On April 15, 1361, in Oradea, King Louis the Great granted judicial privileges to the citizens of Debrecen in acknowledgement that they had served him and his father, Charles Robert well. However, because the donation was issued in the form of a simple patent, it was only several months later that Dózsa Debreceni’s grandson István, the landowner of the settlement was awarded a letter/diploma of privilege, the date was June 14th, 1361. The authentic transcript, can be found in the MNL Hajdú-Bihar County Archives.
Nine Severed Heads
It is also clear from the written text of the donation letter that Károly Róbert was helped by the people of Debrecen by sacrificing their blood in the fight against his “cursed enemies”. It is thought that this document refers to the battle of Debrecen which took place in 1317, where Dózsa Debreceni defeated the troops of Borsa Kopasz at the head of the united royal armies. The proud magistrate then sent the king the flags of two defeated leaders along with nine severed heads.
The services given to Louis I are only mentioned in general, in addition, Debrecen sometimes, – presumably entertained the king bound for Transylvania via Oradea – journey’s recorded in the Diary Dr. Tamás Szálkai, Chief Archivist of the Hajdú-Bihar County Archives of the Hungarian National Archives.
The charter, written on parchment, was originally authenticated with the king’s double seal. However, the sealer was stolen from the chancellor’s tent during the Bosnian campaign in 1363 (and was sold by thieves to a goldsmith in Bistrița a few months later), so it was necessary to re-authenticate previously issued charter. Therefore, on one hand, a text containing the fact of authentication was written in the space left at the bottom of the diploma, and on the other hand, a second seal was affixed to the original pendant stamp with a new stamp printer made in 1364. Today, none of the deeds of privilege are located in Debrecen.
The letter of privilege extended the city’s jurisdiction similarly to other cities, ie the judge and jurors of Debrecen could judge all matters of the settlement, and the king forbade anyone from arresting and judging the residents of Debrecen. Based on the research of Professor László Solymosi, we know that in 1361 the ruler even issued a royal order, in which, – in order to emphasize this judicial privilege, he ordered all ecclesiastical and secular lords of the country to respect his will, the price to be paid for failure to do so was the loss of royal grace (this document has since been lost).
The name Debrecen appears in the documents of the time in the form of a village (Latin villa), for the first time in the charter of 1361, where it mentions it as a city (civitas) and its inhabitants as citizens (civis) and guests (hospes). It is interesting that the settlement was mentioned as a market town (oppidum) only from the middle of the 15th century in the diplomas, but the use of the words civitas and civis was recorded in the writing of the town. You can read more about the deed of privilege in 1361 in the study of László Solymosi, in the volume entitled 650 Years of the City of Debrecen.