THE FORTRESS FESTIVAL FROM CARANSEBEŞ
In mid-September each year, Caransebeș dresses up the medieval festive attire for three days of feast during the “Fortress Festival”.
The medieval town of Caransebeș is first certified in 1289.
The first day of the festival is Friday and starts with the parade of the Roman soldiers, the Dacian soldiers, the knights and the princesses, on a route starting from the Town Hall Square to the Teius Park, where the place fits the best to the medieval decor.
In the same afternoon, at the “Corneliu Baba” Art Gallery the “International Satirical Graphic and Caricature Salon” is organised, in which caricatures to the minute are sketched by the plastic artists and by the most famous Romanian caricaturist in the world, Ştefan Popa Popa’s, born in Caransebeș, on June 11, 1955.
The only Romanian in the Book of Records, Popa Popa’s, holds the world record of endurance through the 2772 coloured caricatures made in 10 days and 10 nights at the International Caricature Festival in Saint-Esteve, France. Go to the “Corneliu Baba” Gallery and you will have the great chance of having a portrait of Popa’s in a minute.
Caransebeş won the first prize at the Lugano Fair for destinations worth exploring grace to the opening of the Popa Popa’s Caricature Museum, where works from all around the world will be exposed, from Picasso to Dali, about whom few knew that he had also done caricatures himself. The museum will be a cultural landmark in the Mountainous Banat and unique in the world.
On the second day, Saturday, you can see the struggles between two civilizations, the Dacians and the Romans in Teiuş Park. The atmosphere is maintained by knights and princesses through medieval dances, medieval theatre plays, performances with torches and spades, acrobatics and fire juggling on a musical background provided by the troubadours. In the afternoon, there are other demonstrations of horse racing and chivalrous tournements, creating a lot of suspense and emotion.
The last day of the celebrations brings the audience back to the 21st century, when a unique air show is taking place in the morning at the Caransebeş Airport, with 4 airplanes, 3 helicopters, two paragliders and a hot air balloon. The celebrations end with performances given by folk music ensembles of Banat and modern music bands.
Finally, you will witness an impressive firework.
Through this traditional festival, the medieval world and the harmony related to the picturesque memory of those times are brought to the heart of the inhabitants and tourists, accompanied by great joy and good mood.
Of course, participating to the “Fortress Festival”, you will ask: But where is the fortress? To find out the answer, we encourage you to participate in the theme park:
Theme Park no. 4. MAN’S REDISCOVERY:
Medieval fortresses in Banat
AT THE EDGE OF THE EMPIRES AND AT CROSSROADS
Situated at the edge of the empire, Mountainous Banat has been a permanent battleground between the Roman Empire and the Geto-Dacian Kingdom, or between the Habsburg (Austrian) and Ottoman (Turkish) Empire.
Visiting the vestiges of the medieval fortresses in Banat, the tourist can reconstruct the restless history of the Romanians from Banat.
“The fortress was, in all its forms, an essential symbol of the Middle Ages all around the medieval Europe. The medieval fortresses from Banat, as a border area throughout the XI-XVIth centuries, represent a significant segment of the European cultural heritage. Located on the heights, they have been dominating the geographic landscape from the moment of their construction until nowadays. The ruins of these fortresses have now benefited of a greening process, by cleaning up the vegetation and the shrubs, and at the same time by placing several marking signs that details the history of each fortress” [Ţeicu D., 2009].
The theme park includes 10 medieval fortresses in Mountainous Banat , whose vestiges are even in the present day testimonies of the fortifications built on the places where the Roman fortresses were: the Caraş Fortress, near Caraşova, the Cuieşti Fortress near Bocşa, the Stronghold ” Ovidius’s Tower ” at Turnu Ruieni, the Stronghold at Mehadia, the Tricule Fortress at Sviniţa, the Drencova Fortress, the “Sf. Ladislau ” Fortress at Coronini, the Ilidia–Socolari Fortress, the Ilindia Stronghold and the Sebeş Fortress.
The Caraş Fortress (1323). On the right bank of Caraş, above the steep cliff wall from the Caras Gorges, 200 m from the water level, you can see the ruins of the Caraş Fortress. The remains of the fortress can be seen today on Grad Hill, at an altitude of 480 m and at a distance of 2 km from Caraşova.
