The Guilds of the Armament Producers

of Sibiu, Braşov and Cluj (XIVth-XVIth C.)


Author: Ioan Marian Ţiplic.

ISBN 973-651-337-8, Editura Universităţii „Lucian Blaga”, Sibiu 2001.

© copyright Institutul pentru Cercetarea şi Valorificarea Patrimoniului Naţional în Context European, Marian Ţiplic

Seria Bibliotheca Septemcastrensis I, University “Lucian Blaga” Sibiu, Institutul pentru Cercetarea şi Valorificarea Patrimoniului Naţional în Context European.



-         Abstract –


IV. The Economic Relations of the Guilds Producing Armament in Sibiu, Braşov and Cluj with Moldavia and Wallachia.


4.1. The economic exchanges in Sibiu. The guilds from Transylvania had commercial relations mainly with the other two Romanian countries and the trade developed very much. The guilds from Sibiu had close commercial relations with Wallachia and Moldavia, they were always in competition with those from Braşov especially beginning of the 15th century when the latter tried to impose themselves on the market. The trade between Transylvania and the principalities from South Carpathians is attested ever since 1211, in the Teutonic Knights Certificate.This trade was made on the commercial road that connected Moldavia and Transylvania - via Braşov. This thoroughfare Sibiu - Braşov - Suceava was the main trade road; in Moldavia, the customs was placed in fairs in Roman, Bacău, Trotuş. The prince of Moldavia used to give the trade rights to the German tradesmen from Sibiu - in 1433, April, 9th Jacob the Burgmeister of Sibiu (Mayor), accompanied by two jurymen Gaspar and Johann who were the delegates of the guilds from Sibiu went to Moldavia and asked the prince Iliaş the trade rights and he was given. The goods (mentioned in the books with privileges) which were privileged on this occasion were: thick cloths, arms (swords), armours, daggers etc.

During the campaigns of Ioan de Hunedoara there had been given some prohibitive acts concerning the trade with arms, so for a short period of time the armourers' guild from Sibiu delivered arms only to the armies of the principalities in Transylvania. In this period this kind of items were mostly required and as a proof stand the various letters of Ştefan cel Mare who gave permission to his subject to buy swords and arms against the pagans, as we need them, or to bring armours (loricae) that they have (in Sibiu - n.a.). Towards the end of his reign the prince of Moldavia bought in great quantity armours and other arms from the craftsmen in Sibiu. These arms were bought in order to provide his army in the future battle with the Turks but they were used against the Tatars in the battle of Sărata. The Moldavians continued to buy arms from them even after the threat of Turks and Tatars was over and this can be proved by a document from 1502, July, 7th signed by the Magistrate of Braşov who asked the armourers from Sibiu to give the coats of mail of Ştefan cel Mare he had been sent for.

As an indirect proof concerning trade with smuggled arms may be the reinforcement the trade interdiction of these items, given by the Ştefan Bathory. On this occasion, he clearly specified that the goods that were prohibited to export: arms, horses and sheep. At the same time, in order to stop some people's desire to cross the border little quantity of arms as belonging to their own arsenal, Bathory signs an edict through which he clearly establishes the maximum number of arms that one could carry across the border of Wallachia: whoever passed through Bran pass gorge to Wallachia must not carry more than a sword, an arch, a shield and 8-9 arrows. This document supports our hypothesis above mentioned, concerning the trade with smuggled arms. In 1511, the king of Hungary Vladislav II, ordered a temporary embargo relaxation of the arms trade to Wallachia and allows the help given to the prince of Wallachia, Vlăduţ.

A document that attests a transaction of arms is in fact a letter-receipt of Calotă Ban of the armourers of Sibiu and which dates from 1599-1600. In this act, he confirmed that he received 100 swords as a contribution of the craftsmen of Sibiu; these swords were to be handed in to the foot soldiers in Strehaia.

4.2. The Commercial Exchanges of Braşov. Apart from the commercial routes that linked Poland through Moldavia with the seaside and Wallachia, there existed other routes that connected Poland and the towns of Transylvania via Suceava. These routes existed even beforre the foundation of the principality of Moldavia and due to them, the towns developed along the years; two of these routes were mentioned in 1408 by Alexandru cel Bun his privilege and later on in many other privileges. One of these routes linked Poland and Braşov via Suceava - Fălticeni - Ciumuleşti - Tg. Neamţ - Tg. Trotuş. Another variant of the route was via Suceava - Bacău - Oneşti - Tg. Trotuş - Oituz - Ghimeş - Braşov. Both routes were used by the Polish and German merchants. But the trade of arms was most of the times interdicted due to the laws of war in certain periods of open or avowed conflicts, especially during the military campaign of Ioan de Hunedoara and Matthia Corvin. In the periods that followed the end of the conflicts, in most cases the craftsmen from Transylvania resumed their relations in direct contact with the merchants and princes from Moldavia. The same thing did the messenger Hanea arcufex and Mihail the town concillor, both from Braşov, they had the mission to resume the commercial relations between Braşov and the towns from Moldavia and to obtain privileges for the tradesmen from Braşov to the detriment of others who were interested in the market of Moldavia as well. In most of cases, these privileges were nothing but the former ones which were accepted again, for example the one of Ştefan cel Mare in the fall of the year 1457 and reprinted in 1458 to all the people of Braşov and to all the merchants from the entire region - Ţara Bârsei: [...] they are allowed to come with their goods, as many products as they have ... to travel all over the country ...  towns, fairs in order to sell their goods [...].

