Patrimony – Oradea Architecture and Legend
Oradea, city with millennial history, at the confluence of the Occident with the Orient, a true “bridge-city” between two worlds, managed throughout its existence, to absorb and configure according to its own vision of the world, the best which the two great “tectonic” cultural plates had to offer. The spiritual effervescence, the economic wealth of the community and its taste for the beautiful led to the city becoming an arena for architects of redoubtable value and for architectural styles very close to those of Central and Western Europe.
The most representative trace of Renaissance in our city is given by the Oradea Fortress. With an almost millennial history, the first signs of its configuration date back to the reign of the Hungarian King Ladislau 1st (Holy), 1077-1095, Oradea Fortress was and is the identity element of the municipality on the banks of Crişul Repede River. The current Pentagonal historical architectural monument (class A historical monument) represented by the Renaissance fortress of Oradea was built during the XVI-XVIII centuries. It is the unique complex of military architecture fortified with bastions in old Italian style in a relatively good state of preservation from the entire Eastern Europe.
Ever since its beginnings, Oradea Fortress represented “zero point” of settlements from Oradea area. It stood out as the polarizing nucleus of the future city, by concentrating the political, military, administrative, judicial and religious functions within its walls, it eventually became the nucleus of urban development of Great Oradea.
In its long existence Oradea Fortress served in turn as residence of Roman Catholic Diocese of Oradea (1092-1557) and as laic military site (1557-1857). It was along the line of history under different administrations: Hungarian/Transylvanian (1092-1660), Turkish (1660-1692), Habsburg (1692-1918).
The Fortress became an important religious centre, after the canonization, in 1192, of the founder of the Oradea diocese as Saint Ladislaus the Thaumaturge, and European pilgrimage spot (on 25th August 1401, the Pope Boniface IX gave a privilege to the cathedral from the fortress, which he raised to the rank of churches San Marco of Venice and Santa Maria Portiuncula of Assisi, allowing the Catholic believers to come in pilgrimage).
Oradea Fortress was in XV century one of the most important centres of humanism and renaissance in Central Eastern Europe, here scholars such as Andrea Scolari, Ioan Vitez de Zredna and Sigismund Thurzo carried out their activity. A great library functioned here, with books brought over from the whole of Italy, a Literarum asylum – meeting place for the great humanist scholars of the age, an astronomic observatory and a school of Catholic council.
Through the centuries, the fortress was besieged by: Tartars (1241), Ottomans (1474, 1598, 1658, 1660), Transylvanian rebels (1290, 1514, 1664, 1703 – 1710), the armies of the Transylvanian Principality (1557, 1603), Austrians (1692). On 24th February 1538 here the Treaty of Peace of Oradea was signed between Ferdinand de Habsburg and Ioan Zapolya, which consecrated the total separation of Transylvania from Hungary.
The Oradea Fortress was the resting place of many royal figures: Ladislaus I (brought to Oradea between 1130 and 1134), Andrew II (1235, eventually taken to Agria), Stephan II, Ladislaus IV The Cuman (1290), Queen Beatrix, wife to Charles Robert of Anjou (1319), Queen Mary of Anjou, wife to Sigismund of Luxemburg (1396), King-Emperor Sigismund of Luxemburg (1437). The great captains of Oradea played important roles throughout history, Stephan Báthori becoming King of Poland in 1575, whereas Cristofor Báthori, Stephan Bocskai and George Rákóczi II became Princes of Transylvania.
Beginning with 1692 the fortress became a part of the Habsburg military system, fulfilling different functions, according to the evolution of the political and military situation of the new province in the empire. Under the new reign, the Oradea Fortress gradually loses its importance, but not so much, we have as proof the campaigns of repairs and rearrangements, the massive investments made between 1692-1695, 1725, 1754-1755, 1775-1777 and 1883-1887.
By the decree issued on 16th May 1857, the emperor Franz Joseph permanently annuls the military aspect of Oradea Fortress, which served until 1918 only as auxiliary space. Even after 1918, the fortress continued to be a military objective, being used as such.
The fortress, apart from its function of defence, was also the place of many fairs. During the period of Habsburg reign, the crafts knew a real development in the area of Bihor, especially because of the system of facilities of payment of taxes applied to peasants. Organized by families, inherited from generation to generation, the crafts activities still live today, even if at less vast dimensions.