Images of Transylvania, Part II
The Bishopric Cathedral of Gyulafehérvár (Alba Iulia, Rumania today) was founded by Saint Stephen I (1000-1038),
the first Hungarian king, in 1009. The original building was erected in in romanesque
style using the foundations of an older church, but was finished in gothic style in the
12th century. This cathedral, the Saint Michael church, became the center of the
Archdiocese of Transylvania, and also, the residential town of the Hungarian princes and
governors of Transylvania.
In 1277, Saxon troops cracked down on the church, while it was having the morning service,
with 2,000 people inside. Most of them were killed and the cathedral set on fire.
János Hunyadi (1446-1456), the great Hungarian fighter against the Ottoman onslaught, the
Savior of Christianity, rebuilt and extended the church in the 1450's. It went
through renovation again in 1671, by Mihály Apafi, Hungarian governor of Transylvania;
between 1908-1918, by the Hungarian government, and in 1970, by Hungarian architect Lajos
Bágyuj, but the Rumanian government stopped the work, because, after all, the Bishopric
Cathedral of Gyulafehérvár is a crucial Hungarian historic, cultural and ethnic monument
The cathedral has served as a burial place for major Hungarian historic figures. In the
aisle of the church can be found the red marble sepulchre of János Hunyadi; his son,
László Hunyadi; Transylvanian king Sigismund János (1559-1571) and his mother Queen
Isabel; Friar György; Transylvanian Prince Gábor Bethlen (1613-1629); and György
Rákóczi I. (1630-1648).
The two Willows
During the Roman Empire, an outpost called Brucle
stood in the area where Nagyenyed (Aiud, Rumania today) is now. In the Middle Ages,
Nagyenyed became an important commercial and wine producing center; the wine cellars had a
whole network around the town. In the 16th century, Nagyenyed held several diets
(sessions of parliaments), and in 1564, here was declared the split between the Saxon
Evangelical and the Hungarian Calvinist (i.e., Presbyterian) churches.
In 1658, a mixed Tartar-Turkish army cracked down on Nagyenyed; in 1704 Habsburg troops
wreaked havoc on the town. Between 1784 and 1848, Nagyenyed was the center of the Reformed
(i.e., Presbyterian) Archdiocese.
During the Hungarian Liberation Fight of 1848, the Rumanian population of
Transylvania sided the Habsburgs and turned against the first nation Hungarians. Since
November 1848, while Hungary was fighting her life-and-death battle for independence,
terrorist Rumanian troops, lead by Axente Sever, Avram Iancu, Prodán Probu, were going on
killing sprees in Transylvania, also in Nagyenyed. On January 8, 1849, after they forced
the terrified Hungarian population to sign the statement of loyalty to the Habsburg
throne, they killed 800 innocent civilian Hungarians. The Rumanian attackers ousted the
rest of the Hungarians to the cold empty fields, in the clothes they had just on, and
continued to devastate Nagyenyed until November 11.
They looted and burned the Bethlen College, too, and took a great care to destroy only the
precious, old documents revealing the history of the Hungarians in Transylvania.
Apparently, they had the expertise, since Axente Sever studied theology and Avram Iancu
was a lawyer, they were not just a simple mob. (It is worth to mention that, to
"honour their achievements", Axente Sever and Avram Iancu received prizes, such
as the Golden Cross from the Habsburg emperor, and the Saint Anna Cross from Michael, the
Russian tzar. But it did not take them long to turn against their Austrian lords, either.
In a short while, the Habsburg authorities arrested both of them, Avram Iancu was
physically assaulted seriously, but later both released. Later, Avram Iancu went insane,
and he was seen for years wandering aimlessly in the Rumanian mountains blowing a
recorder. Axente Sever died as a quiet retired pensioner in Brassó).
On the wall, right to the entrance of the fortress of Nagyenyed, a small plaque remembers
the 800 slaughtered innocent Hungarians who are buried under this plaque.
The church of Nagyenyed was fortified as a result of the first Ottoman (Turkish) attacks
on Hungary, starting in the 15th century. The walls of the fortress of Nagyenyed has
7 bastions. During wartime periods, the defense duty of every bastion was assigned to a
designated group of shop holders of the town, such as the shoe-makers, black-smiths,
tailors, etc., who put their insignia on the bastion wall for recognition. The one-nave
building of the Reformed (i.e., Presbyterian) fortress church was built in the 15th
century in gothic style; the 65-meter-high tower was modified to function as a tower of a
fortress, having gun-slots on the walls.
