MEMORIA URBIS is a project financed by the Local Council and the City Hall of Alba Iulia ("Alba Iulia - a history in images of the city through its streets and monuments"), between 2014 - 2019. The project is implemented by the "1 Decembrie 1918" University of Alba Iulia (through the Department of History, Archeology and Museology), in partnership with the National Union Museum of Alba Iulia.
Stories timeline: all stories (103)
Like most places in Transylvania, Alba Iulia has held different names throughout its history, as well as distinct names used among the three main ethnic groups of the province. Romanians called the city Bălgrad (White Fortress), the Hungarians named it Gyulafehérvár (Gyula’s White Fortress) and the Saxons used the name Weissenburg (White Fortress). The white fortress in all three names refers to the ruins of the Roman fortification of the Thirteenth Twin Legion, which existed there before the medieval...
Thirteenth Gemina Legion, the most important legion of Dacia province, was stationed in the ancient Roman settlement of Apulum. Its fortress was erected during the reign of Emperor Trajan. The stone walls were constructed only in the time of Emperor Hadrian. This fortress served as the main stronghold of Roman Dacia, resisting through the ages until the present day. Some portions of the fortress—one of its gates and the buildings belonging to the Principia—are preserved and can be visited by tourists.
One of the most significant buildings constructed in Apulum was the Governor’s Palace. We know its location due to excavations carried out in the area of Munteniei Street, which revealed a complex of edifices with a very diverse inventory of objects. In this building resided the governor—the supreme dignitary of Roman Dacia and representative of the emperor in the province. In its rooms the administrative and juridical staff and those in the secret services worked and lived. The Governor’s Palace...
The cult of Mithras, a god of mysteries, developed not just in Rome but in Dacia too. Initially it appeared in ancient Orient and later filtered through interpretatio romana into the Roman pantheon. In Apulum this god had many worshippers recruited mostly from the military, as is greatly demonstrated by the number of sculptures and inscriptions, and by a mithraeum. The Mithras sculptures of Apulum represent fine examples of provincial Roman art.
In Roman art, the mosaic had a double role, both practical and aesthetic. A few such works have survived from the Roman province of Dacia and most of them were found in Apulum. Since the eighteenth century seven mosaics have come to light varying from simple, bicolour designs to complex, polychrome ones with numerous figurative elements such as the Winds Mosaic found in 1782. This art is suggestive of the taste for beauty among the Roman inhabitants of Apulum, the skill of the workers and the financial...
Amphitheatres were among the public structures built in Roman urban settlements in the province of Dacia. The inhabitants of ancient Apulum would have been well acquainted with such a public building, as this was the place where games, shows and contests were organized. Even though the existence of an amphitheatre can be ascertained from both long-known and recently discovered information, certainty about its location is still impeded by a lack of proper data. Evidence for the amphitheatre currently...
The Capitoline Wolf illustrates the legend of the foundation of Rome. We find this symbol in the territory of Dacia. In antiquity it represented the veneration of the Roman (Latin) spirit and, implicitly, that of the emperor. Two monuments from Apulum of this kind display these symbols of Rome. One of them, now lost, used to be on the wall of the gate of the Roman fortress. In 1993, in Alba Iulia, a new statue of the Capitoline Wolf was unveiled. This statue was a donation from the Italian city of...
Salt is one of the most important minerals in history. It is necessary for humans and their animals and has long been an object of trade, often over long distances, as well as the cause of military conflicts. A good example of the importance of salt in history is provided by the region of Transylvania, which was coveted for its salt reserves. In this story, Alba Iulia has played an important role – as place of storage and a port for the shipping of salt via the Mureș River to Central Europe – from...
The Roman Catholic cathedral is the most important medieval monument of Alba Iulia. Its age – no less than eight centuries – and its constructive and architectural features, which are specific to Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles, make this building unique not only in Transylvania but also in this corner of Europe.
Lázó Chapel is the most important monument of the early Renaissance in Transylvania. It is an eclectic building combining architectural features typical of the Italian Renaissance, which spread slowly in this part of Europe, with archaic design solutions of the Gothic tradition.
The Augustinian hermits were one of the mendicant orders established by the Roman Catholic Church in the thirteenth century with the goal of combating heresies by preaching, education and mission. The church of Augustinian friars, known until recently as Báthory Church or Jesuits’ Church, was the third largest medieval monument of Alba Iulia fortress, after the Episcopal Cathedral and the Princes’ Palace. Built in the fourteenth century in late Transylvanian Gothic style, the building was demolished...
Due to the caprices of history, Alba Iulia’s archives have preserved little information concerning the inhabitants of Alba Iulia in the Middle Ages. For this reason, there is a disproportionate amount known about the Bishop of Transylvania and the clergy of the cathedral chapter compared to the people of the city. Given the scarcity of information about the inhabitants of the city, we must make use of the few sources available in order to glimpse life beyond the churchyard.
