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FORTRESSES IN NORTHERN MOLDAVIA

Moldavia has a rich and tumultuous history, with deep roots in the Neolithic, as the famous Cucuteni culture developed here. Although it was not conquered by the Romans, the region knew the influences of the numerous migrating peoples who’ve crossed it across time. Starting with the 14th century, the Land of Moldavia was disputed between the Hungarian Kingdom, the Polish Kingdom and the Ottoman Empire. The permanent threat determined the Romanian princes to build fortified fortresses with a defensive purpose, serving both as princely residences and refuge places. Medieval Moldavia had many fortified buildings, but some of them are presently situated on the territory of Ukraine or the Republic of Moldavia. These were border and support strongholds meant to hold off the invasions and thin out the effectives of enemy armies. In the interior there were the main fortresses, ingeniously built redoubts which ensured the fame of this region.

Northern Moldavia reveals bits of history preserved between the walls, picturesque sceneries and legends of the princely courts, all reunited in a surprising journey. Bearing the memory of our country’s heroes across centuries, the fortresses remain the symbols of our fight for freedom and unity.

Fortress of Suceava

 

Stephen the Great

The Seat Fortress of Suceava

Standing out in the entire extra-Carpathian space, the Seat Fortress of Suceava was the biggest and the most important fortification in Moldavia. Built during the reign of Petru I MuÅŸat, when Suceava became the capital of the territory, it was initially used as a residence. At the middle of the 15th century, the attacks of the enemies were more often and more violent, and so the existing edifices were strengthened. Stephen the Great added two inside walls to the fortress, seven semicircular bastions, extended the water ditch and set up a mobile bridge, hindering the invaders’ sieges for a long time. The fortification had living rooms, a church, food storage rooms and a gunpowder room. Although it was defended by a glorious garrison, it was conquered in 1538 by Suleiman the Magnificent supported by the traitor Moldavian boyars and an army of 200,000 soldiers. Plundered numerous times by the Turks and the Polish, Suceava knew many rulers, but its fame has never been the same. The fortress was demolished at the sultan’s order in 1675 after only three centuries of existence.

The emblem of the city, the fortification is situated on a hill from where it stately dominates the Valley of Suceava. A flight of stairs crossing the forest and an access bridge lowered over the defense ditch takes you to its walls. In the first moments, the atmosphere makes you feel like on a movie set, but you will soon learn that everything is as real as it gets. The restoration works revealed the interior yard, paved in stone and surrounded by different rooms: the princely apartments, the guards’ rooms, the bathroom, the prison and the treasury. Inside, there were gothic and renaissance decorations, geometrical motifs, mythological characters and the ubiquitous Moldavian coat of arms. It is said that there was a tunnel under the fortress connecting it to the center of the city, but nobody has dared to use it by now; everybody is afraid of Stephen the Great’s curse, who said that the person who was to enter the galleries would never come out alive.

By visiting the Fortress of Suceava, you are amazed and overwhelmed by the fame of one of the bravest rulers of medieval Europe. From its fortress walls, it managed to delay the ottoman conquests, hindering the access of the invaders towards the west of the continent. Furthermore, you will be rewarded with a generous panorama over the city and with many history-related memories.

Fortress of Suceava

 

Fortress of Suceava

 

Fortress of Suceava

 

Fortress of Suceava

Neamţ Citadel

From Culmea PleÅŸului, a choline in the middle of the coniferous forest, the NeamÅ£ Fortress lures you with its impressive walls, promising breathtaking sceneries. The alley leading you to the fortification elbows through the beautiful natural park, offering the opportunity of an outdoor walk. At the end of a circular arch bridge there is 'the eagles’ nest', one of Moldavia’s unconquerable outposts, meant to defend the region from the expansion of the Magyar Kingdom and that of the Ottoman Empire. Raised in the 14th century on the place of an ancient fort, the citadel was fortified under the rule of Stephen the Great, a ruler with a special strategic sense. In this period, the walls were heightened; four military bastions were added, along with the bridge supported by 11 stone pillars and the 10 m deep ditch. In the interior yard there were the princely rooms, the stockrooms, workshops, the church, the prison, the armory and the council room.  Throughout time, the fortress resisted the attacks, ensuring a flourishing commercial activity. In the 16th century, the ottoman domination ended the fortress’ glory epoch, as the latter was partially destroyed and left in ruins. The recent restoration works brought back its past glow, so that now it is one of the most visited historical monuments in the country.

Neamt Citadel

 

Neamt Citadel

 

Neamt Citadel

Between the old walls you will get to see fortress life, as it took place in the middle ages. You have to step carefully at the entrance; otherwise you risk getting caught in the hatch trap, a pitfall deep enough to significantly reduce the number of enemies.  In those times, fortresses were actual labyrinths full of cunning traps. Even the access bridge had a mobile part which could be elevated if needed. In the interior yard, the legends of the past veil you and lure you to let your imagination run wild. In the middle there is the fountain, to which superstitious tourists entrust their wishes and hopes. It is said it was dug by Turkish prisoners, forced to work relentlessly in order to find water. When their effort paid off, they thanked divine compassion, and instead of tears of joy, what fell in the fountain were coins from all former empires. On the three sides of the fort there are thematic rooms where the customs of the princely court are recreated.  You can visit the Council and the Trial Room, on the walls of which there are documents, weapons, coats of arms and pottery, the Provisions Room, where traditional ovens are preserved, the mint, the black pit, the chapel, the prince’s rooms and those of the freeholders. The mannequins recreate scenes meant to transport you to medieval times, presenting episodes in the history of the fortress. From the height of the imposing walls, the view opens over the splendid lands of NeamÅ£, crossed by the 'beautifully flowing Ozana', whose waters shine under the sun.

Neamt Citadel

 

Neamt Citadel

 

Neamt Citadel

The Fortresses in Roman

At Roman there are two fortresses meant to ensure Moldavia’s expansion and the surveillance of commerce on the Siret Valley. The first edifice was built in wood and belonged to Petru I MuÅŸat, but it was quickly abandoned, its role being taken over by the New Castle (Cetatea NouÓ‘). Built in stone at the initiative of Stephen the Great, it occupied the left shore of the Siret, being the only fortification raised on straight terrain. It consisted of a nucleus of walls disposed in a star shape and had seven towers and a defense ditch. Irreplaceable in Moldavia’s defense system, the fortress was destroyed in 1675 at Turkish orders. Gradually, the walls crumbled, leaving only a few forgotten stone mounds behind.

Fortress of Suceava

 

Neamt Citadel

The fortresses of Moldavia are genuine history lessons combined with legends, monuments in which the history of the people was decided. An impassable shield against the enemies, they preserve the memory of the Romanian rulers’ acts of bravery across times.

[An article written by Andreea Bertea]