Rasnov Fortress, 800 Years Of History
Situated on the heights of the limestone hill, Rasnov Citadel will steal a glance from you, no matter from where you will approach it: Brasov, Predeal or Bran. Althought without the usual towers and crenels, Rasnov is both beautiful and impressive through its story and the many battles it withstood. In it’s 800 year old history, it is famous for being conquered only once.
Rasnov fortress is one of the best kept fortification of Transylvania. The oldest structures of it date back from the 14th century, probably on the same spot as the wooden fortifications, from the Teutonic Knight era, at the beginning of the 13th century.
The citadel controlled, with its strategic position, all access in Transylvania from the Rasnoava Valley. Because of the importance of these mountains passes coming from the south Carpathian territories, the Bran road neede to be under military survailance. After the teutonic knights were expelled from the area, the Hungarian royalty trusted the citadel to the order of the Knights of the Holy Cross. They were under the jurisdiction of the local Saxon community, or under the command of the print of Transylvania. By moving the border from Rucar to Bran and through building Bran castle for protection of the royal customs point, at the end of the 14th century, Rasnov citadel became the first fortification along the Bran road, when entering Transylvania. In 1427, emperor Sigismund of Luxemburg visited Rasnov, which he put under the administration of the local population and gave it the title of burg.
The Turks also tried their luck, in many campaigns, starting with 1421, but without success. The same thing cannot be said about Brasov, which was destroyed, not being fortified at that date. One can say that, despite the conquering by print Gabriel Bathory in 1602, Rasnov fulfilled its role, that of sheltering its residents and their animals, which provided the sustainability during a long siege.
Access in the actual fortification is not done directly, but through a walled courtyard, surrounded by a stone wall. This part is in ruin today and only holds the ground floor of what used to be a massive square stone tower, in the Eastern point. Of all the other 3 sides, the walls are flanked by steep cliffs, with an average height of 150 meters. These walls were protected by a continuous gallery, with 2 posts and 7 towers.
You know when you are the oldest part of the citadel when you see the buildings made only of stone. The newer ones also show some red brick.
The weaknes of the fortress
The Achiles heel of the citadel had been, for a long time, the lack of a natural spring to supply fresh water. When attacks continued for long periods and water supplies were used up, the refugees would come out at night and bring water from a local, secret spring. But for an efficient defense, the steep hills slopes surrounding the citadel were cleared of trees and were the climb was too easy, ditches were dug in the rock.
The name of the citadel and of the whole region comes from Rosenau, the name of the lands on the banks of the Rhine river, from where the Saxons of the area came.
It is difficult to imagine nowadays the theu feeling s of these people, when the alarm would have gone off and the villagers would have fled up to the citadel walls. The last doors was shut and sealed only after the very last villager would have made it inside. Then followed the first of the enemy arrows and the endless days of siege and the sacrifice of those going out for water.
A visit here is a lesson of history and life, because it was no simple feet for a handful of people to manage to build, in a period dominated by dividing, hardship and quarrels, something so strong and useful for the whole community.