poarta-de-vestThe Western Gate (1573) was designed and built during the reign of the Prince Stephan Báthory. For a while, it constituted the single access point within the fortress. In Houfnagel’s print, the gate supported a tower with multiple levels on top of it. On top of the access tunnel, the guards’ room was placed, along with the bridge lifting mechanism. According to the same source, a tower with a clock mechanism was also built next to the gate.

The “curtain” between the Blunt and Bethlen Bastions: the short side which connects the Western Gate to the Bethlen Bastion is a “mottled construction”, relatively recent when compared to the others. It is comprised from Betfia limestone, as well as brick masonry. On its southern, internal extremity, there are signs of an ancient, currently disappeared building.

bastionul-betlenBethlen Bastion was completed, as inscriptions on it attest, in 1618, having been built according to the plans and under the supervision of the architect Giacomo Resti of Verna. It bears the name of the Prince who ordered it built, Gabriel Bethlen. Actually, on the edge of the northern ear, the commemorative plaque can be observed, inscribed in Latin, right under the builder Prince’s escutcheon. The inscription has been recently restored and preserved.

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Curtina-dintre-Bastionul-Bethlen-CraisorulThe “curtain” between the Bethlen and the Crăişorul Bastions was built, according to all appearances, between the summer of 1599 and sometime during 1604, according to sources regarding construction work in Oradea. It doesn’t appear on any previous plans or prints, neither in Giovan-Marco Isolano or Cesare Porta (1598 – 1599), not in Houfnagel. All indicate the presence of the old medieval wall in this area at the end of the 16th Century. Its composite aspect – Betfia limestone, profiled stone from the old medieval buildings, bricks, crystalline shale, and hone – led to the hypothesis that it was built by the Austrian garrison stationed in the fortress until the year 1606. Fear of attack from either the Ottomans or from their Transylvanian adversaries would have determined them to build it themselves, even lacking specialized workforce.

bastionul-craisorulCrăişorul Bastion was designed by the Italian architect Giulio Cesare Baldigara and built between 1569 and 1570, during the rule of Prince John Sigismund. It is covered with shaped stone cut in blocks of impressive size and layered in 15 rows. On its eastern side, many such construction elements are missing, reveling the “filling” behind them, comprised mainly of river stone, pieces of hone and shale, bricks and various architectural fragments repurposed from the medieval constructions. Some of these blocks resulted from the cutting of architectural fragments recovered from older buildings and mounted on the wall with their profiled sides towards the interior.

Curtina-dintre-Bastionul-craisorul-rosuThe “curtain” between the Crăişorul and Red Bastions, the link between the two feather-type bastions, was consolidated along with work being carried out on the Red Bastion, sometime between 1584 and 1598. At the base of the curtain, stone blocks can be seen, and over them, up to the band, a wall of 89 rows of bricks rises. The belt, extremely visible at the top of the wall, is lower than that of the Red Bastion, but higher than that of the Crăişorul Bastion, revealing temporal construction differences..

bastionul-rosuThe Red Bastion was built at the command of Prince Stephan Báthory. It undergoes multiple construction stages, extending between the years 1580 and 1598, the year of an Ottoman siege, when it becomes apparent that it’s only missing a part of its filling. The original conception belongs to Italian architect Domenico Ridolfini da Camerino, who gives it a grandiose aspect, but it will be completed according to the more realistic plans of another Italian architect, Ottavio Baldigara. The 1660 siege gravely affected the eastern ear of this bastion, on a portion of around 25 meters, where it was blown up by the Ottomans. This piece will be remade and strengthened with almost an additional meter in wall thickness, which can be observed to this day.
If in the case of the other bastions of the fortification in Oradea we are dealing with an angular ending of the tip, in the case of the Red Bastion, it is rounded; surely this variant was adopted in order to make it less vulnerable to cannon fire, as well as because of the very large surface it closes off.

Curtina-dintre-Bastionul-Aurit-RosuThe “curtain” between the Golden and Red Bastions was most likely built between the years 1582 and 1583, being already mentioned in documents in the following year. It construction is due, according to most sources, to the Italian architect Domenico Ridolfini da Camerino, as he was present in Oradea during that time. Initially, this curtain area was continuous, without a planned access gate; The Eastern Gate was built during the Habsburg domination, between 1775 and 1777.

poarta-de-est The Bridge, the Moat and the counterscarp towards the Dobrogeanu-Gherea Street – The Bridge is surely contemporary to the construction of the Eastern Gate, 1775 – 1777.

