Oradea’s Fortress is one of the few bastion forts of Romania. It has been and continues to be the emblem of Oradea and the center of cultural events.
Archeological research has established the location of this first urban settlement at the foundation of our current city of Oradea. The first construction was initially erected at the end of the 11th century on an island between the arms of Crișul Repede (the Rapid Criș) and Peța, a swampy, forested area. Here, in the area named Grădina Cerbilor (the Garden of Deers) was where King Ladislaus of Hungary used to go hunting. Here is where he also erected a building, a church whose patron saint was the Holy Virgin Mary.
In 1619, the Transylvanian prince Gabriel Bethlen commenced the construction, within the fortress, of a unique palace, with walls that ran parallel to the exterior walls of the stronghold and a tower in each of its five corners. The construction was carried out based on the project of Italian architect Giacoma Resti of Verona. After the death of Gabriel Bethlen, the construction works were resumed by Gheorghe Rákoczi I (1630-1648), and then Gheorghe Rákoczi II (1648-1660). The Princely Palace, which is unique in Transylvania, was completed in 1650 in a late Renaissance style, being considered the most beautiful ensemble of monuments in the Principality.
The trench circling the Fortress is reminiscent of the important defensive role that this construction was assigned, being difficult to conquer throughout the centuries. The trench was filled with thermal water from the Peța Rivulet, but also cold water from the Rapid Criș, being 4 m deep and 50 m wide, a factor that prevented the water from freezing, which could have led to the Fortress being conquered during wintertime.
Oradea’s Fortress TODAY
Oradea’s Fortress is undoubtedly one of the most significant late medieval architectonic monuments in Transylvania and the entirety of the country. It is where the history of Oradea can be felt and seen the best. The Fortress was opened in 2015 following a long process to restore the buildings, courtyard and bridge. Construction works are still underway for the interior courtyard and the walls.
The museums, craftsman’s workshops, medieval reenactments, events and restaurants have the power to transport you to times long gone.
Currently, Oradea’s Fortress is also the center of Oradea’s cultural activities, hosting events ranging from medieval festivals to movie nights spent on the grass of the Fortress Park.
The Museum of Oradea City – Cultural Complex
The Princely Palace is our introduction to the history of Oradea through its 4 wings: A-B, C, D and E, part of them currently serving as the Museum of Oradea City – Cultural Complex.
Wing A is the oldest of the current architectonic ensemble, being built between 1620 and 1625 by Italian architect Giacomo Resti in the late Renaissance style. This wing served as a princely residence, the fortress having a role in the defense of the western frontier of the Principality of Transylvania.
The arch of the first hall is decorated with painted emblems featuring Latin inscriptions, segments of which have still been kept. In the second hall, there are mural paintings, featuring allegorical floral motifs, one of the most beautiful of the rooms being the Griffin Hall, which depicts eight mythical and real animals representing the princely virtues (valiance, strength, purity, tenacity, resilience, sharpness, swiftness).
A Lapidarium was installed in the basement, sheltering architectonic fragments of the Gothic cathedral, funerary items, etc.
Currently, the Museum of Oradea City – Cultural Complex is fully housed in Wings A and B, where a series of permanent exhibitions have been set up: Biserici în palat – cercetări arheologice în Palatul Princiar” (“Churches in the palace – archaeological research on the Princely Palace”); Expoziţia Episcopiei Greco-Catolice de Oradea – File de istorie (The Exhibition of the Greek-Catholic Bishopric of Oradea – Pages of History); Expoziţia Bisericii Reformate Oradea (The Exhibition of the Reformed Church of Oradea); Expoziţia Episcopiei Romano-Catolice de Oradea (The Exhibition of the Roman-Catholic Bishopric of Oradea), along with temporary exhibitions.
Wing C is home to the Art Gallery of the City, which is also integrated into the Museum.
One other permanent exhibition that is enjoying wide popularity is „Muzeul Pâinii” (“The Museum of Bread”), set up in Wing H, where a bakery operated for 300 years. It was built in 1692 at the order of General Corbeli. Three of the six furnaces have been put back on display for tourists, and can be admired along with other objects that have to do with “the history of bread.”
Also running within the Museum, in the basement of Wing K, is a unique area in Romania: The „Rezistență și Represiune în Bihor” (“Resistance and Repression in Bihor”) Memorial, as a memento of the fact that Oradea’s Fortress served, at the end of World War II, as Internment Camp no. 1, where ethnic Germans, USSR deportees and the first enemies of the people were incarcerated.