Foreign travelers about Făgăraş Fortress
Foreign travelers – diplomats of the European Royal Cours, missionaries, or simple passers-by – left to posterity descriptions of the city and fortress of Făgăraș. The first record comes from Anton Verancsics (1504-1543), Primate of Hungary, a friend of Erasmus of Rotterdam, which reminded, in his Descriere a Transilvaniei, among the fortresses of the Transylvanian voivodeship, alongside those in Hunedoara and Deva, the one in Făgăraș. In the middle of the 16th century, it was mentioned that on the bank of river Olt “stands the rich fortress, to which the old inhabitants gave the name of Făgăraş, surrounded from all parts with ditches and the powerful wall”. Romanian humanist Nicolaus Olahus, contemporary with the voivode Ştefan Mailat, considered the fortress as the most strengthened fortress from southern Transylvania: “this fortress is like a little duchy because its subjects are Romanian boyars who respect the owner of the fortress as a prince”.
Georg Reichersdorffer wrote, in the middle of the 16th century, in Transylvania’s Chorography: “… Făgăraş fortress << which is >> placed in a low and swampy place and is so good strengthened and powerful so that there is no fear that it may ever be mined”.
In 1574, the traveler Pierre Lescalopier observed that in Făgăraş there is a strong castle with a large ditch, surrounded by water, in the middle of a well-populated city.
A few years later, in 1585, the Frenchman Jacques Bongras, on his way to Constantinople, passing through Făgăraş, noted that it is a city with a fortified and beautiful castle.
Giorgio Tomasi makes, at the end of the 16th century, a beautiful description of the fortress and the castle. He enumerates among the most important fortresses of Transylvania, apart from those occupied by the Turks, Făgăraş, which “proves to be a good fortress, although small, getting the strength from a bastion wall which girdles it, as well as the ditch it has, which can be passed only on a long wooden bridge, which solely allows the entrance, reaching to very hardened towers, carefully guarded by soldiers”. Yet again he mentions a first description of the castle’s interiors: “In the fortress, Balthazar Bathory, the cardinal’s brother, when he was a ruler, started a great building in an Italian style for his residence. And he made in the middle a large hall which he adorned with paintings made by a painter’s hand. And between them, to fill in the gaps, some were accompanied by beautiful mottos, right for them. Especially the phoenix was seen burning in the flames lit by the sun’s rays through their beating which said <<Sola facta Solum deum sequor>>. There also was, among the burning coals above king Prosenna’s altar which besieged Rome, the hand of the mighty Scevola with the motto <<Fortia facere et pati, Romanum est>> (fighting hard is a Roman trait), an ancestor appeared with a quiver full of arrows with the motto <<Fortibus non deerunt>> (The weapons <<of the heroes>> will not be missing). And a bright emerald accompanied by these words <<Hoc uno, fides, virtusque probatur>> (Only through this is faith and virtue tested). We leave aside many others so as not to stretch ourselves too far.”
In the middle of the next century, the German pastor Conrad Iacob Hiltebrandt was impressed by the fortress which he considered “one of the most important fortresses of Transylvania, even the Pasha himself assaulted it several times in the last war, but had to retire with losses”. Forsooth, the Făgăraş fortress has been besieged multiple times – in 1530, 1540, 1541, 1559, 1601, twice in 1658, 1661, 1705, 1849 – without being conquered; it was however given. Evlia Celebi (historian, geographer, writer, and one of the best known Turkish travelers who wandered for 40 years in the whole Ottoman Empire), a participant in the siege of the city and of the fortress in 1661, noted that the Turks, after burning the city, besieged the fortress “which did not want to obey; when there were many soldiers and inhabitants gathered from the surroundings”, and the invaders, let by Ali Pasha, retired after 14 days of besieging.