Kolozsvár in 1617

Kolozsvár (Klausenburg, Cluj) was the historical center and the most important town of Transylvania, the birthplace of the Hungarian King Matthias Corvinus but Prince Bocskai István was also born here. The city can be found in Romania. Historically speaking, Kolozsvár used to be populated by Saxons and Hungarians alike but it has been heavily industrialized in the 20th century and now the Romanians are in majority. Read more about the Saxon people of Transylvania here:



The church at Monostor (Photo: Roamata )

Kolozsmonostor castle now is part of Cluj Napoca (Kolozsvár) and its history is closely connected to the city. The Abbey of Kolozsmonostor used to be the second most important and the second earliest institution of the Roman Catholic Church in Transylvania. Kolozsvár was the historical center and the second most important town of Transylvania, today Kolozsvár is the second-largest city in Romania. There are three important fortifications that are situated in the city: the early medieval fort of Kolozsmonostor, the walls of Kolozsvár, and the impressive Upper Castle of Kolozsvár which was built in 1713. Now, we are talking about Kolozsmonostor castle.

History of Kolozsmonostor castle

In the beginning, the settlement used to be a fortified Slavic place in the 8th-9th centuries, then it became the center of the Hungarian Kolozs County where the Comes of the county lived. Kolozsmonostor is now part of Kolozsvár but it used to be 2.5 km away from it in the 12th-13th century when the Comes of Kolozs moved there. Soon, it lost its importance because of the growing city of Kolozsvár.

The bell tower at Kolozsmonostor

After the Home-taking of the Magyar tribes, the Hungarians built an oval-shaped earth fort in the 9th century that was 220 x 98 meters large with an entrance at the south-eastern corner. However, Romanian and Hungarian historians have different opinions about the history of the place. Romanians say it had been founded by the Dacians long before the Hungarians appeared. On the other hand, the Hungarians reason that it must have been a Magyar settlement because there was a medieval cemetery excavated in it and the oldest coins they found were from the age of the Hungarian King András I (1046-1060).

Further archeological finds and coins were found that can be connected to the attack of the nomadic Úz tribesmen around 1068. The monastery was dedicated to the Virgin Mary and it was founded by King Saint László, and it had a very strong wall around it in the 13th century. The church was mentioned first in 1214 as „ecclésia de Clus”. However, it was destroyed during the Mongolian invasion in 1241.

Calvaria Church entrance
Photo: Roamata

It is assumed that the comes of Kolozs County had moved his office to Kolozsvár before the Mongolian Tatars’ coming. In the northern part of the Gothic church, there are the remains of a typical Hungarian round church. These small churches had a circular basement, they were in fashion during the Árpád dynasty in the entire Carpathian Basin. There are about 150 of them in the medieval Hungarian Kingdom, more than anywhere in Europe. Historians say this church might have been the Saint Miklós Chapel which was still standing near the Gothic church in 1418 but it had been built no sooner than the 13th century.

The Gothic church of Monostor was built around 1360. Kolozsmonostor was not under the direct authority of the Transylvanian bishop, it was directly under the Bishopric of Esztergom and we know that many documents were issued there since 1288. It caused conflicts with the bishops: Bishop Adorján (1190-1201) had the monastery destroyed while Bishop Vilmos destroyed only the documents issued there, a couple of decades later. The Bishop of Transylvania acquired all the lands around Kolozsmonostor but he could not force the Abbey to give in to him: they remained under the authority of Esztergom and the Pope in Rome.

Kolozsvár, 17th century

In 1362, some of the burghers of Kolozsvár had a conflict with a nobleman called Pál, son of Chuey who lived in the nearby settlement of Szucság. The nobleman took shelter in the Monastery but the burghers laid a siege on it: they captured and beheaded him. The case is connected to some suspicious real-estate business of the monks Not much later, Abbot Ottó and a scribe, called István were forging documents to get some of the Abbey’s properties back. Soon, the Abbot disappeared and the scribe was burned at the stake. The privileges of the Abbey were temporarily withdrawn and its seal used for the forgery was destroyed. However, Queen Mary restored the Abbey’s rights in 1384.

