biserica-din-cetateWith a history of almost 1000 years, Oradea Fortress has every asset to become a first rate tourist attraction, not only for the city on the banks of the Crișul Repede River, but also for the western region of Romania, and, in a wider sense, for the central-eastern-European area. Its historic past, architecture, the stories and legends about certain events which left their mark on its existence, all of these converge to give it a note of attractiveness and originality coveted by many other monuments.

Oradea Fortress, the cradle, the core out of which the city known as Oradea Mare, Nagyvárad or Grosswardein grew is a reference point for the urban development and history of this area.

Ever since its beginnings, the Oradea Fortress was the polarizing nucleus for the settlements of the area, by concentrating the political, military, administrative, judicial and religious functions within its walls. It constituted an important religious center after the canonization, in 1192, of the founder of the Oradea diocese as Saint Ladislaus the Thaumaturge, becoming during the 13th and 14th Centuries a pilgrimage spot on par with any other in Europe.

 

The active involvement of the bishops in its development and its effervescent cultural life transformed the Oradea Fortress of the 15th Century in one of the most important centers of Humanism and the Renaissance in Central-Eastern Europe. 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 (Georg Peuerbach and his illustrious Tabulas Varadiensis, those which establish the Prime Meridian of maps in Oradea, for several centuries), as well as a Catholic Chapter school, where the great humanist scholar Nicolaus Olahus studied.

The Oradea Fortress was also, for 203 years, the primary reference point, the Prime Meridian for the making of maps which helped make great geographical discoveries. This meridian passed through the fortress. Its localization here was established by the Austrian physicist Georg von Peuerbach, at the request of the great humanist and bishop of Oradea between 1445 and 1465), John Vitéz of Zredna.

Throughout its history, the Oradea Fortress served as residence for the Roman-Catholic Diocese of Oradea (1092 – 1557), as well as a strictly military fortress (1557 – 1857) governed by various successive administrations: Hungarian/Transylvanian (1092 – 1660), Ottoman (1660-1692), Habsburg (1692 – 1918). Through the centuries, the fortress was sieged 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), but it was conquered only three times.

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 only Roman-German Emperor to be entombed outside Germany).

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Gheorghe-Rakoczi-al-II-leaThe 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.

Besides its defensive function, the fortress played host to numerous fairs, as for example the St. Mary Fair, where wares from throughout the Orient and Occident were trades, and where, according to a famous Turkish traveler, Evlia Celebi, “40.000 people [were present]”.

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From an architectural standpoint, the Oradea Fortress went through three great stages of development. A Romanesque stage, a Gothic stage and finally, the Renaissance-Baroque stage, which left its mark on the monument to this day. The Oradea Fortress, as a result of rebuilding and extension during the 16th and 17th Centuries, takes on the typical guise of an Italian bastion fortification, with feather-type bastions, being the only such fortification in the whole of Eastern Europe.

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