Among the legends of the place, it is said that a Turkish pasha, passing thorugh these places during a war, was looking to the river from the fortress and he kept telling it Kara Su (the black water), hence the name of the fortress and of the river Caras. The fortification plan was adapted to the characteristics of the land, having the shape of an irregular polygon. The walls are made of limestone, and the carved blocks have been bonded with lime, wine and milk mortar. That’s why the mortar is so strong today that you cannot take out any stone. The two defence ditches dug into the limestone rock and the fortress’fountain are still visible today. As the fortress was up on the rock, water was only down in Caras. During the Turks’ reign, all the villagers, men and women, had to make a chain of people from Caras to the fortress. They handed the copper recipients of water from hand to hand, and so they filled the fountain. Today, near the fortress, in the village of Iabalcea, the rainwater is gathered into concrete pools in the shape of a fountain. The Turks from the fortress had dogs that sensed the women and the girls. If they liked a girl, they stole her and nobody heard of her again. They were taking everything from the inhabitants of Caras, who were always fleeing from the Turks. In this sense, there is a saying still used today, “Do not run so fast, no Turks are coming after you!” The fortress was erected in the Roman time as an observation point; it was strengthened during the Hungarian Kingdom and rebuilt by the Turks. The moment of erecting this fortress is still a dispute between historians. The period can hoewer be established around 1323, having many similarities regarding the way of construction with the medieval fortresses of Ilidia and Bocsa.
The Cuieşti Fortress (1331). The ruins of the fortress are seen on the middle course of the Bârzava River, near Bocşa, in the place called The Turk’s Edge, at a height of 125 m. The fortress has an irregular polygonal shape and limestone walls from the Colţani quarry, located near the place where the fortress was. Today the stone stairs and the gate tower are kept, being located in front of the access road. The royal fortress of Cuieşti-Bocşa is first mentioned in 1331. The “stony” fortress, as it is also known, was destroyed mostly during the Turkish siege of 1695.
The Ilidia Fortress (1312). Ilidia is one of the momentous medieval settlements of the Mountainous Banat. On the Fortress Hill, at Socolari, at an altitude of 650 m, on a limestone spur and steep walls, lie the vestiges of the Ilidia medieval fortress. It is an ellipsoidal fortification (41 x 32 m), raised around a church with a rectangular altar. It dates back to 1312, and the fortress’s castellans are known from 1317-1326.
The Ilidia Stronghold (1223). At 8 km from the Medieval Fortress, there lies the Ilidia Stronghold. The tower-dwelling is at the top of Obliţa Hill, at a height of 220 m, next to a medieval rotunda, in a royal domain of five medieval buildings.
The tower had a specific architecture in Banat, with a square shape and sides of 11 m. The military, but also civilian fortification belonged to the domain of the Arpadian kingdom. It had a ground floor and no more than two levels. The acreditation document from 1223 mentions that the royal estate from Ilidia, including the tower house, was received as a dowry by Princess Margaret, the daughter of King Bela III, when she married the Byzantine Emperor Isaac II.
The Turnu Ruieni Stronghold (1467). On the way to Little Mountain, near Turnu Ruieni, on a hilltop (450 m), you will see from a distance the “Ovidius Tower”, a medieval tower built in 1467. The tower was square in shape, with exterior buttresses and had three floors at a height of nearly 20 m. The fortification is made of stones bounded by lime-mortar. The tower at Turnu Ruieni keeps the window from the eastern side intact, at the second floor’s level, with a tall and narrow slot. A defence moat with wave surrounds the stronghold at 25 m from the tower. Although tradition says that the name of the tower would come from the ancient poet Ovid, exiled at Tomis (Constanţa), on the Black Sea, there is no historical basis of the poet’s presence in the area. Closer to the truth is the claim that the name is of Slavic origin, deriving from “kula a vidi” as a tower for sight or observation, as it was in fact this guarding tower in the past. From the top of the Ovidius Tower you can see the entire Sebes Valley up to the Little Mountain and the entire Timis Valley up to Semenic. Look at the graphic reconstruction of the stone tower and you will recall that it belonged to the noble family Mathnic. This Romanian noble family, attested in 1440, actively participated in the defence of Banat in the time of Iancu de Hunedoara, Stefan and Mihai de Mâtnic, being even the Ban of Severin’s Banat.
