- Abstract -

The present undergoing was difficult from the very beginning. Major problems occurred while we tried to put together all the information as to get a comprehensive picture of the history of these fortifications, one that can be presented to the reader.

Strictly from the historical point of view, the County of Arad unites parts of the former, medieval counties of Arad, Cenad and Zarand, which were part of the Hungarian Kingdom. From the geographic point of view, the region is divided in two major components: the valley of the river Mureș and the Western endings of the Apuseni Mountains, which reach the Crișul Alb River, to the North, and the Mureș, to the South.

During the Middle Ages, just like today, the way one built and organised the functioning of a fortress was linked to essentially European cultural areas. The permanent and unlimited care for the historical heritage of the Romanian territory has, or should have, political connotations. The forever lasting, comes out of the quality of the studies about history, architecture or institutions. By writing about fortresses, the history of the Romanians is inter-woven with universal history. This global history is the real one, not the one artificially cut out, whatever reasons may have led to that.

What we call a medieval castle covers, with some generosity, the historical period beginning around the year 1000 and ending in the 16th century. Before the lower limit, there were no castles and after the upper one, Middle Ages ended. The progression of the Turkish conquers to the North of the Danube changed the three century old political and social map of the region. For all the fortresses we talk about, the 16th century is a cruel fracture: without exception, all the castles underwent the ultimate ordeal: the war.

The final result of the successive local historical contexts is desolating. If someone, be it state institution or private person, with a serious amount of financial support, really wanted to restore one of this monuments and put it into conservation, the starting points he would encounter on the ground would be so minor, that the effort is hardly worth doing. This image is altered only by the majestic șoimoș Castle. Apart from the Hunedoara Castle, șoimoș is among the few Transylvanian castles, which, in spite of no restoration works, still show traces of former splendour to the tourists: Bologa and Lita (Cluj County), Deva (Hunedoara County), Bran and Brașov (Brașov County).

A glance at what is standing today, leads to a first conclusion. The majority of small, aristocratic castles, evolving from mansions, or related to them, have completely disappeared. Only the remains of the Royal fortresses, built mainly on the Eastern and Northern limits of the Banat plain and those used during the wars of the 16th - 17th centuries are preserved.

To any inquisitive approach pertaining to the exact number of such castles existent in the County of Arad, the answer would be disappointing. There is no way to give an accurate number of these fortifications.

The present volume, as to be seen, does not deal with the castles but only with castles from the Arad County. The selection is self-imposed, by the above-mentioned disappearances and also by the difficult identification on the ground. Therefore, here are not all of them. It is not our intention to condemn to oblivion those not mentioned, on the contrary, it is our wish that the issues left aside by this text will determine reactions and renewal of the research, followed by restoration and protection of the monuments.

The next chapter of the volume deals with the county's medieval fortresses as an object of study.

From the medieval diplomas, preserved to our days, we mainly know selected data and in very few cases the entire text. Subsequently, we inherited what older generations saw and selected. Too bad, because present sensibility to written sources has changed, therefore, theoretically, a dissimilar understanding of the Latin messages is possible. The documentary research concerning the geography of the monuments started, to a certain extent, never for the entire area, with Csánki D., Márki S., Milleker B., Borovszki S., Györffy Gy. and others. They selected and used the information pertaining to the 11th - 15th centuries. The 16th and 17th centuries are hardly perceptible in documents. A global control on the increasing amount of writings is impossible.

The documentary sources always fail on the same issues: too scarce or truncated. None of them contains data on the founding of the fortresses; none of them gives any detail about the components in use at a certain time; none of them explicitly speaks about their internal life. The information extracted points changes of masters, the presence or activity of some of their owners, military events involving them, administrative problems.

Today most of the information available on this fortifications proceeds mainly from non-literate sources. Cartographic sources are discussed in detail. The only published plans pertain to the fortifications from Arad, Ineu, Lipova, șiria and șoimoș. Several fortresses of the county are published here for the first time with their survey plans (Agrișu Mare, Dezna, șiria). Hopefully, information will amass in the future.

Historiographic visions of these fortifications are extremely precarious. We encounter here almost everything that accompanied the writing about fortifications right from its dawn. Romanticism was uncritical and too literary in describing the ruins, more visible two centuries ago. The description focused only on the larger castles in the area. The Positivism found the castles uninteresting from the construction point of view, dealing almost only with their living history, as resulted from written sources. The historian Márki Sándor accomplished a very ample and well-documented synthesis about the castles under study. In the inter-war period, excepting the monograph of Cornelia Bodea, there was a lack of interest concerning medieval fortresses. The new history of the fortifications, after the second world war, did not start, as one would expect, with solid monographic studies but with general approaches. What seemed to be useful for the moment, proved, in time, to be non-stimulative for a return to the proper objectives. The attitudes of several historians and art historians are discussed: Gerö L., V. Vatașianu, Gh. Anghel, Th.N. Trâpcea, șt. Pascu, Gh. Lanevschi and Csorba Cs.

The scarcity and poor quality of the references stand as an obstacle to the historical writing on the medieval fortresses, added to a non-homogenous methodology, with recurrent attempts to settle the terminology, reconciled, as much as possible, with the medieval texts and the European historiography. Progress is slow and, unfortunately, no group of specialists constantly interested in fortifications may be identified. This statement is just as valid for Romania, as for the special case of Arad.

In the next compartment, the volume deals with several landmarks of the history of fortifications. As concerns the timber and earth fortifications of the 9th - 12th centuries, one of them being Arad-Vladimirescu, the main problems are those related to their early chronology. Pinpointing their debut, their constructors might be determined. Two fortresses were also county centres (Arad and Zarand) but there is information about others (Bulci, Pîncota).