Louis I of Anjou (1342-1382), also known as Louis the Great (1342-1382) was the son of Charles Robert of Anjou (1301-1342), the king who succeeded in putting an end to anarchy and the tendencies towards autonomy of oligarchs, thus reinstating royal authority in the Kingdom of Hungary during the first three decades of his reign. During his four decades long reign, King Louis visited Transylvania seven times. In three instances—the visits of 1344, 1359, and 1366—his stay in Alba Iulia occasioned the...
The Hunyadi family represented the most prominent Romanian family of medieval Transylvania. Three members of this family were buried in the cathedral of Alba Iulia. During the Middle Ages, burial in the sacred space of the church, where liturgies and prayers were regularly sung, was an element of preparing the salvation of the souls of those who could afford such a privilege.
The cultural heritage of Antiquity has been appreciated in Alba Iulia since the Renaissance. The two Roman cities of Apulum had left behind fields of ruins which allowed the recovery of ca. 1000 inscriptions. The canon Johannes Mezerzius (1470-1516) was one of the earliest intellectuals to copy such inscriptions. He settled in Alba Iulia and the location of his house has recently been identified in the area of the former Palace of the Governor of Dacia. This detail explains, at least in small part,...
The Palace of Princes is one of the most important monuments in Alba Iulia and in Transylvania. Within its space, traces of Roman and medieval fortifications, the medieval and modern bishopric, the medieval cathedral chapter, and the dwellings of clerics still exist. During the Reformation, the princes of Transylvania (sixteenth to seventeenth centuries) took over and repaired earlier buildings, transforming them into a grand, luxurious residence organized around three courtyards. Butin the eighteenth...
Born in 1572, the son of Christopher Báthory and Elisabeth Bocskai could have been one of the greatest princes of Transylvania, had he not been unstable and changeable. He abdicated the throne of the principality four times. At the age of 23, he first assumed the title of Prince of Transylvania, Wallachia and Moldavia, achieving through treaties of vassalage a sort of unification of the principalities. However, as he later repeatedly gave up the throne, he only aggravated the internal and external...
Maria Christina is an important female figure in the history of Transylvania. She married Prince Sigismund Báthory in 1595 in Alba Iulia. A beautiful woman, endowed with all the qualities of a princess, she was unlucky in love. Her marriage to Sigismund, unconsummated due to his sexual dysfunction, proved a failure, and eventually she chose to become a nun.
Michael the Brave, ruler of Wallachia (1593-1600), governed from Alba Iulia, the capital of the Principality of Transylvania, from November 1599 to September 1600. This short period during which he exercised power over Transylvania (and over Moldova from May to September 1600) provided nineteenth century historians with an inspiring figure to portray as precursor of the unification of the territories inhabited by Romanians, and helped seal Alba Iulia’s image as symbolic location for the unification...
Catherine of Brandenburg’s name is embedded in the history of Transylvania as a woman of beauty, wealth and power. She was married to Prince Gabriel Bethlen. By the age of 27 she was a widow, and for a short time – from 16 November 1629 to 28 September 1630 – she ruled Transylvania. Evidence more-or-less proves that the beautiful princess had some love affairs during her marriage to Bethlen. In 1639, she married Francis Charles of Saxa-Lauerburg, and settled in Saxony.
Princess Anna Bornemisza, wife of Michael Apafi I, had a surprising personality, a magnetic charm, indefatigable ambition, great intelligence and overflowing energy. These qualities which were counterbalanced with a hard-nosed, mercantile, impatient, authoritarian streak, and an unhealthy obsession with black magic made her an immortal figure in Alba Iulia’s history, but also frightening and controversial one for many people.
Michael Apafi, perhaps unjustly deemed a weak prince, was ruler of Transylvania in 1661-1690, an interval characterized by great dangers. His rule brought a period of relative peace to the Principality and numerous benefits to the inhabitants. He supported education, book printing and coin minting. However, he was judged harshly for his joint passions for horologes and alcohol, as well as for the numerous witch trials carried out during his reign.
The superior school established in 1622 by Prince Gabriel Bethlen earned a significant role in the cultural life of Alba Iulia during the first half of the seventeenth century. It was a Humanist school, comparable to the Academy established in Jassy by Vasile Lupu, in 1640, and the Princely Academy of St Sava Monastery in Bucharest, established by Constantin Brâncoveanu in 1694. Aspiring to the role of protector of culture and the fine arts, Prince Bethlen aimed to make Alba Iulia a sort of “Heidelberg...
