The Râșnov Citadel
Fortress / Tourist attraction - Râșnov
The Citadel of Râşnov is the most well-known touristic attraction from the city which carries the same name. It is also known as “The peasant Citadel Râşnov”, and it is a national monument belonging to the A class.
The only access path into the citadel is the currently used road, which was dividing into other three roads: one towards the fair, one towards the road between Cristian and Brașov, and one towards Cetății Quay. The field around the citadel, now covered with trees, used to be only an empty cliff covered only with wild rose bushes. Because of this, the place was called before The Valley of Roses. In 1388 appeared the first documentary proves of the settlement, under the name of Villa Rosarum, or Rosendorf, in translation The Village of Roses.
Etymologically, the word rosé comes from the Celtic rhodd or rhudd, which means red, and the word rose come from the neo-Greek trandaphilos, in translation 30 leaflets.
THE DACIAN CITADEL
On the Citadel Hill, archeological researches have proven the existence of some fortification elements from the Bronze Age. The defensive system included three moats and defence waves in the vulnerable place, meaning in the east. The Dacian fortification precedes the Romans’ conquest, and it seems to end close to the Dacian Wars. The settlement included principal living areas and cottages.
The last archeological researches, which date back from 2010, seem to confirm the existence on the Citadel Hill of the famous “Comidava”, a Dacian settlement mentioned among the “bright cities of Dacia” by the geographer Claudius Ptolemeu from Egypt’s Alexandria. Latinized, the toponym has become “Cumidava”, and under this name it appears on a monument which dates back from the time of the Roman emperor Alexander Severus (222 - 235 B.C.).
THE TEUTONIC CITADEL
The medieval fortress is supposed to be built in 1211–1225, in the time when the Teutonic chevaliers ruled Bârsa County. After the crusaders have left, the wooden fortress was rebuilt or transformed into one made of stone. There is no documentation to confirm this hypothesis, but the fortification of the peek starting in the antiquity, the military orders received by the German community in Bârsa County in the second half of the XIII century, the construction technique, the foundation and the elevation of the first building, identified by most of the historians in the XIII century, could be solid arguments to support the existence of a citadel previous than the one first mentioned in documents.
THE BURGH ON THE PEEK
The first documents mentioning the Râşnov Citadel refer to a strong fortification, resistant to an enemy’s siege, which saves the lives of the inhabitants sheltered inside its walls. The Citadel dates back from 1335, when during a Mongolian invasion in Transylvania, Bârsa County was completely devastated.
The first Turkish siege is mentioned in documents in 1421. The citadel has heroically resisted, and the Turkish have stopped the siege and headed towards the yet not fortified Braşov, which they have destroyed. The Turkish have also sieged with no success the Râşnov Citadel in their campaigns from 1436 and 1441.
During the natural catastrophes but also the military invasions, the settlement’s only chance to survive was the sheltering of its inhabitants in the citadel on the peek which dominates the road of Bran. The citadel, built on an abrupt cliff, is accessible only on its eastern side. Therefore, its architecture was adjusted to the relief, the fortification targeting the efficiency of the hill’s defence, without any architectural beauty claims. Imposing through its placing, emphasized by the clear cliffs, the citadel has had walls with the average height of five meters, a maximum number of eight bastions and a strongly fortified entrance.
For the construction, different types of rocks were used. For the framings in the Báthory Tower and the Weapons Tower, a volcano tufa with spongy aspect was used. Rock was used for the barbicans, the Axel edged Tower, and most of the constructions in the citadel. The main material used for binders, the limestone, was cut directly from the Citadel Hill cliff, processed in a burnt furnace, and then mixed with sand and water in a lime chest. The furnace was located under the Lower Citadel’s gothic cathedral and the lime chest to the north of the Big Barbican.
The citadel has two yards: an exterior and an interior one. In the exterior yard, also called the “front yard of the citadel” or the “citadel garden", the cattle was sheltered. Starting in the XIV century, in the exterior yard, a chapel was built. Concerning its shape, it is triangular, rising until the cliffs inside the citadel, and having a rounded edge towards the Báthory Tower. This construction technique hasn’t been used since the XVI century, due to its low efficiency against the artillery. After the modernisation of the siege techniques, the down citadel has become vulnerable and hard to protect. The walls were protecting the enemy and represented a great danger for the citadel’s defendants, fact demonstrated by the siege of Gabriel Báthory, in 1612. The solution found by the citadel’s inhabitants was to partially knock down the walls of the down fortress to ensure the visibility. The material remained after the walls’ demolish was used to modernize the Upper Citadel.
The greatest disadvantage of living in the citadel was the lack of current water into the fortress. When the sieges were extended, and the water reserves were ending, the refugees from the citadel were going out during the night on the main gate and were bringing water from a spring only they knew.