If military and ecclesiastic architecture propagated wave-like from West to East, then it should be admitted that it was a chronological advance in Arad County, compared to the Principality of Transylvania, located to the East.

The existence of dwelling-towers in Lipovița and șoimoș is almost a certainty, while for șiria it is a mere probability. A written reference points to a disappeared dwelling-tower from Turnu. As large residential fortresses, șoimoș and șiria accumulated various elements. They had a palatinum, as designated in documents. It was the residential building, rectangle shaped, consisting usually of at least three rooms, ordered in enfilade, with two levels fronting South or south-east. While șiria had a single tract, șoimoș got a second one, whose remaining framing preserve the beauty of the late 15th century Gothic. The same palaces had loggia. At șoimoș it is still visible, sunk in the northern wall. These palaces had also cantilevered privies.

The planimetric study of the Timișoara and Lipova fortresses, with corner towers, as preserved by the memory of the oldest iconographic documents, generated the idea that Carol Robert d'Anjou used Italian craftsmen. The lack of any tangible evidence of the two castles left the idea as mere speculation. Locating the medieval fortresses on the map leads to highly interesting conclusions. The Arad vineyard forms a unit, in this aspect, also remarkable for many other common points.

The Dezna Castle is part of a much simpler family of fortifications. The polygon shaped precincts have a single tower, still standing, seemingly the only outstanding feature of this fortress. In spite of the modest construction type it was owned by royal and important noble families.

The area also provides examples for fortifications that link castrum with castellum, held by local aristocrats. With a remarkable diversity as concerns planimetry and construction material, they are poorly known since they are sorely destroyed.

Eventually, the examined historical period closes with the appearance of the new style Italian bullworks. It was the European solution with the highest degree of novelty. At the opposite end were the temporary, earth and timber fortifications. They outnumber the previous ones. It wasn't difficult to erect them rapidly, when and where needed. The county has an example with the fortress from Vîrfurile, dated by the beginning of the 17th century, roughly examined archaeologically and surveyed.

Further on, we present the main fortresses of the area, with the essential data existing at the moment. The intention can not meet the performances expected by modern research. It assesses and presents the level of knowledge for the time being and urges further careful and more performant resumptions. It draws attention to the possibilities this fortresses still offer for restoration in the present political and economical juncture.

AGRIȘU MARE was a fortress owned by local aristocrats, dated in the 14th - 15th centuries. on the ground one can still detect the earthwall, the ditch and some traces of walls.

ARAD. Timber and earth fortification, twice rebuilt in the 11th - 12th centuries. It was the first residence of the comes of the Arad County. Neglected since the end of the period as it was donated to an ecclesiastic institution. The Turks built another timber and earth fortification on another location by the mid 16th century.

BULCI. On the location of an older timber and earth fortification (11th - 12th century), a Benedictine monastery was built. The fortification was traced archaeologically.

CAPÂLNAȘ had an earth fort that couldn't be historically framed

CAPRUȚA was a castellum since the 15th century. There is no evidence on the ground.

CIALA had a similar history, longer though, with the above mentioned. The fortress was demolished by the inhabitants of Arad.

CLADOVA is an old prehistoric fortification, the best archaeologically examined in the county. The earth wall was probably rebuilt during the early centuries of the second millennium. The documentary reference, though mentioned, is not found.

CUVIN is a fortification known only by field research and artefacts collected from the surface.

DEZNA was for a long time an important Royal castle. Since the end of the 14th century it was owned by aristocrats. The remaining walls suggest a simple construction with one tower.

FELNAC. The fortress ruins are in no association with clear documentary information.

FRUMUșENI. A fortress dated to the 15th - 16th centuries has to be located somewhere in the area where scattered ruins were mentioned.

INEU. An aristocratic castle overbuilt by the middle of the 17th century.

LIPOVA was a thriving medieval town from the 14th to the 16th century, with an acropolis and separate precincts. After the wars from the 16th century the entire medieval topography disappeared.

LIPOVIȚA. Probably a dwelling-tower erected by an aristocratic family on the edge of the 13th and 14th century. No other information is available, except the ruin.

MÎSCA. Castle owned by nobles in the 15th century. Today there is little evidence on the ground.

NADAB. The castle, owned by aristocrats, is dated like the one mentioned above. Before its total disappearance it was described by authors from the 18th and 19th century.

NADLAC. The castle, owned by aristocrats, dates back to the 15th - 16th centuries. It was completely demolished.

PÎNCOTA. The old monastery, probably Greek, was transformed into a Royal castle in the 14th - 15th century. It was completely demolished by the end of the 16th century.

SZAD. Castle owned by aristocrats during the 15th and 16th century, with no evidence on the ground.

SZÖD. Castle owned by aristocrats, during the 15th and 16th century, with no evidence on the ground.

ȘIMAND. The castle, owned by aristocrats, has been destroyed in 1514.

ȘIRIA. Royal castle, then owned by aristocrats, with a relatively well known history for the 14th to the 17th century. The described ruins are the remains of deliberate destruction dating to the 18th century.

ȘOIMOȘ. Royal castle, then owned by aristocrats, with a relatively well known history for the 14th to the 17th century. The best preserved castle in the county. The architectural description has been totally renewed, trying, at the same time, to determine the functionality of the rooms.

TURNU. The name of the locality points to a disappeared fortress, probably a dwelling-tower.

VARADIA DE MUREș. The castle, owned by aristocrats and dated to the 15th century, was completely demolished in the 18th.

VURFU. Ruins with no clear history.

ZADARENI. The castle owned by aristocrats was destroyed in the early 16th century.

ZARAND. Earth fort, probably pending on the county residence. An older archaeological excavation is published for the first time.