Alba Iulia was, for one-and-a-half centuries, not only the capital of the principality of Transylvania but also one of the centres of coin minting in central Europe. After the Habsburg conquest, the mint survived into the empire, acquiring the status of a first-class mint of the Austrian monarchy. The proximity of the mines in the Zlatna and Apuseni mountains, where the metals used in minting were extracted and processed, was a significant factor in the selection of this location. In Alba Iulia,...
As an important medieval and modern city, episcopal seat and, later, capital of the Principality of Transylvania, Alba Iulia benefitted from water supply works which would have met the expectations of upper class lifestyles. Apart from wells providing water to public squares, palaces, and inner courtyards, the fortress was provided in the time of Gabriel Bethlen with an aqueduct. The water was used not only to support daily needs, but also for the functioning of beautiful artesian fountains.
The Bastion of the Saxons, which is today accessible on the Route of the Tree Fortifications administered by the Corint company, has an interesting history tied to the stages of development of Alba Iulia. It was constructed between 1614 and 1627 as an attempt to improve the defensive capability of the capital of the Principality of Transylvania following the damage suffered in 1603 and 1613. It was the most successful part of an ambitious plan by the prince and three politically important groups...
The building which today houses Alba County Education Authority is also known as the Hall of the Saxon Seats. This name is a reminder of the time when Alba Iulia was the capital of the principality of Transylvania and the princes strove to transform the former episcopal city to reflect its new political role. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, various cities and counties in Transylvania and Partium, as well as the Saxon and Szekler Seats, owned accommodation facilities in Alba Iulia for...
The story of printing in Alba Iulia began with the arrival of the Polish printer Raphael Hoffhalter/Skrzetuski in the year 1567, when the city was capital of the Principality of Transylvania. In 1677, eight years after Hoffhalter’s press had closed, a scribe called Lorinț, who had worked as a Romanian printer with Coresi in Brașov, opened a short-lived printing press. The golden age of Alba Iulia book printing activity was in the seventeenth century, when two printing shops were active: those of...
Developing around the fortification from the Middle Ages onwards, the outer city evolved in strong connection with the fortress. It consisted of several neighbourhoods and suburbs and was constantly transformed receiving the aspect of a true urban centre. The existence of the outer city on this emplacement ended at the beginning of the eighteenth century when it was relocated to the east in order to make room for the construction of the new Vauban fortification.
At the turn of the eighteenth century, the Union of the Church of Transylvanian Romanians with the Church of Rome was decided in Alba Iulia, in a process which took place across three synods, organised between 1697 and 1700. The original terms agreed upon in the synods were subsequently undermined by confessional controversies with political and ethnic motivations, but despite the resulting period of conflict and resistance to unification, the synod’s act remains one of the most important moments...
The fortification built in the center of Transylvania in 1715-1738 proved to be the most grandiose Baroque monument of the province and the most important Vauban-type fortress of Romania.
The First Gate is part of the most important Vauban-type fortification in Transylvania and is located below the terrace on which the fortress is built, on its eastern side. This is first point of access into the fortress, followed by the barbican, a walled road climbing uphill towards the Second Gate.
The second gate is located in the upper part of the barbican. It was the second point of access in the fortress on the eastern side and the last one before the Third Gate. Together with the first gate it marks a chicane route designed to impede enemy access to the main gate whilst forcing foes to expose themselves to fire rained down by defenders. In the Alba Carolina fortress, the chicane route consisted of an access road with a steep ramp between the first and the second gates.
The Third Gate is located on the eastern side of the precincts and is the main access point to the fortress. The dimensions and richness of its decoration, which is part of a broader program meant to glorify Emperor Charles VI, render it the most impressive of the sixth gates. Through the quality of its figurative art, this monument, together with the other gates of Alba Carolina fortress, has influenced the development of Baroque sculpture in Transylvania.
Known formerly as the “Bishop’s Gate”, the Fourth Gate is located on the western side of the fortress, in the intermediate zone of the defensive wall connecting St. Michael and the Trinitarians’ bastions. Having one entrance for vehicles, with a mobile bridge on the outside, it allowed access to the interior of the fortress after passing through two other gates located on the western side (the sixth and fifth gates).
In the modern age, the fortress of Alba Iulia has been distinguished among other cities of Transylvania by its numerous parades and military ceremonies. This is the result of the fact that the Habsburg (1687-1918) and, after 1918, the Romanian army settled in the fortress. The ceremony of the changing of the guard took place in various spots. In the eighteenth century, it was held in front of the Arsenal (the former Princes Palace) or in front of Apor Palace, the residence of the commander of imperial...
In the pre-modern age, Alba Carolina, one of the most important fortresses of Transylvania, and Karlsburg, one of the most representative cities of the province, have benefitted from the official visits of the emperors of the house of Habsburg. This story deals with the visits of Emperor Joseph II in 1773 and 1783, as well as that of Emperor Francis and his wife, empress Carolina of Bavaria, in 1817.
