Marosillye aka Ilia or Elienmarkt is in Transylvania, in Romania. Its castle is famous for Prince Bethlen Gábor who was born there on November 15, 1580. (He died on the same day 49 years later.) The place was first mentioned in 1260 as Helya, then in 1266 as Elya, and later in 1292 as „terra Elya”. The fort was guarding the crossing place of the Maros River.
The Ákos Clan of Illye received a permit from the Hungarian king in 1292 to settle Wallachian shepherds on the land. We know that the settlement had a right to keep markets in 1350 when the lands of the Hungarians and the Wallachians were separated by the Transylvanian Voivode.
The Diennessi and the Folti families built their castle that was first mentioned in 1468. It was rather a fortified stately home with a wooden palisade, though. There were rich silver and gold mines next to the settlement and its owner had the right of keeping weekly markets and taxing the ferry at the Maros river. As the Ottoman threat became more imminent in the mid-16th century, the Diet of Transylvania ordered Lord Dienessi László to fortify his home better. Prince Báthori István (later King Stefan Batori of Poland) owned it in 1574 and employed mercenaries to guard the small fort. (Note, I am intentionally using the Eastern name order for Hungarians where family names come first.)
However, Prince Báthori gave the castle of Illye to Bethlen Farkas of Iktár in 1576. Lord Bethlen Farkas began a major construction of the castle. His son, Bethlen Gábor was born there in 1580 who later made further reinforcements on the fort in 1613 against the Ottoman raids. The place was surrounded by strong stone walls and Italian-style bastions. It had a moat around it that was filled up by water of the Maros River; even a ferry boat was in service on it. We must mention that the fortification had been occupied by the mercenaries of General Basta in 1603 for a short time but Basta gave it back to Bethlen. After the loss of Lippa Castle, Illye’s role has been appreciated. Here you can read more about Lippa:
The Prince gifted Illye to Bethlen István in 1614 along with the 48 villages around it. The castle of Illye was considered a Borderland castle in the 17th century and had a significant number of garrison while it stood. After 1670, it ceased to fulfill this role, though.
The castle was owned by Prince Thököly Imre and the Apafi family. It was Prince Apafi who ordered the destruction of the castle in 1670 because the fort was in peril: the Turks could have taken it anytime and it would have become one of their important forts. So the walls and the bastions were all pulled down, except the one we call now the Red Bastion. The twin windows of the building were built in the Renaissance style and the nicely painted walls also refer to the Transylvanian Renaissance.
The material of the fort was used for the construction of a palace built in the Baroque style; now, there is a hospital in it. The Red Bastion of Bethlen Gábor was purchased by the Franciscan Monks in 2003 who turned it into a museum.
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