Radna and Óradna

The COA of Radna

We are talking about two famous places that are quite close to each other: Radna castle and the mining town of Óradna, the most significant source of silver in medieval Hungary until 1301. You can visit these wonderful places in the Radnai Mountains that are part of the Carpathians. They are located in Transylvania, Romania.

The mining town of Óradna

Óradna (aka Radna, Rodna, Rodna Veche,  Altrodenau, Roden or Rodenau, in Saxon: Rodne or Rudne) was born in the 12th century when the Hungarian king settled Saxon miners in the area. However, some historians say that the German Saxons appeared first in the age of King Saint István in the 11th century.

Foundries in Radna in the 1870s

The name Radna name comes from the Slavic noun “ruda” (= ore) and refers to its former silver mine. Its first mention survives in a copy of an Old Russian chronicle from 1235 around 1425: Родна (Rodna). We find it mentioned by Master Rogerius and also several times until 1414 as Rodna. It was called Radna in 1358 for the first time. It was called Radnabánya in 1520 (bánya=mine).

A double-thaller of Prince Bethlen minted in Kassa. Its silver may have come from Radna

It was the most significant silver deposit in the age of the Árpád Dynasty of Hungary (907-1301 AD)  and the town used to be one of the most populous and important settlements in Transylvania. Unlike the surrounding areas, it was a privileged city, directly on the Queen’s estate. Radna was under the jurisdiction of a separate “ispán” (comes). However, due to the few surviving contemporary documents, we can only get a contradictory picture of the heyday of its history, mainly from later sources.

Radna, 1902

It may have been the first settlement in Hungary that was destroyed in 1241 by the Mongolian Tatars as it is located quite close to the place where they intruded into the kingdom. The chronicler Rogerius who told us about the Mongolian invasion, also recalls this: “King Kadan reached the rich Radna, which lay in the mountains, a royal German city with silver mines inhabited by a large number of people.”

The Mongolian invasion in 1241

Allegedly, at first, the Tatars pretended to flee before the armed inhabitants of Radna. Seeing this, the locals began to celebrate their easy victory when the nomads returned and took the city.  According to the annual chronicles of Friesach, four thousand inhabitants were killed, four hundred men were dragged with them, and many drowned in the water of the Izvor spring, which was introduced into underground passages of the mines. The surviving Saxons of Radna joined the Tatars and fought along the Maros River towards Gyulafehérvár (Alba Iulia), fighting the Hungarian Székelys on the Tatars’ side.

Hungary in the 13th century

After the Tatar invasion, stone castles were built all around the kingdom. The castle of Radna was also built, a bit farther from the city, on the border of today’s Dombhát, which is mentioned in 1268 and 1409. The town of Radna has temporarily regained its former significance.

Radna is famous for the edition of the first diploma issued by the city authorities in Transylvania in 1268. The city issued its own paragraphs around 1270. However, Radna’s significance gradually receded in the 14th century because of the huge metal production of Körmöcbánya (Kremnica, Kremnitz) gradually receded and the city’s administration merged with the County area around 1378.

Óradna: the Greek Catholic church with the medieval castle’s ruins (1941)

The Radna Valley District was mentioned first in 1444, its center was Radna Castle. In 1440 Radna was already a serf village similar to other villages in the area. Around 1469, new Saxon settlers moved in and set out to extract the gold ore reserves of the surrounding mountains. Soon, it was an “oppidum” again in 1475  with his own judges and jurors.

King Matthias Corvinus (who lived 1443-1490) annexed it to the region of Beszterce (Bistrița), which meant that he paid the taxes together with Beszterce. Thus, the settlement was removed from the authority of the royal officials. Later, mining was abandoned again, which was restarted in the early 16th century by wealthy citizens of Beszterce and the nobles of the County. In 1514, its miners joined the peasant uprising and ravaged the manor house of the Drágfi family. There were Saxons, Hungarians, and Wallachians among the city’s jurors in 1527. The population was remarkably high and included many Hungarians and Wallachians as well. Radna was owned by the Moldavian voivodes between 1538 and 1551, together with the Radna Valley.

