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SHORT HISTORY OF SANNICOLAU MARE
Sannicolau Mare is Romania’s most western town, located at 60 km North-West of Timisoara and approximately 2.5 km South of the Mures river, on an abandoned branch of this river, namely the Aranca River [total length of 104 km, out of which, 65 km on the Timis County].
The city’s total area is of 122211.29 ha, out of which, 11052.58 ha of agricultural land. The company is located in Torontal's Plain, which is considered to be a low plain because its altitude of under 100 m.
The yearly average temperature is of 11˚C. In January the average temperature is of -9˚C.
Summers are long and warm and the average temperature exceeds 20˚C. Autumns are longer than springs. The average rainfalls are of 536.3 mm/year.
According to the information supplied by the 1992 census, the town has a population of 13089 people. The population consists of: 9608 Romanians, 1388 Hungarians, 770 Germans, 599 Serbians, 407 Bulgarians, 256 Gypsies, 13 Slovaks and 1317 other nationalities.
In 1992 there were 4383 houses, out of which private persons own 3413 and 932 are state owned.
The population changed in the last 3 centuries, as following:
In 1810 there were 2282 Catholics [mainly of German origin]
In 1815 there were 4213 Catholics
In 1825 there were 2951 Catholics, 9800 Orthodox people, 230 Protestants of Augsburg confession, 32 Protestants of Helvetica confession and 272 Jews
In 1836 there were 8303 inhabitants
In 1843 there were 4205 Catholics, 10900 Orthodox people, 231 Protestants of Augsburg confession, 90 Protestants of Helvetica confession and 349 Jews
In 1846 there were 4208 Catholics, 10010 Orthodox people, 3 Eastern or Greek-rite Catholics, 234 Protestants of Augsburg confession, 79 Protestants of Helvetica confession and 361 Jews, 532 without confession [Gypsies?]
In 1848 there were 4009 Catholics, 5656 Orthodox people, 300 Eastern or Greek-rite Catholics, 315 Protestants of Augsburg confession, 63 Protestants of Helvetica confession and 302 Jews, 591 without confession [Gypsies?]
In 1853 there were 4372 Catholics, 5578 Orthodox people, 286 Eastern or Greek-rite Catholics, 176 Protestants of Augsburg confession, 66 Protestants of Helvetica confession and 375 Jews [only 6 mixed marriages in this year]
In 1855 there were 4575 Catholics, 5598 Orthodox people, 287 Eastern or Greek-rite Catholics, 183 Protestants of Augsburg confession, 69 Protestants of Helvetica confession and 388 Jews [only 23 mixed marriages in this year]
In 1865 there were 4707 Catholics, 6624 Orthodox people, 560 Eastern or Greek-rite Catholics, 320 Protestants of Augsburg confession, 25 Protestants of Helvetica confession and 369 Jews [in the vineyards were living 46 Catholics]
In 1875 there were 4497 Catholics, 5600 Orthodox people, 770 Eastern or Greek-rite Catholics, 245 Protestants of Augsburg confession, 140 Protestants of Helvetica confession and 368 Jews
In 1883 there were 5164 Catholics, 4202 Orthodox people, 987 Eastern or Greek-rite Catholics, 213 Protestants of Augsburg confession, 28 Protestants of Helvetica confession and 535 Jews
In 1886 there were 5271 Catholics, 4208 Orthodox people, 987 Eastern or Greek-rite Catholics, 224 Protestants of Augsburg confession, 31 Protestants of Helvetica confession and 538 Jews
In 1910 there were 2122 houses and out of the 4599 active inhabitants, 1217 were involved in industry or were craftsman [26.5%], 357 were working in commerce and banks, 128 in transportation
In 1913 there were 4289 Catholics [and another 1647 Germans in Nemet], 4299 Orthodox people, 755 Eastern or Greek-rite Catholics, 127 Protestants of Augsburg confession, 141 Protestants of Helvetica confession, 454 Jews and 64 of other confessions
In 1922 there were 4289 Catholics and another 1647 Germans in Nemet
In 1943 there were 4818 Catholics, 6287 Orthodox people, 693 Eastern or Greek-rite Catholics, 149 Protestants of Augsburg confession, 113 Protestants of Helvetica confession
In 1972 there were 7265 Romanian, 2545 Germans, 1334 Hungarians, 745 Serbians, 222 other nationalities