There are some streets in Alba Iulia, dating back to the time of the Thirteenth Gemina Legion fortress (106 AD), which demonstrate the perpetuation of a certain urban tradition. Some secondary streets have retained their original character thanks to the preservation of the private properties located on them. One such place is Păcii Street, which in the modern age has borne various names: Italians’ Street, Post Street, Fogarasy Mihály utca, Axente Sever, Rosa Luxemburg, Library Street, Păcii Street,...
Gabriel Bethlen Street is one of the oldest lanes in Alba Carolina Vauban Fortress. Until 1714 it was called the Saxons’ Street; in 1850 it was known as The General’s Street and around 1900 as Batthyány Street; it was renamed after Andrei Șaguna in 1918, then Nicu Filipescu and finally it was named after the Transylvanian prince, Gabriel Bethlen. Several of Alba Iulia’s important cultural institutions and historical buildings flank this street, which preserves the atmosphere of the former city. It...
I am tempted to start this new story with a glimpse of fantasy. It is 2015, and I am on the nameless street between the National Museum of Unification and the Coronation Cathedral, in the centre of a quarter formed by Fortress’ Square, Tricolor Square, Unirii and Mihai Viteazul Streets. Thanks to the collection of photos shot by the ingenious archaeologist and photographer Adalbert Cserni, I am now able to see again the urban landscape of 1900, from a point located on Pavillon utcza (Pavilion Street),...
With the victory of Counter Reformation in Transylvania, obtained by the Catholic Church with the support of the Habsburgs, and because of the restoration of the Bishopric of Alba Iulia in 1716, a modern institution for the education of the Catholic clergy of the province became necessary. The school, which was to work according to the doctrine of Catholic Reformation established by the Council of Trent (1545-1563), was established in the proximity of the Latin bishopric of Alba Iulia, in the new...
The famous collection of handwritten and printed books in the Batthyáneum Library has been a major source of pride in Alba Iulia since the library was founded. Although the number of volumes – ca. 18,000 – is not particularly impressive, the rich variety and substantial age of the collection marks it as an exceptional library.
The origins of the buildings belonging to the military hospital, photographed by Adalbert Cserni around 1900, go back to the early eighteenth century, if not to the last decades of the seventeenth century, when the activity of a hospital in Alba Iulia was first mentioned. In its 300-year existence, the hospital carried various names and was closely connected to major events in Alba Iulia throughout this time. The outbreaks of epidemics, the 1848-49 revolution, the First World War and most significantly,...
Imperial troops arrived in Alba Iulia and were quartered in the city at the end of the seventeenth century, after the Habsburg domination of Transylvania had begun. The accommodation of a large number of soldiers was a difficult issue to solve. A new residence for the Habsburg army officers and their families was built between 1851 and 1853. Due to the multiethnic character of the occupants, the Officers’ Pavilion no. 1 was nicknamed “Babylon”. The building’s walls are over one meter thick. Its shape...
During the 1848-1849 revolution, in Transylvania imperial Habsburg troops under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Ludwig von Losenau clashed with the revolutionary Hungarian army commanded by the Polish General Józef Bem. As both armies suffered heavy losses, neither could claim victory. Nevertheless, the “heroic Vice-Colonel” von Losenau was badly injured by a rifle bullet on the morning of 9 February 1849 and died a couple of days later. In memory of the Austrian military commander, in 1853 a neo-gothic...
Five years after the foundation of the Kingdom of Italy, in 1861, the Italians intervened in the conflict between Prussia and the Habsburg Empire. They aimed to unite Venice with the Italian Kingdom. Thus, the Italians created a southern front, which forced Vienna to send to Lombardy an important military force led by Archduke Albert. Since at that time Transylvania was part of the Habsburg Empire, the Fiftieth Infantry Regiment from Alba Iulia participated at the battle of Custozza, in 1866. Forty...
Within the fortress of Alba Iulia, known as the most important military center of Transylvania, the main building of “1 Decembrie 1918” University of Alba Iulia has, during the last 700 years, remained a space dedicated to culture and the spread of knowledge. A succession of promoters of medieval and modern culture stayed here, from the Augustinian Hermits (thirteenth to sixteenth centuries), the Dominicans (sixteenth century), and finally, in the same place but at two different periods, the Jesuits...
The Lower City appeared in the eighteenth century due to the eastern relocation of the former settlement around the fortification at the foot of the plateau. The day-to-day life of the city was moved here while the inner part of the fortress was almost completely occupied by the Austrian army and the staff of the Roman Catholic Bishopric. In this new emplacement, houses, churches and other public edifices were built, shops opened, a street network developed, and soon the new settlement reached the...
