Orbán de Lengyelfalva (Transylvania)

and other Orbán families of Hungarian nobility

Coat of Arms

Contents of this page

Short History

Until the end of last century, the Orbán de Lengyelfalva family was one of the leading families in Transylvania, a former part of Hungary now located in Romania. It got the title of Baron in 1744. The family owned a very nice castle in Harasztos, which was destroyed in the XVIIIth century. After that, they built a new castle in Lengyelfalva in Udvarhelyszék on land owned by the family since many centuries. This is now used as a school.

The family had two branches, one protestant, which is extinct since the end of the XIXth century, and one catholic, whose coat of arms is reproduced above (description in German: In B. auf gr. Dreiberge ein rechts v. einer aufgehende g. Sonne links von einer s. Mondessichel begleiteter, geharnischter, gebogener Arm, in d. Faust einen Krummsäbel mit g. Parirstange haltend, um d. Griff des Säbels ein Rosenkranz). The heirs of this family left Transylvania to Hungary in 1944 when the Soviet army advanced to Germany, and fled to Holland when the Soviets crushed the Hungarian revolution in 1956.

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Detailed History

This chapter is my translation into English of a Dutch text written by Dr. József Gyula Orbán.

1. Sources

Some oral communications, mainly history and origins of the family, by Dr. László Orbán (+ 1957, professor of theology and philosophy at the seminary of Györ). Several books in Hungarian and German:

2. Origin of the Family

The family originates from Erdély (Seven mountains), which is presently part of Romania. They lived at Lengyelfalva, a place which was founded by Poles at the time of the Honfoglalás (settlement of the Hungarian tribes in the Danube delta). It is at a short distance from Oroszhegy. Lengyelfalva is at the foot of the highest summit of the area called Rez tetö, a mountain covered by beeches. The family was known by the nickname Rezi, which is an indication, if not a proof, that it is originating from that area. From Rez tetö, one can see most of Udvarhely, if not Erdély. On the foot of this mountain, there is also an place called Sükö, or cherry country.

The first data about the ancestors of the Orbán family goes back to the period around the year 1500 A.D. The only known fact is that they belonged to the nemesek (nobility) of Erdély (nowadays Transylvania) and played in important role in the fight against the Turks.

There is much more data about the family after 1620 A.D., when they moved out of Lengyelfalva to Harasztos. After that, they added the title of Lengyelfalva to their name as a sign of their aristocratic origin and all documents mention the name Orbán de Lengyelfalva.

Harasztos, where the family settled in 1620, is more a region than a city: it is composed of more than 100 hamlets where so-called jobbágyok (hired workers) were employed. The family had a castle in the southern part of Harasztos, which, according to the monk Bombardus who wrote a lot about the family, was built on the site and with the materials of a former cloister of the Order of the Temple. Bombardus pretended that the castle was unequalled in the whole of Erdély, but he erred when saying that it was built on a Templars cloister: he was misled by the fact that a small chapel was present within the limits of the castle. Anyway, it was a superb fortified castle against the Turks.

Last century, Balázs Orbán (see under famous Orbans) still owned a relation dated 1754 giving a detailed description of the buildings which were then in an excellent state. From this document, it appears that the castle had so-called védbástyak (protective bastions), sáncok (ramparts) and védfalak (walls), which tends to prove that the castle was indeed used for the war against the Turks. It also had 12 so-called szakállas. The castle was always manned by guards.

At the end of the XVIIIth century, the castle was sold as a zálog (collateral) to the Thoroczkai family. Probably the Orbáns were living above their possibilities and incurred huge debts, forcing them to sell their castle. Thoroczkai pulled down the castle and sold it stone by stone to the builders of a road through the Létom valley. During the time of Balázs Orban (middle of the XIXth century), the foundations were still visible.

At any rate, the castle must have been highly considered throughout Erdély, since the Közgyülések (general assemblies) of the nobility were held there.

3. The Coat of Arms

The XIIIth and IVth centuries were important periods for the development of the arms. Many shapes and varieties of helmets appeared. The helmet in the arms of the family comes from the "Livre des Tournois du Roi René". It has a visor with a grid. This kind of helmet is used only in ceremonies.

The blazon is semi-circular, one of the most common shapes. The ratio between highth and width is 8:7 or 6:5. The colours are essential for the coat of arms. In heraldry, there are four main colours (red or gules, blue or azure, black or sable, green or sinople) alternating with two metals (gold and silver). The colours of the arms of the Orbán family are:

The air is blue, the sun is gold above a blue field and has 12 to 16 alternatively straight and waving rays; it shows a human face. The moon is sometimes represented as a discus with a face. More often, it is a crescent, which is also present in the family arms. Finally, there is a hill with three tops, which could be a symbol of the landscape around Lengyelfalva, although the specialists disagree about its meaning.