The counterscarp and the Moat, well defined in comparison to the southern side, serve today as green space, as a newly designed park.

 

 

bastionul-auritThe Golden Bastion was built, according to the inscription on one of the shaped stones visible until very recently, in the year 1572, at the command of Prince Stephan Báthory. Its name is also derived from the Báthory family, as their family crest was golden. This bastion was gravely affected by the Ottoman sieges, due to its orientation toward the Cat Hill (now known as The Mushroom Hill), from whence the Ottoman artillery bombarded the fortress in the years 1598, 1658 and 1660. Repairs became inevitable especially after the 1660 siege, when the pillboxes of the Golden and Red Bastions were toppled, along with the curtain between them, and when the Ottomans punched a great breach in another area of the bastion. A grand scale repair was undertaken after the Austrian siege of 1692, because the northern side of the bastion had been severely damaged.
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Curtina-dintre-Bastionul-Aurit-CiuntThe “curtain” between the Golden and Blunt Bastions was built between 1580 and 1581, during the final years of Cristofor Báthory’s rule. It is a massive wall, flanked on the interior by pillboxes. Its base is constructed out of massive stone blocks, as well as the belt, and the dominant note of the building is due to its brick masonry. It was also affected by the frequent sieges and bombardments, thus its top, over the belt, is hastily remade with raw stone brought from the Betfia limestone quarry.

bastionul-ciuntThe Blunt Bastion seems to have been built, or at least begun, during the rule of Prince John Sigismund. During the 1598 Ottoman siege, the Italian artillery commander, in his report to his superiors, notes that the bastion had been built during Stephan Báthory’s rule (1571 – 1575). The same historical figure recounts that, because of the long time it remained unfinished, it was called Blunt, due to its unfinished shape. It is most likely that it was erected sometime between the years 1574 and 1580.

bastionul-ciunt-2In the year 1581, the Transylvanian Prince Stephan Báthory speaks, in a document, of three finished bastions at the Oradea Fortress. On the 17th and 21st of October 1598, during the siege, the Blunt Bastion was mined twice and severely damaged. One year later, in 1599, its top it remade under the supervision of Cesare Porta and then Giovan-Marco Isolano. The completion of its repairs is engraved on the last bloc of stone under the belt, where the renovation year, 1599, is chiseled. During the 1692 siege, its northern side is damaged, being practically destroyed, as opposed to the western flank, which remained almost intact. This side will be rebuilt during the Habsburg rule.

A Summer Theatre was built within this bastion, with all the annexes necessary for its proper functioning.

corpul-aBuilding A – The Princely Palace was built between the years 1620 and 1629, during the time of Gabriel Bethlen, according to the designs made by Italian architect Giacomo Resti. Chronologically, this building brings the end of an era. More precisely, this construction ushers in the end of the medieval Oradea fortress and becomes ground zero of the Renaissance Fortress, being the first building erected in the current fortified complex. Its initial function was that of fortification, but also of Princely Palace. The building was considered the secondary princely residence, after that in Alba-Iulia.

sala-cu-grifoniThroughout the centuries it suffers numerous interventions and repairs, but proof of its greatness endures, in the “Griffon Hall”.
Currently it is undergoing an ample rehabilitation and restoring process, through a European financing initiative undertaken by the city of Oradea through the Regional Operational Program for 2007-2013. In the near future (until the year 2015), this side of the Princely Palace will host a Museum of the Fortress and of the City of Oradea, a library, the Asylum litterarum which once brought fame to the Oradea Fortress (The Library of Bishop John Vitéz of Zredna, comprised of books copied here or brought from Italy. It was the basis for the illustrious “Corviniana” library kept by Matthias Corvinus and it served to elevate many Transylvanian princes, diplomats and humanists) and other cultural spaces. Also, in the basement of the building, a lapidarium will be arranged, housing many of the items which will be discovered during this rehabilitation process. Of these items, the most significant are the foundations and a part of the elevation of the ancient Gothic cathedral, more precisely the northern wall of the north-western tower of the medieval episcopal cathedral.

corpul-bThe Princely Palace, currently Building B, was built in three stages, between 1620 and 1629, and 1638 – 1648 respectively, under the rule of Prince Gabriel Bethlen, according to the plans of Italian architect Giacomo Resti; the final stage of construction will be that of the years 1881 – 1882, when the new building emerges, as a barracks, founded on the old Princely Palace. Initially, it connected the old Gothic cathedral and the Renaissance diocese palace, and Building A, which acted as a Princely Residence.

