The armament of Făgăraș Fortress

Particularly important for assessing the defensive value of a fortification is the quantity and quality of weapons, especially the firearms. In the case of Făgăraş, the situation of weapons and ammunition is quite well known, due to the inventories from the 17th century, especially the armament inventories. The general inventories include “evidence of cannon and jackal bullets existent in Făgăraş fortress”, as is the case for the one on the 4th of March 1662. For the armament of Făgăraş Fortress exist three inventories – 1665, 1667, and 1673. Published by David Prodan, these inventories show us the wealth of information far above other similar fortifications in Transylvania.

The armament inventories were drawn up by the burgrave, whose importance increases due to the quite turbulent times of the second half of the 17th century. The military personnel of the fortress, subordinated to the burgrave, also called chatelaine, was formed by “the guard army”, made up of German or Hungarians trabants (the term comes from German – trabant – and means pedestrian soldier), denoting a distinct category of pedestrian mercenaries, usually recruited from groups whose jobs could become hereditary. The employer engaged to ensure their maintenance and equipment, and also to pay them according to the rank they had: a soldier received 3 florins a month, a decurion 4 florins a month, a gunner 5 florins, an ensign received 12 florins a month.

The heavy weapons situation – cannons, mortars – in fighting positions, was the following (year based): in 1632 – 24 items; in 1637 – 28 items; 1656 – 29; 1665 – 41; 1667 – 42; 1673 – 41. Besides these, there were other heavy items in warehouses: in 1656 – 2; 1665 – 11; 1667 – 8; 1673 – 8.

The arrangement on each bastion of the weapons in fighting position was the following: on the platform of each bastion were 6 – 7; 2 were in pillboxes (one item in each pillbox); in the Red Tower, Dungeon Tower, and Thomory Tower, on the upper levels were 2 – 3 each, and in the houses of the burgraves were 1 – 2 items. The number of weapons with multiple pipes (with 4, 5, 7, or 16 pipes of small caliber) was: in 1637 – 4 items, in 1656 – 3, and after 1665 – 2.

Analyzing the evolution of artillery in the fortress, two tendencies can be noticed: the increase in the number of artillery pieces to almost 50 due to the Ottoman sieges in 1658 and 1661 on one hand, and remove large caliber and multi-pipe parts, harder to handle, on the other hand.

The analysis of the names, respectively of the origin of the cannons and mortars proves to be interesting as well.

The analysis of the names, respectively the provenance of the cannons and mortars proves to be interesting – fish and birds names for the smaller cannons and prey animal names for the heavy cannons. There was a cannon with Ștefan Mailat’s coat of arms, and from the same era, two cannons with Ferdinand of Habsburg’s coat of arms, one with Gaspar Bekes’s heraldry, one with Balthazar Bathory’s coat of arms, “The hawk” having Mihai Viteazul’s heraldry, one with the coat of arms of Rudolf of Habsburg and a cannon with the heraldry of Sibiu. It is possible that a part of the artillery to have been manufactured in Făgăraş, because in 1567 a cannon foundry is mentioned, probably founded by Ştefan Mailat, which at the end of the 16th century is moved in Alba-Iulia by Sigismund Bathory.

Concerning the number of cannonballs for this artillery, a small growth is observed, from 12,026 in 1662 to 13,569 in 1665 and 14,070 in 1673. The inventories in the fortress mention the individual firearms: muskets, rifles, carabines, whose number was almost constant – around 350 firearms, with more than 100,000 bullets. It must be remembered that besides these firearms, there also were registered cold weapons, which, being already outdated, existed in small numbers.

The Făgăraş Fortress was 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.

To appreciate correctly which was the value of the artillery from Făgăraş fortress, a comparison with the Oradea fortress is useful, a fortress significantly bigger than Făgăraş – in 1632, in the Oradea fortress were registered 69 artillery pieces in positions, a situation which can be explained not only by the large size of the fortress (it had 5 bastions) but also by its strategic position, located in a conflict zone with the Ottoman Empire.

Făgăraş Fortress has been, in the lights of the information provided by the artillery inventories from the 17th century, one of the most secure fortifications in Transylvania, which has accomplished the defensive role as long as the owner granted the adequate attention.