The crown consists of a golden circle with fleurons and pearls, without gems. Fleurons are stylised leaves or flowers, or rosettes. Pearls re represented as silver balls. The crown is called a baron crown, and appeared at the end of the XVIIIth century, when the family received the title of baron. It has seven points with pearls. There are also baron crowns with five points.

In the family coat of arms, there are also two typical elements: a harnessed hand, with a curved sword, enlaced with a rosary. By this, the family wanted to show their merits in having fought for Christendom against the Turks.

4. The Family at the Service of Catholicism

The battle of Mohács (1526), near Lengyelfalva, started the switch to Protestantism in that area. Protestantism was an expression of nationalism: the West of Hungary was in the hands of the Catholic House of Habsburg; hence, many aristocrats of Erdély tried to maintain the independance of their region by converting to Protestantism. This expression of anti-Habsburg feelings, of course, pleased the Turk sultan.

The Orbán family, however, protected Catholicism in the area and promoted its expansion. In Shékely-Udvaerhely, the Jesuits build a cloister under the leadership of Mátyás Zsámbor. At the end, the enriched themselves, and as a result, they were banished around 1650 by Zsigmond Báthory, then head of Erdély. Mátyás Zsámbor eventually came back to the city under a false identity. He run away to Elek Orbán Nagy de Lengyelfalva [Nagy means Sr.], who took care of his protection by first keeping him in confinement, and later sending him in a barrel to Kolozsvár.

In Kerezstur, there is one of the oldest and most beautiful catholic churches of Erdély, a gothic church which, according to the description of Balázs Orbán, is 25 yards long and 25 yards wide. In the church, a clock, also very old, bears the inscription: IN HONOREM SANCTISSIMAE TRINITATIS. ILLUSTRISSIMUS DOMINUS ALEXI ORBÁN L.B. de LENGYELFALVA. ANNO 1745. This clock comes from a chapel in Macskás.

The inhabitants of Aranyosszék were all Protestant. In the reign of Maria Theresia, Jesuits arrived to bring the catholic faith. One of the catholic churches of that period was founded by the Orbán familie, in Harasztos.

5. The Orbán Family and the Fight against the Turks

From many descriptions, it appears that many in the Orbán family took active duty in fighting the oppressors, among which mainly the Turks. Many legendary persons were part of that history; they were legendary, not bevause they did not exist, but because they performed unlikely deeds.

Near Abásfalva, the inhabitants of Abásfalva, Keményfalva, Gyepes, Kénos, Remete and Lakod built a castle in the XIVth century, that should serve as a shelter. In the middle of the XVIIth century, the castle was attacked by the Turks. The head of the Székelyek, Dávid Biró, was killed. The assailed succeeded in avoiding the castle to be taken, under the command of Borka Orbán. Her name was still mentioned last century as the adminitrator of a domain between Gyepes and Szent-Márton.

Balázs Orban, who lived in the XIXthe century, was also known as a great freedom fighter. During the revolution of 1848, he was travelling in Greece and Turkey on a so-called discovery trip. When the news of the freedom war in Hungary reached him, he decided to come back to his homeland with his own little army. When he arrived at the border, however, the revolution had been crushed. Thus, he remained abroad several years more and he returned to Hungary only in 1859.

6. Miscellaneous

On many occasions, members of the Orbán family took high functions in the administration of Erdély. One of them was Elek Orbán., who was elected föbiró (delegate of a region). In 1733, he became Orzsággyülési Követ (delegate to the regional parliament) in Szeben. In 1742, he further became fökirálybiró (head of a region). He died in 1753.

In the vicinity of Harasztos, there is a small lake called Rozspatak; somewhat North of it a pound was naturally created: it became the fishing pound of the family Orbán.

7. Expansion out of Erdély

The family has for a long time formed a steady clan in Lengyelfalva and Harasztos and did not move outside these areas. The first time that some Orbáns settled in another location was during the French revolution. It is possible, but not proven, that members of the family moved to France and Belgium during that period. [Personal note from the translator: I have located Orbans descending from Hungarian soldiers enrolled by Napoleon in Champagne: look here].

In the same period, members of the family settled in the main part of the homeland, i.e. whithin the current borders of Hungary. Their move was due to the fact that they had to mortgage the castle and other belongings in 1790 because of financial difficulties. They settled in Dunántul, in the Western part of the country. Another wave of resettling took  place in 1848, after the revolution.

