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North of Lipova town, in full flatland, the stone ruins of the Soimos Fortress still seem to be keeping watch over the road between the historical regions of Crisana and Transylvania, towering over a section of the Mures Gorges.

Photo credit: (c) Paul BUCIUTA / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

The fortress sits on the Cioaca Tautului hill, overlooking the ancient road that led to the heart of Transylvania, and was probably built by a noble family after the devastating invasion of the Mongols that sweepingly raided Central Europe in 1241-1242; the fortress provides an outstanding example of medieval architecture.

Protected by strong stone walls, with access to the main gate allowed only over a wooden bridge suspended on pillars above a ravine, the fortress seems impregnable. Once inside, the visitor discovers its true heart, with the inner court and the ruins of the princely apartments testifying to the important role the Soimos fortification has had in history.

The Soimos Fortress was held by Wallachian and Transylvanian princes, but it also fell into the hands of the Turks for several times.

Soimos Fortress seen in winter
Photo credit: (c) Constantin DUMA / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

According to Dr. Peter Hugel, director of the Arad Museum Complex, after being successively owned by some of the noble families of the time, around 1450 the fortification came into the hands of John Hunyadi, but the official recognition by King Ladislaus V of its ownership occurred only in 1453. Under the reign of King Matthias Corvinus, the fortress changed several lords, eventually ending up with the king’s son, John Corvinus, and then in the hands of Margrave George of Brandenburg-Ansbach.

Just like other fortifications in the area, Soimos was besieged and conquered in 1514 by the peasant army led by Gheorghe Doja, as the fortress garrison joined the uprisen peasants.

After the defeat of the rebel army in the battle fought under the walls of Timisoara, Prince John Zapolya occupied the fortress for his direct benefit. After a few years, the Soimos Fortress became a princely residence for John Sigismund Zapolya and his mother, Queen Isabella Jagiellon of Hungary.

After 1540, the Transylvanian fortress temporarily becomes the residence of the Prince of Transylvania. Throughout this period it is being reinforced and beautified in Renaissance style, and the external outer bastions are also added. Visible in the courtyard to this day are some artistically carved stone profiles from the princely apartments upstairs.

Between 1552-1699, the fortress plays an important role in the defense of the Romanian Principalities against the Ottoman invaders; it was relinquished several times, and between 1599-1600 it passes under the rule of Michael the Brave.

The history of the Soimos Fortress stops abruptly in 1788, when it was abandoned and demolished.

Contemplating today’s ruins, the visitor finds out that, boasting stone walls over nine meters high, the Soimos Fortress was built on an almost inaccessible rocky crag that overlooks a considerable sector of the Mures River. The oldest core is built in a triangular shape and maximizes the benefits of the site configuration. Its old access gates with their elegant, late Gothic frames, are still preserved, whereas other fortresses in Transylvania were not that resilient.

Access to the precinct was from the southwest, over a bridge with a movable end-section, seated on three huge stone pillars built in the steepest ravine that also played the role of defense moat. Protected by its high and thick walls, the fortress is dominated by two towers, the most important of which is the old (almost inaccessible) keep, and the other is the shorter gate tower. The residential buildings are tucked inside the walls, especially northwards and southwards; they also had upper floors, with the main openings looking into a courtyard of about 800 square metres.

In the northern part of the enclosure stood the princely apartments that are said to have been inhabited by Queen Isabella and her son, John Sigismund. The floor where the rooms of the queen are said to have been were built of river stone and red brick on which the elegant frames of the windows, the gaps left by the tile stoves, and the gallery consoles are still visible. Southwards, an archaeological research conducted some time ago uncovered one of the most beautiful fortress chapels in this area. The water cistern, the location of which is known, is just waiting to be unearthed. Dating from the last period of the fortress’ life, the traces of a huge artillery bastion are visible in the northwestern part, outside the moats, whose fire mouths controlled all traffic on the main river of Transylvania.

Photo credit: (c) Paul BUCIUTA / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

“The Soimos Fortress is even today an outstanding example of medieval residential and defense architecture, and the walls with a history of several centuries, the access gates, as well as the ornaments preserved in the inner court are fit to term this ensemble as a genuine castle, an ideal destination for those who want to foray into the past of the Romanian fortresses. Yet the few restoration works carried out were insufficient to fully enhance the visitor’s experience at the fortress,” said Dr. Peter Hugel, director of the Arad Museum Complex.

It should also be mentioned that the effort to climb the difficult path from the foot of the rock on which the fortress was raised to the ruins of the old fortification walls is rewarded by a wonderful panorama of the Mures Gorges, as well as of the Arad Plain. AGERPRES

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