Medias, the medieval fortress

The first perimeter fortification of Medias was made using waves of earth reinforced with wooden palisades, which in turn were doubled with water ditches. This measure was taken in 1477, in the desire to support Medias’ defense capacity. At the same time, there have been decreases in terms of taxations and exemptions from the obligation of military duties. Thus, only 32 people were required to participate in the royal army.

The current fortified enclosure of the city was built of brick and stone, at the orders of the Hungarian king Matei Corvin. In 1486, he ordered all city residents to participate in the works, regardless of their social position. The actual construction began in 1490, and five years later, Vladislav II obliges all the inhabitants of the city, as well as those in the villages of the Two Seats – Medias and Seica – to participate in the raising of the walls, to hurry completion of the construction. The fortress was completed in 1534, a period from which dates the change of the city’s title from “villa” to “civitas”, which will remain permanently granted to Medias.

The fortifications have a total length of 2360 m, with a thickness of 0.8 m and a height of about 7 m. The fortress has three main gates, reinforced with defense towers: to the north is the Gate of Steingasser, to the east Gate Zeckesch, and to the south is the Forkesch Gate. The fortress was further fortified, the maximum point being reached in the 18th century when there were 19 towers and bastions, and four main gates were added to the three main gates.

Over the centuries, the Medias fortress had to withstand numerous sieges, being conquered and devastated several times by the occupation armies. After the Hungarian kingdom was defeated in 1526 at Mohacs, the troops of Ioan Zapolya besieged and eventually conquered the fortress in the year 1529. This siege caused considerable destruction. After 10 years, in 1539, the Saxons of Medias were given the privilege of commercial freedom, so they benefited from certain tax exemptions and were exempt from commercial taxes both on the territory of Transylvania and on the territory of Hungary. This fact contributed enormously to the “relaunching” of Medias, both financially and economically, becoming one of the main commercial centers in Transylvania.

The walls of the fortress have often been restored, the largest restoration taking place in the Sub Alee area, especially in the shooting gaps and decorations. The wall behind the Franciscan Church collapsed and was restored, but the original pattern was not taken into account.

Since the end of the 18th century, the walls of the fortress have not been maintained or built any more. Finally, at the beginning of the 20th century, 13 towers and bastions were demolished to streamline traffic. Currently, the walls of the fortress, the towers and the gates of the medieval fortress can be seen along the route of the Castle Complex – Sub-Alee Street – NicoaleTitulescu Street –DupaZid Street – Closca Street – Unirii Street –Pompierilor Street.

The Central Square

The oldest nucleus of Medias – according to research made by Karl G. Romer and Paul Niedermaier – is found on Zeckesch (the current MihaiViteazu Street) because it has the highest elevations, being protected from bogs and floods. The first stone built house in the city was certified in 1475. In 1541, there were about 57 buildings built with shingles or straw roofs. Around 1600, among all the cities of the Transylvanian region, Medias had the largest percentage of brick houses in relation to the total number of buildings.

As the city grew and expanded, this led to the construction of the houses in the current “King Fedinand I” Square. Until the beginning of the 20th century, the square was crossed by the Mosna stream. It crossed the Hospital Street, through the square and then bifurcated to the Petofi Sandor and Stephan Ludwig Roth streets. There was even a water mill on this stream.

The sewerage works carried out in 1912 revealed traces of wooden footbridges that crossed the stream and were at a shallow depth. The Mosna stream was captured in 1315, through the Morii channel, for then to be reverted in Tarnava Mare. In 1699, part of the water was diverted to the new river bed made bythe craftsmen from the tanners’ guild. The new river bed crossed Stephan Ludwig Roth Street. Both the square and the street were one meter below the current level, as all the household waste and waste resulting from craftsmen’s activities were collected there, so the air was unbearably in that area. The square was drained in the years 1816-1818, but only a few years later, the site became insalubrious again. Only the canalization introduced in 1912 put an end to these problems.

The central square did not benefit from cobbled access roads, so often mud was formed, and the ladies from the high society were transported by strange devices that looked like cabinets when they wanted to cross the square.

Like most squares in the cities, the central square was the “heart” of the city, the place where the main events took place, from executions and corporal punishments, to commercial activities, and the reception of official visits by some personalities of the time. Most houses in the square had shops on the ground floor, a sign that there were many commercial activities, and in 1424 Medias had already two annual fairs.

Until 1875, in the northeastern part of the market there was a commercial market house, where members of the guilds sold their products, and in front of the market house was the “pillar of infamy”. There is also an interesting legend about this hall. It is said to have been built in 1770 by the city’s mayor, Hann von Hannenheim. It is said that the mayor’s daughter used to chat with the son of a rival noble family, Daniel Conrad von Heydendorf, at the window of her house. Thus, in order to spoil the flirting of the two lovers, the mayor built the market house.

As the city grew more and more, the houses built during the Renaissance did not need any fortifications. They have their attractive facades with decorative elements. Most of the houses in the square were built during the Transylvanian Renaissance, which can be seen in the details of the windows and façades. The frames of the wealthy men’s windows covered the entire window, while those in the lower classes had the right to fit only the top or the window sill. These elements of architecture were a way to distinguish between different social classes.

Last but not least, the square’s access gates are half-cylindrical. The houses in the square had a double role at first: the upstairs was used for people’s houses and there were shops or workshops on the ground floor. Over time, the workshops have also been transformed into homes, changing the appearance of the gangs.