Now, it connects the southern extremity of the Palace to the Baroque church. This building is an integral part of the second rehabilitation, restoration and revitalization stage, also financed by the Regional Operational Program. After rehabilitation, this building will house a Restoration Center, the Municipal Art Museum, the Multi-Confessional Museum and the Center for Religious studies, as well as a Marriages House.

corpul-cBuilding C, the south-eastern side of the Princely Palace, was built between the years 1638 and 1648, during the Principality of George Rákóczi I. It was designed, at the command of the Transylvanian ruler, by the local architect Emeric Sardi of Cluj. It was assigned, like the other two buildings (A and B) of the princely complex, a primary role as a princely residence. Of particular interest is the presence of the seven arches which close off the veranda on the external facade. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, it will suffer multiple modifications.

In a relatively good conservation state, this building will also be rehabilitated and repurposed, in order to house an Art Gallery and a Center for the Formation and Improvement of Cultural Management, by the year 2015.

biserica-din-cetateThe Roman-Catholic church in the Fortress: construction due to the Austrian dominion and the plans of architect Lodovico Marini, apparently built over older structures, out of which some still show, according to opinions of some historians and architects, Turkish construction elements. It was erected during the efforts to rebuild the Fortress between 1775 and 1777, and comes as a continuation of the wing of the Princely Palace which is represented by Building C. Baroque construction of exceptional simplicity, it initially merely served the military garrison in the Fortress. During the Napoleonic wars (1793 – 1813) and for some time afterwards, it serves as a church for the French prisoners in the Fortress. During the fire which consumed the city in 1836, the baroque tower is destroyed, being replaced by a simple pyramidal tower.

More recently, after a significant period – almost five decades of communist atheism – it was used as a storage space, then renovated and is now functioning as a church for Roman-Catholic Slovaks in Oradea.

corpul-dBuilding D, the building which housed the Staff of the Austrian Garrison in the fortress, was built starting in 1775. It belongs, conceptually speaking, to the same military architect, Lodovico Marini. It seems that on the spot occupied by this building, one level lower than any other in the princely complex, only one floor high, previously stood the stabled built during the rule of Prince Rákóczy II, most likely serving the Eastern Gate.
This building, after the ample rehabilitation process which will last until 2015, will become an Asylum Artorum, a Center for Excellence in Culture and the Arts.

corpul-eBuilding E, the northern side of the Princely Palace, underwent multiple building stages. The first is started during the rule of Prince Gabriel Bethlen. Between 1620 and 1629, work continues according to the plans of architect Giacomo Resti. The third building stage (1638 – 1648) is due to George Rákóczy I and consists of the extension of the building. Its current shape, corresponding to the final building stage, is given to it after the rebuilding campaign undertaken by the Austrians between 1775 and 1777. The military architect Lodovico Marini is responsible for this final form.

The building had multiple uses. Initially it served as an annex to the Princely Palace and an everyday living space for those serving the Court. Throughout the 18th Century, it becomes a barracks, but the most terrible function it has is given to it between 1945 and 1952, when it serves as a transient camp for the opponents of the communist regime.
Currently, this building is decommissioned and marred by collapses towards the inner courtyard, being the most ramshackle construction of the Oradea Fortress architectural ensemble, from a technical standpoint.

The work which will be started soon will repurpose this space as well, turning it into housing for various cultural functions, such as Community Cultural Center and Virtual Library.

corpul-gBuilding G (main northern facade) is built during the age of architectural dominance by the Italian architect employed by the Habsburg rule, Lodovico Marini, and it temporally belongs to the years 1775 – 1776. It is U-shaped. Its shape suffered modifications throughout the 19th Century. It acted as a food store, then as a household annex and, during recent years, as an artistic workshop.

According to the rehabilitation and revitalization plans for the Oradea Fortress, Building G will house the Fortress Administration, with storage spaces, administrative spaces, bathrooms and maintenance workshops.

corpul-hBuilding H – The Bakery was built in 1692, right after the conquest of the Fortress by the Austrians, at the command of general Corbelli. The bakery, with its six ovens, was most likely built according to the plans of military engineer Baron Ernst von Borgsdorf, tasked by the Viennese Court with making the designs for the rebuilding of the Oradea Fortress. It is remarkable that this space housed, initially, another building with a similar function, a “victuals repository” and that between 1692 and 1997, for no less than 305 years, it kept its main function. Now, the building is undergoing an ample rehabilitation and restoration process and according to the rehabilitation and revitalization plans for the Oradea Fortress, it will naturally house a “Museum of Bread” – an interactive museum where visitors will be able to knead and bake an authentic loaf of bread („pită”), like in centuries past. This museum will be joined by tasting space for pastries, with tables, an exhibition space and a production area.

corpul-iBuilding I was constructed between 1692 and 1714, at the command of the Fortress Captain. Until the middle of the 18th Century, it was the headquarters of the Austrian military administration and of the city’s sole customs office. The current shape is due to architect Lodovico Marini and is configured between the years 1775 and 1777, when it also changes function, becoming merely the barracks for the garrison and military engineers stationed in Oradea.

