Column: Robota

Robath or Robot in German, robot in Hungarian, from the Slavic, Slovak robota, "work" – mandatory unpaid labor for the nobleman or Church.

For farms the size of one sessio or more, the Urbarium capped robota at one day a week when the farmer worked with his draft animals and at two days without them. Robota was reduced for smaller farms, the cutback was worked out as a simple reflection of the fraction of a sessio in some places or through complex calculations in others. The column showed the days of robota in a year.

Column: Ninth

It was one of the oldest forms of taxation in post-Roman Europe – deviatok (Slovak), nona (Latin), Neuntel (German), kilenced (Hungarian) – farms had to give a ninth of their production to the nobleman each year. A nobleman could also accept money or more days of robota in lieu of goods (e.g., see the center image under "Ninth").

Besides the ninth, the farm also had to turn over the even older tithe, not recorded in the Urbarium, to the Church.



A zeman's (lower nobleman) plain former residence, now converted to a tavern. A fortunate subject could sometimes have more than a noble.


A former productive mountain farmer's farmstead house.


The house of a zeman with a modest village of subjects in cool climate on low-yield soil.




The Slovak Urbarium, like the others under Empress Maria Theresa, opened with pages of detailed descriptions of its individual points, including some overall obligations of the farms to the nobleman that were not calculated separately, e.g., for four farms to jointly provide a wagon and four horses for long-distance hauling once a year.

Column: Taxes




Zlatka minted in Kreminca in 1355.

The first subcolumn under "Taxes" determined the amount of cash the farmer had to pay, typically a flat fee of one zlatka (florin, Gulden) per farm (not sessio) per year. It was traditionally submitted in two installments, on Georgemas (24 April) and Michaelmas (29 September). Farmers commonly had the option also to pay in lieu of robota and food.

The remaining columns listed goods and their quantity to be submitted annually in the following Slovak (German, Hungarian) units:

Firewood – a "bulk" siaha (Klafter, öl), ca. 1.4 cords, i.e., 3.3 cubic yards.

Yarn – a funt (Wiener Pfund, bécsi font), ca. 1.2 U.S. pounds.

Clarified butter – a holba (Halbe, icce), ca. 0.9 U.S. quarts.

Capons, Chickens, Eggs – items. The annual fractions were typically reworked per several years, so a farm obligated to submit, e.g., ¾ of a chicken would skip giving a whole chicken once every four years.




A compact village of farmsteads with their fields and meadows strewn around it.




Soon after their Urbarium was finished, the farmers of Rača submitted to their nobleman its handwritten, notarized conversion to cash (right column), which they preferred to pay instead of providing goods and services.




Few could compete with the wealthiest nobles' homes provided for by the largest numbers of subjects.




The Catholic Church and its monasteries also lived off robota, goods, and money from their subjects, along with a tithe from all the Kingdom's subjects.

Maria Theresa's Urbarium

Q: What do the columns and measures mean?

The first comprehensive register of the farms in the Slovaks' homeland, a province in the Austrian Empire called the Kingdom of Hungary, was initiated by Empress Maria Theresa's decree that took efect on 23 January 1767, preceded by a survey of the existing relationships between farmers and the nobility to whom they paid taxes (mainly in the form of food and 1-2 days of work a week, but also monetary). The forms for the Urbarium were printed in Slovak, Latin, German, and Hungarian, it was completed by 1773.

While the Urbarium brought relief to the subjects by curbing and clarifying the farmers' obligations to their noblemen, Maria Theresa's main goal was to start collecting money from the Kingdom's nobility, who paid no taxes (and managed to keep it so till the mid-19th century). To undermine her endeavor, the nobles colluded with their subjects to reduce how much of their land was entered in the Urbarium to the degree that perhaps two-thirds of the farmland in the Kingdom remained unaccounted for. The actual size of any person's farm listed in the Urbarium may, therefore, have been notably larger than what it says.


Column: Farm

The first column after the name of the farmer (and sometimes his sons) gave the size of the whole farm expressed in "farm-units," a standardized size of a farm – a sessio (Latin), grunt (Slovak), Session (German), hely (Hungarian). The size of the farm-unit to be applied in each village was determined by the county based on instructions from Vienna and could differ from village to village depending on local growing conditions and the nature of the farm's parcels, so the numbers may be comparable among farms within one village (if the level of record evasion was uniform), but not necessarily between villages. One farm-unit ranged from ca. 20 to almost 27 acres, but they could differ by a factor of more than 2 in terms of straightforward acreage after considering all the criteria and fallow lots.

Unlike in England and some other monarchies, the farmer subjects in the Kingdom were in control of and had heritable rights to their farms (no clearances). Particularly well-off farmers could have farms the size of a dozen or more sessios. The smallest farm considered barely able to support a core family was ⅛ of a sessio. The villager who had less was not seen as a farmer but as a cottar (želiar in Slovak, inquilinus in Latin, Söllner in German, zsellér in Hungarian) commonly doing jobs as a hired hand.

A farm consisted of a farmstead (the house, yard, animal sheds, barns, and garden-and-grove in the rear) within the built-up territory of the village and of its fields and meadows scattered outside of the village up to a few miles away. Except with some smallest farms, the latter two comprised a number of disconnected parcels set among other farms' similar parcels (Slovak and the Kingdom's other farms were rarely laid out like American staked-out farms with a farmstead separated by its fields and pastures from other isolated farmsteads).

Column: Farmstead

The next subcolumn recorded the size of the land under and around the house, yard, buildings, and garden. It was measured in "Bratislava" mericas: a metrete (Ancient Greek), prešporská merica (Slovak), Preßburger Metzen (German), pozsonyi mérő (Hungarian) – the volume of ca. 14 U.S. dry gallons. It represented an area by saying how many mericas of grains would be needed to sow the farmstead if it were not built upon. The quantity varied depending on the soil and local climate, one merica would seed roughly 0.4 to 0.6 acres.

Column: Arable fields

The measure here was the Kingdom of Hungary's iuterum (Latin), uhorské jutro (Slovak), ungarische Joch (German), magyar hold (Hungarian), which developed from the concept of how much land a person could plow in a day. By the time of the Urbarium, it represented about one U.S. acre. The measure was preferred to the larger Viennese or cadastral or Austrian Joch, ca. 1.4 acres, which was formally introduced in the Kingdom by Emperor Joseph II about two decades after his mother's Urbarium.

Column: Meadows

Their size was counted "in mowers" (men, there were no mowing machines then) per day. Mowing was done in the summer with long daylight, so measuring meadows in mowers worked with the area a mower could scythe in about 12 hours. Its size varied depending on the type and density of grass in the given area, which changed with elevation, soil, and local climate. It ranged approximately from 0.7 acres to 1 U.S. acre, stabilizing closer to the lower number at around the time of Empress Maria Theresa's Urbarium and later (but it never became the same recognized measure as a merica or jutro). The amount of mowing per day was also commonly taken as yielding a wagonload of hay after the grass dried.