Rasnov Fortress (Eng ) - Town History
Scientific researcher Nicolae Pepene
The ancient name of the Râsnov town is “Komidava”. The “Polis” (the town) of Dacia was mentioned under the same name by the great geographer Ptolemeus from Alexandria of Egypt. Latinized, the town name has become “Cumidava”. Under this form it appears on a stone monument from the time of the Roman emperor Alexander Severus, discovered in the Roman camp situates at 3 km North - North West of the contemporary town Râsnov. The Dacian settlement was strongly fortified, and was protected by three earthwork protection vallums and by three ditches in front of them, as well as by stone towers. During the second Dacian - Roman war (105-106), the Dacian fortification was set on fire and partially dismantled by the Romans. After the transformation of the Dacian state into a Roman province, the troops which were brought to Cumidava for the supervision of the road passing through the Bran pass have erected a camp, at first out of earth and then made of stone.
The Roman camp is situated in the point “Gradiste”, circa 500 m south of the rivulet Bârsa. The archaeological diggings which took place in many campaigns, have discovered a great diversity of Roman materials originated from the Italian centers, but also a large quantity of ceramics belonging to the Dacians. The presence of the pieces of Dacian origin demonstrates the fact that in the camp or near the camp there were Dacians, which were recruited as soldiers for the Roman army.
Another hearth of living from the Roman period was discovered in the area of the intersection of the rail road with the road Brasov –Câmpulung (,,La Pepiniera”). A settlement with a surface of about 4 hectares, in which were dug out several houses (with a medium living surface of 16 mp.), hearths and storage pitches. In one of those dwellings there was discovered a Roman fibula, dated in the second half of the 3rd century, with analogies to the Roman camps on the Rhine river. However, the majority of the ceramics is of local origin, the Roman one is less to find. The dwelling has a mainly agricultural character. The close bound with the inhabitants of the Roman camp in the neighborhood is evident; there is also a theory according to which the Dacians settled down here were moved at the end of the second Dacian - Roman war on the castle hill.
One cannot prove for sure that on the Castle Hill there was a settlement or a castle before or after the Roman conquest, it is possible that the archaeological materials discovered here and dated in the Roman époque to origin from a Roman surveillance camp.
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The first documentary attestation of the medieval Râsnov town is recorded in the year 1331, under the name of Rosnou. In the chronics and the old documents, the town Râsnov appears also under the forms “Rosnow” (1343), “Rasnow”(1377), “Rosinov” (1377), “villa Rosarum” (1388), “Rosenau”, “Rozsnyo” and “Râjnov”.
The root of the dwelling name seems to be the word “roz”, which means “rose”, in Latin as well as in the Slavic and German languages. As a matter of fact, beginning with the Middle Ages, the rose was the label of the dwelling.
The Saxon romantic historiography, at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, sustains that the castle of the town Râsnov was erected by the Teutonic cavaliers in the 13th century and that the settlement below the castle was erected by the Saxon colonists brought to Burzenland by the German crusaders. Because lots of the German town names from the Burzenland (Halchiu- Heldsdorf, Brasov-Kronen, Sânpetru-Petersberg, Ghimbav-Weidenbach, Harman-Honigberg, Râsnov-Rosenau) are similar to the dwellings in the neighborhood of the German town of Koblenz of the Order of the Teutonic cavaliers, it seems that a part of the German colonists of the Burzenland originated from the corresponding region. In this way “Rosenau” may be a recollection of the origin of the first German colonists who came to Râsnov all the way from the left side of the river Rhine.
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The medieval history of the Rasnov town was dictated by the dynamics of the road to Bran, by the intensity of the commercial traffic through the Bran pass, but also by the numerous invasions coming from the South of the Carpathians the Carpathians.
On the map of medieval Europe, the commerce done through the Carpathian passes was controlled by the cities of Transylvania, being essential for the economical development of the cities. The road to the castle Bran was one of biggest roads of the Romanian countries and the city of Brasov developed into the most important city in the medieval Transylvanian region, especially because of the advantageous position, in the immediate vicinity of the pass. After Brasov, the town Râsnov is the most important Medieval settlement from Burzenland, being granted by the Hungarian royalty even before the 15th century with the rank of a “fair”. To the development of the economical life has contributed the status of the “free community”, a privilege given to the Saxon colonists by the Hungarian royalty, as well as by the close economical relationships of the Râsnov inhabitants wits the lords of the Romanian countries.
In the year 1413, in the commercial privilege given to the inhabitants of the city of Brasov by the Lord of the Romanian Country, Mircea cel Batrân, are mentioned also the delegates of the cities of Râsnov, Martinus and Crusius.
In the year 1427, “Rosenau” was visited by the King of Hungary, Sigismund of Luxemburg, who granted the Râsnov inhabitants the right to organize a fair. The royal privilege was a confirmation of the economical development of the Râsnov town. Its inhabitants were farmers, trades and craftsmen. The best known and wealthy guilds were the Râsnov guild of the wood workers and of the weavers.
At the end of the 15th century there was grounded the Saxon University (Universitas Saxonum), a organism who extended its competence over all Saxon inhabitants on the royals lands. The town Râsnov was a part of the District Brasov.
The Romanian community from Râsnov was extremely powerful and rich; a proof in this respect was the building of the stone beginning with the year 1384. The Râsnov inhabitants were the owners in the Romanian Country of some great proprieties, among which the Mount Baiul. In 1601, by strengthening the ownership privilege of he above mentioned mounting, Mihai Viteazul names the town Râsnov “the town of my lordship”.
By the colonization of the Saxon inhabitants in Burzenland, the Hungarian royalty had economical interests as well as military purposes. The Saxons, skilled craftsmen and experienced traders should have profited from the strategic position of the Burzenland, an entry gateway in Transylvania and an entry point of the Western civilization towards the Eastern world. In this manner, beginning with the first colonists, the Teutonic cavaliers have organized Burzenland in decuries and centuries. In the second half of the 13th century there was the judge court house or the century Râsnov, who covered also the dwellings of Cristan and Ghimabav. The century was ruled by a judge (Comes) and a landlord (Hann). Each century had the obligation to build a castle (Burg), to maintain and defend it as well. The ruling castle of Râsnov seems to be the oldest part of the castle of today’s castle Râsnov.
For the armies invading Transylvania through the Bran pass, the first important settlement was the city of Râsnov. The prosperous fair city, near the town of Brasov, was destroyed in the Middle Ages by the numerous invasions. The sole chance of survival for the inhabitants under the mounting Postavarul was to take refuge in the castle erected on the hill dominating the road to the city of Bran.
The romantic Saxon historiography claims that the castle of the Râsnov town was erased by the Teutonic cavaliers in the 13th century, but there is no documentary attestation confirming this legend.
However, the fortification of the hill lasts from the ancient times, the military tasks received by the Saxon community of Burzenland in the second half the 13th century and the building technique, which is identified by the majority of the historians as of the 13th century, cold be enough arguments which could sustain the hypothesis of the existence of a castle before the first documentary attestation.
In the year 1335, during an invasion of the Tatars in Transylvania, Burzenland was completely laid waste, with the exception of the castle on the Tâmpa hill in Brasov and of the castle of the Râsnov town. In this manner, the first documentary mention of the “peasant dwelling” of Râsnov dates from the year 1335 and refers to a strong fortification which can resist the enemy siege and saves the lives of the inhabitants who sought refuge behind the walls.
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The castle of the Râsnov town was erected on a steep mountain rock, accessible only on the eastern side. Its architecture was adapted to the landscape, the fortification had the purpose of an efficient defending of the hill, without any architectural claims to beautify the defensive building.
The appearance of the castle has undergone till now several modifications. The contemporary image still keeps the architectural elements which can reconstitute the history of a fortification which successfully resisted the sieges. The fact that along the centuries the castle walls never failed against an enemy attack and that the Râsnov castle was only once conquered because of the lack of water, demonstrates that the Râsnov inhabitants were constantly preoccupied with the improvement of the defensive system on the castle hill.
The access in the castle is not done directly, but by another building surrounded by a stone wall, currently a ruin, in the eastern extremity there was a rectangular tower, of which only the first floor is still visible. It seems that this is the oldest part of the castle, being built only of stone, whereas the castle was build of brick stones also.
The castle has two yards: an exterior and an interior yard. In the exterior yard (,,the front yard” or “the castle garden”), situated on the eastern side, the cattle was looked after. The exterior yard has an entry for the armament and food stuffs and another one, under a rectangular tower, for the cattle. Inside the castle (the interior yard) there were the cottages of the dwellers, serving as a shelter and as a storage room during the sieges. The rooms bear the names which we find also in the case of other peasant castles: the room of the school, of the priest, of the gammon etc. On top of the hill there was build a school and in the year 1650 a chapel was built, whose walls one may nowadays see. Because of the numerous military invasions, the castle was “the second hearth of the Râsnov town”. “The main disadvantage of this dwelling was the lack of a water source in the castle itself. When the attacks prolonged and the water reserves were ended, the refugees used to get out of the castle at night and fetch water from a secret spring” (E. Micu, The peasant castle Râsnov, page 19).
The walls of the castle have a medium height of 5 m. The imposing appearance of the fortress is due to its position. The castle has a highly fortified entry with 8 bastions / bulwarks. The entry into the city is preceded by a circular fortified building, equipped with numerous mouths for pouring down hot oil and cannon shooting holes, on the interior side there was a watch road for the defenders. For the defense of the castle there was a mobile bridge and two gates with gratings, one in connection with the above mentioned bridge and the other under the gate tower (,,The Weapon’s Tower”).
The inner castle has a secondary entrance, defended by a bastion, through which one can reach a path going down the hill into the city.
In order to make the defense more efficient, the slopes of the castle hill were deforested, and where the ascension could be done easily, there were dug deep digs in the rocks.
When an enemy army was approaching or in the case a fire broke out, the guards would alarm the population of the city by tolling the bells in the watch tower. And such situations were not rare in the history of the Râsnov town. After the invasion of 1335, we remark that in the year 1421 there was the first siege executed by at Turkish army. The castle resisted heroically and the Turks interrupted the siege, heading towards the city of Brasov, which was at that time still unfortified, and which was plundered. The Turks laid siege without success also the castle from Râsnov during the campaigns from 1436 and 1441.
In 1566, traveling through Transylvania, Giovan Andrea Gromo, an Italian mercenary from Bergamo, commander of the guards of the Lord of Transylvania, Ioan Sigismund Zapolya, finds at “about eight miles” of Brasov “a powerful stronghold, called Râsnov (in the manuscript Rosnof), build on the top of a rock, on a high mountain and away from others mountains, accessible only by a secret path, of about 3 feet width, and this path went meander-like in an open place. Under this castle near the big road there was a highly populated fair and with a vivid commercial life, whose inhabitants usually sought refuge in the above mentioned castle during wartime, and in peaceful times it was guarded by a person paid by the city and by a small number of Romanians”.
An important moment in the history of the Râsnov town is the glorious moment in the history of the Romanians, that is the unification of the three Romanian lands under the rule of lord Mihai Viteazul. In the period between 1600 and 1601, the town Râsnov provided accommodation for Mihai Viteazul and his wife, Lady Stanca.
A lesser glorious moment for the Râsnov inhabitants represents the capitulation before the lord of Transylvania, Gabriel Bathory. It was the first time the castle Râsnov turned in. In March 1612, Gabriel Bathory, an enemy of the Saxon inhabitants, in his attempt to limit the freedoms of the Saxon Transylvanian community, organized a military campaign in Burzenland. The castle Râsnov was defended by the inhabitants from Râsnov, Ghimbav, Cristian and a unit of Romanian soldiers, who were part of the army of the Walachia ruler care Radu Serban. Although the cannons of the army of Bathory did not cause serious damage to the castle walls, the siege has become highly efficient, as a part of the enemy troops have occupied the eastern slope, blocking the access of the city defenders to the secret spring, where they fetched the necessary water. On the 3rd of April 1612, after negotiations with the principle, the rulers of the Râsnov community surrendered the castle, under the condition that the old privileges of the town of Râsnov remain untouched, and that in the castle should not be brought a foreign garrison. But the second day after the surrendering, Gabriel Bathory chased the inhabitants from the castle and installed a new garrison formed by his soldiers. In the summer of the year 1612, the Râsnov inhabitants, with the help of the Brasov inhabitants, tried twice to reconquer the castle, but without success. The town Râsnov has gained leadership over the town in June 1613, after a treaty with Gabriel Bathory, by which the Saxons were to pay the lord a ransom at the amount of 3000 florins for the surrender of the city of Râsnov and Bran.
The fights from the year 1612 have proven the necessity of building a well in the castle. The castle well was dug during 1623-1640. It was 98 m deep. Although there is a legend about the digging of the well by two Turkish prisoners who were promised freedom after the work would have been done, the well was erected by Saxon craftsmen hired by the Râsnov town.
The Initiative of the Râsnov inhabitants was inspired, because beginning with the middle of the 15th century, Burzenland was a field of military operations. The period 1658-1661, the campaign of the Turkish troops, accompanied by the army of Constantin Brâncoveanu in 1690, the uprising of the “curuti”, meant for the Râsnov inhabitants a black chronicle, in which the scenario was the same: seeking refuge in the castle and then the rebuilding of the city. Moreover, in the year 1718, the town Râsnov was affected by a serious cholera epidemics. According to the lists of the magistrate of Brasov 1.161 persons died. The town Râsnov was outnumbered only by the city of Brasov (4.509), Prejmer (1.871) and Sacele (2.961). In the same year, a fire destroyed the whole city and reached also the castle, destroying houses from the inner yard and the chapel. After the restoration, the castle was used in the 18th century, but in 1802 an earthquake destroyed a part of the towers.