The Romanian community has consistently formed a significant part of the population of the city. Living initially on the outskirts of the city, its presence and influence in the life of the city gradually became more and more visible. A similar evolution can be detected from a demographic view point, with the Romanian population becoming the most numerous in Alba Iulia after Transylvania’s unification with Romania.
Located in the Lower City, on Iașilor Street, the Holy Trinity Church was the first stone church built by Romanians in Alba Iulia, and was constructed in the eighteenth century. It was built in the new area of the outer city which was developing on the eastern side of the terrace on which the Vauban fortification was built in 1715-1738.
The Church of the Dormition of the Mother of God is located in the lower city, on Mărășești Street, and is one of the oldest constructions of this kind in Alba Iulia. Romanian believers built the church in the eighteenth century. Its construction was connected with the restructuring imposed by the building of Alba Carolina fortress, which forced the resettlement in a new location of the medieval city lying outside the walls of the Roman fortress.
The Annunciation Church, on Călăraşi Street in the lower city, was the first church built by the Orthodox Romanians of Alba Iulia following the promulgation of the edict of tolerance by Emperor Joseph II on 29 November 1781. Known as “the Greeks’ church”, it was built by the Romanians living in Lipoveni neighborhood, who reembraced Orthodoxy in the second half of the eighteenth century, with financial support from Aromanian tradesmen living in Alba Iulia. Their former church had remained the property...
Located in the Lower City, on Iașilor Street, Holy Trinity is Alba Iulia’s second stone-built Orthodox Church. It was erected after the promulgation by Emperor Joseph II of the Edict of Tolerance on 29 November 1781. The church was built by the Maieri neighbourhood’s Romanian community following a major religious shift from Uniation to Orthodoxy.
The Hungarians played an important role in the history of the city. Until the beginning of the modern age they represented one of the most populous ethnic communities of the city. This community was quite influential during the principality of Transylvania (1541-1690), when many nobles of the princely household were also members of the local Hungarian community. In the eighteenth to twentieth centuries, its role diminished gradually. The community’s demographic evolution followed this trend, and...
Located in the Lower City, on the present Regina Maria Street, the Calvinist church is the only monument of this religious denomination in Alba Iulia. It was constructed around the mid-eighteenth century, shortly after Alba Iulia’s Magyar, German and Romanian populations were relocated to the east of the outer city, in the newly built neighbourhood housing Alba Iulia’s Magyar inhabitants.
The Germans have been a constant presence in the history of Alba Iulia. Although they were never numerous, they formed an influential and respected community in the population of the city. The community had a relatively heterogeneous structure, comprising Transylvanian Saxons and Germans who had emigrated to Alba Iulia from various provinces of the Habsburg Empire. The German community has gradually diminished, and currently represents a modest proportion of the population of the city.
In June 1623, Prince Gabriel Bethlen issued a decree which allowed Sephardic Jews to enter the principality of Transylvania. They were allowed to settle exclusively in Alba Iulia. This decision was motivated by a desire to improve commercial exchanges with the Ottoman Empire. After the incorporation of Transylvania into the Habsburg Empire the number of Jews increased, with Ashkenazi Jews settling in the province next to the Sephardic Jews. In Alba Iulia, for a while, two synagogues functioned.From...
Among the earliest cultural societies to support the establishment of museums in Transylvania was the one established in Alba Iulia in 1886.The local museum opened its gates in 1888 offering to the public rich collections of Roman archaeology, natural sciences, ethnography and numismatics. The collections were in the custody of Adalbert Cserni, custodian and director of the museum. The museum earned an undeniable role of pillar of local cultural life during the three decades of existence. Cserni’s...
Among the local individuals who have earned international recognition, two names stand out for their contributions to the study of archaeology and local history in Alba Iulia: Adalbert Cserni and Alexandru Borza.
In the nineteenth century, the parish of Pâclișa was a rather small one compared to other parishes in the area of Alba Iulia. This parish became known through the actions of the priest Nicolae Cado who served that parish from 1878 to 1925. He was the author of an appreciated parish chronicle and the quality of his chronicling and his organizational efforts distinguish Cado among Transylvanian rural intellectuals of his age.
In modern age Alba Iulia, there were individuals who cared deeply about the visual memory of the city, and they left evidence of their passion in the form of photographs. Stimulated by their thirst for beauty and concern for the preservation of images of the past, the photographers succeeded, through their pictures, to convey the image of the old city. The first stage of this project, Alba Iulia – a history in images of the city through its streets and monuments is based on two important collections...
Generally, after visiting a city we remember images of monuments, buildings, squares, parks and perhaps museums. However, real city life vibrates in the inhabitants of that city. They can be perceived as a population and, in that case, might be defined using the dry instruments of statistics. Nevertheless, being truly acquainted with the inhabitants of a city, in this case those of Alba Iulia, will transform them from a gloomy and faceless mass into persons with names, nationalities, expressions,...