As far as the arms that could be to be exported, as craftsmen of Braşov had privileges, were all sort of arms, swords, armours, daggers, knives. We know about a craftsman - an armourer - named Mihai, who was sent to Braşov by Ştefan cel Mare, in order to buy some swords and arms, February, 1470.

In the documents of the time, we have mentioned a situation when the arms of the craftsmen of Braşov were hardly accessible to the Moldavian market and the only possibility of purchasing was in Lvow.

Surveying the goods mentioned in the act privileges given to the merchants from Lemberg and Braşov, to which the Ottoman regulations from August 23rd, 1484 and 1502 has been added, the trade of Moldavia consisted of - according to Nicoară Beldiceanu's table - among other handicraft products, swords, Hungarian swords and other arms as well. Due to a dynamic period from military pont of view it was obvious that the most popular items that were needed in Suceava were arms and consequently Ştefan cel Mare sends Trotuşan, the sword bearer to Braşov, in 1502, to buy some saddles, arms and ropes. He was accompanied by another man who was supposed to buy arms from Sibiu.

In 1503, the Moldavians bought 5000 swords and daggers from the craftsmen of Braşov, but it is obvious that any interruption of the normal commercial flow had as result the diminuation of the profits of the craftsmen of Braşov, so according to the registers of Braşov from 1529-1554, we could notice that the commercial activity was lower by almost 3/5 in comparison with the activity from 1503. The main reason why this activity was less productive was that there was a period of military preparations during Alexandru Lăpuşneanu's reign and to this a hard winter is added according to Azarie.

We have many pieces of information concerning the arm export to Wallachia in the latin privilege of Mircea cel Bătrân from 1413, August 6th; this privilege ennumerates  the goods exempt from customs taxes among which there were the swords and the arches. These items were very much requested by Vlad Dracul when he first came to the throne of Wallachia (December 1431 - January 1432), his request was: to prepare - the craftsmen of Braşov - 100 guns and all the necessary equipment arches and arrows, shields as many as you can...

In order to give a more general view to the arms trade we must mention that not only the princes of the two regions bought these items but also private persons who bought arms for their own needs, in small quantity. Unfortunately, we have little proof for this fact. Nevertheless we could give an example of such transaction in the documents of the town councillors of Braşov where a certain Duca de Greci, a boyard of Radu cel Frumos's Court bought among other things 2 swords and a sword holder.

The interdiction of arms export was maintained, though with short periods of interruption, until 1484 when the craftsmen from Braşov interred with the king of Hungary for giving up this measure that brought damages to them. Consequently, after a while they were allowed to export iron and steel without restrictions and arms that could carry one person. The renouncement of the interdiction of arm export to Wallachia was required by Vlad Călugărul, who towards the year 1483 assures the craftsmen of Braşov that they had free passing and permission to sell their products in the fairs of the country so that his men could freely buy arches, arrows, swords, shields and iron for arms.

The settlement of the commercial relations with Wallachia, concerning the arm trade in the first decade of the 16th century is during the reign of Prince Vlăduţ Vodă, the son of Vlad Călugărul, who succeded, with help from West Wallachia, in doing away with Mihnea. Vlăduţ, as soon as he came to the throne, sent the boyards Radici, the great gatekeeper and Dragomir the treasury keeper to negociate the renewal of the commercial relations between Braşov and Wallachia. In the following year, 1511, he sents Iştvan purveyor to Braşov in order to buy arches, arrow for 1000 aspri. In the same period he sents to Sibiu another man of his, Ruhan, in order to buy the necessary equipment for his army.

As far as the commercial activity from the last decade of the 16th century we do not have much information because it is a period of great military conflicts caused on one hand by Sigismund Bathory and on the other hand by Mihai Viteazul; this period is not favourable at all for the development of a productive trade.

In order to know the real importance of the arm trade between Braşov and Moldavia and Wallachia we must take into consideration two elements: customs exemptions and smuggling. The customs exempts facilitated the passing of the products through the customs and because of this fact, in most cases they were not recorded. The smuggling played more important role than some documents of the time show. The trade between Braşov and Moldavia developed in two ways: through legal trade - using the usual routes and roads, respecting the temporary privilege of storing in Braşov and the sell of the goods in town, the registration and the passing of the goods through the customs and the other way through smuggling trade using hidden paths, avoiding customs taxes. The activity, the volume  and the value of the smuggling trade cannot be established not even with approximation. The numberless cases, the frequent and repeated measures of stopping it prove its proportions and its permanent character. The acts given by the Hungarian Royal Court respectively by the Austrian Habsburgic Court in 1508, 1517, 1519, 1533, 1537, 1555, 1570, 1572, 1576 etc. stand for proofs of the efforts of the authorities to stop this smuggled trade.