The famous Bethlen College was found in 1662, and was originally in Gyulafehérvár
(Alba Iulia), but because of the increasing Turkish attacks on Hungary, Mihály Apafi
(1661-1690), the Hungarian governor of Transylvania, moved the college to Nagyenyed, where
he had large land properties. The college had faculties of philosophy, law and Protestant
theology. Sponsored by the foundations raised by the Hungarian governors of Transylvania,
poor but talented Székelys were educated here. Gábor Bethlen made it a law to admit
talented youth coming from serfhood to the college. The college had such great teachers as
Benedek Ilosvai or János Apáczai Csere, and among the student, who became famous were
Sándor Kõrösi Csoma, the Orientalist, Farkas Bólyai, the mathematician, Lajos Áprily,
the poet, and András Sütõ, today's author.
In 1704, during the Rákóczi Liberation Fight (1704-1711) Habsburg troops
devastated Nagyenyed, with it, the Bethlen College, too. The students heriocally defended
their beloved college, and 14 of them died during the atrocities. A very nice prosaic work
by Hungarian author Mór Jókai, titled A nagyenyedi két fûzfa (Engl. The
two willows at Nagyenyed) tells about the touching story of the student heroes of the
Bethlen College, who loved their school so much that they were ready to give their lives
In 1849, during the Hungarian Liberation Fight of 1848, the building of the college
was left as a bunt-out ruin in ashes. It was rebuilt in 1862. Precious donations, such as
a large library, collection of ancient stones, artifacts from the Roman age, 3000 stuffed
birds and 60,000-piece herbal collection enriched the the treasures of the college. Today,
the building is a museum.
The renaissance castle of Küküllõvár
(Cetatea-de-Balta, Rumania today) was built between 1613-1625 by István Bethlen,
younger brother of Gábor Bethlen, the Hungarian governor of Transylvania. The castle
replaced an older fortress which had been built in the Middle Age.
Until the end of World War II, the Haller family was the lord of the castle, but since
they too left Küküllõvár.
This is the monument of the The Martyrs of Arad, the
13 Hungarian generals of the Hungarian Liberation Fight of 1848, who were executed on
October 6, 1849, in Arad, by the Habsburg military authorities led by Haynau. This modest
obelisk was erected on October 6, 1881, but there was a large monument on the main square
of Arad, erected on October 6, 1890, which was sadly torn down by the nationalistic
Rumanian state administration, after Transylvania was annexed to Rumania, in 1921. The
monument carries the names of the 13 Hungarian heroes, who shed their blood for the
benefit of not only the Hungarians but every ethnicity in Transylvania. Nine were hanged :
Lajos Aulich, János Damjanich, Károly Knezich, György Lahner, Károly Leiningen,
József Nagy-Sándor, Ernõ Pöltenberg, Ignác Török and Károly Vécsey; four were
shot: Arisztid Dessewffy, Ernõ Kiss, Vilmos Lázár and József Schweidel. Under
this little monument rest the remains of 11 of the 13 generals, which were placed here on
the 125th anniversary of their execution.
and its surroundings has been populated since
the Stone Age. Déva (Deva, Rumania today) played an an important role in the
Middle Age, mostly because its fortress on the hilltop. In the village was born Mátyás
Dévai Bíró (1500-1545), the reputed Protestant agitator, and András Sándor, another
Protestant ideologist, became the first Protestant bishop of Transylvania, in the 16th
century. Basta, the merciless Habsburg military commander, held a diet (session of
parliament) in Déva, in the early 17th century, when he passed the bill which ordered the
Hungarian noble-class to buy their status by paying one-fourth of their wealth to the
On the top of the 371-meter-high hill stands the impressive ruins of the fortress of
Déva. There had been a fortified construction on the hill, as early as in the era of the
Dacians and the Roman Empire. In the 13th century, the Hungarian kings built a castle
here, which was one of the first royal fortresses built in the historic Hungary. During
the Tartar invasion of 1241, the castle was destroyed but Hungarian king Béla IV
(1235-1270) of the House of Árpád rebuilt it. In 1307, during the Interregnum
in Hungary (a period between 1301-1308, when the House of Árpád disappeared and
the House of Anjou appeared on the Hungarian throne as regal dynasties) Lászó
Kán imprisoned Ottó, the official, though transient, Hungarian king in the fortress of
Déva. He also took away from him the Hungarian Holy Crown. Habsburg king Ladislaus V
(1452-1457), also reigning the Hungarian throne, donated the fortress of Déva, with its
56 villages to Hungarian János Hunyadi, the great defender of Hungary against the Turkish
invasion. During the reign of the Hungarian renaissance king Matthias (1458 -1490), son of
János Hunyadi, Déva was a property of Matthias's uncle Mihály Szilágyi. After this
periods, the fortress was transferred to the Austrian court, and, since 1800, Déva ceased
to be a military object, however, it was still rebuilt in 1817. A huge gun powder
explosion destroyed it 1849.