Inns are places where much of the public life of a city unfolds. Despite of the criticism of moralists, pubs and taverns are also important nodes in the social life of the city. The famous interwar period sociologist, Dimitrie Gusti, included the “pub” in his theoretical system as a social unit, alongside the mill, the school, the city hall and even the church. He did not regard the pub as a place for wasting money on drinks, but as somewhere people learnt news and conducted all sorts of business.
Seeing the transformations occurring in the metropolitan areas of the Habsburg Empire, moralists, physicians and the municipal authorities of Alba Iulia adopted a series of measures aiming to improve morality and public health. Among the innovative normative decisions in the “struggle against immorality and venereal diseases” was the system of prostitution. The ordination regarding prostitution was first adopted in Pest, in 1867, and later spread throughout Hungary until the beginning of the First...
In olden times, every little town had a Main Street. For Alba Iulia in 1900, with its 11,000 inhabitants, Main Street was the popular name for segments of street which were renamed with each regime change. Let us compare the Main Street of Alba Iulia in the past and today. Are we biased towards the image of the past when, as the old photos show, this broadway was more animated? Although it is still a commercial street, it exhibits nothing like the vibrancy it displayed around 1900. So what do we...
In ancient and medieval times the city of Alba Iulia was accessible by waterways and roads built by the Romans. In 1754 the first official long-distance public transport became available in the form of the mail coach service between nearby Sibiu and Vienna. From 1865, when the railway reached Alba Iulia, travellers had the additional option of the steam locomotive.
The railway station of Alba Iulia was constructed in 1868, the year when the first railway in Transylvania started to operate on the Arad–Alba Iulia route. Thus, Alba Iulia city-dwellers were among the first Transylvanians to enjoy access to train travel. The first freight train arrived in Alba Iulia on 8 December 1868, while the first passenger train stopped in the station two weeks later. The station initially consisted of two identical halls connected by a vestibule, and was enlarged and renovated...
Let us start by stepping into the shoes of a passing traveller who, watching from the window of a coach, caught some fleeting glimpses of the outward-facing sides of Alba Iulia around the year 1900. Entering the city from the south, the imposing size of Johanna Mill, a true embodiment of the idea of industry, would have impressed this visitor. However, this impression would be short-lived. The next sequence of sights would give him reasons to think that he was just passing through a settlement with...
In the interwar decades sport was a lively topic in the local press. The tone of the articles fluctuated between disappointment and optimism. “We do not know at the first moment how to consider it, as humorous or tragicomic. We do not know if in all Romania there is a city with a more neglected sports activity as that of Alba Iulia”. The sarcasm-laden article from which this quotation was taken, was published in the newspaper Vestea (The News) in 1924. The author used the pseudonym Dellius (a Roman...
On 30 October, in Budapest, the Central Romanian National Council was established. After settling in Arad, on 2 November, this new power centre required all Romanians from Transylvania establish county and village national councils in every relevant ward. One of the first to be established was the Romanian National Council of Alba Iulia. This was not simply a local administrative institution. The exercise of power during the preparation of the Great National Assembly conferred it important competences...
At the beginning of November 1918, the soldiers returned from the front with their weapons. Many became involved in actions generically referred to as “revolution”. The actions consisted in attacks against the civil authorities still in function and in the looting both of the farms of great rural landowners and of urban shops. The Central Romanian National Council of Arad took a salutary measure. In the Appeal to the Romanian Nation, published on 8 November 1918, Romanian soldiers were deemed free...
Camil Velican’s biography was fairly typical of a Romanian intellectual at the turn of the nineteenth century. However, in his case there is slight deviation from the most widespread pattern: he was not son of a farmer. His father, Alexandru, was lawyer, then judge of the tribunal of Lower Alba County. Through his mother, Maria Țârlea, he was related to the family of the Greek Catholic Bishop Vasile Hossu and Cardinal Iuliu Hossu.
One question arises from the debates on the 1 December 1918 event: why was it organised in Alba Iulia. Romantic nineteenth century historiography consecrates Alba Iulia as the city of Unification, achieved by Michael the Brave in 1600, and it is thus seen as a symbol of the national unity of Romanians. The members of the executive board of the Romanian National Party, meeting in Oradea on 12 October 1918, declared that only a national assembly could decide the frame of the national self-determination...
