The Râșnov Citadel is one of the best preserved rustic citadels from Transylvania and impresses through its centuries-old history and dramatic ruins.
The castle of Râșnov was built in the years 1211-1225 by the Teutonic Knights. Râșnov was mentioned for the first time in 1331 as Rosnou and again in 1388 as Rosarum. While the village was razed many times in its history by Tatars, Turks and Wallachians, the castle was conquered only once, in 1612 by Gabriel Báthory.
In 2002, the fortress and its surroundings were used during the shooting of the American film Cold Mountain.
There is a myth attached to Râșnov Citadel. During a particularly long siege of the fortress, the citizens of Râșnov were concerned about the lack of available fresh drinking water. Two Turkish soldiers, having been captured earlier, were put to the task of digging a well in the centre of the fortress. These two men were assured that they would be given their freedom once the well was completed. According to local legend, it took them 17 years to finish the well, but they were still killed afterwards. This famous well still sits in the centre of Râșnov Fortress, and is 143 metres deep.
The fortress (also known as Rosenau in German), is located on a rocky hilltop in the Carpathian Mountains, 650 ft. above the town of Râșnov. First mentioned in an official document in 1331, the fortress was earlier built by Teutonic Knights as protection against invading Tartars and was later enlarged by the local Saxon population.
Strategically located on the commercial route linking the provinces of Transylvania and Walachia, Râșnov differs from other Saxon fortresses in that it was designed as a place of refuge over extended periods of time. As such, it had at least 30 houses, a school, a chapel and other buildings more commonly associated with a village.
Râşnov was built with stone, brick and mortar, materials that proved very resistant and its defenses were constantly improved until the 19th century. The villagers took refuge here so often that they had to build a school and a chapel so as to be able to carry on their daily activities.
The citadel had everything it needed except for its own water source. When they ran out of water, the inhabitants snuck out of the citadel at night and got some from a spring only they knew about. However, this makeshift solution would cost them the fight against Gabriel Bathory, prince of Transylvania. The citadel was compelled to surrender when the prince discovered its secret spring and blocked the access to it.
This defeat showed them the need for a well inside the citadel. And one was created between the years 1623 and 1640. It was dug directly in stone, legend has it, by two Turkish prisoners, in exchange for their freedom.
Râşnov is preserved almost perfectly. The inner courtyard is paved with stone roads that connect the houses: the blacksmith’s house, the carpenter’s house and the glass blower’s house. They are still standing, but nowadays they only function as souvenir shops or museums. In front of the citadel, there is an outer courtyard where the cattle were kept.
Between 1658 and 1661, the inhabitants of Râşnov had to retreat inside the citadel on many occasions due to Turkish invasions. After each attack, they had to rebuild their homes. In 1718, a severe plague epidemic hit the village and 1.161 people died. In the same year, a fire destroyed the entire village and reached the citadel as well, burning a few houses and the chapel. Then, in 1802, an earthquake brought down a few of the citadel’s towers.
Râşnov was last used during the 1848 revolution. When Hungarian and Austrian troops crossed the village, the people retreated to the safety of the citadel.