Abbot Antal (1424-1451) was the one who made the inventory of the Abbey’s library in 1427. There were 42 books there at that time. He was a dedicated leader who tried to get the Abbey’s lands and privileges back with renewed vigor. Among other dignities, Abbot Antal also sued Bishop Lépes György of Transylvania. Lépes was the high priest who triggered the bloody Peasant War of Budai Nagy Antal in 1437. We can read the name of Abbot Antal on the sun clock of the Abbey. The rebelling peasants plundered the Abbey in 1437 and killed its notary public called Scribe Balázs.

Photo: Pan Ioan

Later, the abbots were appointed by the rulers of Hungary and Transylvania; these abbots didn’t need to belong to the order, though. In 1465, during the reign of King Matthias Corvinus, an abbot called Pécsváradi Péter had the monastery fortified without the permission of the king. Hearing it, the king had it pulled down in 1466. It is assumed that the remains of the circular tower standing in the northwestern corner of the earthen fort are from that period.

Photo: Mihai Andrei

The church was decorated with murals and colored windows in 1492. The Diet held in Kolozsvár in 1556 decided to confiscate the properties of the Church so the economic function of the Abbey ceased to exist. In 1557, the Judge of Kolozsvár city took control of the documents stored in the Monastery. All the letters were transported to the city in 1575. Prince Báthory István gave the Abbey to the Jesuits in 1579, along with five villages in the area. The church was struck by lightning in 1595 and it was still in decay in 1614.

The COA of Kolozs County

It was restored only around 1620. Later, the buildings were owned by the Chamber of the Prince. The church was utterly destroyed during the Crimean Tatar raids between 1658 and 1661. Then, it was Lady Perényi Katalin, the widow of Prince Kemény Simon who had it restored. However, it burned down during the War of Independence of Prince Rákóczi Ferenc in 1704.

After the fall of the Transylvanian Principality, the Abbey became the property of the Jesuits again. When the Jesuits were expelled from the country in 1773, the church served as a military storage building, then it became a granary in 1787. After long years of destruction, the Roman Catholic Church had the building restored in 1994, winning the Europe Nostra Award with the work. Officially, Kolozsmonostor became part of Kolozsvár in 1895.

The town of Kolozsvár

Photo: Kocsis Kadosa

Its first fort was built in the 10th century but was destroyed during the Mongol invasion of 1241. The Saxons were invited there in 1272 and they built its Óvár (old castle) in the second part of the 13th century while the third fort was built in the 14th century. The various guilds of the city were in charge of the assigned bastions and walls. The first Hungarian mention of the city is from 1257, as “Kulusuar”.

The Óvár received its first privileges and became a town in 1316 and King Zsigmond made the city a free royal town in 1405. The king awarded the burghers the same rights that Buda enjoyed: local authority, the right to keep markets, and stopping merchants who were passing through. He also allowed them to build new walls, towers, and bastions, not to mention the moats. The constructions began in earnest, due to the imminent Ottoman peril. At that time, there were only about 3-4 thousand burghers in the city so the work was going on slowly, it was not finished in the age of King László V. The 3-kilometer-long wall around the city was completed at the end of the 1470s.

Photo: Kocsis Kadosa

The town was taken by the rebelling peasant troops of Budai Nagy Antal in 1437 for a short time. (They were defeated in 1438.) At that time, half of the inhabitants of the town were Saxon and half of them were Hungarians, just like in the 15th century. Lord Szilágyi Mihály ordered in 1458 that the city should be led by 50 Hungarian and 50 Saxon men. King Matthias Corvinus beheaded the plotting nobles in the city in 1468. (Note, I am using the Eastern name order for Hungarian names where family names come first.) There were about 20 guilds in the city during the 15th century, the largest was the Butchers’ Guild. They guarded the main gate of the town and they maintained the biggest bastion, the so-called Butchers’ Tower where 16 cannons could be placed.