Ferenc Dávid (1510-1579), the founder of the anti-Trinitarian, also referred to as
Unitarian, denomination in Hungary, during the Protestant movement, was imprisoned
in the fortress for his ideas. He died in the prison of the fortress of Déva, a plaque on
the wall of the ruins remembers his fate.
One of the best-known Hungarian folk-ballads, titled Kelemen Kõmûves tells about
the construction of the fortress of Déva. According to this ballad, the wife of one of
the masons, Kelemen Kõmûves, had to be built in the walls of the fortress of Déva, to
have her spirit hold the walls.
One of the ancestors of the Hungarian Hunyadi dynasty, Sorb, received the castle of Vajdahunyad (Hunedoara, Rumania
today) from the Hungarian king, as a severance, in the 14th century. Son of Sorb, Vajk,
was confirmed, as the legal owner of the castle in 1409, by German-Roman emperor and
Hungarian king Sigismund (1387-1437). Son of Vajk, János Hunyadi, the great Hungarian
defender of the country against the Ottoman (Turkish) onslaught, the savior of
Christianity, governor of Hungary, built the palace of Vajdahunyad, between 1446-1453.
After his death in 1456, the construction was continued by his widow, Elisabeth Szilágyi.
After János Hunyadi, his son Matthias Hunyadi, the renaissance Hungarian king (1458-1490)
inherited the castle; after him Matthias' son János Corvin was the next resident. The
castle frequently changed owners during the period of the 16th and the 17th century, and
the last owner was countess Kata Bethlen, wife of Mihály Apafi II (1690-1701), Hungarian
governor of Transylvania, and when she died in 1725, the ownership of the castle was
transferred to the Hungarian royal court.
It was devastated by fire many times; its major renovation periods were between 1870-1880
by Hungarian architects Imre Steindl and Frigyes Schulek, followed by another one between
1907-1913, by István Möller.
The castle of Vajdahunyad never served military purposes, it was a fortified residential
palace. It is the most majestic, finest, and greatest gothic castle of the historic
Hungary, comparable to the French or German gothic palaces. It is only a miracle that the
castle avoided the common end of all the other Hungarian castles or fortresses: they were
all methodically destroyed, one by one, during non-war periods, by Habsburg kings,
reigning Hungary, Leopold I, and Joseph I, in the 18th century.
In the north wing of the castle is the gothic chapel which was finished in 1446. In the
north wing locates the two-aisle, two-storey Knights' hall, which is a masterpiece
of the Hungarian gothic architecture of the Medieval Age. On the first pillar from the
entrance of the Knights' hall, a gothic inscription tells about the identity of
builder of the castle : Hoc opus fecit fieri Magnif. Do Johannes de Hunyad Regni
Hungar, Gubernator anno dni 1452. Above the Knights' hall is the Council hall
where Gábor Bethlen (1613-1629), the finest Hungarian governor of Transylvania, used to
hold the sessions of the Transylvanian parliament, the diets. Erzsébet Szilágyi
built the Matthias hall where her sons, the two Hunyadi princes, Matthias, the
later become Hungarian king, and Ladislaus were raised. The castle complex has numerous
towers and bastions which served, to an extent, defensive roles as well.
The Mountains of
After the Hungarian Conquest of Transylvania in 896,
Fogaras (Fagaras, Rumania today) became a Hungarian village. During the reign of
Hungarian king Géza II (1141-1162) of the House of Árpád, Saxons from Germany
were settled here. The first fortress of Fogaras was built around 1310. In 1464, Hungarian
king Matthias (1458-1490), gave Fogaras, with its fortress to János Geréb, who became
later the governor of Transylvania. The growing Saxon population gained authority over the
town in 1472 and, by the end of the 16th century, 64 villages paid revenues to Fogaras,
which, this way, became a 'little local empire'.
