Rasnov Citadel is an old fortress built on a mountaintop in Rasnov, Brasov county, Romania. It is partially in ruins, just as much as to look picturesque and medieval.
Rasnov citadel was built as part of a defense system for the Transylvanian villages in the area, that were exposed to all sorts of foreign invasions. A decisive point for building the stronghold on the actual location was the route of the invasive armies which were coming from the Bran pass and were crossing through Rsnnov, on their way to Burzenland (Tara Barsei – Transilvania). The only chance of survival for the inhabitants of the area was the refuge inside the citadel. Compelled to stay there for decades, the people of Rasnov and the nearby villages turned the fortification into a dwelling.
In 1421 the first siege of an Ottoman army took place on the citadel.
In 1600, Michael the Brave (Mihai Viteazul) along with his troops and his wife, Lady Stanca, retreated here after the defeat of Miraslau.
The citadel was conquered only once, during the rule of Prince Gabriel Báthory, in 1612. The fall was caused by the lack of water due to the discovery of the path to a secret spring by the enemy troops. Lack of water was a real problem for the citadel.
Because of the lack of a source of water interior to the citadel, between 1623 and 1642 a 146 meters (479 ft) deep well was excavated in it. (see below the legend of the well)
In 1718 the citadel was partially destroyed by a fire, and in 1802 it was damaged by an earthquake.
In 1821 refugees from Wallachia (the resurgent movement led by Tudor Vladimirescu) retreated in the citadel.
Between 1848-1849, because the vicinity was crossed by the Hungarian revolutionaries and the Austrian imperial troops, the villagers retreated to the citadel. This was the last mission of the citadel as a place of refuge and defense.
In 1850, due to the political situation and the diminution of the Citadel’s defensive role, the fortification was abandoned, becoming a ruin. There was only one guard left who had to announce the outbreak of fires by tolling a bell.
Because of the two world wars and the set up of the communist regime in Romania, the citadel was restored for the first time, barely, in the years 1955-1956.
Legend of the mythical well of Rasnov Citadel:
The absence of an internal water source led to the limitation of long-term resistance during sieges. Because of this lack, it was decided to start the digging of a well in the rocky soil, in 1623.
The legend says that during a siege, the inhabitants of the Rasnov citadel made two Turkish prisoners dig a well in the middle of the citadel in order to regain their freedom. The captives dug for 17 years, during which time they wrote verses from Quran on the walls of the well which can be seen even today. The fate of the prisoners isn’t known, with some saying that they were released, and others that they were killed.
The well was used until 1850 when a broken wheel in the well windlass caused its abandonment.
The elders from Rasnov believe that deep in the well lies a treasure at least 300 years old. However, recently alpinists have closely explored the well, without finding any trace of it.
Rasnov Citadel can be visited today for a small entry fee. Besides the ruins of once a great fortress and shelter for the people of Rasnov and surrounding villages, the citadel also shelters a medieval museum and it is the host of various historical events and exhibitions.
Inside the citadel, there is a museum which briefly presents slices from the local history, the area’s habits and crafts, and also gathers pieces and weapons from the inhabitants past. The exhibition contains the following sections: document photocopies, weapons, tools, stamps and period objects.
It is also a great place to buy souvenirs and memorabilia from the little shops in the citadel, neatly arranged like hundreds of years ago, with picturesque salesmen dressed either in traditional Romanian wear or even in light armor that was worn in the 15-16th centuries. You have also the chance to dress up as knights and damsels and take a photo in the old citadel, and even to save them on some nice souvenirs.
The access to the citadel can be done by walking up a quite steep hill (the citadel being on the very top of the mountain) or take the “bus” which is actually a powerful tractor that will pull up a wagon with people, almost up to the gates of the citadel. Halfway up, You will be able to see the Rasnov Dino Park – another attraction of the area that is worth visiting, especially for the children. The citadel itself is situated on the top of the mountain so the climb, up to it and inside it is quite steep. But the climb up to the highest point is definitely worth it. You will be able to see all around the citadel and imagine how the fortifications could be impenetrable, and there would be no enemy that could sneak up to the fortress unnoticed. 50bani coins will be handy to have in order to use the coin-operated observation deck binoculars set up on the top.