Sighisoara

Remains from the Bronze Age have been found in Sighisoara, in center of Romania, some 300 km north of Bucharest, as well as an Iron Age Dacian fortresses, and remains from the Roman period of rule and administration.

During the 12th century, German craftsmen and merchants known as the Transylvanian Saxons were invited to Transylvania by the King of Hungary to settle and defend the frontier of his realm. The defense walls are 960 meters long, and of the 17 towers there are only nine left, except for the Clock Tower, built in the 14th century, which is the Sighisoara landmark and the most impressive and picturesque of all Sighisoara towers, rising to the height of 64 meters.

Most of the 164 houses of the Sighisoara city, at least 300 years old and painted in various fresh colors, are considered historical monuments of this fairy-tale-like fortified city. The chronicler Krauss lists a Saxon settlement in actual Sighisoara by 1191. By 1337 Sighişoara had become a royal center of the kings, who awarded the settlement urban status in 1367 as the Civitas de Segusvar. The city played an important strategic and commercial role at the edges of Central Europe for several centuries. Sighisoara became one of the most important cities of Transylvania, with artisans from throughout the Holy Roman Empire visiting the settlement. The German artisans and craftsmen dominated the urban economy, as well as building the fortifications protecting it. It is estimated that during the 16th and the 17th centuries Sighisoara had as many as 15 guilds and 20 handicraft branches. The Baroque sculptor Elias Nicolai lived in the city.

Sighisoara features very well preserved medieval citadel which contains the house where Vlad Tepes was born in the main square. The Wallachian prince Vlad Dracul – father of Vlad the Impaler /Vlad Dracul III/, who lived in exile in the town, let minted coins in the city /otherwise coinage was the monopoly of the Hungarian kings in the Kingdom of Hungary/ and issued the first document listing the city’s Romanian name of Sighisoara. In 1431 Vlad the father was awarded the first-class member of the Order of the Dragon and became known by the nick-name “Dracul”. At that time he was military governor of Transylvania but was later to become prince /voivode-duke/ of Wallachia, the position that had formerly been held by his father Mircea.

Vladislav III Zmajević (Romanian Vladislaus III Drakulya), prince and duke of Wallachia is known as Vlad Tepeš /Romanian Vlad Ţepeş/ or Vlad Dracul who was the Wallachian duke who ruled the Wallachia in three periods: 1448, 1456—1462. and in 1476. Vlad Tepes is widely known by alleged cruel methods he performed during his reign in defence from the Ottoman conquest, especially of impaled execution of Ottoman captures and their accomplices and associates. He is also known as inspiration for the name of the vampire in the Dracula novel by the Irish writer Brem Stocker. Vlad’s father, Vlad II Dracul was member of the Dragon Order which was established for defense of the Christian population in East Europe. Vlad II Dracul was respected as the national hero In Romania as well as in other parts of Europe thanks to his protection of the Serb population living north and south of the Danube. Significant number of ordinary people and boyars – noblemen who settled north of the Danube and in Wallacia had recognized Vlad III as the leader in defense against the Ottomans. During his life Vlad III used Wladislaus Dragwlya, vaivoda partium Transalpinarum /1475/ for his name in Latin documents. In Romanian language he inherited patronym of Dragwlya /or Dragkwlya/ Dragulea, Dragolea, Drăculea which is deminutive of Dracul that was used in name by his father Vlad II who was member of the Dragon’s Order since 1431. In modern Romanian language Dragon is read as Drac /from the Latin Draco/. Later the extension of -ul was added so Vlad II was known as Vlad Dracul or Vlad Dragon. The word of drac means devil in Romanian, that lead later to wrong interpretation and wrong meaning that Vlad was devil. The nick name of Vlad the Impaler is connected with cruel methods of impalement of opponents and was in use only around 1550 after his death. Earlier Vlad III was known as Kazikli Bey in the Ottoman Empire.

Vladislav Zmajevic was born in the fortress of Sighisoara in 1431. His father was Vlad II Dracul, and mother was the Moldavian princess Snezana. He had older brother Mircea and younger half-brother Radu. The same year he was born, his father Vlad Dracul II was appointed member of the Crusaders Dragon’s Order by the German tsar and Hungarian King Sigismund of Luxembourg when he was nick-named the Dracul /the dragon/. The task of fights against the Ottomans on the border of Transylvania and Wallachia was entrusted to Vlad Dracul II who overthrew Alexandru Aldeu from the throne in 1436 and became the Prince of Wallachia. Then he understood that balance of power turns in the favor of the Ottoman sultan Murad II and formed an alliance with the Turks against the King Sigismund. In 1438 he took part with the Turks in the the attack of Transylvania along with his sons Vlad Dracul and Mircea. In this campaign he often helped and rescued Christians from the Turkish prison, that made the Ottomans suspect his loyalty. Vlad II and sons Vlad III and Radu were imprisoned in 1444 during their visit to sultan Murad. After short confinement Vlad II confessed his oath to the sultan and presented his sons as hostages for his fidelity. The second wife of Vlad Dracul III was Ilona Silagy /Jusztina Szilágyi/ from Transylvania with whom he had two sons.

Vlad III and his younger semi-brother Radu were in house arrest in Asia Minor where they learned the Turkish. Allegedly there when observing the Turkish methods of torture the Vlad Dracul developed high and strong sense for cruelty. He made his guardians feared by his intransigence while being whipped and tortured. In the meantime his father Vlad II returned to the Wallachian throne and regained his earlier oath to the Dragon’s Order. He joined the battles against Ottomans, and his previous oath to the sultan was released by the Pope. His son Mircea was active participant in the large Crusaders campaing in 1443 when Ottomans lost the Giurgiu fortress. However the campaign to Varna in 1444 was complete failure. Dracul and Mircea blamed John Hunyadi as the comander of the Varna campaign for this catastrophic defeat of the crusaders. Supporters of Hunyadi killed Vlad II Dracul in 1447 and had Mircea blinded and dug alive. After death of Vlad II Ottomans wanted Vlad III to return to Wallachia and supported him on the ruler on the throne as their ally. Vlad III succeded to escape from the Ottoman military camp and found rescue by his uncle, prince Bogdan II, with whose son he continued education in the Suceava Monastery. Soon he convinced John Hunyadi in his committment in opposition to the Ottoman conquest and supported by him returned to the Wallachian throne. He started reforms of the foreign and internal politics and is famous for his reliance on the ordinary people and national militia which made the majority of his army. He executed land assignement to ordinary people and had suspended feudal tribute and so provided the status of free soldiers to all who were ready to join the national militia /police/ in the battles agains the Ottomans. He became the full member of the Dragon’s Order. Vlad III refused to wear a crown, but used a cap – black fur cap as the symbol of ruler which was actually a ring with a red ruby on the golden eight-sided fork with pearl branches between which were eagle’s feathers possitioned. Special features were assigned to this ring with the precious stone. This symbol of the Wallachian rule was last time seen on the portrait of Michael the Brave, the Wallachian prince 1593-1601. Legends on righteousness and brutal and heroic fights against the Ottomans of Vlad Dracul III – Vlad Tepes are still alive in traditions of Gorje and Banat areas, contrary to the numerous stories on vampires and his cruelty. Vlad III Tepes ended his life in 1477 when was beheaded by the Ottomans, with his head transferred to the  sultan in Istanbul who showed it around as the sign that the Karila Bey was finally dead. It is assumed that Vlad Tepes was buried close to the Comana Monastery in Giurgiu county which he himself established in 1461. The name of Vlad Tepes is listed among donors of the Hilandar Monastery in the Holy Mount Athos.

The Sighisoara medieval stronghold was built on top of a hill and is known as the “Citadel” /Cetate/. The lower town of Sighisoara is sitated in the valley of Târnava Mare river. The city was the setting for George I Rákóczi’s election as Prince of Transylvania and King of Hungary in 1631. Sighisoara suffered military occupation, fires, and plagues during the 17th and 18th centuries.

Central Sighisoara has preserved in an exemplary way the features of a small medieval fortified city, and since 1999 has been listed by the UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and as a World Heritage City. Sighisoara is considered to be the most beautiful and well preserved inhabited citadels in Europe with an authentic medieval architecture. In Eastern Europe, Sighisoara is one of the few fortified towns which are still inhabited. The town of Sighisoara is made up of two parts and is situated 220 km northwest of Bucharest. Sighisoara is a well-known and loved tourist destination in Europe frequently visited by tourists from all over the world.

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