Only few towns are so well known as Sannicolau Mare. Its fame is due to the famous treasure discovered here. On the today called Comorii Street [Treasure Street], on the "Sighet" side of the town, a peasant, named Pera Vuin, discovered in 1799 a treasure, which brought the town’s fame. Digging in his courtyard he found few gold objects, which he deposited in his house. Subsequently, he tried to sell them on the market, first in Sannicolau Mare– five objects – and then in Timisoara – where he sold them to different persons. The peasant did not know that the objects are made of gold and Naco, the landlord, finding out about the sale, asked for their restitution. Forced by the authorities, Vuin indicated the names of the persons who bought the objects. After hard work, they recovered 23 objects with a total weight of 9,959 kg gold. Although it seems that all the objects were recovered, there is a slight doubt, because the seller could have forgotten the exact number of objects as well as the place where he sold them. All the objects were sent to Vienna and today one can see them in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. The 23 gold objects have different shapes: seven pitchers, an oval recipient [receptacles/containers], four semi-oval recipients, three glasses, two ovoid cups, two oblong basins, two goblets, a bugle, and an ovoid cup. The treasure entered immediately the scientific circuit, the bibliography is very rich, as well as the opinions about their origin and age. The different opinions are due to the objects’ shape and manufacturing technique, as well as to the inscriptions on recipients. Until now, the researchers were not able to agree on all inscriptions. During their debates they analyzed both the character and the languages in which the inscriptions were written. They also analyzed the meaning of the inscriptions [different from one author to another].
The archeological investigations started in 1966 contributed a lot to the knowledge about the town’s history. Two archeological sites from the Neolithic period are very interesting: "Seliste" in the East and "Bucova" in South-West. They remind of humane civilization of the Cris-Starcevo culture, which is considered to be the first agricultural culture. The Neolithic – a mixture between the stone and the metal period – is represented in "Bucova" through ceramic recipients and fragments, and in "Seliste" through a few houses.
In Sannicolau Mare were also made some discoveries, which are characteristic for the Periam-Pecica culture known in the bronze period and which are talking about the civilization level of the people living in this area.
The discoveries related to the Latene and Hallstatt periods, corresponding to the two iron periods, confirm the ascendant evolution of the local Geto-Dacian civilization.
The fact that the Mures River is so close to the town and is a very important communication and goods transportation thoroughfare, had important consequences on the development of the Dacian and Dacian-Roman settlements located here. There were some discoveries from the Roman period: walls, coins, ceramics, bricks bearing the stamp of the 13th legion Gemina, the Roman necropolis around the bricks factory, the funeral monument. These discoveries confirm the existence of some settlements and their level of civilization situated somewhere between the rural world and the urban world of ophidian order.
The archeological investigations performed in the last century at “Seliste” brought to the surface different household objects and a silver coin from the Roman emperor Galba’s period. At the beginning of our century on the same archeological site there were discovered ceramic recipients and fragments, Roman coins from the period between Traian and Aurelian. On a site close to "Seliste", namely "Promontoriu", the workers of the former brick factory discovered recipients, knives, axes, necklaces and rings, which certify both the existences of the settlement and the necropolis. In 1911 they discovered, on the Victor Babes Street, a Roman inscription, which today one can admire at the Banatului Museum. The inscription says: M[arcus] Aur[elius] Timo AN[norum] XL Vet[eranus] Leg[ionis] XIII G[emina] Aur[elianus?] Firminus Tub[icen] h[aec] P[osuit]. This certifies that it represents a funeral monument built by Aurelius Firminus, the bugler of the 13th roman legion Gemina, in memory of Marcus Aurelius Timo. The fact that the Dacian-Romans lived on the nowadays town and around it, is certified by the interesting archeological discoveries made here. The most important are some coins from the period ruled by Constantin cel Mare/Constantine the Great, the Dacian-Roman ceramic, inclusively a “fusaiola” with a cross, certifying the existence of some Christian settlements.
The legends tell that Attila, the famous Hunnish king [the end of the 4th century], had his headquarters in the Morisena-Cenad fortress [including the Cenadul Mare and Sannicolau Mare villages] and it is supposed that he was buried on the territory of the Sannicolau Mare village. The legend tells that the king was buried during the night in 3 coffins made of gold, silver and iron, together with all his weapons, jewelry and his beloved horse. According to the Hunnish custom, the most intimate servants were killed and buried together with him. People say that after the burial the 200 gravediggers were killed, so that nobody could possibly know the exact location of the grave.
