ^ a b Kordé 2016, p. 315.
  30. ^ Kordé 2016, pp. 315–316.
  31. ^ a b c d Stipta 1997, p. 52.
  32. ^ Kordé 2016, pp. 171–172.
  33. ^ Makkai 1994, p. 236.
  34. ^ Dörner 2005, p. 306.
  35. ^ Makkai 1994, p. 222.
  36. ^ a b Makkai 1994, p. 224.
  37. ^ Makkai 1994, p. 202.
  38. ^ Kordé 2016, pp. 175–176.
  39. ^ a b Makkai 1994, p. 227.
  40. ^ Engel 2001, pp. 282–283.
  41. ^ a b c d Kordé 2016, p. 177.
  42. ^ Engel 2001, p. 309.
  43. ^ a b c d e f Kordé 2016, p. 178.
  44. ^ a b c d e f Kordé 2019, p. 38.
  45. ^ a b c d e f g Kordé 2019, p. 59.
  46. ^ Engel 1996, pp. 155, 192.
  47. ^ Kordé 2019, pp. 47, 59.
  48. ^ a b c Kordé 2019, p. 60.
  49. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Engel 1996, p. 193.
  50. ^ a b c Kordé 2019, p. 107.
  51. ^ a b c d e f g h Kordé 2019, p. 108.
  52. ^ Engel 1996, pp. 189, 193, 218, 220.
  53. ^ Engel 1996, pp. 189, 193, 218.
  54. ^ a b c d e f Kordé 2019, p. 109.
  55. ^ a b Engel 1996, pp. 193–194.
  56. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Engel 1996, p. 194.
  57. ^ Engel 1996, pp. 48, 194.
  58. ^ Engel 1996, pp. 15, 34, 98, 114, 123, 125, 140, 145–146, 154, 186, 190, 201, 205.
  59. ^ a b c d e f g Kordé 2019, p. 166.
  60. ^ Engel 1996, pp. 15, 30, 34, 98, 100, 105, 117, 125, 128, 140, 154, 177, 199, 205, 208, 210, 222, 194.
  61. ^ a b c d e f g h Kordé 2019, p. 167.
  62. ^ C. Tóth et al. 2016, p. 121.
  63. ^ a b c d e f g C. Tóth et al. 2016, p. 122.
  64. ^ a b c d Kordé 2019, p. 168.
  65. ^ a b C. Tóth et al. 2016, p. 123.
  66. ^ a b c d e C. Tóth et al. 2016, pp. 86, 123.
  67. ^ a b c C. Tóth et al. 2016, pp. 87, 123.
  68. ^ a b c C. Tóth et al. 2016, pp. 88, 123.


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