Photo: Strainu

Alsórákos (Racoș, Ratsch, Ruekesch) is 45 km from Brassó (Brasov, Kronstadt) to the north-west. It is located on the left bank of the Olt River, at the Pass of Alsórákos. It is in an area called Transylvania, Erdély, Siebenburgen, it can be found in Romania. The settlement is famous for its fortified church and for the Sükösd-Bethlen castle.

Photo: Zsolt Deák

The place got its name from its stream now called Sóskút which used to be the Rákos Stream. Before the Mongolian invasion of 1241, the settlement may have been inhabited by the Pesenegh which was destroyed by the Tatars. The settlement was first mentioned in 1377 as Racus.

Photo: Zsolt Deák

The village had a church in the Middle Ages. Rákos used to be the center of the local thriving basalt mining. If you visit its cemetery, you can find very unique and ancient wooden tomb monuments called “lábfa” and “fejfa” or “kopjafa”. (“foot-wood” and “head-wood”) They planted not just one curved wooden monument at the head of the buried but placed a second one at the foot of the grave, too. In the pictures I’ve added some examples of the Hungarian wooden monuments from various regions; you can even see the Székely rovan / rune writing on some of them. (Not necessarily from the village of Rákos, just for illustrations for the reader.)

Székely Rovan writing
A “kopjafa” (Nyergestető, Transylvania)
old “kopjafa” types (man, woman, lad, girl, kids)

There are two churches from the earlier period, the Reformed church of the village was built in 1676 on the foundation of the old church while the Unitarian church was built in 1673 on the Kalamár Hill. In the neighborhood, there are the scant remains of three castles on the tops of the surrounding hills. The small castle-palace of Alsórákos is still standing in the settlement but it is in a very ruined condition. The foundation of the small fort is a quadrant with a bastion in each corner. It was built in 1624 by Sükösd György, a Field Captain, according to a script on a bastion but it must have been just a reinforcement because the walls were standing in the 16th century already. (Please note, I am intentionally using the Oriental name order for Hungarians where family names come first.)

Its gate tower was rebuilt by Lord Bethlen Sámuel, you can see his coat of arms with a serpent on the gate with the year number 1700. Inside, there was a painted wooden terrace that led to the knightly hall where the ceiling was decorated with murals. There used to be a moat with a drawbridge around the walls.

The Sükösd-Bethlen castle (Photo: Ralucami83)

The renovation of the castle has been started already so take heart. It was Lady Kemény Anna, the wife of Bethlen Farkas who inherited the castle from Sükösd György. In the last century, the following script was still visible on its wall “P. B. Anno Di 1669. 7. Jun.” It stood for Budai Péter who was the adopted son of Bethlen Sámuel and who was the next owner of the fort. We have from this period the letter of Literáti István who wrote that the gate boasted a “drawbridge which was operated by chains”. In his inventory, there were listed 5 hook-guns and a musket, and several carabines that guarded the gate tower. In other rooms, there were further 16 hook guns and muskets, several carabines, and a few barrels of gunpowder, fuse, and lots of saltpeter.

Photo: Imre Lánczi

At this time, the guard house used to stand in the middle of the castle yard while the house of the Hajdú soldiers was under the gate corridor where the dungeon took place as well. The last owner of the palace castle was Teleki Sámuel in the 19th century who didn’t stay there much because he was a famous discoverer of lands in Africa.

Photo: Imre Lánczi

The place began to decay after 1918. According to the statistics of 1992, there lived 2,996 people altogether, 1,804 of them Hungarians, 529 Romanians, 5 Germans, and 657 Gypsies. You can read more about Székely people on my page:

Here are some videos, the first is about how the Székely people celebrated in their church in 2008:


Photo: Kovács Attila
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Here are a few more pictures of the fortified church and the Bethlen castle: