ALBA CAROLINA CITADEL
The bastion fortification in alba Iulia is the largest citadel in Romania. After the occupation of Transylvania, at the end of the 17th century, the Austrians conceived a powerful defense line for the border with the Ottoman Empire, a line that went from Transylvania to the Adriatic Sea. Part of these planned citadels were also realized, among them being the citadel of Alba Iulia.
The first project of the fortification was realized by the Italian architect Giovanni Morando Visconti who also led the first phase of the works. The first stone was placed on November 4th, 1715. Visconti died of plague in 1718 and he is buried inside the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Alba Iulia. His work was continued by Joseph of Quadri and later by Konrad von Weiss. Generally speaking, the work is considered to be finished in 18738 although different works were performed in the following years.
Along with the fortification works, the center of the civil city was moved in the area of the present Lower Town, in those times being a swampy and flooded area.
The citadel is shaped like a star with seven corners as resulting from the seven sided polygon shape of the main body (each side/curtain having a length of around 120-130 meters), with a bastion built on every corner. The bastions are slightly different in dimensions but all are enormous with sides over 100 m and 40 m long flanks. The angles formed by the sides of the bastions vary between 75 and 95 degrees. The bastions were named after some saints but the names are determined by important personalities of the Habsburg Empire or from the history of Transylvania. In order, from the 3rd gate towards south, the bastions were named: saint Eugene” (after the name of the prince Eugene of Savoy), „Saint Stefan” (after the count Etienne of Steinville, the commander of the Austrian army in Transylvania), „Holy Trinity”, „Saint Michael” (the patron of the city, the archangel who gave the name of the Roman Catholic Cathedral, but also the name of the medieval gate of the city from the same western area of the citadel), „Saint Charles” (the bastion is dedicated to the emperor under whose rule the citadel was built, Charles the 6th, but the quality of saint belongs to Carlo Borromeo; he is celebrated in the catholic calendar in November 4th, the day chosen for the beginning of the works to the citadel of Alba Iulia); „Saint Elisabeth” (after the name of the empress Elisabeth Cristina, the wife of Charles the 6th; the reference of „saint” is about Elisabeth, the mother of John the Baptist); „Saint Capistrano” (Ioan of Capistrano side by side with Iancu of Hunedoara led the „crusade” in Belgrade in 1456 and he was sanctified in 1690). The largest bastion is the „Trinitarians”. Both this one and „Saint Eugene” contain the old bastions from the 17th century named „Bethlen Bastion” and the „Saxons Bastion”. The height of the bastions and of the curtains, with the edge, are about 10 to 12 m. the moats are 27 m wide on the bastions side and 52 m on the curtain sides.
The large constructions placed in front of the curtains are called ravelins. They are different in size, with sides varying from 60 to 93 m with a height of 8 to 9.5 m. the ravelins are named after the bastions on their right except for the ravelin on the southern side, placed between the bastions Eugene and Stefan, and which is named „Saint Francis of Paola” Ravelin (after the Calabrian saint who lived in the 15th century, founder of the Minimi monk Order). Between the bastions Eugene and Capistrano there is no ravelin. Besides, on the eastern side of the citadel, due to the level difference, the solution of a continuous counterguard was chosen (over 400 m long), that interrupts the relatively regulated shape of the citadel. The next fortification line is represented by the bastions and revelins counterguards. The last level is the „glacis”, which is an opened area in front of the walls, on a 5-degree slope, where the enemy was exposed.
The citadel was criticized in the 18th and the 19th century due to the high costs of the works (2 million guldens), especially the costs of the gates, its size that made it difficult to defend without a large number of soldiers, and especially because the enemy could get close to the citadel from some points due to the aspect of the terrain. The Forks Hill area, in particular, would obturate the view of the defenders so the enemy could get closer without any problems. In the projects of the citadel, that area was supposed to be reinforced by a small fortification linked to the body of the larger citadel, but those plans were not applied.
The citadel was only attacked once, during the Revolution in 1848-1849. It was the subject of a long siege (especially between March and July 1849) by the Hungarian revolutionary troops led by general Joseph Bem, with almost 8000 men. The Austrian troops inside the citadel, although fewer in number resisted successfully.
Scientific consultant: Tudor Roșu, PhD historian
Translation made by: Ciprian Dobra, PR expert
The Alba Iulia bastion fortification is the largest fortress in Romania, which has been standing for more than 300 years. The fortress is the place where you can travel over two millennia back in time, strolling, among vestiges of three fortifications, dating back to as many different epochs. In other words, every fortress built here has embraced a previous one: the Roman castrum, the medieval fortress and the Alba Carolina Citadel.
The latter was erected in Alba Iulia at the beginning of the eighteenth century. The first project of the fortification was drawn up by the Italian architect Giovanni Morando Visconti, who headed the first phase of the works. The architect died of plague and was buried in the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Alba Iulia.
The foundation stone of the citadel was laid on 4 November 1715 and it is generally believed that the year of completion was 1738, although other works followed in the years to come.
The fortified assembly was configured as a premises defended by three rows of walls on a 110 hectare area. It is a star form fortification which was provided with seven bastions and six ravelins, crossed by vaulted galleries and all delimited by deep moats. The seven-star shape is given by the seven bastions, which form the „safety enclosure” of the most important and best-protected fortification. The bastions are generally counted from the 3rd gate, towards south, in a clockwise direction. The bastions have been given special names, related to the names of secular or religious patrons. Their walls are 2.5 meters thick with a height of over 10 meters. The defensive wall which binds them is called a curtain wall. The large constructions located in front of curtain walls are called ravelins. The last line of walls is called the counterguard. Built right in the heart of Transylvania, the fortified city proved to be the most imposing Baroque monument of the province.
A peculiarity of the Citadel is given by the succession of the six gates, located on an east-west axis – the Tourist Route of the Citadel Gates, linking the civic center with the Roman Plateau (located in the western area of Alba Iulia).
The imposing fortress was named Carlsburg after Emperor Charles VI, during whose time it was built.
The purpose of the citadel was that of military defence, provided by the bastion system, the type of artillery pieces it was armed with and the large number troops located inside the citadel. The citadel was attacked once but not conquered. The episode took place in 1849, when 8,000 Hungarian soldiers besieged it without success.
The Alba Carolina Citadel has seen spectacular transformations in recent years, becoming more and more visible on Europe’s tourist map. The restoration works (co-financed by European funds) have also taken into account to valorize its exceptional cultural heritage. Now the citadel is an open air stage for cultural festivals and concerts held by famous orchestra top Romanian and foreign artists.