The prime time of Fogaras arrived during the reign of Hungarian Gábor Bethlen
(1613-1629), governor of Transylvania, when the town became an economic role model city in
southern Transylvania. Gábor Bethlen completely rebuilt the fortress and, from now on,
Fogaras was the Transylvanian Queen city, (equivalent to Veszprém in Hungary), the
standard residence place for the wives of the Transylvanian governors. The most well-known
of these queens was the orphan Kata Bethlen (1700-1759), whose grave is in front of the
Reformed (i.e., Presbyterian) church of Fogaras. The church holds several precious relics
of her life. Her bridal skirt, with the family coat of arms on it, is now the pulpit
cover, and her bridal veil now covers the altar table. Both are made of yellow silk.
The Mountains of Fogaras is in the southern part of Europe's largest
chain-mountain, the Carpathian Mountains. Located close to the city of Fogaras, this
mountain is not only a great ski resort but also home of very tough winters. This picture
shows a sunny winter scene of the Mountains of Fogaras with its tall pine trees, so much
snowed-in, that all we can see here is the tip of the trees sticking out of the snow.
Picture : Courtesy of Zoltán Farkas)
Archeological excavations revealed that the
area of Medgyes (Medias, Rumania today) was populated already during the era of the
Dacians and later the Roman Empire. After Saxons were settled by Hungarian king Géza II
(1141-1162) in Transylvania, Medgyes received its first Saxon settlers in 1267. They came
from the regions of the rivers Rhine and Mosel, where floods caused havoc in those years
and devastating a famine erupted.
In 1495, the finest Hungarian king Matthias (1458-1490), the renaissance king, gave
Medgyes the privilege of the free royal town and built a three-layer circular wall
system around the town, as a defense against the increasing Ottoman (Turkish) attacks on
Hungary. Since the 15th century, Medgyes is one of the autonomic cultural and ethnic
centers of the Saxons in Transylvania.
In 1576, István Báthori, the Hungarian governor of Transylvania was in Medgyes, when he
received the envoys from Cracow, Poland, bringing him the documents that was elected to be
the king of Poland. Also, the Hungarian nobles of Transylvania voted Sigismund Báthori
(1588), and István Bocskai (1605) as governors of Transylvania in Medgyes. On May 17,
1545, the Saxon population of Medgyes officially joined the Augustine denomination.
The fortified church is now Evangelical, but once was a catholic one named after
Saint Mary. The gothic cathedral was built between 1449 and 1482, using the foundations
and parts of walls of an older romanesque church. Its 74-meter-high tower was built around
1550. The church was modified several times, rebuilt in 1832. The outside surface of the
foldable wooden altar of the church, built in the 15th century, depicts scenes with Jesus
on the Calvary. Next to the church stands the bell tower with its wooden circular balcony.
It was built in the 17th century, renovated in 1796.
From the enormous defensive wall system, which was built around Medgyes by king Matthias,
only the Forkesch tower, built between 1494-1534, and the Steingassenturm
still stand. Latter was built in the first part of the 16th century, and after 1705, it
was rebuilt in baroque style.
The Clock tower
Segesvár's history goes back to the
ancient ages. During the Roman Empire, a garrison, called Castrum Stenarum was here
guarding the important military road leading to Gyulafehérvár (Lat. Apulum).
Castrum Stenarum must have had a busy commercial life, too, because of the many
archeological coin findings from this age.
After the Hungarian Conquest of Transylvania in 896, the Hungarians populated the area.
After many wars, the population was decimated and to refill their places, Hungarian kings
Géza II, (1141-1162), and Andrew II (1205-1235) invited Saxons from Saxony, Germany, to
settle and replenish life here. The Saxons started to built a fortress in 1191, which is
referred to in a chart dated 1280 as castrum Sax, and in another one dated 1367 as Civitas
de Segusvar. Segesvár became a Saxon town and it was fortified during the
reign of Hungarian king Charles Robert (1308-1342) of the House of Anjou, but the
fortification procedure lasted until the Battle of Mohács (1526). Segesvár
received the majority of its present buildings, walls, churches in this period. The town
dinamically developed and by the 14th century, its handcrafts industry was well-known.
In 1506, in the Saxon Bergkirche, on the hilltop of the town of Segesvár, signed the the
three major ethnic populations of Transylvania, i.e., the Hungarians, the Székelys, and
the Saxons, a pact for mutual aid, called the unio trium nationum (union of
three nations). A contemporary historian wrote: Transylvania is a three-legged chair;
if you knock out a single leg the whole thing turns upside down. At this time, the
Vlach (Rumanian) population did not yet form a unified national and territorial entity in
Transylvania to be considered as a factor for inclusion in the pact. The German population
of the town converted to the Lutheran (Evangelical) faith in the 16th century.
The clock tower was the main gate of the old town. It was built in the 14th century
and served as the City Hall until 1556. In a fire in 1676, the tower suffered damages but
it was soon rebuilt in baroque style, and in 1891, it received a painted-tile roof.
The Evangelical church stands on the highest place of the town (Hilltop church Ger.
Bergkirche). An older romanesque chapel's foundations were used to build it upon,
which was started in 1350, but the church was modified between 1429-1488. Restoration work
was done on the Bergkirche in 1838, due to an earthquake. The 53-meter-long, 3-aisle
church has ten large windows and a 42-meter-high tower, which is unfinished. The southern
porch resembles to that of the cathedral of Kassa, Northern Hungary, (Kosice, Slovakia
Inside, the ceiling has net-type stucco ornaments and rests on two rows of doric columns.
The church's Tabernacle is from 1438, the renaissance Stallum from 1523.
During the 1934 restoration, frescos were discovered on the walls.
On the battle field, outside of Segesvár, fell Sándor Petõfi ,
the great Hungarian patriotic poet, during a crucial battle of the Hungarian Liberation
Fight in 1849.
The fortified church of Berethalom (Biertan, Rumania today) was built in the beginning of the 16th century and was later surrounded by
three separate walls. Standing on a hilltop, the fortified church overlooks the entire landscape and, with its seven bastions, gives a very impressive view.
Berethalom locates in southern Transylvania where large numbers of Saxons (an ethnic group of German origin) lived since the 13th century until the late 1980's when the chauvinist
Rumanian state administration forced them to repatriate to Germany, after 700 years. With its inhabitants the Saxons, the little town started to develop extensively during the
reign of Hungarian kings Louis the Great (1342-1382) of the House of Anjou, and Sigismund (1387-1437) of the House of Luxemburgh. In 1572, Berethalom (German name: Birthälm)
became the home of the Saxon Archdiocese. In the 19th centrury the Archdiocese moved to Nagyszeben (Sibiu), and since then the town gradually lost importance. The so-called Chronicle
of Berethalom was written here, which is an important document recording many valuable information about the history of the region. Colour picture : Courtesy
of Olivier Clary, Olivier.CLARY@meteo.fr)
(Saschiz, Rumania today) was populated by
Székelys until the end of the 13th century. After that time, Szászkézd (German
name: Kaissdit became a Saxon town, which was once such an important place that it even
challenged the superiority of Segesvár (Sighisoara), the capital town of the Saxons
during that period. This small town was the center of the capitulum of Szászkézd
(chapter-house for canon meetings), and in 1663, Mihály Apafi (1661-1690), the Hungarian
governor of Transylvania, held a diet (session of the Parliament) in the church.
The construction of the church started in 1493 and finished, as a fortified church, in the
first half of the 16th century. The tower and small church, received its present
appearance in 1677. The tower, which resembles very much to the clock tower of Segesvár,
was renovated in 1832, but was seriously damaged in the 1986 earthquake.
The original church was built in romanesque style in
the early 13th century, but the Tartar invasion destoryed it in 1241. It was rebuilt and
steadily expanded in gothic style. Its foldable renaissance altar is a real masterpiece.
Made around 1524, the altar carries the coat of arms of Hungarian king Louis II, and the
town of Szászsebes. In the middle section of the altar, a relief showing the family-tree
of Jesus Christ can be seen, and in the side wings, reliefs depicting The Announciation,
meeting of Mary and Elisabeth, The Wise Men, Circumcision of Jesus. On the outside of the
closed altar, eight picture show stages from the life of Jesus. In the nave, oil
paintings, such as The Last Supper and the Holy Trinity makes the Evangelical church of
Szászsebes an unforgettable memory for the visitor.
This majestic Lutheran church stands on the main square of Szászsebes (Sebes, Rumania
today), as the symbol of the town, which is populated by Saxons of German origin. In the
late 1980's, most of the Saxon population left Rumania.
