Before 1300, one of the members of the Bethlen family received here a domain, for his bravery during the crusades. Since then goes back also the legend of the family coat of arms, depicting a serpent with an apple in his mouth. The legend said that the place was haunted by a monster, a giant snake associated with the numerous disappearances among locals. The crusader, seeing the snake, have thrown it an apple, which he would have drowned. Historians have a different interpretation, seeing the apple as a symbol of a Papal document, and added during the time the family converted from Catholicism to the Reformed religion.
The Bethlen Castle construction began before 1300 and lasted over 400 years (between 14th-17th centuries). Initially, the castle had an irregular quadrilateral shape, with wedge-type rhomboidal bastions on corners. Built in several stages, it was originally designed in Gothic style, and over the years were added the Transylvanian Renaissance elements, being now the most beautiful Renaissance castle in Transylvania.
Now, the castle has a fortified square shape, with circular bastions at the corners and square entrance tower, a structure typical for the late medieval military architecture. The residence has two floors, an imposing circular tower (Archers' Tower) and a loggia with semicircular arched openings on short cylindrical pillars. The fortification system was completed with a semi-enclosure with bastions.
Reconstruction by Radu Oltean
The buildings of the castle, along with the walls of the fortress, enclose an almost rectangular square. The oldest building is the leveled medieval old tower, its highest level facade being decorated by painted high-relief figures showing warriors carrying halberds or shields in their right hands, their left hands resting on their waists. The 5th level of the tower comprising of eight arched windows is known to be used as a look-out. The secret turret case has been inserted into the thick tower walls. The old tower was provided with Renaissance doorway and window frames during the 16th and the 17th centuries.
In 1559, chancellor Georgius Bethlen and his wife Clara of Nagykároly completed the old tower with a vaulted building and a loggia. Their son, Miklos Bethlen, continued to bring further improvements to the castle, with new buildings in Renaissance style. Between 1675 1691, Count Alexius Bethlen consolidated the corners of the fortress with bastions.
The rear facade of the old tower faces a small yard, as well as the western walls of the fortress. The leveled building on the eastern side, along with the southern and western walls of the fortress enclose sculptured window and door frames. On the ground-floor is the chapel of the fortress – one of the most beautiful spaces of the building complex, with both Gothic and Renaissance decorating elements. The wing connecting the eastern side corner bastions hosts a range of inter-connected rooms, with a total length of 50 m.
The interior of the castle never failed to preserve its authenticity. The splendor of the salons was enhanced by the exquisitely painted and polished pieces of furniture, as well as by the inbuilt chests of drawers, carpets and rugs. Portraits of family members were lined up along the walls. The library and the family archives were on the first floor of the old tower.
In the courtyard of the tower there used to be a flower garden, the castle being surrounded by a vast English park. There was also a pentagonal summer pavilion, with walls decorated with paintings.
When Bethlen family left the country in 1948, the castle was nationalized and used as a pioneer camp and then as vegetables and grain warehouse of the village's farms. Many valuable objects, collections of art, weapons and hunting trophies, furniture, were taken to Sighişoara and some at the Bruckenthal Museum in Sibiu. The rest was stolen. In 1974 the castle was taken over by the Department of Historical Monuments, that began a sustained work of the consolidation and restoration, an activity that lasted until 1977. In that period have been strengthened the chapel, the octagonal tower, the dungeon tower and floor the ground-floor of the manor.
The castle has been partially restored in the '90, but the restoration stopped because the inheritors claimed the castle. After many years of legal suits, the Transylvanian branch of the family received the castle and the park.
Images from Incogniterra, Várak Magyarországon and Mishu Vass.