The Walloon Settlers in Medieval Transylvania and their Cultural Identity (12th – 14th century)
Project Coordinators and Host Institutions:
Abstract: 900 years ago, the direction of workforce migration in Europe was the opposite of today: the expertise needed for urban development along the new trade routes generated a transfer of population from the west to the sparsely populated eastern peripheries of the Christian Latinitas. These settlers enjoyed a wide range of fiscal and ecclesiastical immunities and privileges granted by local rulers, thus providing attractive conditions for a better life in their new homelands. One of these environments under construction was Transylvania, at that time a new territorial addition to the Kingdom of Hungary. The first wave of “royal guests” – ca. 2600 Walloon, Flemish and German colonists from today’s Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands – settled around Sibiu after 1150. If the presence of German and Flemish pioneers is recorded by contemporary historical sources, the Walloon element has been so far supported only by plausible, but indirect evidence of cultural identity. During the last century, however, no academic analysis has been attempted to challenge or update these claims. The purpose of this proposal is to bring a fresh, joint perspective on the assessment of the Walloon presence in medieval Transylvania, through updated research of historical sources and through a dialogue between Belgian and Romanian professionals. The suggested research angles involve a wide range of aspects, from material culture to linguistic elements, from church institutions to social structures.
Keywords: Cultural identity; Migration; Walloon; Transylvania; Middle Ages