The Great National Assembly of Alba Iulia was attended by eleven orators: Ștefan Cicio Pop, President of the Central Romanian National Council; Ioan Suciu, Assembly Speaker; Gheorghe Pop de Băsești, President of the Romanian National Party; Vasile Goldiș; Iuliu Maniu; Iosif Jumanca; Alexandru Vaida Voevod; Ioan I. Papp, Orthodox Bishop of Arad; Miron Cristea, Orthodox Bishop of Caransebeș; Iuliu Hossu, Greek Catholic Bishop of Gherla; and Aurel Vlad. Only the first eight gave speeches in the Hall...
The photos taken at the National Assembly in Alba Iulia are widely known and have historical significance. Their author, Samoilă Mârza, who lived in Alba Iulia for a long time, is less well-known to the public. His activity was diverse and interesting, and was not limited to the photos made during the Great National Assembly.
The Romanian army’s entry into Alba Iulia and the Great National Assembly were part of the same project, although there was no mutual determination between the two. At the end of November, the Romanian government was still in Jassy, and repeated its military campaign of August 1916, when the country had begun its participation in the First World War, with the goal of uniting Transylvania with Romania and protecting Romanians living beyond the Carpathians. Although the act of 1 December 1918 was not...
In this text we deal with the past of Horea, Cloșca and Crișan College. Horea, Cloșca and Crișan College was originally named Michael the Brave, but was renamed during the Communist regime when these three leaders of the Romanian peasant uprising of 1784,imprisoned and executed in Alba Iulia, became fashionable as fighters for social justice. The importance of this history is conferred by the fact that the centenary of the high school is preceded by that of the Unification of Transylvania with Romania...
General Henri Mathias Berthelot, head of the French Military Mission in Romania during the First World War, visited Alba Iulia twice. His first visit was organised one month after the unification of Transylvania with Romania. The second visit took place during the crowning ceremonies organized on 15 October 1922, for King Ferdinand I and Queen Mary. The photo displays the Romanian monarch and the French general in a cordial handshake.
After the treaty of Trianon was signed on 4 June 1920, which gave international recognition to the unification of Transylvania with Romania, the time had arrived for the materialization of the project to invest King Ferdinand I as sovereign of the new Romania. While the coronation act itself did not meet any opposition, several proposals existed on its detailed enactment. Late, in February 1921, Nicolae Iorga’s proposal won. His idea was to rebuild, as a symbolic gesture, the former metropolitan...
The outbreak of the First World War revived the possibility of the unification of Transylvania with Romania. But at the beginning of the war, the national mindset of the unionist groups differed from that at the end. Public opinion in the capital, of Transylvanians established in Bucharest, and of government members envisioned the following development: Romania would sign an alliance with France, England, and fatally, Russia. The Entente would lead to victory in the conflict with the Central Powers,...
Military clerics became embedded in the Romanian army soon after the Unification of the Principalities in 1859. However, up to the war of independence (1877-1878), they had an uncertain status and were not entitled to the same advantages as officers. The outbreak of the First World War prompted the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church and the General Headquarters of the Army to adopt a set of instructions which systematized the network of priests in the army and assimilated it into the military...
From the third decade of the twentieth century, urban life in Alba Iulia received a new spirit, which combined both the old and the new. The effects of belonging to the new Romanian state gradually extended into daily life, just as they did in the other urban settlements of Transylvania. Up until the Second World War, Jewish entrepreneurs retained their preponderance in industry, commerce and credit. After a slow start, Romanian industries, shops and banks appeared. The Uzina Comunală (Communal Plant)...
Head of the National Liberal Party and Prime Minister and Minister of Romania several times, Ion I. C. Brătianu visited Alba Iulia only after 1918, the year of Transylvania’s unification with Romania. He had a fundamental role in the creation of Greater Romania, and also coordinated King Ferdinand’s and Queen Mary’s coronation ceremony and festivities, which were held in Alba Iulia on 15 October 1922. On 16 September 1995, in the square which today bears his name, a statue of Ion I. C. Brătianu was...
Iuliu Maniu was one of the most prominent politicians of interwar Romania. He started his political career as a deputy in the Parliament in Budapest, before the unification of Transylvania with Romania; then, in the interwar period, he was member of the Parliament in Bucharest and President of the Romanian National Party from Transylvania, and from 1926 he was President of the National Peasant Party and Prime Minister of Romania. Although he did not originate from Alba Iulia, he developed a strong...
The countries that rose from the ruins of the Austro-Hungarian Empire did not celebrate their first decade of existence counting from the signing of the international treaties that conferred their international legitimacy. The year of reference was instead 1918, when the political will to encompass the new nation states within certain borders was expressed. Romanians were no exception in planning impressive 10th Anniversary celebrations for 1928, to demonstrate to themselves and the world that the...
