The fortress at Rasnov

There is a fortress near Brasov, built above a village-turned-town. It’s called Rasnov and it’s been there since early medieval times.

Râșnov citadel and village on the Josephine Map of Transylvania
Râșnov citadel and village on the Josephine Map of Transylvania

The citadel was built as part of a defence system for the Transylvanian villages exposed to outside invasions. A decisive aspect for building the citadel on the actual location was the route of the invading armies which were coming from the Bran pass and were passing through Râșnov on their way to Burzenland (Țara Bârsei). The only chance of survival for the inhabitants of the area, including the ones from the villages of Cristian and Ghimbav, was refuge inside the citadel. Compelled to stay there for decades, the people of Râșnov and the nearby villages turned the fortification into a dwelling.

Sources such as Wikipedia state that archaeological research revealed the existence of fortification traces on the citadel hill since prehistoric and Dacian times, but I have to say this is the case for virtually every town in Transilvania. At one spot or another in the city, archeologists will find traces of fortifications or houses that date way back to Dacian times or even earlier. Romania is an old country.

The medieval citadel we see today is considered to have been built between 1211-1225, during the rule of the Teutonic Knights in Burzenland. Although there is no written evidence for this, it makes sense historically.

In 1335, during a Tatar incursion that ravaged Burzenland, Râșnov and Brașov were the only citadels that remained unconquered. This is also the first documented attestation of the fortifications at Rasnov. In 1421, an Ottoman army laid siege to the citadel. In 1600, Michael the Brave along with his troops and his wife, Lady Stanca, retreated here after the defeat at the Battle of Mirăslău.

The citadel was conquered only once in 1612, during the rule of Prince Gabriel Báthory. The reason was the lack of water. While there was no well within the citadel walls, there was a path to a secret spring outside its walls, but this was discovered by the enemy troops. Without water, the siege quickly ended. An interior well was then dug inside the walls, directly in the rock bed, between 1623 and 1642. It is 146 metres (479 ft) deep.

In 1718 the citadel was partially destroyed by a fire and in 1802 it was damaged by an earthquake. In 1821 refugees from Wallachia (during the revolution led by Tudor Vladimirescu) retreated to the citadel. Between 1848-1849, because the region was constantly ravaged by Hungarian revolutionaries and Austrian imperial troops, the villagers retreated to the citadel. This was the last mission of the citadel as a place of refuge and defence. After those events ended, it was left to ruin, to be restored during the early 21st century.

We visited it in the summer of 2009. I hope you enjoy this gallery of photos I took there.