Iernut Castle

Iernut (Hungarian: Radnót) is a small town in Mureş County, central Transylvania, Romania. The town has a rich history, dating from the Neolithic Age (4500-2500 î.C.). Here were found also archeological traces of a Roman colony from the 2nd-3rd centuries. First attested in 1257 as terra Ranolth (the name comes from the Germanic name Reinold of the owner of feudal land), Iernut belonged to the early Romanian stately formations in the Middle Ages (cnezat, Gelu Voivodeship), the Voivodeship of Transylvania dominated by the Hungarian nobility (12th-16th centuries), the Transylvanian Principality under the Ottoman suzerainty (17th century), the Habsburg Empire (17th-19th centuries), the Austro-Hungarian Empire (1867-1918).

The Iernut estate was of secular feudal type. He later became the property of the princes of Transylvania (such as György Rákóczi I, Gabriel Bethlen or Mihály Apafi II), the property of tax authorities, gradually belonged to various noble families, being donated, sold and resold. In 1648, György Rákóczi II stopped here, on his way to Târgu Mureş, where he was to be crowned Prince of Transylvania. The Treaty of Radnót was signed here during the Second Northern War on 6 December 1656. The treaty divided the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth between the signing parties.

During that time several congregations and 15 diets of the Transylvanian nobility took place here. In the castle were emprisoned two Orthodox metropolitans of Transylvania, Dosoftei Ilie Iorest and Sava Brancovici, because they did not want to forsake their faith. Finally, the estate became the property of the Roman-Catholic Church in Transylvania.

The castle Kornis-Rakoczi-Bethlen of Iernut was built in late Gothic style with Renaissance elements for Gáspár Bogáti in 1545, but the buildings wiped out the traces of previous buildings, so that way the old castle looked until 1545 remained unknown. The portal frame dates from 1574, also built in Renaissance style. Between 1583 and 1585, the owner of the castle was Francisc Kendy. In this period, here was hosted for eight months the Genovese Franco Sivori, who had been serving the ruling prince of Moldavia, Petru Cercel. In 1608, the castle was donated by Prince Gabriel Báthory to Boldizsar Kornis as a reward for helping him to win the throne of Transylvania. In 1649, Francisc Kornis sells the castle to Prince György Rákóczi II for 22,000 florins.

During the Bethlen–Rákóczi era, several projects with a planimetrical conception inspired from the architecture treatises of the Italian Renaissance were performed, such the castle in Iernut (1617–1629, 1649–1656). It was the last large-scale construction in the Transylvanian Principality. The current castle, built in the first form in 1545, has been modified between 1650-1660 for Prince György Rákóczi II, after the plans of Venetian architect Agostino Serena. This one, performing various works, introduced in the construction of the castle the Renaissance style architectural elements.

The castle is composed of two parts: the castle itself and the gate building. In the second half of the 18th century was built the Snake House, with snake decorations - sign taken from the escutcheon of the Bethlen family. The gate building have specific architectural elements of the Baroque style: the opening gang, the roll-shaped decorative elements above the windows, the roof shape. The escutcheon of György Rákóczi and his wife Zsofia Báthory is on the south-western gate, the new entrance gate. The castle was the core of an important complex, being surrounded by walls with towers, warehouses and sheds, and a wide ditch, fed by the water of Mureş River.

The building is square-shaped, with towers at corners, and it has three levels from the first - partly buried in the ground - is actually a basement. The walls, 1m thick, are constructed of burnt brick, but one can see the basement stone walls. Outside walls have a sober look, with few decorative elements. On the north and south are two portals with semicircular openings, which provides access to the castle yard. On the northern side, the median axis is marked by a small balcony supported on two consoles with curvilinear profiles. Ground floor rooms retain some specific architectural elements of the Renaissance period.

The brick ceilings of the basement and ground floor rooms are vaulted in cross, with floral-shaped keystones, and associated in some places with small stone consoles, decorated with geometric and vegetal motifs. The ceiling of the first floor is plane. The doors have profiled frames with strongly raised cornices in the upper part. One of the most beautiful and well-preserved frames is the one of the room in the north-eastern corner, decorated with additional pillars supporting the same type of cornice. Also on the inside of the northern side is a semicircular and elongated small niche, whose framework is decorated with two flowers carved in relief.

The special element introduced by the Venetian architect in the planimetric composition and overall image of castle architecture of this building is the replacing of the southern wing with a loggia at the first floor, open to the outside and also to the courtyard. It has subsequently been closed. The trail of the semicircular arches are visible today, both on the northern wall of the courtyard and inside rooms. Galleries on three sides of the inner court, which mimics the typology of Renaissance loggia were added later, not belonging to the original plan of the castle.

The castle belonged to the Bethlen family descendants until 1885, when Mark Bethlen lost the castle to Count Jeno Haller during a card game. The winner donated the estate to the Roman-Catholic Church in Transylvania, that transformed it into a model farm and an agricultural school.

After 1920, the estate fell apart, and what remained was nationalized in 1948, and the castle became an agricultural college. Inside the Snake House was open a commemoration museum dedicated to the WWII, but after the events of 89’ the museum closed and the building was considerably damaged. After 1990, it hasn’t got an owner for four years, and currently it’s part of a return law-suit.