The principality from Banat, led by Glad in the 10th century and then by his descendant, Ahtum / Ohtum, as well as the headquarters of this principality located at urbs Morisena [today Cenad] are facts, which, in an indirect way, certify the evolution of the people who lived here. The town was included in this principality and due to the proximity of Cenad [only 7 km] people developed well their civilization and social relationships. A part of Ahtum’s fights for keeping the principality’s independence took place in the proximity of the today town. The troops crossed few times the towns located here. The archeological discoveries related to this period gathered by pupils and teachers are kept in the town’s museum and in the Banat Museum as well.
The close proximity of Cenad brought also disadvantages for Sannicolau Mare, because there were no documentary proofs for the existence of the town. Furthermore, the town was mistaken with Sanmihai, a town located at North-East on a bend of the Mures river. Another major problem in dating the medieval settlement is represented by the 5 homonym settlements located on the inferior Mures and the documents related to the inferior [lower section of the river] Mures in most cases only mention one or another of the Sannicolau Mare’s settlements, which existed in the Cenad county.
In the register of the papal tithe, Sannicolau Mare appears in 1332 under the name Sanctus Michael, but certain is only the document dated August 12th, 1421, by which Marczali Dazsa, the bishop of Cenad, receives Sannicolau Mare as feoff.
The village will appear in 1247 and 1256 as San Nicolau; but in the area existed 5 villages with the same/similar name and the maps are not very explicit on this subject ! So, we can not tell for sure -and each romanian historian has his own opinion!- but the first sure known date for Sannicolau Mare’s existence is 12.08.1421.
In 1752 [or 1765?] the village of Deutschsanktnikolaus-in german language/Nemet Széntmiklós-in hungarian language/Sannicolau German-in romanian language was founded. The other village was named Serb Széntmiklós or Nagyszéntmiklós -hungarian/Racz Sanktnikolaus or Großsanktnikolaus-german/Sannicolau Sarbesc or Sannicolau Mare-romanian.
The 2 villages were so close that, in fact, the german village was only a part of the entire community. But from administrative point of view, existed -until 1947- 2 separate mayoralties.
On the Griselini's map , the village is showed as GS Miklolch/correct spelling!/ [Gross San Miklos/Gross is in german=big, San/Saint and Miklos is in hungarian language!]. On a hungarian map from 1800, there is only Nagy Sz. Miklós listed but on the Torontal map of 1912, there are both localities listed: Nagyszentmiklós and Nemetszentmiklós [these are hungarins maps!].
In 1928, according with the official romanian gazetteer, existed two distinct villages: Sannicolau German and Sannicolau Mare localities.
On 29.06.1942 the locality was declared city/town [the Low-Decree no. 459 was published in "Buletinul Oficial" no. 148] under the name of Sannicolau Mare [Großsanktnikolaus, Nagyszéntmiklós].
In August 1551, when the Turks arrived, Sannicolau Mare was already one of the most important towns in Banat. The Ottoman census [named “defter”] performed between 1557 and 1558 mentions the existence of 30 houses. Only one of them was newly built, the others were old houses. There were 30 family heads, which were paying taxes. In 1564, when we find again documents about the town, there are only 8 inhabited houses, which were subject to taxes. In 1590, the town reappears in the Cenad “nahia”[turkish district] and after 1595 it was freed by the transilvanian troops and probably donated to some nobles. Gabriel Bethlen, ruler of Transylvania, certifies a new donation to some brave warriors from Lipova in 1625.
According to the Karlowitz treaty [13.11.1698-26.01.1699], the Sannicolau Mare fortress was destroyed in 1701.
In the 1717 imperial census, in Sannicolau Mare are mentioned 30 houses. It is a great number for a settlement located on a fighting field, and it appears under the name Sannicolau Mare, being already different from other homonym settlements. The modern and contemporary periods offer enough material for a book. There is a problem raising lots of controversies and disputes: was there at Sannicolau Mare a fortress between the 16th-17th centuries or not. The "St. Nicklas" fortress, which appears on a German medieval print, has nothing to do with Sannicolau Mare, but with a homonym settlement located elsewhere.
In 1724, Sannicolau Mare becomes the headquarters of the Banat military treasury and the Austrian Matyas Oxel gets the approval for building a brewery. The hierarchical prefect has his headquarters here.
Prof. Miklos Revay was born on 24.02.1750. His father was a shoemaker. Revay will renew the Hungarian language, becoming a world wide known philologist and author of encyclopedias. He dies in England in 1807.
