Maria CRÎNGACI ŢIPLIC, Silviu I. PURECE
Institutul de Cercetări Socio-Umane Sibiu; Universitatea „Lucian Blaga” din Sibiu, Facultatea de Ştiinţe Socio-Umane Institute for Research in Social Sciences and Humanities from Sibiu, “Lucian Blaga” University of Sibiu, Faculty of Social and Human Sciences
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10 / 2016
Medieval Churches and Cemeteries in Transylvania in the Light of Coin Discoveries (second half of the 11th century–13th century)
In the current paper, we will present a repertoire of the coins issued during the 11th–13th centuries found both in churchyard cemeteries and in the stratigraphy of medieval churches. A general conclusion that emerges from the catalogue of the coin finds is that most medieval churches dating from the 12th and 13th centuries were surrounded by a contemporary cemetery. the coins deposited in the graves around churches in Transylvania are only coins issued by Arpadian kings, with one exception, i.e. the cemetery from Feldioara, where Roman coins were found as Obolus in medieval funerary rituals; no other medieval coins were discovered in graves, for example: Byzantine coins, Friesach coins, etc. As a general characteristic of the churchyard cemeteries dating from the mid-11th century to the end of the 12th century we can notice the absence or reduced frequency of depositing coins as Obolus in graves; the case of the cemeteries where coins were deposited as Obolus during funerary ritual, the percentage of members who practiced such a ritual is very small; only four cemeteries slightly exceed the 10% of graves with coins deposited as Obolus (Feldioara, Cluj-Mănăştur, Geoagiu de Jos – Rotondă?, Drăuşeni 22.41%). A distinctive feature of Arpadian monetary deposits is the domination of anonymous denarii. Regarding the use of the coin deposited in the grave, we have identified at least three situations: coin deposited as Obolus, as an element of funerary ritual; coin as an adornment item in the inventory of the grave; coins deposited as monetary treasure. As regards the deposit of the coin as Obolus, we observed that in the Transylvanian area during the Arpadian times, the custom of depositing the coin in mouth or on mouth dominates; more rarely the coin was placed in hand; even more rare are the coins placed on the chest of the deceased. The custom of depositing coins as Obolus were in use in the churchyard cemeteries dated in the second half of the 11th century and the 12th century. For the 13th century, we have no grave with the custom of depositing coins as Obolus, and the coins dated in this period and discovered as inventory in graves are in a very low percentage comparing to the previous period. This phenomenon can be interpreted as an intensification of the control of the Catholic Church in compliance with the Christian principles regarding the burial ritual. We must note that some coins were cut and some fractured. It is possible that these marks have been applied or have occurred during the movement of the coins; but we should not overlook the possibility that some were prepared as such to be deposited in the grave, as a symbolic destruction of the object deposited. From the chronology point of view, so far, the oldest churchyard cemetery is the one from Cluj – Mănăştur where the oldest coins are issued by Andrew I (1046– 1060) and Ladislau I (1077–1095), being laid as Obolus in graves; other churchyard cemeteries where coins from Ladislau I were discovered are the cemetery from Dăbâca – castle area IV, Geoagiu de Jos and Moldovenești. We must emphasize that these cemeteries are located in the Western part of the Transylvanian Plateau (see map 2). The next set of coins are those issued by Coloman (1095–1116), being found also on the West side of Transylvania (Geoagiu de Jos, Moldovenești, Alba Iulia and likely Sighișoara – Dealul Viilor). The coins issued by Stephen II (1116–1131) and Bela II (1131–1141) discovered in graves of the churchyard cemeteries are mentioned in Alba Iulia, Cluj – Mănăştur, Chidea, Dăbâca – castle area IV, Dăbâca – Garden of Tămaș, Dăbâca – Boldâga, Moldovenești, Moreşti – Citfalău (?) and Streisângeorgiu (the cemetery is dated stratigraphically as starting in the second half of the 11th century around an 11th century wooden church, which was replaced by a stone church in 1130–1140). In the current state of research, we can assert that for the first half of the 12th century the spreading area of cemeteries surrounding churches was still limited to Western Transylvania. Only since the reign of Geza II we started witnessing a spread of Arpadian coins in the churchyard cemeteries in other parts of Transylvania. The chronological points specified represent enough evidence to interpret the phenomenon of cemeteries around churches, as a gradual propagation of the institution of the Catholic Church in Transylvania from west to east; the phenomenon starts in the second half of the 11th century when we talk about a spread on a smaller scale of the influence of the Catholic Church only in western Transylvania; about the expansion of the institution of the Catholic Church towards the eastern Transylvania we can talk only since the mid-twelfth century, a phenomenon that is gradually increasing during the 13th century. Also, there are several churches (Albeşti, Câlnic – fortress, Cisnădioara – St Michael Church, Prejmer, and Zlatna – basilica phase) which had another initial function different, than that of a parish church or a sacred space devoted to burials, which once again confirms the original role of these churches, that of nobility church.
Keywords: Arpadian coins, churchyard cemeteries, medieval churches, Transylvania, the 12th and 13th centuries