8. Oldest Mention of Members of the Family

  1. Orbán (without a first name) was an architect in the first half of the XVst century. In 1482-1486, he built the Szt. Egyed church in Bártfa. He personally made the intrance of the church and the oratorium located above it. Bártfa was in the former Hungarian province of Sáros and is now a town in Slovakia named Bardejov.
  2. Also in the XVth century, there was a man named Orbán who built cannons for the Greeks, and later for the Turks. See his story here.

9. Harasztos

Harasztos is the place where the castle of the family Orbán de Lengyelfalva stood. It is located at the foot of the lower Székelykö mountains, in a green valley full of woods. It was founded as Hori in 1289. The popular tradition says that it was born from the union of two hamlets, Bogáth (on the river Aranyos) and Hori (in the valley of the river Roszpatak). Both hamlets had been attacked and plundered by an ennemy. The inhabitants looked for a new place where to settle and chose the place which became Harasztos. The name derives from the Hungarian name for the local woods, haraszt. In later acts, until the end of the XIXth century, the name is always mentioned as Hori-Harasztos.

The common fate of the two hamlets took place very early. Indeed, in an act of 1319, it is mentioned that King Charles (Károly király) makes a present of wild animals, including from Harasztos, to Szirmai Count Tamás. The names Harastus and  Hazartus also appear in papal acts of 1332 and 1333 dealing with taxes (dézsma) levied for the Church. All the properties given by King Charles to Szirmai eventually became properties of the Orbán family. Later they were in the hands of the Thoroczkai family.

Harasztos had two streets: Halomutca and Medgyesutca. Those names showed that in the city there were immigrants from Halom and Medgyes. The catholic church was between the two valleys, the protestant church somewhat higher. Both churches burned to ashes during the great fire of the brewery in 1815. Even the clocks melted!

The Orbán family had twice been honoured with the title of fökirálybiró, who could do justice in the name of the King. That was very surprising, since the family was originating from Lengyelfalva in a faraway province (Udvarhelyszék); but in fact, the fmily had settled in Harasztos many centuries earlier.

10. Lengyelfalva

The hamlet of Lengyelfalva was probably founded by Polish tribes during the Honfoglalás (settling of the Hungarians on the banks of the Danube) (IXth century AD). It is located at one hour drive from Nagy-Oroszi, at the foot of the Rez tetö mountain, the highest summit of the area. The name Rez is very common in Székelyföld (Seklerland): it is always associated with high areas covered with woods. From the top of Rez tetö, there is a nice view over the whole area, Udvarhely and further away the whole of Székelyföld. Beneath the mountain is the city of Sükö, the land of cherries.

The three hills appearing in the family coat of arms are probably in the Hármas Hámor; this part of Székelykö has indeed three tops: Lajos csup (or Csegezi Gezsteg), Hidasi Gezsteg and Várszikla.

Lengyelfalva is now called Polianka in Romanian. In 1867, it had 388 inhabitants, of which 382 were catholic, 2 protestant, 2 unitarian and 2 "foreign".

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(note: only the persons with the family name Orbán have their names in bold) [Back to top][Main Orban page]


Other Orbán families of Hungarian nobility

Other Orbán families of Hungarian nobility have the following coats of arms:

The first one was fiven by Gabriel Bethen, Prince von Siebenburgen, to Stefan and Johann Orbán on 18 June 1674 (description in German: In B. in g. Neste ein n. Pelikan mit dem Schnabel seine Brust ritzend u. mit dem Heraustropfenden Blute drei Junge atzend. Kleinod: die Schildfigur. Decken: rs.-bg).

The second one belongs also to the Orbán de Lengyelfalva family and is similar to the one on top of this page, although without the rosary, probably indicating the protestant branch of the family.

The Queen of Hungary Maria Theresia also raised to peerage Josef Kiss aliter Orbán in 1753. To this family belongs Albert von Kiss, solicitor in Pesth in 1803. The coat of arms is as follows (in German): Gespalten von B. und R.; vorne durch einen w. Wellenbalken getheilt; oben deri (1, 2) g. Wecken, unten ein gr. Blätterkranz, hinten drei übereinandergereihte, schräggerichtete, geflitschte Pfeile; Kleinod: Geharnischter, gebogener Arm, in d. Faust einen gr. Blätterkranz haltend (auch einen Krummsabel). Decken: bg.-rs.

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Last updated on 15 February 2008
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