In 1752, the first 42 German families are colonized in the German Sannicolau Mare on the Altgasse Street [it seems that most of them were from Renania]. Due to the fights with the Serbian people [one dead person], 20 families leave the town and move to Cenad. Due to the same problems, the 20 families from Cenad and other 10 from Sannicolau Mare want to return to their native place. Being reached by the imperial army, these families will colonize the Kis-Zombor town [in today Hungary].
Other German families [from Köln, Sauerland and Brandenburg] are colonized in the period between 1764-1765.
The Roman-Catholic parish was re-established in 1767 [it already existed in 1332, but was eliminated during the Turkish occupation; after 1717 the town belonged to the Cenad parish], but the church registers are kept separately from 1753.
In 1768 Sannicolau Mare becomes the capital of a district, being visited by the co-regent Joseph II. After this visit, Maria Tereza’s son will tell his mother the following words: "Liebe mama es ist ausser dem SM Kameral distrikt alles am Hunde" and foresees a glamorous future for the town.
On the Banat map of 1772, Sannicolau Mare is mentioned with 711 families and 21400 land units.
In 1771 the town is flooded and until then the inhabitants celebrate the town’s reconstruction. The breakwater [dolma] on the left side of the Mures River was built against floods only in 1816 [at 7-10 km from the village].
In 1779 Sannicolau Mare belongs to the Torontal County. Till then, during the Banat’s military administration, Sannicolau-Mare belonged to the Cenad County.
In 1780, as a district Sannicolau Mare consisted of 22 villages and a salt warehouse.
In 1781 the brothers Ciril/Cziril/Coloman NACU/NAKO and Kristof/Cristofor NACU/NAKO buy the Sannicolau Mare estate at a public auction and the family receives the count title [through Alexandru, son of Cristofor, who was ennobled 1813 by the emperor Francisc I] after changing to the Roman-Catholic religion. Till 1918 only the Nako family will rule the estate.
The brothers Ciril and Cristofor NACU/NAKO were of Macedo-Romanic origin [or Greeks from Macedonia, according to other historians] and took refuge in Banat at the end of the XVII century. The sold cows directly to Vienna and got rich in 1781. Kalman Nako marries Berta Gyertyanffy, well known pianist and painter. Countess Berta was a Renaissance person, who communicated with important artists of the period: Richard Wagner, Frantz Liszt, Istvan Szechenyi, Ferenc Deak, Jokai Mor, Mayerbeer, Leubach, Rossi, Prohesch-Osten etc. The letters were kept in an old precious jewelry box.
Till 1782 the town’s mayors were romanian.
On 11.06.1787 Sannicolau Mare gets the approval to organize a yearly national fair and on July 6th, 1837 the approval to organize a weekly fair.
On 25.03.1790, ~930pm, a strong earthquake, with rebuffing during the night, destroys few houses.
In 1790, by initiative of the Nako family, other colonists are brought in order to work on the estate [mainly from Charlottenburg].
In 1799 the Nako family sets up the agricultural school [in his testament Kristofor makes a donation in order to organize the education of 12 serfs’ sons], the first on Romania’s present territory [and Hungary at that date]. The school prepared agronomists and administrators for the counts’ estates. The school started its activity in 1801. It will be modernized in 1863.
Between 1807-1820 Sannicolau Mare is the headquarters of the Torontal county prefecture.
In 1810 there are already 2282 Catholics [mainly of German origin].
The Nako family [by Sandor Nako, the son of Kristof Nako & Zsofia Heldenfeldi Szecsujatz; B~1784-D 17.09.1848 in Budapest but is buried in Sannicolau Mare] built the big church/cathedral between 1814-1824. At first, the church was raised in the honor of Saint Joannem Nepomuk, but when it was finished, the church was dedicated to Saint Theresia von Avila [B 28.03.1515, D 4.10.1552, celebrated each year on 15.10]. In 1824 Laszlo Koszeghy, bishop of Cenad, blessed the church. In 1875 the church was painted inside with beautiful frescoes. There was also a little chapel [in honor of Saints Vendelini and Rochi] built by the community in 1760 and reconditioned in 1878.
23.02.1828, at 1 p.m., earthquake.
21.06.1836, at 2 p.m., 2 successive earthquakes.
Before 1848 in Sannicolau Mare already existed a credit bank and a law court.
In 1854 Sannicolau Mare introduces the electric lighting, the power being supplied by the plant of the Prochaska mill, which functioned with energy produced by air.
