DESTINATION:ROMANIA / Ardud Bastion (Satu-Mare): the mystery of a cursed princess and the treasure in dark cellars

 •  Destination: Romania

A worth visiting tourist landmark in Satu Mare County is the bastion of Ardud, shrouded in the legend of a cursed princess that became the plot of a novel. Legend has it that King Rakoczi II's daughter is still haunting the cellars of the Ardud Bastion.

Photo credit: (c) Gil PIETRAR / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

Ardud is known as a very old settlement going back to the Neolithic, attested by a polished stone axe, but the first written record of it is from 1215. The settlement's monograph mentions that most of historians believe the bastion built by Bartolomeu Dragfy was erected on the site of a former Dacian bastion, of which very few is known.

Bartolomeu Dragfy (1447-1501), a descendant of Maramures Voivode Dragos Voda, was made a high cupbearer at age 21 by King Matthias Corvinus, a room attendant by King Vladislav II, and at age 46 he became the ruler of Transylvania. He was known as a skilful military commander who fought alongside Matthias Corvinus and who also helped Moldavia's Stephen the Great, his father-in-law, to stave off a Polish invasion in 1497 as commander of an army of 12,000 Transylvanian soldiers.

The Dragfy family was allowed to build the bastion of Ardud in 1456, with one of the main reason having been to defend against the Ottoman danger. After approval, 25 years passed, in which time construction materials were supplied, and in 1481 construction started on a wooden and stone fortress reinforced with defence towers, walls and trenches, which could be filled with water in case of danger.

The start of the construction works is inscribed on the frontispiece of the structure: 'This bastion of Ardud was started in 1481, on the 8th day of the St. George (April) month by Bartolomeu Drafi.' It took several years to complete the works, especially because of the diggings for the cellars, still visible today, which was hard to do back then, and also because the stone had to be imported from mountainous areas that were quite far away.

The bastion had four big towers and was described back then as one of the strongest of its kind in north-western Transylvania. It resisted well until the ruling family of Dragosesti (Dragfy) died out in 1555, after which it was besieged and it changed owners, becoming derelict in the process.

Only in 1730, after becoming the property of the ruling family Karolyi of Carei, was it remodelled into a castle fortress with four towers, multi-storey Goth and Baroque structures, a suspension bridge and a defence ditch. The lords' rooms were finely finished, including with staccato ornaments, while the entrance tower was covered in gold.

The most romantic time in the history of the castle, mentioned today by locals, is the time of Francisc Rakoczi II (1676 — 1735), who allegedly cursed his own daughter for having divulged the secrets of the castle's cellars to an Austrian officer. Legend has it that Austrians did not know how to conquer the castle where Francisc Rakoczi was living and so they sent a handsome young man to seduce the ruler's own daughter Vilma. Vilma allegedly fell in love with the officer and disclosed to him the secrets of the castle's cellars. When the Austrians got to arrest the ruler, Vilma, overcome by remorse, confessed what she did and her father cursed her. Nevertheless ruler Francisc Rakoczi managed to escape. Legend also has it that Rakoczi's daughter is still alive, hiding in the cellars and anyone wanting to broke her curse has to kiss her on all her three faces and then follow her to the cellar, where the princess will reveal the family's treasure. He who dares walking down to the cellars will have to be careful and not look back, or else he will turn into stone. Locals say that many young fellas have tried to get after the princess and none of them ever returned. Another vision of the legend has it that Vilma shows out in the middle of the castle on Easter night dressed up in bride. It is also said that the princess is not allowed to wash or comb herself more than once a year until the curse is broken.

In 1847, the local chapel was chosen for the marriage of Hungary's national poet Petofi Sandor with Iuliana Szendrei, the daughter of the castle's caretaker.

Although the castle has been remade, it has never raised back to its mediaeval stature. It has decayed in time and it was abandoned, with only one tower, the mysterious cellars and some walls left of it. A part of the Ardud bastion was rehabilitated under a European project. It was officially opened to the public in 2012 and included in a travel tour. Today, any visitor can get to a place in the cellars and the tower that was restored to its former splendour. AGERPRES

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