In March 1612, the ruler of Transylvania Gabriel Báthory, an enemy of the Germans, trying to restrict the freedom of the Transylvanian Saxon community, has organized a military campaign in the south of Transylvania. The Citadel of Râşnov has been protected by the inhabitants of Râşnov, Ghimbav, Cristian, and a draft of Romanian troops, which have been part of the army of Muntenia’s ruler, Radu Şerban. The German chroniclers state that the cannon balls from Báthory’s army have caused little damage to the walls, but the siege has become extremely efficient after a part of the enemy’s troops have occupied the eastern gradient, blocking the defenders’ access to the spring. On April 3rd, 1612, after multiple negotiations with the Hungarian ruler, the leaders of the Râșnov community have surrendered the citadel. The inhabitants of Râşnov took charge of the citadel again in June 1613, after a deal with the Hungarian ruler. Therefore, the Germans were paying a 3000 florins redemption for the citadels Râşnov and Bran.
The battles in 1612 have proved the necessity of a fountain. The citadel’s fountain has been delved in 1623 – 1640, until a depth of 76 fathoms, meaning 146 meters. Despite the legend of the fountain delved by two Turkish prisoners, who have been promised the freedom when the work has been done, the fountain was actually completed by German masters hired by the mayor of Râşnov. It has been used until 1850. The water in the fountain was full of limestone, and it has been used only for animals and washing, and only in extreme cases for drinking.
In the XVIII century, the changing of the political and military situation in the South-east of Europe towards the Habsburg Empire, the securing of the southern borders, allowed a continuous economic development of Râşnov, a border borough, but also due to the diminish of the military invasions’ danger, a decrease of the Râșnov community for the maintenance of the medieval citadel.
Moreover, in 1802, an earthquake has destroyed a part of the cannon balls and it rushed the transformation of the abandoned citadel into a ruin. In the citadel lived only one guardian who rang the bell in case of fire.
During the revolution in 1848 – 1849, Râşnov has been crossed by the Hungarian revolutionary army, but also by the imperial Austrian and Russian troops. Because of this, the settlement’s inhabitants preferred to take refuge together with their precious objects behind the fortress’s walls.
Impressed by the advantages gained by the inhabitants of Bran after transforming the Bran castle in a private residence of Queen Mary, the City Council of Râşnov, after meeting in a festive reunion on August 2nd, 1923, decided to give the Citadel of Râşnov to the Eire Prince Carol of Romania, hoping that the future king Carol II will transform the citadel into a “resting residence, as a relaxing place in the healthful corner of the Bârsa County”. Carol however has never shown interest in living in a medieval citadel, just as he has never shown enthusiasm towards his mother’s, Queen Mary’s idea to transform the Bran castle into a royal residence.
THE CITADEL RESTORATION
In 1937, after visiting the Citadel of Râşnov, Octav Şuluţiu has left for the posterity a beautiful description, but also a wise suggestion: “It would be a pity for this historical confession to be destroyed. A reconstruction of it should be necessary. But not a renovation which would fake it, by bringing new elements. To be remade everything there is, and that’s it”.
The earthquake on November 11th, 1940 has strongly damaged the citadel. The renovation mentioned by Octav Şuluţiu has become absolutely mandatory. Delayed by the war and the confusing years of instauration of the communist regime, the restoration of the Citadel of Râşnov took place only in 1955 – 1956.
THE CITADEL AND THE MOVIE
The Citadel of Râşnov entered the history of the Romanian cinematography as the favorite decor of the director Sergiu Nicolaescu for his historical movies Dacii (1966) and Nemuritorii (1974).
In 1967, in Râşnov has been directed the movie Columna; a coproduction Romanian-German-Italian directed by Mircea Drăgan, and having in the main roles Ilarion Ciobanu, Richard Johnson, Florin Piersic, Antonella Lualdi, Gheorghe Dinică. The movie was nominated the next year for the “Golden Globe” and “Oscar” for the best foreign movie. During the filming, in the citadel have been discovered traces of Dacian living.
THE LAST SIEGE
In 2000 – 2007, the medieval fortress has been damaged by the illegal interventions of the citadel’s renter SC Drumuri Publicitare SRL, represented by Alberto Drera. On the ruins of the evangelic chapel has been built a tower in which glass fiber reservoirs were installed, in the interior yard a restaurant-terrace has been built, in the chambers accommodation spaces were going to be built, the catholic chapel in the citadel’s garden was completely destroyed and the terrain was leveled with the excavator, causing a massive reduction until complete annulation of the possibility to study the layering of the archeological site, in the Triangular Tower Vellux windows have been installed etc.
The Mayor of Râşnov, the owner of the citadel has canceled in 2004 the concession contract and starting the summer of 2008 it has completely overtaken the administration of the historical monument.
Text source: http://www.rasnov-turism.ro/