Marosvásárhely (Târgu Mureș, Nai Muark) was the center of the Hungarian Székely people of Transylvania. Now it is in Romania. The Renaissance castle is still intact, it is around the central church of the town, on the left bank of the Maros River. It used to be a quite big city in medieval times, the present outlook of the buildings reflects the mid-17th century style. The ten-meter-high walls enclose an area of 230 x 190 meters. Each bastion of the wall belonged to a particular medieval guild whose members were responsible for defending it. There was a single entrance of the castle, it was opening towards the settlement. This gate was protected by a deep moat and a drawbridge. The Maros River was feeding the moat with water.
The first settlement was born in the 11th century but we know that its Gothic church was built in 1260 by the Franciscan monks. (The Dominicans’ church had been destroyed by the Mongols in 1241.) For better defense, the castle is protected at the church with a double wall. As for the town, it was first mentioned in writing only in 1323 as Novum Forum Siculorum. It was an agricultural town in the 15th century. The bell tower was built around 1440, later loopholes were cut in its wall.
The first judicial privilege was given to the town by King Matthias Corvinus in 1470 and a market right in 1482. Marosvásárhely (it literally means “Maros-market-place”) had been the host of 39 Diets since 1439. Voivode Báthory István reinforced its castle in 1492 with towers because he wanted to keep a strong garrison there against the restless Székely people who were always ready to rebel when their ancient rights and liberties were threatened by the Hungarian king or by the Transylvanian princes. They were well-armed border guards, for example, they defeated the army of General Tomori Pál next to the city in 1506. (Note, that out of educational reasons I am intentionally using the Eastern name order for Hungarians where the family names come first.)
You can read more about the Hungarian Székelys (also: Szeklers) here:
We know that the church was taken away from the Franciscans at the time of the Reformation. Bloody years came during the reign of Prince Báthori Zsigmond. The mercenaries of General Basta burned and looted the town in 1601. The surviving inhabitants, led by the town’s Chief Judge called Borsos Tamás, fled to Brassó (Brasov, Kronstadt) to seek shelter. Sadly, the town was put on fire again next year, this time Németh Gergely gave the order. Allegedly, Chief Judge Borsos saw the formidable walls of Brassó, and later they tried to build similar walls around Marosváráshely, too. Interestingly enough, General Basta also supported this idea.
Székely Mózes, the only one Székely who was Prince of Transylvania, visited the city in 1603 when he liberated Transylvania from the enemy. The rebuilding of the castle had lasted until 1653. It was the time when the Gothic windows of the church were walled in and turned into narrow loopholes. The school building’s gate was also walled in and two more towers were built there. One more drawbridge was constructed right at the gate of the church. Prince Bethlen Gábor made it a free royal city in 1616. We know that the reconstruction work was going on in 1620 and in 1630 as well. Thanks to these efforts, only the town was burned in 1658 by Wallachian and Ottoman raiders and the Székely people could survive behind the walls.
Marosvásárhely fell to the Ottomans in 1661, it was Pasha Ali who took the town and made Apafi Mihály the Prince of Transylvania among its walls in that year. The famous Turkish traveler, Evliya Celebi was with the Ottoman army and he described the castle like this: “It is an old castle, with just one strong gate that is facing towards the west. The castle has five strong bastions that were built by concrete. But the fort is small and its moat is shallow. It has churches with nice towers and there are strong houses with plank roofs, nicely decorated streets with wealthy inhabitants. To the West, there is an outer town that is 10,000-steps-wide. It has no walls around it, just a deep moat with a gate and a wooden bridge.” It is too bad that due to the Ottomans’ carelessness, the city burned down next year again.
However, the next raiders and looters were the Austrians in 1687. Later these activities have been repeated. Let us not forget that Rákóczi Ferenc was made Prince of Transylvania in Marosvásárhely on 5 April 1707, the ceremony was conducted by Thelekessy István, Bishop of Eger. During the first part of the eighteenth century, this city was hit four times by devastating plagues. Despite these hardships, the city remained the cultural, educational, and trade center of the Székely people.
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