istorie3Middle Ages

Middle Ages: the most consistent information about the history of the city and of Bihor during this period comes from the Chronicles of Anonymus, Chronicles of Simon de Keza, Register of Oradea, Carmen Miserabile and the Articles of Association of Oradea Council. According to a later source, Painted Chronicles of Wien (drawn up in the second part of 14th century) the King Ladislau 1st the Holy (1077-1095) ”found in the parish of Bihor fortress, between the rivers Criș, in a hunting, a place where, at the urge of angels, decided to build in honour of Virgin Mary a monastery, a place he called Varad”. The first documentary acknowledgement of the city was noted in 1113 in a diploma of Benedictine abbey of Zobor. The context in which it is mentioned for the first time the toponymy Oradea (Varadinum) was caused by the repeated and destroying incursions of the Moravian prince Svatopluk, in his capacity of ally of the German emperor Henry IV, over a significant number of settlements on the Valley of Vahului and Nitrei (of today’s Slovakia).

In the final part of the document, among those who can testify about the carrying out of events, are mentioned the bishop Syxtus Vvaradiensis and the commissioner Saul de Bychar. Unlike many other medieval cities which were born following foundations, Oradea was the result of an evolution which extended over a period of several centuries which culminated with the union in a single nucleus, in the middle of the 19th century, of all settlements which were born around the fortress (Olosig, Oraşul Nou, Subcetate and Velenţa). Its development had much to gain from the building of the monastery which will later become the office of council (college) made up of 24 canons. The same king Ladislau will found here a diocese, and over a century from his death (occurred on 25th July 1095) he will be buried in the monastery erected at his order in Oradea (somewhere around 1134).

Sanctificarea sa la 27 iunie 1192 a marcat o ascensiune rapidă pentru instituțiile ecleziastice existente în oraș, atrăgând după sine și o creștere a importanței sociale și economice a așezărilor din jurul cetății ridicate în jurul mănăstirii. Episcopia catolică orădeană a cunoscut automat o prosperitate deosebită, subordonând Capitlul. Veniturile ei proveneau în cea mai mare parte din dijmă, din gestionarea minelor din zona Beiușului, din repetatele donații etc. Un eveniment important pentru istoria urbei l-a constituit marea invazie mongolă dintre anii 1241-1242 când o parte din grosul marii armate de invadatori s-a îndreptat spre cetatea de la Oradea pe care o va supune-o unui asediu, iar apoi cuceri și arde. Evenimentul este destul de bine cunoscut datorită scrierii călugărului italian Rogerius, prezent atunci la Oradea, autor, mai apoi, al scrierii Carmen Miserabile (Cântec de jale).

istorie2His canonization on 27th June 1192 marked a fast advancement for the ecclesiastic institutions which existed in the city, leading also to an increase of the social and economic importance of settlements around the fortress erected around the monastery. The Catholic Diocese of Oradea immediately knew a special prosperity, subordinating the Council. Its incomes mostly came from quitrent, from the management of mines from the area of Beiuș, from repeated donations etc. An important event for the history of the city represented the great Mongolian invasion of 1241-1242 when a part of the gross of the large army of invaders went straight towards the Oradea Fortress and subjected it to a siege, and then conquered and burned it.  The event is quite well known thanks to the writing of the Italian monk Rogerius, present at that time in Oradea, author, later, of the writing Carmen Miserabile (mourning song).

Because the human and material losses were high, the royalty encouraged massive colonizations after Mongolian withdrawal, and several settlements appeared around the monastery and the fortress: Velența (Venice or vicus Venetia) acknowledged for the first time in 1291-1294, East of fortress; Vicus Zombathely, West of the city, acknowledged for the first time in 1326; villa Hydkwzheleus (villa Sancti Laurentii or Szent Lörincz), South-East of the fortress acknowledged in 1273; Bolonia or villa Bon, South-West of fortress and East of the current cemetery of the city, acknowledged in 1291-1294; Olosig, located on the right bank of Crișului River, acknowledged in 1215 under the name of villa Latinorum Varadiensium; Sfântul Petru, East of Olosig, between Criș and the hills of Oradea, acknowledged in 1374. Apart from these, also appeared a few satellite settlements which will later be part of the city, respectively: Bihor Diocese (the oldest information about it came from 1273, it results that it was a joint property of the bishop of Oradea and council), Sântion (West of city, acknowledged in 1215), Ioșia (South-East, mentioned in 1261 under the name of Ewsy) and Seleuș (villa Sceleus acknowledged in 1213).

Beginning with the end of 15th century the city will start to receive from the royalty several privileges which will consistently reflect in its overall evolution. The first one was caused by the fast Ottoman incursion over the city on 7th February 1474 when the armies of Ali Oglu Malcovici, begul of Semendria, attacked Oradea taking advantage of the absence of Matei Corvin from the country. Because the city was destroyed to a quite high proportion, the king decided to repopulate it and bring it to the state of normality as soon as possible, on 16th April 1474 he gave the citizens of Olosig, Vadkert (Sfântul Laurențiu) and Velența the exemption from the payment of tricesima (customs duty taken for the merchandise introduced in the fair) on the whole territory of Hungary and from all categories of products. Later the document will be reinforced by the king Ferdinand I of Habsburg on 18th May 1553.

The economic development of the city will be obviously accompanied by a flourishing of cultural life felt especially with the penetration of the first germs of Humanism and Renaissance brought from Italy since the time of Charles Robert de Anjou and Ludovic the Great. The Italian Renaissance was much encouraged in Oradea by the fact that some bishops and high prelates of Catholic Church were native of Italian peninsula. Among these will especially stand out Andrea Scolari (1409-1426) considered to be ”a perfect incarnation of Renaissance spirit”.