Photo: Kocsis Kadosa

During the peasant uprising of Dózsa György, the rebels led by Priest Lőrinc were defeated next to the city in 1514. Priest Lőrinc was burned at the stake in the middle of the town. King Szapolyai held his Diet there in 1538 during the Dual Kingship of Hungary: at that time, he ruled Eastern Hungary while King Ferdinand was controlling the western part of the kingdom. Eventually, Eastern Hungary became the Principality of Transylvania and Kolozsvár became a very important city in it. Queen Isabella, the widow of King Szapolyai János was crowned here in 1551. Her son, Prince (and elected King) János Zsigmond made Kolozsvár famous as a Protestant city: it was the time when the burghers left the Orthodox Lutheran Church and became Unitarians. Heltai Gáspár was the greatest Unitarian priest of Kolozsvár.

Photo: Kocsis Kadosa

Prince Bocskai István was born here in 1557. You can read more about Prince Bocskai here:


Photo: Kocsis Kadosa

Prince Báthori István beheaded the plotters against him in 1575 on its main square. Similarly, Prince Báthori Zsigmond beheaded the plotting nobles also here in 1594. The Diet reelected Prince Báthori Zsigmond in 1601 in Kolozsvár, as soon as General Basta removed the Wallachian Mihai Viteazul from power by betraying him. During the Báthory-rule, the fortifications of the city were repaired and reinforced. They rebuilt the Hídkapu (Bridge-gate) Tower, the Monostor Gate, and the Közép (Middle) Gate.

in 1890, the Tailors’ Bastion

Altogether there have been 37 Diets held in the city. Prince Székely Mózes minted the best and nicest gold coins in Kolozsvár in 1603. The first university of Transylvania was established here by Prince Báthori in 1585. Its Jesuit professors in 1603 were unfortunately chased away and so the university closed its gates.

King Matthias’ statue in Kolozsvár (Cluj, Klausenburg, Romania)

The town was in its heyday during Prince Bethlen’s period when Transylvania was called a “Fairy Garden.” Bethlen Gábor was elected as Prince of Transylvania in Kolozsvár in 1613. He paid the cost of rebuilding the southern corner bastion in 1629, now it is called Bethlen Bastion. Kolozsvár was prospering and it was called the “Treasure-house Kolozsvár”, the city of the princes and many Transylvanian Diets. Prince Bethlen Gábor issued a document here in favor of the Jewish inhabitants all over Transylvania in 1623 which permitted them to settle freely, trade freely, and practice their religion freely, without the obligation of wearing the distinctive marks for the Jewish. 

Bethlen’s Gold Forint

Like Prince Bethlen Gábor, Rákóczi György I. was elected here to be Prince. Prince Rákóczi György I (ruled 1630-1648) also repaired the walls and the bastions. More and more high-ranked noblemen moved to Kolozsvár and began to build their rich houses in the city. Prince Rákóczi György II also took good care of Kolozsvár and he paid attention to maintaining the defenses. It proved to be useful as the Turks besieged the city in 1658. The enemy pillaged and burned the area and made Kolozsvár pay a high ransom. 

1661: Prince Kemény János, supported by the Habsburgs’ Imperial army besieged and took Kolozsvár, leaving  German soldiers in its garrison. A year later, Prince Apafi Mihály, supported by Bey Kucsuk Mehemed of Jene, besieged Kolozsvár. Fortunately, the city avoided the worst because the Prince made a Truce with the men of Emperor Leopold I. Finally, Prince Apafi took Kolozsvár in his hand only in 1664 because the unpaid German garrison rebelled and opened the gates before him. 

