October 23, 2017


The Princely Palace, like many other monuments in the Alba Carolina Citadel, has got a long history, linked to personalities and outstanding events in the Transylvanian and even European history. The first phase of the existence of a palace in this area dates back to the end of the twelfth century and the beginning of the thirteenth century, and is related to the establishment of the seat for the bishop of Transylvania and for the members of the chapter.

The edifice lived its glory days during the Transylvanian Principality when, for more than 150 years, the fate of the region was headed from Alba Iulia. It goes without saying that the princely residence was the center and the most important scene of the political life in Transylvania at the time. For this stage of the greatest historical importance of the palace, we have to consider the whole complex, with three courtyards, that is, including the area of the current Archbishop’s Palace.

The complex was extended and during the reigns of princes Sigismund Bathory, Gabriel Bethlen and Gheorghe Rákóczi I. Skilled architects and craftsmen from Europe contributed for the works.

The Princely Palace became the seat of famous rulers like: Queen Isabella of Hungary; Prince Sigismund Bathory, who was a de jure ruler of the three Romanian Countries; Michael the Brave, who accomplished a de facto unification of Transylvania, Moldavia, and Wallachia; Prince Gabriel Bethlen, during whose reign Alba Iulia reached its maximum prosperity.

A bronze bas-relief, embedded in the wall of the northern front wall, in the public access area, is dedicated to Michael the Brave who lived and worked here during a short ten-month period in which he ruled from Alba Iulia the destiny of the Principality of Transylvania. The allegorical scene depicts the voivode before the throne receiving bread and salt from the people who are worshiping him with humility. The bas-relief was produced by Horia Flămându (1975) and it was inaugurated on the occasion of the 375-year celebration since the unification of the three Romanian principalities.

At the beginning of the eighteenth century, the complex was taken over by the Austrian army. The Habsburgs decided that the western part, the current Archbishop’s Palace, should be returned to the Catholic Diocese, and the eastern part was taken over by the Austrian army. Following the 1918 Union, the Palace was used by the Romanian army and remained a military purpose building until recently.

The current palace represents about two-thirds of what was the residence of the Transylvanian princes in the premodern era. Even so segmented, this unique Transylvania monument has continued to represent a model for the late Renaissance buildings of the province.

Currently, the edifice is under conservation, and experts are investigating hidden traces of its former grandeur. The complex will enter into a vast process of restoration which will definitely uncover part of the sumptuousness and the fast of four centuries ago, when it was the most important building in Transylvania.