During his episcopacy he attracted to the court a large number of Italian artists, built chapels, erected shrines, built a space for the foundation of a library etc. His rich activity will be successfully continued by his immediate successors among whom will stand out Ioan Vitez de Zredna ”the most impressive personality of Renaissance from Central Europe”, among other things guide of the first steps of Matei Corvin. He benefited from the friendship of the great humanist Enea Silvio Piccolomini (1405-1464) who arrived pope under the name of Pius II; beyond the cultural prestige, Oradea became at that time an important scientific centre, which was proven by the building by the famous astronomer Georg Puerbach (1423-1461) of an astronomic observatory and the placing of zero meridian in the city on the banks of Crișului Repede River, based on which will be then calculated the moment of occurrence of solar and moon eclipses (written in the so-called ”tables of Oradea” – tabulas varadienses). The last great bishop of Oradea, before the triumph of Reform, was Giorgio Martinuzzi (1534-1551). Serb by his father and Italian by his mother, he was a great admirer of Renaissance architecture, a very energetic and controversial spirit. His disappearance in 1551 coincided with the end of the period of prosperity Oradea knew since the second half of the fourteenth century.

istorie6At the beginning of sixteenth century the history of Oradea was marked by an event which took place in the centre of Europe, the battle of Mohacs of 1526 following which the Turkish troops managed to obtain a crushing victory over the armies belonging to Hungarian kingdom (the king Ludovic II himself will fall on the battle field).  By the defeat of Mohacs the centre of the continent became more and more an object of dispute between Austria and Turkey, on which occasion the principality of Transylvania intensified its tendencies of independence. In 1526 Ferdinand de Habsburg who crowned himself king of Hungary appointed as bishop of Oradea Ladislau de Macedonia. He could not fill the position however, because the city was in the hands of Ioan Zapolya, the competitor of Ferdinand. Only in 1528 the city was conquered by the Imperials, but the fortress did not surrender. After a decade of disputes, on 24th February 1538, the treaty of peace between Ferdinand and Zapolya, mediated by Gheorghe Martinuzzi was signed in Oradea. According to it, Zapolya was assured for life the title of king of Hungary, Croatia and Dalmatia and after his death the provinces mentioned would be transferred to Ferdinand. The unexpectedly fast death of Zapolya, in 1540, reopened the fight for crown. Because the successor of Zapolya, Ioan Sigismund, was minor, a regency was created, made up of Queen Isabella and three counsellors, among whom there was Martinuzzi.
Because after 1541 the principality of Transylvania constituted as independent principality, Oradea and Bihorul, just like Western counties, were called to choose between the alignment to Habsburg Hungary of Ferdinand or to the new principality. If initially, in 1542, in the partial diet of Oradea they declared their attachment to Habsburgs, eventually, after several dallies, they will finally decide the attachment in 1544, to Transylvania.

istorie5The increase of power of Ottoman Empire during the sixteenth century will not leave the history of Oradea untouched. Located at an important crossroads and benefiting from a strong fortress, it was much coveted by the strong neighbour from the East. In 1598, for example, the Turks arrived under its walls. The siege lasted between 1st October and 3th November, being thwarted by the long autumn rains and the diseases which began to haunt the Turkish camp. Although short and without reaching its objective, the Turkish attack led to the almost complete destruction of the city and of the Southern and Central part of Bihor county, where the armies passed on their way to Oradea.

In 1658 the Turks directed their attention again to Oradea under the pretext of punishing the Prince Gheorghe Rákóczi II who, in 1657, yielding to some old ambitions of his family, carried out a campaign in Poland to obtain the throne of this country. In retaliation, and because Oradea refused to make an oath of faith to the new prince imposed by the Turks, Rhédei Ferenc, they went again for the fortress which they will surround.  They will be helped by considerable Tartar troops and some Moldavian contingents accompanied by the Lord of Moldova himself and the chronicler Miron Costin. The siege, started at half September will be short, ending at the end of the same month without reaching its objective.

A new Turkish attack, this time successful, over the fortress took place in 1660. The Turkish troops, approximated to 45 000 men, arrived at Oradea on 13th July, being commanded by the cavalry commander Köse Ali Pasha. In short time they managed to evacuate the water from the moat of the fortress and to blow up the bastions Aurit and Ciunt. Devoid of a concrete external support, without provisions and completely demoralized, the defenders, in number of 300 out of the 850 they initially were, decided on 27th August 1660 to surrender the fortress to the Turks. The Turkish reign over Oradea stretched over a period of 32 years. The statues of Hungarian kings from inside the fortress were destroyed, thousands of peasants from the neighbouring villages were brought to clean up the moat of the fortress and to reconstruct the breaks in the wall, the city was rebuilt, new buildings were erected and the territory of Bihor was divided into five sanjaks.

The rejection of the Turks under the walls of Wien in 1683 was followed by a series of other victories which the Christian troops (especially Austrian) will carry against the Ottoman troops.  In this context, in the summer of 1691, the Austrians will arrive at the edge of Oradea, will surround the city and after they conquered Olosigul they proceeded to the siege of the fortress, not before they installed two batteries of 10 cannons and two felting machines on the hills nearby. The siege was long and drove away the civil population from the city. Weakened in intensity in the winter between the years 1691-1692 the siege was strongly resumed in May of the latter year. Using inflamed cannon balls the Austrians managed to set fire to a large part of the roofs of the buildings from inside the fortress, while the cannons from the hill caused great damage to bastions.  On 28th May 1692, with seriously decimated lines, without any hope of getting some help from somewhere, the Turkish garrison of the fortress surrendered. The entry of Austrian troops in the fortress at the beginning of June would mark the beginning of a new age in the life of the city and also the administrative return to the Christian world of Europe.