The Mehadia Stronghold (1317). Strongholds were built on heavily accessible heights, where the surrounding valleys strongly dominated, and where the medieval villages were located. So is the very spectacular construction of the 14th-century Mehadia Hexagon Dungeon, which dominates the gangway area on the top of Grad Hill. The vertical structure is one specific to the fromat having a ground floor and three floors. The light inside was naturally assured by windows arranged at each level. The western side of the Mehadia hexagon still retains the narrow slit window. The walls have a thickness of 2.30 m, being made of quarry stone bound with lime mortar. The Mehadia Tower was the main checkpoint of the Timis-Cerna Pass from the Danube to the Banat Plain and to the Iron Gates of Transylvania. The ruins of the Mehadia medieval fortress are situated 400 m from the road passing through the village, on the way that leads to the stone quarry. The first documentary evidence dates back to 1323, from the time of the King of Hungary, Carol of Anjou, who started the campaign against Basarab I in 1330, ended with a great defeat. It can be imagined how a Castellan was staying in the tower, with his garrison of horsemen and pedestrians guarding the entire valley.
The Tricule Fortress (1443). The three towers near Sviniţa, 45 km upstream of Orşova, are found in Danube waters, where the river makes a great bend to the Danube Boilers. Of the three “circular towers”, only two remained on the shore, one being under water and rising only in the days when the Danube decreases a lot. The towers are set in the form of a triangle with a base towards the Romanian bank and with the tip to the river waters. The distance between the two towers from the hills is 20 m and the height from the base to the top tower (being under the water) is 40 m. The towers are built after a plan consisting of a square floor with a ground floor, a storey and an observation and fighting platform at 10 m height. The fortress is recorded by the documents of time in 1443 under the name of Castrum Zincze, but the fortification of Sviniţa could have already been erected since the 13th century. The fortification was built to strengthen te supervision over the Danube by the Hungarian Kingdom.
The Drencova Fortress (1419). The ruins of the fortification emerge from the Danube waters near Berzasca. It was part of the defence system for the Danube line together with the other fortresses: Orsova (under water), Tricule at Sviniţa and “Sf. Ladislau” at Coronini. It can be seen that the fortress was built of quarry stone flooded in mortar, having a quadrangular shape of 23/21 m, and the thickness of the wall is of 1.5 m. It was erected in the time of King Sigismund of Luxembourg, immediately after 1419. During 1429-1435, the fortress was under the control of the Teutonic knights, and during 1439-1457 it was owned by the noble Romanian families Cerna and Bizere. The fortress was destroyed by the Turks, and its ruins were partly covered by the Danube’s waters, after the construction of the dam of the Iron Gates storage lake (1965-1971).
The Fortress “St. Ladislau “at Coronini (1428). At the entrance to the Danube Shore, near the “Baba Caia” cliff, you will see two fortresses standing face to face. On the Serbian bank there is the Golumbac Fortress, with its beautiful laced architecture, and on the Romanian bank, near the village of Coronini, on the rocky hillside by the road, is the “fortress” of St. Ladislau “. The fortification on the Romanian bank of the Danube is named after the most renowned Arpadian king Ladislau (1077-1095), who became a Saint following his canonization in 1192. He fought in the Upper Gorge against the Byzantines, trying to conquer the Danube territories. If you look from below, you will have the impression that there is only one tower, but climbing the path from the Summer Campus of the Resita Eftimie Murgu University, after 15 minutes you will see the vestiges of a large fortress with an irregular polygonal plane. Raised on the ruins of a Dacian fortress, the fortress was built of limestone, as the calcareous walls being abudently full of limestones, and had the role of guarding the Danube Strait. On the side of the Danube, the fortress was flanked by two towers, a square observation tower and a cylindrical one, the other sides of the fortification being naturally protected by very steep slopes. The fortress had two floors, and under the rooms were the cellars covered with brick vaults.
The Coronini Fortress was built in 1428, during King Sigismund of Luxemburg of Hungary (1387 -1437), as a counter-fortress to the Golumbac Fortress, sold to the Turks by a Serbian captain.
The Sebes Fortress (1325). Caransebeș, the host city of the “The Fortress’ Festival”, completely covered all the medieval buildings of the Sebeş Citadel, dated in 1325, although the settlement of Sebeş was recorded in 1289. From the description of the Turkish traveller Evlia Celebi, the reconstruction of the city is possible in several stages of development. The initial shape of the fortress was that of dungeon, around which houses were built. For the good defence of the city, it was surrounded by a wall. After the liberation of the city by the Austrian general Veterani (1688), a refortification was made, turning it in a castle-type bastion for two years, but demolished in 1699. Only the vestiges of the medieval church remained.
As tourists, try to talk to the villagers near the Banat’s medieval fortresses. You will be amazed by the idiom they use for communicating. Their words have something ancient, umpolished and pure. As if you were listening to a voice from the past, coming from afar. As if they were the Dacians who lived here nearly 2000 years ago. An old language, like a song sounding familiar to you, like a music going straight to your heart.