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ALBA IULIA

Official name: Alba Iulia  Other names: Apulon, Apulum, Balgrad, Alba Transilvana, Weissenburg, Karlsburg, Gyulafehervar

In and around the city there have been uncovered vestiges of human inhabitance from the Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Ages.  The city was an important political, economic and social Dacian center named Apulon, mentioned by the ancient Greek historian Ptolemy.  After the southern part of Dacia became a province of the Roman Empire, the capital of the Dacia Apulensis district was established here, and the city was known as Apulum, a thriving political, administrative, economic and social center in the Roman Empire.  Apulum was one of the largest centers in Roman Dacia and the seat of the XIII Gemina Legion.  Because of its wealth and importance it became the "Little Rome" of Roman Dacia.  In the 9th century the city is mentioned under the name Balgrad, "the white citadel".  In the 10th century the Magyars extend their domain pushing eastwards into Transylvania.  In 1177,  the city is mentioned as the roman catholic bishopric of Transylvania.  In the 13th century the present catholic cathedral was built on the foundations of a 10th century chapel, still visible inside.  In 1442 Ioannus Corvinus (Johan Huniad, brilliant and strategic commander, governor of Hungary) prepared in the citadel his attack on the Turkish armies, which was carried out a few kilometers north, at Santimbru.  During his reign, the cathedral of Alba Iulia was enlarged and after his death he was entombed here.  In 1541, Alba Iulia becomes the capital of the autonomous principality of Transylvania until 1690.  In 1516 the building of a new citadel starts.  In 1599, Michael the Brave, ruler of Walachia, enters the citadel with his armies and declares the unification of Transylvania with Walachia and Moldavia, under his rule, which will last only for one year.  For a short while, Alba Iulia becomes the capital of the united provinces.  In the 17th century,  during the reign of prince Gabriel Bethlen 2 more defence bastions are added to the fortress, and thanks to him, Alba Iulia and the whole of Transylvania experiences a cultural rebirth.  In 1688, Transylvania becomes a province of the Habsburg Empire and in 1711, the Court in Vienna orders the building of new fortifications in Alba Iulia.  The works started on the impressive Vauban style (star-shaped) citadel, the largest in Transylvania, in 1715, according to the plans of Giovanni Morando Visconti, under the leadership of Eugene of Savoy, and finished in 1738.  In the 18th century, the region was the scene of many peasant uprisings.  In 1759 Habsburg empress Maria Theresa emits the decree of tolerance for the Romanian orthodox peasants, allowing them to name an orthodox bishop.  Much attention was not given to the decree, thus began, in 1779, the great peasant rebellion for social justice and freedom lead by Horea and Closca, and by Gheorghe Crisan which joined them in 1784.  The same year, the rebellion was crushed and the 3 leaders imprisoned.  Crisan committed suicide while imprisoned and the remaining 2  were tortured and killed in 1785 on the spot known today as "Forks' Hill".  Thousands of peasants were forced to watch alongside the terrified inhabitants of the city as they were tortured, having their bodies crushed with the wheel.  In the 18th century the catholic bishop Ignat Batthyany sets the foundations of the famous Batthyanaeum Library.  In 1848, Alba Iulia is caught in the great revolutions, intellectuals and craftsmen holding protests in the town.  In 1869, the railway between Alba Iulia and Arad, and in 1895 the narrow gauge railway between Alba Iulia and Zlatna are put in operation.  The Apuseni mountains in the Western Carpathians, west of Alba Iulia, rich in gold and silver ores, became the object of interest of Habsburg authorities.  This was the richest areas for precious metals extraction in the empire and one of the richest in Europe.  In the beginning of the 17th century, 43% of Europe's gold was produced here.  Very important were also the salt mine in the region.  The region was also famous for its vineyards, wines produced here were sent all over the empire.  In 1894, electricity was introduced in the city.  The First World War brought the collapse of the Habsburg empire, and once again the unification of Transylvania with Romania was proclaimed.  On the cold morning of December 1st, 1918 official delegations arrived in Alba Iulia.  It is said that around 100000 Romanians from all the corners of Transylvania gathered in the city to whitness the occasion.

Alba Iulia Photo Album
The upper town. The 18th century Carolina citadel.
Within the citadel: The medieval St. Michael's catholic cathedral. The tombs of royalty and clergy inside the cathedral.
Within the citadel: The medieval catholic bishopric palace.
Within the citadel: Ancient artifacts stored at the orthodox cathedral. The history museum.
Within the citadel: Batthyanaeum library established in an old monastery. Street lined with old houses.
Within the citadel: The gate and walls of the ancient Roman city of Apulum. Custozza monument.
The lower town. A 16th century and two 18th century orthodox churches.
The map of the fortress. Crowds in the upper town center on National Day. The city hall in the lower town center.