Between 7.08.1855 [first case of cholera] and 12.11.1855 [last case], 33 people died in Sannicolau Mare. But I think the number was much bigger; at least 120-150 people died of cholera only that year. Some people died of febris/typhus etc., and some other names under which the plague was hidden.
In 1864 count Kalman Nako builds the Nako castle. The castle was a true museum, housing a library of 5000 books and a Cinquecento altar. In the saloon there were paintings made by Franz Adam and Nako Kalman’s wife, Berta Bobdai Gyertyanyfy, a well-known painter of the time. In the trophy room there were trophies brought by the count from his first expedition in Africa.
In 1870 there was built the first railroad linking Sannicolau Mare and Valcani and with another link to Becicherecul Mare and Szegedin.
The cholera epidemic in 1873 made also lots of victims.
An earthquake lasting about 1/2 minutes took place on 5.04.1879. Starting with 25.09-26.10 in Banat were daily earthquakes [over 80 seismic movements]. Other seismic movements in Banat: 1885 - 31.01, 25.02, 26.02; 1886 - 13 and 14.11; 1887 - 10.07; 1893 - 27.03; 1895 - 16.06.
The handicraftsmen’s choir was founded in 1880, under the leadership of Steiner. The choir will be reorganized in 1907, having an important activity until 1938.
The well-known composer and pianist Bela Bartok was born here on 25.03.1881 [in house no. 2296, today – 3, Cerbului Street; his father, born in Ujvar, dies in Sannicolau Mare – he was the director of the Agricultural School and his mother was a teacher]. Bela Bartok’s first concert [in 1903] will take place in Sannicolau Mare. In 1940 Bartok emigrates in the USA, where he’ll die on 26.09.1945, being buried in New York.
The railroads Sannicolau Mare-Timisoara and Sannicolau Mare-Arad were built in 1882.
In 1883 the Nako family builds the town’s hospital – The Berta Public Hospital [located on the former hunting pavilion in memory of Kalman Nako and his wife, Berta Gyertyanffy]. The hospital was built also with donations from the Torontal County.
At the beginning, the hospital had only 6 beds. The first doctor was the Nako family’s doctor, dr. Lovenstein. In 1896-'97 the hospital is widened up to 30 beds. The present hospital building was built in 1908-1910 [100 beds], project financed by Sandor Nako. In the 1970's the hospital’s capacity increases to over 300 beds.
The first local newspaper, issued in the Hungarian language by Victor Schreyer, appears between 1885-1886 [The Romanian Beekeeper and Economist]. Later appears the "Nagyszentmiklosii kozlony" newspaper, in Hungarian and German [editor Natahail Wienwier]. The newspaper resists until 1914, when it changes its title into “Felsotorontal/Torontalul de sus” and appears also in the Romanian language [editor – teacher Elena Albu, married Fucsh].
The Aranca River is regularized in 1886-1894 and becomes a channel.
The Town Hall was built in 1893.
The first state owned gymnasium was founded in 1894.
The first colonial shops appear in 1900 [owned by Mausz and Weber] and Urmeny’s wood warehouse as well.
The cultural club [Casina civila] was built in 1902 and the first public library [intellectuals’ library] as well. The library had 400 books. Here will also function the first cinema in town.
Starting with 1905 the village was lightened with electric energy, the power being initially supplied by the electric energy plant from Kikinda, Yugoslavia.
The railroad Sannicolau Mare-Mako, Hodmezo-Vasaehely was built in 1906 [today this link to Hungary is closed].
A reaping strike took place in 1906.
The workers library was founded in 1907 [800 books]. The two libraries merged in 1913.
In 1912 Victor Schreyer published the town’s first monography: Traditional Monography of Sannicolau Mare.
Till the first World War in town existed a law court, a Land Register, a post – telegraph office, 2 pharmacies, 2 printing houses, 2 railway stations, 3 mills, a hospital and factories producing furniture, milk, wool, leather, beer.
In 20.11.1918 the Serbian army occupies the town, leaving only after the French army reached the town [on 13.06.1919].
On 20.08.1919 Sannicolau Mare is incorporated in the Romanian Kingdom.
After the first World War there appear ready-made clothes shops [Kiss and Fischov], mixed shops [Kiry], flower shops, greater stores on shares [Steaua, Furnica].
At the same time with the agricultural reform, in 1921, the Nako estate was divided.
The first telephone office was inaugurated in 1931.
The crisis from 1929-1933 ruins the handicraftsmen, merchants and small manufacturers. A sausage factory will replace the brewery.
Till 1947 the German sector formed a separate sector with its own administration.