The castle of Törcsvár (Tölzburg, Bran) can be found in the historical area of Transylvania, it is situated in Romania. Very unfortunately, it has become infamous for Vlad Tepes, the father of Dracula stories. In fact, Vlad had stayed in the castle just for a few days in 1462 while fleeing from Wallachia before the revengeful Turks. However, his short stay is now generating a large income from visitors. Many of my Saxon, Hungarian and Romanian friends equally feel very bad about this fake Dracula market.
Törcsvár castle is just 30 km from Brassó (Kronstadt, Brasov) to the south-west, it is next to the village of Törcsvár (Bran). The trapezoid castle was built on a 100-meter-high cliff and it has an inner tower. The stronghold’s function was to guard the border of the Hungarian Kingdom. It was defending the Törcsvár Pass of the Carpathian Mountains that was only 30 kilometers from there. Since the Hungarians settled in the area in the 9th century, it has been the Székely borderland guards’ job to defend the Carpathian Mountains’ passes. Törcsvár was also manned by a contingent of Szekely/Szekler soldiers to protect the inner areas of the Carpathian Basin from Eastern intruders. You can read more about the Székelys here:
We know that before 1212 the place at Törcsvár used to have a smaller fort with a tower. However, according to some historians, the wooden fort called Dietrichstein at Törcsvár castle was built by the Teutonic Knights who had been invited to Hungary by King Endre II between 1211 and 1215. This theory is doubted, though. As Törcsvár is located in South-Transylvania, it is in the middle of the Saxon Land, hence it is also called Tölzburg. The first wave of German Saxons appeared in Transylvania in the mid-12th century, their task was also the defense of the Hungarian Kingdom. Here is more about these valiant people:
Sadly, the first fortification fell victim to the Mongolian invasion in 1242. The new castle was built in 1377 by the Hungarian King Lajos (Louis) I to guard the pass against the raids coming from Wallachia. It is assumed that there must have been some kind of stronghold there between 1242-1377 but it was obviously not strong enough in the age when the Wallachian voivodes’ power was increasing. The fort remained in the kings’ hands who appointed castellans and always had some part in the property in the later period as well.
Let us not forget that Törcsvár had an outer castle that used to bar the road towards the Pass: it was the border of Hungary, the soldiers collected the taxes and controlled the traffic from this lower fortification that stood in the valley. The strategic importance of the area was increasing when the Ottoman Empire was expanding its borders:
The castle’s name appears in the letter of Hunyadi János in 1448, he was sending orders to his castellan who was running Törcsvár castle on his behalf. King Ulászló pledged the castle to the city of Brassó (Brasov, Kronstadt) in 1498 under the condition that the castellan always must be a Hungarian man. However, the king took the rights over the castle back from the authority of his Transylvanian Voivode and made the duration of the pledge 25 years longer. We do not know how much gold he received from the Saxons for this transaction. According to the sources, the city of Brassó didn’t care much about the maintenance of the castle, they spent only 100 gold Forints on it in 1512. The repair was done by a master mason called Zeller Mátyás. (Note, I use the Eastern name order for Hungarian names where the family names come first.)
It was Voivode Mozes (Mojse) of Wallachia (1529-30) who sent an army to take the castle but the Székely guards were able to defend it, though they had severe losses. After the siege, the Saxons of Brassó immediately began the repair of the ruined walls, the constructions were finished only in 1535. The castle went permanently to the city of Brassó in 1568 and King János Zsigmond got an annual tax of 200 Gold Forints for it. However, the importance of the castle in the southern defense has decreased.
The Saxons of Brassó were against Prince Báthori Gábor so the ruler marched his army to put them down. He took the castle of Barcarotsnyó, then he went to Törcsvár on 12 April 1612. There was no need to besiege it because the fort was ceded to him by its captain, János Henklischer. Soon, the Saxons swore loyalty to the prince and as a result of this, Törcsvár castle returned to the property of Brassó again. In 1660 when Prince Rákóczi György II became the monarch of Transylvania for the third time, he sent his General Mikes Mihály with his Székely soldiers to take Törcsvár. The Székelys made a surprise attack at night, they scaled the walls with their ladders, and took the castle.
Prince Thököly Imre laid an unsuccessful siege on it in 1690 but the Saxons, with Imperial aid, repelled him. At the end of the 18th century, there were only 12 guards and an officer in the castle. The Saxons of Brassó (Kronstadt, Brasov) gave the castle to Queen Zita, the wife of King Charles IV in 1916. Brassó’s major, the Saxon Karl Schnell gave it to Queen Maria in 1920 for the occasion of the Romanian Union of 1918. Queen Maria had the castle restored in the Romantic style and the Romanian royal family used it as their favorite summer resort. Thanks to the efforts of Queen Maria, today it is one of the most intact medieval castles of Transylvania. The castle was given back to her heirs in 2009.
Enjoy the animation video of Törcsvár castle, the work of Fodor Zsolt:
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Here are a few pictures of Törcsvár castle: