Cover picture © Credit to: CalinStan
Cover picture © Credit to: CalinStan
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Unveiling the legends of Oradea Fortress

3 minutes to read

Have you ever found a place more attractive after discovering the legends behind it? Well, it happens quite often to me. This is why I will be unveiling the legends of Oradea Fortress, one of a few still in use fortresses in Romania, located in the county city of Bihor, Oradea in western Romania.

Oradea Fortress
Oradea Fortress
Oradea, Romania

King Ladislaus the Holy

The first legend dates back to the end of the 11th century. It featured King Ladislaus of Hungary, also known as "the Holy". One night Ladislaus went hunting, and he set a camp in the area where the fortress stands today. While sleeping, Virgin Mary appeared to him in a dream and told him to raise a church in this place. Ladislaus raised the church and due to his devotion, attracted thousands of pilgrims. He also got support from the Hungarian Kingdom, and this led to the fortification of the church.

The Tatar invasion

You may recall a massive Tatar invasion from the year 1241. The Tatars reached the Crișuri area by 1241 and devastated everything behind them. You must imagine a whole other structure of Oradea Fortress: waves of earth and palisades, stone walls and a few towers. And here’s the thing: the first wave of the invasion was blocked and defeated. The citizens decided they could already celebrate and started feasting with food and wine. They even reopened the bridge to the fortress. The Tatars waited for the nightfall and then attacked the fortress once more. This time, the citizens of Oradea weren’t so lucky anymore, but they learned one important lesson – better fortification was needed. This was the time when a new Gothic church (completely made out of stone) was built, and a fortification was designed in a heptagonal form. Sadly, the Gothic church was destroyed later on.

Picture © Credit to: CalinStan
Picture © Credit to: CalinStan
Picture © Credit to: CalinStan
Picture © Credit to: CalinStan

The Ottomans

As you may already read between the lines, the legends of Oradea fortress often include the foreigners. And this fact is not random if you consider the position of the Oradea city. Today, Oradea is located less than 15 km from the Hungarian border. Now, let’s go to the third legend. You may recall the fall of Buda, a part of the Hungarian capital, in 1541. This event was dramatic for Hungary and lead to 150 years of Ottoman dominance. When Buda fell, the Romanian cities of Alba Iulia and Timișoara were already under the Ottoman administration. All these events made Oradea an island of a Non-Ottoman power. The legend tells us that one winter Ali Pasha wanted to freeze the water around Oradea in order to conquer the fortress. But due to the thermal springs, the water didn't freeze, and this was the reason why Pasha couldn’t conquer the fortress. It was only in 1660 when 45.000 soldiers fought for 45 days until the fortress fell under the Ottoman occupation.

The legend of French soldiers

After a failed French invasion of Russia (the mission failed because of the freezing temperatures in Russia), some French soldiers asked for asylum in the fortress of Oradea. As they were not considered dangerous, the commander of the fort gave them permission to leave the fort and stay in the city. But the charm and manners of the French soldiers drove some women mad and led many families to break up. The situation got so out of hand that the bishop had to intervene and send the soldiers away, after receiving many complaints from the men in the city.

I think these tales that are unveiling the legends of Oradea Fortress, with the right amount of mystery, can only inspire you to come and explore it by yourself.


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The author

Eva Poteaca

Eva Poteaca

Hello, I am Eva from Bistrița, Romania. I studied art history and love to travel and discover hidden gems all over the world. Through my writing, I will share with you a different side of Romania.

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