In the census from 1765, out of 126.546 inhabitants of the entire Saxon population, 25.135 inhabitants reside in Burzenland, from which 1392 Saxons reside in Râsnov. Brasov has 7710 inhabitants, Cristian 1312 and Codlea 2055. In the year 1762, in Râsnov resided 1047 Romanians, in contrast with 5355 in Brasov, 449 in Cristian and 552 in Codlea.
In the 13th century, the changing of the political and military situation in the South – Eastern Europe, by the abandonment of the defense line of the Carpathians, the protection of the frontiers by the organization of the frontier police and the offensive of the Austrian imperial troops towards the south, permitted a continuous economical development of the town as well as, by diminishing the danger of military invasions, a decrease of the interest of the Râsnov community to maintain the medieval castle.
The last “war page” in the history of the town Râsnov took place during the revolution of 1848-1849. Because the locality was passed by the armies of the Hungary revolutionaries, by the Russian and Austrian imperial troops, the Râsnov inhabitants preferred to seek refuge together with their belongings behind the walls of the castle. In this period, the exterior yard was used as a place for the instruction of the national Saxon guards. The first Saxon victim of the revolution of 1848 was a “militiaman” from Râsnov, on the river Olt, in the fights with the Seklers.
In the second half of the 19th century, the castle was deserted and was not attended anymore. In the castle there was a sole guardian who was supposed to announce the outbursts of fire by tolling the bells.
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Rasnov Fortress Passing through the city of Rasnov, you cannot miss the Rasnov Fortress, located on a rocky hilltop in the ancient Carpathian Mountains, 200m above the town. It is 15 km southwest Brasov and also about 15 km from Bran Castle, commonly known by foreigners as Count Dracula’s Castle. The fortress is on the Bran Pass, a trade route connecting legendary Wallachia with mythical Transylvania. The view from the top of the castle hill makes you travel through time into medieval times; the wind still carries the dust raised by the Teutonic Knights while defending the people. For the armies invading Transylvania through the Bran pass, the first important settlement was the city of Rasnov.
The prosperous fair city, near the town of Brasov, was destroyed in the Middle Ages by the numerous invasions. The sole chance of survival for the inhabitants under the mounting Postavarul was to take refuge in the castle erected on the hill dominating the road to the city of Bran. This castle was meant to be a place of refuge for the commoners from sieges over extended periods of time. As such it had at least 30 houses, a school, a chapel, and other buildings more commonly associated with a village. The first written record for the fortress dates from 1331. In 1335, when the Tartars invaded, Rasnov Fortress was already strong enough to offer resistance.
The castle has an upper and lower section, with polygonal perimeter walls reaching an average height of 5m. The most heavily fortified part is the east side and the walls on both that side as well as the northwest side are doubled. The defenses include 9 towers, 2 bastions, and a drawbridge. As Transylvania has always been disputed, arms were stockpiled in the defense corridors at the walls.
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Rasnov The legend says that, during a particularly long siege of the fortress, the citizens of Rasnov were concerned about the lack of available drinking water. Two Turkish soldiers, having been captured earlier, were put to the task of digging a well in the centre of the fortress. These two men were assured that they would be given their freedom once the well was completed. According to local legend, it took them 32 years to finish the well, but they were still killed afterwards. This famous well still sits in the centre of Rasnov Fortress, and is 143 meters deep.
After a long time, the fortress rises proud again. She waits to be rediscovered and appreciated. Hidden behind the ancient walls, the museums waits silently for its visitors. “La piece de resistance”is a skeleton buried under a glass floor. Most surely, you can find a lot of other interesting artifacts . The inner rooms are looking more like a maze, with several wood ladders linking them and a few secret passages. The landscape is breathtaking, the feeling is unique. The height gives you the feeling you are the lord of the world, the master of puppets.
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1, Rasnov’s days, a festival celebrating the city, it’s traditions. There are also folk and pop concerts and ethnic dances.
2. The Court of Comedians Festival: a step in time , presenting medieval art, theatre and dances, jugglers, circus artists and clown.
3.The Fall Fair: music events, folk dances, exhibits. You can buy autumn specific agricultural products.
4. 0ff-road Festival: car and motorcycling resistance races, night-time orientation, trial, demonstrations and auto-motor parades.
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