Alba Iulia - The other capital

Alba Iulia - The other capital

The city of Alba Iulia, Alba County is one of the most important urban centers of Romania, a place of monumental historical significance, associated to the Great Union of 1918 and the coronation of the kings Ferdinand I and Mary, the first monarchs of Greater Romania. Its ancient medieval center, the Alba Carolina fortress, encloses between its walls several centuries old attractions laden with history, including Saint Michael’s Cathedral.

Back in the XVIII century, when the Marquis de Vauban designed and implemented a revolutionary system of fortifications and defenses, little did he know that his designs would earn him international recognition throughout the centuries, as today there are tens of citadels built by the system that bears his name. One of the most spectacular such fortresses of this type is Alba Carolina – the largest citadel in Romania, located in the city of Alba Iulia.

Some of the most important sites connected to the citadel are related to the heroic figures of Horea, Closca, and Crisan, leaders of a major peasant revolt of the XVIII century. They include the prison cell that Horea was detained in, embedded in the pedestal of the grand statue representing the Austrian emperor Carol VI – erected at Gate III of the Alba Carolina citadel – as well as the gaols, located on the south-eastern flank of the Eugene of Savoy bastion, complete with the scaffold where Horea and Closca were executed on a breaking wheel.

Other major attractions include the seven gates of the Vauban citadel, as well as the various constructions of historical importance located nearby. Each of the gates has something worthy to be noted: Gate I, for instance, is beautifully shaped as a triumphal arch; Gate II has three entries, open in the upper half; Gate III, the largest and most impressive of them, is decorated with intricate carvings on both facades; Gate IV is the only one of the west side gates that was honored with Baroque style decorations; Gate V, built in a deceptively simple style, is completed by a bridge that connects the Saint Michael ravelin to the counterguard; Gate VI has earned its fame as the King’s Gate since it served as entry to king Ferdinand and queen Mary on their coronation day; finally, Gate VII, which was only recently uncovered, is a massive tunnel that was used both for procurement purposes and to allow the cavalry to exit the citadel in large numbers when urgent action was required.

The southern and northern sides of the defense moat surrounding the fortress constitute a genuine dendrological park thanks to the over 70 species of plants and shrubs growing here. The northern side has the added attraction of two superbly landscaped gardens, a Roman one and a Japanese one, as well as a statue of a XVIII century drummer.

From a historical and architectural point of view, the Alba Carolina citadel is a series of three successive constructions, each of them incorporating fragments from the previous one. The oldest is the Roman castrum, followed by the medieval stronghold, further expanded in the XVIII century into a Vauban citadel. The mastermind of this latter project was prince Eugene of Savoy, who, however, failed to complete the construction, choosing to redirect funds towards other fortifications before having erected the fourth line of defense. Further works were carried out towards the end of the XVIII century under the supervision of general Bohn, but these too were interrupted before reaching their full completion.

Tour Price: 100 EUR for one person. (75 EUR/pers. for goups of 2-3 people and 60 EUR/pers. for groups of 4-5 people)

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The tour price includes transportation, any and all entrance fees and guiding fees.