poza-mica-cetateORADEA FORTRESS
Oradea Fortress (Independence Place, nr. 41) was erected at the end of eleventh century, to initially protect a monastery with the patron of Saint Virgin Mary, monastery erected – as legend says – on an island between the arms of Crişului Repede River, near Peţa brook. In the beginning the fortification was made of a wave of earth, reinforced with palisade and with wooden towers.
After the installation in the fortress of the office of Roman Catholic Diocese of Oradea, a cathedral was erected in the precincts, served by a college made of 24 priests called Council.
Since its beginnings, Oradea Fortress had the role of polarizing nucleus of the settlements which lived in the area of Oradea, concentrating around it the political, military, legal, administrative and religious functions.

poza-mica-cetate4Around the Tartar Mongolian invasion of 1241, the fortress was not in a very good condition, which allowed the besiegers – by using a stratagem based on their extreme mobility – to conquer and destroy it by arson, tragic event described by the monk Rogerius in the poem Carmen miserabile.
Following the Council of Lyon, of February 1245, by the facilities given to the newcomers in the region, a vast process of reconstruction was initiated in Oradea. The constructive process was massively carried out at impressive dimensions during the following century. Thus, between 1342-1370, a gothic cathedral of remarkable sizes was built, being one of the largest in the Central Eastern part of Europe; an imposing episcopal palace was erected in the Southern part of the fortress.

Martin and Gheorghe Brothers of Cluj, made in the fortress between 1360-1370, the statues in bronze of the three canonized kings – Ștefan I, Emeric, Ladislau I –, and in 1390 they returned and made the equestrian statue of king Ladislau I, in natural and golden size on the whole surface; all the statues would be taken by Turks – in 1660 when they conquered the fortress – and molten for cannons.

poza-mica-cetate5Oradea Fortress enjoyed across time the special attention of kings of Hungary  – Ladislau I, Ludovic the Great, Sigismund of Luxembourg, Matei Corvin, Ioan Zapolya –, or princes of Transylvania – Ştefan Bathori, Cristofor Bathori, Gabriel Bethlen, Gherghe Rákoczi I –, who closely took care of its strengthening and development, establishing here the second residence, with the due glamour.
In the cathedral or in the cemetery of the fortress were buried not less than 7 kings and queens – Ladislau I, Andrei II, Ştefan II, Ladislau IV Cumanul, Queen Beatrix, Queen Maria and king-emperor Sigismund of Luxembourg –, as well as many bishops, among whom Andrea Scolari and Sigismund Thurzo.
On 25th August 1401, 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, which increased the fame and incomes of the fortress and settlements around it. But not only simple believers, but also kings come to visit the fortress and collect their thoughts in the cathedral of Oradea. Thus, on 31st March 1412, on Easter, the king Vladislav Jagello of Poland, accompanied by the king Sigismund of Luxembourg, made a halt here for more than two weeks.

patrimoniu-13In the fifteenth century, also known as the “golden century” of the fortress thanks to bishops who were also scholars of high erudition – Andrea Scolari, Ioan Vitez de Zredna, Sigismund Thurzo –, Oradea Fortress became a centre of humanism and Renaissance, of first size in Central and Eastern Europe. An impressive library was created and it held almost also the works of European humanists; a „Literarum asylum”, meeting place and place of erudite discussions for the Italian scholars, but also other nations from the Central and East-European area. A famous physicist of the University of Wien, Georg Peuerbach (1423-1461), founded here an astronomic observatory and by placing zero meridiane in Oradea, calculated the solar and moon eclipses in his famous “Tabulas Varadienses”. At capitulary school, which functioned attached to Oradea Fortress the great Romanian humanist scholar Nicolae Olahus studied at the beginning of sixteenth century.
As far as it concerns the religious life, apart from the role of office of Roman Catholic Diocese and important pilgrimage spot in Catholic world, two significant aspects can be noted. The great Unitarian resurrection of 22nd June 1565, would crown the dissolution of Catholic institutions of 1557, by the destruction of the cathedral from the fortress. The second one is the printing of the Hungarian edition of the Bible also known as the Bible of Oradea at the printing press from the fortress, in the very year of its conquest by the Turks.