SZERDAHELY (also Kelnek)
(Miercurea, Rumania today) originally was a Székely
village. In the 12th century, Hungarian king Géza II (1141-1162) of the House of
Árpád, settled the Saxons from Germany to refill the country in Transylvania whose
population was decimated by wars, epidemics, etc. The Saxons, settled here, came from the
area of the rivers Rhine and Mosel, where, during those years, large floods devastated
life and caused a huge famine.
On the main square of Szerdahely stands the church which was built in the 13th
century and later modified, in gothic style, in the 14th century. In the 15th century,
after the notorious Tartar and first Turkish attacks, the 3-aisle church was fortified.
Inside the fort, they built warehouses to store foodstuffs for prolonged sieges. In the
18th century, the church underwent a thorough renovation, when it received very nice
baroque painted pews, made of carved-wood.
KELNEK, similarly to Szerdahely, Kelnekonce was a Székely village. The
Székelys built the first church here, in the 12th century. Following the settlement
policy by Hungarian king Géza II, Saxons moved here, too. They built a residence tower
next to the church and, in the 15-16th century, they built enormous walls around the
church, which were so strong that they could resist to the several sieges, such as the
Tartar raid in 1658.
(Sibiu, Rumania today) has the signs of human habitat
of the Stone Age. In the Ancient Age, during the Roman Empire, a colony called Cedonia
was here. After the Hungarian Conquest of Transylvania in 896, Nagyszeben
became a Hungarian village. In the 11th century, Hungarian king Géza II (1141-1162) of
the House of Árpád settled Saxons from Germany here to guard the Vöröstorony
pass. These settlers came from the regions around the river Rhine. Later, in the 16th
century, during the Protestant movement, large numbers of Hungarians fled the area, and
their places were further replaced by Germans from Upper-Austria, Carinthia, Salzburg, and
As early as 1191, the town became the Saxon Archdiocese, and as a result of the letter of
autonomy, issued in 1224, by Hungarian king András II (1205-1235), Nagyszeben quickly
became the political and cultural center of the Saxons in Transylvania. The town developed
quickly, and by the 14th century, Nagyszeben had the strongest fortress in Transylvania.
When they built the third defense wall system around the town, Nagyszeben became a fort
impossible to take. Turkish troops repeatedly besieged the town, in 1432, in 1438 and in
1442, but they never could take it.
The town even resisted Hungarian king János Szapolyai (1526-1540) when the Saxons did not
want to accept Szapolyai's authority over Nagyszeben. During this period, the defense
system of Nagyszeben counted not less than 40 towers, and mostly due to its power, it
always remained the economic and cultural capital of the Saxons in Transylvania.
The gothic cathedral was built between 1431-1520. It has 3 aisles, a cross-nave
section and a 70-meter-high tower. The statue, standing in front of the cathedral, depicts
G. D. Teutch (1817-1893), the Evangelical bishop for the Saxons in Transylvania.
In 1682, the Jesuit monks opened a Hungarian grammar school, and in 1770, Maria Theresa,
the Habsburg queen reigning Hungary, built an orphanage in Nagyszeben, operated by
Catholic nuns. In 1864, countess Julianna Batthyány established the Clarissan Order's
educational institution, which had a day care, elementary, secondary and vocational
school. Only between 1939-40, 800 Hungarian girls were educated here.
Old City Hall
After the Hungarian Conquest of Transylvania in 896,
Brassó became a Hungarian village. Saint Stephen I (1000-1038), the first
Hungarian king, built a royal fortress and a church, called Brassovia on the
hill-top of Cenk; the hill with a cable-car service today, near downtown Brassó
(Brasov, Rumania today). In 1211, the German Knight Order settled in Brassó, and
although they were ousted in 1225 by Hungarian king András II, Brassó never stopped
developing quickly. In a document, issued on March 10, 1471, by Hungarian king Matthias
(1458-1490), the renaissance king, Brassó was awarded a number of privileges. In the same
document, the king speaks about the town with admiration, saying "...Brassó,
lying in the land of Barcaság, is an outpost, the easternmost gate to our country; it is
so shiny, such a gem...".
Brassó became the richest and most developed Saxon commercial city in Transylvania.
The Old City Hall of Brassó. was built in 1420. The building, which originally
housed the head office of the town's shop holders council, was expanded between 1515-1528
in gothic style, and between 1770-1774 in baroque style. On the front wall of the old City
Hall, which has a 58-meters-high tower, the coat of arms of the Coronation town can
be seen depicting a crown from which roots are growing.