The Saint George statue at the Farkas Street Church (Photo: Markolaci)

 During the Reconquest Wars of Hungary, the Imperial troops entered Transylvania. General Friedrich Veterani marched in  Kolozsvár in 1687 without any resistance. Emperor Leopold ended Transylvania’s autonomy in 1690 and Kolozsvár began to decline. After this time, Transylvania was directly under the Habsburgs’ control, unlike the Kingdom of Hungary. However, Kolozsvár was the city where the Union of Transylvania and Hungary was declared on 30 May 1848. After 1867, Kolozsvár ceased to be the administrative center of Transylvania but it remained the center of the County. Yet, the city was the most important city of Transylvania, and also the center of culture and education. It became Transylvania’s capital again only in 1790.

The Tailors’ Bastion in 2014 (Photo: Codrin.B)

The Upper Castle of Kolozsvár

The Upper Castle is called Fellegvár in the Hungarian language, and Cetățuie in  Romanian. The huge fort’s history is closely connected to the city’s history. Naturally, it cannot be described without reading the above-mentioned descriptions of the city’s history because it is needed to understand why such a strong fortification had to be built there by the Habsburgs.

During the Reconquest Wars of Hungary, the Habsburg Imperial troops entered Transylvania. General Friedrich Veterani marched in  Kolozsvár in 1687 without any resistance. Emperor Leopold ended Transylvania’s autonomy in 1690 and Kolozsvár began to decline. After this time, Transylvania was directly under the Habsburgs’ control, unlike the Kingdom of Hungary. Prince Rákóczi Ferenc II launched his War of Independence in 1703 and Kolozsvár was a very important town for the rebels. Prince Rákóczi marched into the town in 1707. It was the year when the Diet of Ónod declared the dethronisation of the Habsburgs.

After the fall of Rákóczi’s War of Independence in 1711, the Imperials thought it necessary to build a huge fort next to the city at the confluence of the Szamos and the Nádos rivers. The construction took place between 1713 and 1716. It is located on Fortress Hill. As a punishment for the Hungarians’ involvement in Rákóczi’s war, the Habsburgs made the inhabitants of Kolozsvár pay the expenses of the new fort.

Kolozsvár by Conrad von Weiss, 1735

Bravely, the burghers of Kolozsvár were protesting and refused to pay the 5,000 Gold Forints that they were supposed to give. One of the reasons for their dismay was that the fort was going to be built on the best quality lands and vineyards of the city. Moreover, the Imperials began the work without allowing the burghers to complete the harvest. Finally, the city had to provide the necessary labor free of charge.

The fort was designed by a military architect called Murando and the work was completed by Count Wirmond between 1721 and 1723. The fortress was built on the hill previously known as Kőmál Hill, on the edge of the town. Before, there were only two buildings there: the Saint Erzsébet Hospital from the 14th century and the Holy Spirit Hospital from the 15th century. The primary goal of the Vauban-style fortification was to deter the locals from any uprising. Mainly, the fort was used as a storage and a prison. It was famous for its deep wells. In the end, it was Emperor Joseph II who closed the castle and sold it to the city in 1782.

The southern gate of the citadel (Photo: Roamata)

What can we see in the fort?

Fortress Hill is located north of the historical center, at an altitude of 405 meters, and has the appearance of a plateau. It is next to the Kis Szamos River.

The only surviving building in the citadel (Photo: Ana Maria Catalina)

There we can see the so-called Upper Castle but only part of the walls, four buildings, and three gates remained intact. However, the star-shaped fort used to be surrounded by five earthen walls and several bastions protected it. One of the remaining buildings was the armory while the other one was used for storing gunpowder. Nowadays there is a public garden that was created in 1900. It included a 420-meter-long promenade. Fortress Hill has also a Panoramic Point which offers a great view of the city.

Source: https://castles.today/hu/

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The statue of King Mathias Corvinus in 1902

Here are more pictures of the fortifications of Kolozsvár: