The Fortress of Deva

The Fortress of Deva (Romanian: Cetatea Devei), is located in the city of Deva, Hunedoara County, Romania, on top of a volcanic hill. The name Deva is considered to come from the ancient Dacian word dava, meaning "fortress". Fortress Hill was formed as a result of the volcanic activity that took place in Neogene (10-6 million years ago). Further erosion of the existing sedimentary rocks destroyed the old relief, lining out the sub volcanic body, actually a circular neck. Even though it has only 371 m, Fortress Hill dominates the surrounding regions with 100-180 m. The citadel hill, the northernmost reach of the small Poiana Rusca Mountains, has been declared a nature reserve in 1958, with rich vegetation and its rocks being home of the placid but venomous nose-horned viper (aka. horned adder) (Vipera Ammodytes). At the bottom of the hill there are mineral waters (athermal bicarbonated chlorosodical waters, 18 C) used for salt baths.

The first evidence of the medieval Deva Fortress dates back to the second half of the 13th century, in 1269, when Stephen V, King of Hungary and Duke of Transylvania, mentioned "the royal castle of Deva" in a privilege-grant for the Count Chyl of Kelling (Romanian: comitele Chyl din Câlnic). From 1273 dates the first record about a military operation that involved the fortress. Under its walls, the cumans were defeated by Petrus Chak (Latin: Magister Petrus de genere Chak), who was rewarded for his victory by Ladislaus IV, King of Hungary. In his letter, Ladislaus IV mentioned the facts with the words: "sub castro Dewa contra Cumanorum exercitur viriliter dimicavit". At the end of the 13th century, The Deva Fortress was in the property of Ladislaus Kán, Voivode (ruling prince) of Transylvania, who organized here a court besides the military garrison.

During the 1300s and 1400s it was the seat of local dukes or warlords. In the early 1400s, the castle, along with others, becomes the property of Iancu de Hunedoara (Johannes Huniad, Janos Hunyadi), governor of Hungary and ruler of Transylvania, who, beginning with 1453, rebuilt the castle into a fortified residence and the town became an important administrative and military center. After Huniad’s reign, the Hungarian state authorities decided that the citadel is of much strategic importance and would become state property. The citadel served in the 16th century also as a prison, for personalities such as David Ferencz, the founder of the Unitarian church, and Moise Szekely, leader of the Transylvanian nobles hostile to the imperial power. The invading Ottoman Turkish armies besieged the castle several times in 1550, 1552 and in 1557, when it was effectively occupied. The castle was given by the sultan Suleiman the Magnificent to queen Isabella Jagellon, wife of king John Zapolya, and her son, John Sigismund (Zsigmond Janos) reigning over autonomous Transylvania and remains of Hungary. In the 1600s, during the reign of prince Gabriel Bethlen (Bethlen Gabor), the citadel was strengthened and extended. From 1686 it comes under the authority of the Austro-Hungarian Habsburg Empire until the 1800s. During the 1786 uprising, it has been sieged by the peasants lead by Horia, Cloşca and Crişan. At the end of the 1700s, the citadel looses its strategic importance and remains abandoned for a period of time until 1817, when, upon visiting the region, Habsburg Emperor Francisc I decides to have it restored. During the 1848 revolution, the Hungarian revolutionary forces unsuccessfully besiege the Austrian imperial garrison inside the citadel. One day, in the month of august, 1849, the citadel’s ammo storehouse exploded, leaving the castle in ruins (internet infos compilation).

Here, two panoramas of the fortress.


dennis said...

Hi, a great blog! I spent some time there as part of a archeology restroation project and you can check out my blog at

as part of the fun part, I did some calculations of the number of stones in the fortress originally and the projected weight of the original fortress (stone and mortar). let me know if you would be interested in those calculations

good work!

dennis sinar (

Adrian said...

Thanks, Dennis, please send me the calculations and I'll post them. Your blog is interesting, too.

Romania Travel Guide said...

Deva it's a beautiful town with friendly community . Nice post .

Kevin Arthur Ryan said...

I live here in Deva, look at the Citadel everyday from the balcony on my house, its a great view. There is an old wives tale that there is a `secret` connecting tunnel between Deva Citadel and Hunedoara Castle some 14kms away, supposed to be brick lined and high enough for a man riding a horse to travel it. I say its BS as there are at least 3 rivers between the two areas and the amount of material that would have to be removed to create such an engineering feet would have been staggering (perhaps somebody here would venture to calculate the amount of material that would have had to have been excavated?)
There are tunnels and small caverns beneath the citadel, normal as its an old volcano, it has also a seismic registering device located in the hill itself.