The Black Church is Transylvania's most majestic church, which is also the largest
and finest gothic church in easternmost Europe. Other great Saxons centres, such as
Berethalom, Szászsebes, Segesvár, etc., underlines the fact that the strategy by the
Hungarian kings to bring in Transylvania the Saxons from Germany to add to and replenish
the culture here was good for the country.
The construction of the church started in 1383 and lasted one hundred years. When Caraffa,
the sadistic military leader in Habsburg pay, cracked down on Brassó in 1689, he set the
entire city on fire. In the burning inferno turned the walls of the church black, giving
it the name the Black Church. The 88-meter-long, 23-meter-wide, 3-aisle church has
21-meter-high walls supported by buttresses which end in pinnacles. Originally two towers
were designed but only one built, which is 65-meter-high, and hosts a bell which weighs 6
tons! The church has 5 porches which still have the original oak-tree doors, counting 500
years. Above the southern porch, a renaissance fresco shows the coat of arms of Hungarian
king Matthias and his wife Beatrix. The apse also has 3 aisles, the pews were built in
1710-1714, and the altar dates 1866. The treasury of the church holds items, such as a
bronze baptismal tub from 1472, and 119 Oriental carpets which are the donations of the
wealthy Saxon dealers. An organ with 4000 pipes and 76 registers, made in 1839, makes this
mighty cathedral a complete and wonderful masterpiece of human art.
Brassó, similarly to other towns in Transylvania, had a complex system of defense walls
with towers and gates. Using the stones of the old fortress built by Saint Stephen I, they
started to build the city walls in the 15th century. The huge wall system had 28 towers
and 7 bastions, and it was so strong that Brassó could successfully defend itself against
the Tartas attacks. From these gates only the Katalin Gate is left today, which was
built in the 16th century.
(Bran, Rumania today) was built in 1377, as a link of
the chain of fortresses monitoring the important commercial and military road running
beneath the castle. Törcsvár was difficult to beleaguer because it was built on a very
steep hill. Hungarian king Ladislaus II (1490-1516) of the Polish House of Jagello
pawned the castle of Törcsvár to the city of Brassó, but Hungarian Prince of
Transylvania György Rákóczi II (1648-1660) sold it to the town.
In 1916, when Charles IV, the last Habsburg king on the Hungarian throne was crowned, the
city of Brassó offered Törcsvár to his bride, princess Zita. Unfortunately, time was
too short for the events ensuing rapidly. In two years, World War I ended, and the Allies
annexed the beautiful castle of Törcsvár, along with entire Transylvania, from Hungary
to Rumania (to whom these areas had never belonged before). The latest restoration work on
the castle of Törcsvár was performed by Mary, the Rumanian queen, who added romantic
ornaments to the castle.
After the Hungarian Conquest of Transylvania in
896, Szászhermány (Herman, Rumania today) became a Hungarian village. In
1211, Hungarian king András II (1205-1235) of the House of Árpád donated the Barcaság
(an area in south-east Transylvania with the capital of Brassó) to the German Knight
Order to protect the nearby borders of the Kingdom of Hungary. The German knights
built five fortresses in Barcaság (Keresztvár [Kreuzbugh], Földvár [Marienburg],
Feketehalom [Zeiden], Höltövény [Heltzdorf, and Törcsvár [Törtzburg]).
According to an exemption order issued by the pope in 1224, the German knights wanted the Barcaság
to be a break-away territory from the Kingdom of Hungary. Therefore, in 1225, king
András II ousted them, but he allowed the peaceful Saxon settlers to remain in their
villages. In 1240, Hungarian king Béla IV (1235-1270) gave them to the Cistercian order.
The church of Szászhermány was built in the 13th century in romanesque style. In the
15th century, as a result of the increasing Ottoman (Turkish) attacks, it was fortified.
12-meter-high and 4 to 5-meter-thick walls were built around the church. The wall system
has 8 enormous bastions. The main tower of the church was rebuilt to function as a
fortress tower. The defenders designated storage compartments in the inside of the walls
to store foodstuffs and valuables during siege periods. They use these compartments for
food storage even today.
The fortified church of the Szászhermány is a typical example of the gorgeous
architecture the wealthy Saxon towns could afford to build in Transylvania.