The future holds its restoring and repurposing, with European funding, into a center for cultural activity NGOs. More precisely, it is expected that a Cultural Consortium will take shape, with office space, administrative space, conference halls, volunteer centers and a conference aula.

corpul-j-2Building J was initially the Fortress gate (1573). The gate tower and the Clock Tower visible on Houfnagel’s print were built on it and in its proximity, respectively. Ab initio, in its right side stood the stables and the carriage shed. Its current shape, with its six bays, is given to it between the years 1775 and 1777, when, under the direction of architect Lodovico Marini, it is rebuilt. Now is the time when the Clock Tower is lost forever. It maintains its function as a stable, but, lacking a guard tower, it also becomes a guardsman room.

Now, the first two bays, those with verandas, act as offices and restaurants. The third bay, “The Red Grotto”, restored and adequately equipped, is now a multifunctional space with its primary use as an exhibition. The exterior was also rehabilitated. It is expected that the last three bays will become art galleries.

corpul-k Building K – Officers’ barracks (southern facade) was built between the years 1775 and 1777, according to plans by architect Lodovico Marini. The two buildings erected then (the storage room of the main headquarters of the staff and the officers’ barracks) were united (having once been divided by an access corridor to Building L) and took on the exclusive function of lodging the officers. Its edification was realized, according to historical sources, over older buildings inhabited by Pauline monks.
According to the plans for rehabilitation and introduction in the tourist circuit of the Oradea Fortress, a European Center will be established here, in its eastern area, with information/presentation spaces and three specific gastronomical centers, which will promote and perpetuate local gastronomy, whereas its western area will house a metal workshop, a carpentry and furniture workshop, a locksmiths workshop, a potter’s workshop, a glassblower’s workshop, an antique bookstore and an antique shop.

corpul-lBuilding L – The northern curtain barracks was built between 1775 and 1777, during the architectural dominance of military architect Lodovico Marini. It is an extremely sturdy and roomy barracks, as one of the most exposed and often attacked areas of the Fortress. The massive brick arches attest to this aspect.

Apart from its primary function, this space had other roles to play. Being very sturdy, but also cold and dark, its peacetime purpose was that of a prison. While it normally “housed” the arrestees of the Oradea garrison, during the war between the House of Austria with Napoleon (1793 – 1813), this was the imprisonment space for approximately 450 prisoners from the French army.

In the restoration plans for the Fortress, this will be the Guilds Street; the eastern side will display a wine and traditional food gallery, while the western side will house the annexes of the Summer Theatre.

corpul-mBuilding M is comprised of the ensemble formed by the Eastern Gate and the two buildings annexed to it, the Guard building and the Stables. The curtain built between 1582 and 1583 in order to connect the Golden and Red Bastions did not have an access gate planned for this eastern alignment. On multiple designs, sketches and descriptions [Szamoskozy’ description of 1603, as well as Benzini’s (1752) and Marini’s (1769) plans] made until the year 1776, the date of Lodovico Marini’s plans, a gate is conspicuously absent. It was opened by the military commandment only in 1777. The lack of a gate on this side, up to this date, is justifiable due to the exposure towards the Cat Hill (now known as The Mushroom Hill), from whence most of the artillery attacks were orchestrated.

On the left side of the gate, a guard room was built, now a room for the fortress’ security, and on the right side, symmetrical to the Western Gate, the stables, this time as a casemate, buried.
In the near future, this area will become a cultural activity hub: club, cinema, experimental theatre, children’s theatre, dance halls and storage spaces.

corpul-pSummer Palace – Building P was built sometime around 1572, along with the Golden Bastion; between its ears, two casemates were built, which communicated through a connecting corridor. A little later, probably also due to its north-western axis placement, a princely recreational spot was built over them, between 1638 and 1641. The simple construction, built on stone pillars, with a shingled roof, is mentioned in documents as a “summer house”. Now only the U-shaped basement remains and can be observed.
This is where, due to ongoing European funding, a Fortress Lapidarium will be established.

Bibliography