patrimoniu-16At military level, the diocese from the fortress had its own army (banderia), which counted in 1427, 500 cavalry men and 500 infantrymen, recruited especially from among the Romanian voivodes of Bihor (Gepiş, Remetea). Leading the banderia, the bishops of Oradea participated and died in the battle at the crusade of Varna (1444) and the Battle of Mohács (1526).
After the fall of the Hungarian feudal kingdom and its division between Turks and Habsburgs, Oradea Fortress was disputed by Ferdinand of Habsburg and the king Ioan Zapolya. In this context, on 24th February 1538, the Treaty of Peace of Oradea was concluded in the fortress, the first international treaty which legalized the total separation of Transylvania from Hungary. The conflict was resumed after the fall of Buda under the Turks (August 1540) and the death of Zapolya (1541) and was to be completed with the conquest of Oradea Fortress, on 10th April 1557, by the army of the Principality of Transylvania.
Then was set up the Great Master’s Office of Oradea, with the main mission to protect the Western border of the principality and the Domain of Oradea Fortress, by the takeover of assets of the diocese and synod, the Catholic institutions being dissolved as a consequence of the triumph of Reform.
The role of the great captains of Oradea is significant both at local level and by the fact that some of them – Ştefan Bathori (since 1575 king of Poland), Cristofor Bathori, Ştefan Bocskai, Gheorghe Rákoczi II –, later became princes of Transylvania.

poza-mica-cetate2The political military changes in the area, generated by the fall of Buda (August 1540) and of Timişoara (1552), which became Turkish Pashalik, imposed for Oradea the building of a new fortification, adjusted to the requirements of the time. Thus, the princes of Transylvania hired Italian military architects, who were the most skilled at the time in such constructions, who made the new pentagonal fortress, with bastions on corners and a defence moat, of late Renaissance nature, in two stages, between 1569-1598  the precincts wall of fortification and between 1618-1650, the castle of the fortress.
Across its history, Oradea Fortress had significant connections with the other Romanian countries, a significant moment was considered the reign of Mihai Viteazu (1593-1601), when the army of the fortress (800 cavalry men and 1200 infantrymen), led by the captain Ştefan Bocskai participated in the campaign against Turks of 1595, in the battles of Târgovişte, Bucharest and Giurgiu, and a body of 1500 cavalry men, led by Aga Lecca, came in 1598 in the support of Oradea Fortress besieged by Turks.

patrimoniu-14The armies of Ottoman Empire besieged Oradea Fortress in 1474, 1598, 1658 and 1660, when – after a 46-day siege, which opposed to a Turkish army of 45,000 warriors a garrison of 850 men –, following a betrayal, on 27th August the fortress surrendered and for 32 years the Ottoman dominance has been established by the creation of the Pashalik of Oradea based in the fortress.
Following a very long campaign (July 1691- June 1692), on 5th June 1692, the last great governor of Oradea Abdulatiff Pasha and the General Donath Heissler, concluded a truce by which the Ottoman garrison capitulated and Oradea Fortress came under the reign of Austrians, moment which marked a triumph of Christianity and the entrance of Oradea in modern age. Beginning with 1692 the fortress became part of the Habsburg military system, fulfilling various functions, depending on the evolution of the political and military situation of the new province in the empire. The new rulers gave a special significance to Oradea fortress, which was proven by the campaigns of repairs and rearrangements carried out between the years 1692-1695, 1725, 1754-1755, 1775-1777 and 1883-1887.

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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 restoration process – which began in 1998 and was intensified in the following years –, is designed to show as much as possible the splendour in the old days of Oradea fortress and to make of its space the point of attraction of the natives and visitors so that the fortress truly represents  the emblem of the city of Oradea.