Those walking down through the Third Gate of Alba Iulia fortress will notice a stone obelisk whose height might astound them first. Few will realise that they are in front of the most important public-space monument of twentieth-century Romania. Who built it? The name of its sculptor, Iosif Fekete, is almost forgotten today. In spite of this, for connoisseurs he is rated most definitely alongside Dimitrie Paciurea, who was his professor, Corneliu Medrea and, why not, Constantin Brâncuși. The...
Unification festivities have always had a political aspect. Their organisation required material efforts, mass mobilisation and institutional cooperation, which needed instruments that only the government commanded. The festivities of 1939 were characterised by the theatrical rigidity of King Charles IIs’ regime and the dark spectre of the world war which had just started.
During the inter-war decades, the central and local authorities have often attempted to rectify the imbalance between the historical importance of Alba Iulia and its less powerful position among the urban centers of the country. Only in the fourth decade of the twentieth century did some signs of such a transformation become apparent, when the developments of regionalization projects envisioned an important administrative role for the city that would extend its authority well beyond its county limits....
Over the two millennia of its existence, Alba Iulia has been visited by voivodes, kings, emperors and presidents, all of them nurturing a special interest in this city. On 1 December 1940, on the anniversary of 22 years since the unification of Transylvania with Romania, General Antonescu, leader of the state, was present in Alba Iulia. The national assembly was attended by tens of thousands of participants coming from all over Transylvania and Bucharest in a spirit of great excitement.
During the four decades of the Communist regime in Romania, Alba Iulia was disregarded, especially from 1950 to 1968, when the city belonged to Hunedoara Region. In this time, many buildings were destroyed and many new buildings were constructed. The results of the regime’s building programmes are visible today in neighbourhoods dominated by apartment blocks and other inelegant constructions. The city underwent forced industrialization and a spectacular population growth during this period.
Petru Groza, the leader of the first Communist government of Romania after World War II, visited Alba Iulia not long after the implementation of the agrarian reform in the year 1945. This measure aimed to attract the support of the rural inhabitants of Alba County. His discourse combined democratic promises with totalitarian practices, as the goal of the leader of the Agricultural Laborers’ Front was that of founding a new society. He came to Alba Iulia twice, in 1946 and 1947, at a time when the...
Nicolae Ceauşescu, leader of Romania from 1965 to 1989, was the guest of Alba Iulia on several occasions. The importance of various historical events that had taken place in Alba Iulia, and of foremost importance the unification of Transylvania with Romania in this city, contributed to the choice of this destination. He visited Alba Iulia five times between 1966 and 1984, a period that witnessed a gradual intensification of the personality cult of the Communist leader and his wife. While in 1966...
For almost two decades, Communist authorities in Romania were interested exclusively in the history of workers’ movement, completely ignoring national aspects. In the mid-1960s, Romanian traditions and cultural values were recovered, and the historical past started to be perceived again through the national lens. In this context, on 28 November 1968, the anniversary of fifty years of Unification of Transylvania with Romania was celebrated at Alba Iulia.
On 28 November 1968, on his second visit to Alba Iulia, Nicolae Ceaușescu, general secretary of the Romanian Communist Party, attended the unveiling of the equestrian statue of Prince Michael the Brave. The sculpture was ordered with the aim of promoting a message of unity: in the mid-1960s, in light of Romania’s fragmented history, the unity and continuity of the Romanian people had become favourite themes of historical writing. Michael the Brave was ignored for several decades before he was rediscovered...
The attitude alluded to in the title is only one component of the strong and complex personality of Áron Márton. His biography tells of a man who was modest, courageous and a leader of men. He was born as a humble farmer, but his career followed a different path, as a soldier, a priest and later a bishop. His oppositional stances, first against the Hungarian authorities’ deportation of Jews to concentration camps, and later to the Communist regime, brought him many difficulties in life, including...
After the anti-Communist revolution at the end of 1989, the government decided to celebrate as national day the Unification of Transylvania with Romania, enacted in Alba Iulia on 1 December 1918. Thus, on 1 December 1990, a great national assembly was organized in this city, with the participation of the entire political class. Unfortunately, it was not a great feast, but a political confrontation between political parties.
1 Decembrie 1918 University of Alba Iulia was established in 1991. This new institution continues a tradition of higher education in the city dating back to the seventeenth century when a university college was established by Prince Gabriel Bethlen. Over the twenty-five years since its establishment, the University of Alba Iulia has made tremendous progress and today has 4000 students attending pursuing BA, MA and doctoral studies. Professor Iuliu Paul, a specialist in prehistory, and rector of the...
This topic has a tradition that extends back more than a century. As early as 1915, important political and public circles in Bucharest entertained the project of crowning King Ferdinand I in Alba Iulia. From that time evolved various stages of a relationship between the kings of Romania and the city consecrated by Romantic historiography as the capital of the principalities united by Michael the Brave. These stages have given birth to memorable images and events. We should not overlook the royal...