Óradna, 1943

The city had very good relations with the cities in Moldova, for example with the mining city of Moldvabánya (Baia). It was the reason why the burghers of Radna declined to join the Transylvanian Prince’s army in 1632 against the Wallachians. In the first part of the seventeenth century, many Saxon families moved to the depopulated city of Beszterce so the role of the Saxons in Radna decreased. They didn’t elect a Saxon City Judge in the 1640s and the Saxon and Hungarian pastors were preaching together in the church.

The church of Óradna

The old church of Radna (Óradna) is located behind the 20th-century Orthodox church on the main square. The first document referring to the existence of a parish is known from the time of King István V (1270–1272) when the mining and city law was proclaimed by the parish priest (Pfarrar) in the church.

Photo: Heiligenhof

In 1228 and 1268 in Óradna a sale of a certain property took place before the arrival of the Franciscans. And the customers may have been monks of Óradna. There is also an opinion that before the Dominicans, the Premontreians also had a monastery here. We know that the first large church was destroyed by the Mongols in 1241. It was the church dedicated to the Virgin Mary, was a three-nave church, very similar to the church of Szék and Nagyhalmágy.

Photo: Heiligenhof

Its western façade and partly its two towers survived the Tatar invasion. Its twin windows resemble the famous cathedral at Kerc (Cârța, Kertz,). Between the two towers, the western façade portal remained almost completely intact. A ruined section of the nave’s wall also remained. The rest of the nave was completely destroyed and has not been restored since. However, a separate torn sanctuary has survived, which was restored in the early Gothic style after the Tatar invasion between 1260 and 1270.

Photo: Ioana Bancos

In 1440, Queen Elizabeth donated the castle of Radna and the city. It is also clear that at that time the castle was abandoned and the city was largely uninhabited. The ruined church appears to be homeless in the following centuries because there is no record later that it was used by Catholics or Protestants after the Reformation.

In 1631 it had a Lutheran priest: Johann Borgner, and then, Johann Keuntzel in 1695. In 1766, Lucas Wester, the last Lutheran priest, and his followers left the town with him. You can read more about the German Saxons here:


This also explains why the Greek Catholic Church received it in the 18th century. In the middle of the 19th century, the ruined sanctuary was restored so that it could become a Greek Orthodox church. The former sanctuary and partly the nave were turned into a separate church, independent of the western ruined part. The 16th-century defensive wall of the church has now been destroyed.

The entrance of the church (Photo: Heiligenhof)

The Castle of Radna

As we have mentioned, the castle stood 2 kilometers from the city, rather near to the village of Dombhát (Anieş) that belongs now to the settlement of Major (Mayerhof, Maieru). Initially, the castle and its villages had belonged to the Székely Comes of the region. According to a document, the castle was there already when Voivode Stibor (1395-1401) was in office. Its castellan was Balicki Prokop at that time. However, the castle was there already in the early 13th century.

In 1409, the castle was owned by Péter Kretschmer, the judge of Beszterce (Bystrica). In 1414, the castellan of Nádasi Mihály, a Székely Comes was mentioned here. Before 1437, King Zsigmond pledged it to Jakcs Mihály of Kuszaly, who was another Székely Comes. You can read more about the Hungarian Székelys here:


In 1440, when Queen Elizabeth gave it to the Jakcs family, it was said to be uninhabited. Radna was also listed among the other estates of the Jakcs family in 1450, it was mentioned as their “turris seu castellum”. The oval-shaped castle was fortified with several square-plan bastions, the foundations of which still protrude here and there from below the earth’s surface. The ground-covered line of the former castle walls can be easily followed on the well-arranged plateau. At two places, we can discover there the remains of a 1-1.5 m wall section.

The castle is surrounded by a ditch and a rampart, except for the steep eastern side. A double rampart was erected on the north side. In the middle of the inner part of the castle, a gaping depression may be a remnant of a cistern. The remains of a larger building are presumably hidden under the mound rising at the southern end of the castle.

It is very difficult to obtain pictures of this castle. As I am not allowed to use the photos of the page www.varak.hu, you can take a look at a few pictures I found here:


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Radna on an old postcard (Source: Benő Gyula)