CETATEA DE BALTĂ
Cetatea de Baltă (the Fortress on the Marsh) is 8 km west of Boian, beyond a hill, but for the time being this route is not modernized and hardly accessible for motorcars. The roundabout route is Blăjel – Adămuş (Târnăveni), on the Târnava Mică valley. Until the end of the 19th century, Cetatea de Baltă played a significant role in the history of Transylvania and of the Târnave region. The name of the village was given by the mediaeval fortress located on a marshy area, in a place called “Meadow”, within the triangle formed by the Târnava Mică river, the Rât spring and “După grădini” (“Beyond Gardens”) hill. The mediaeval fortress is one of the oldest fortifications in Transylvania, being mentioned in the documents written between 1202 and 1203 on the registration of the lands owned by the abbey in Arad, adjacent “cum villa cuculiensis castri” (a natural connection between the foundation of Cetatea de Baltă and the first documentary mention of the Târnave Borough, administrative unit of the Hungarian kingdom which consolidated in the Târnave region at the beginning of the 13th century).
“Castrum cuculiensis” is mentioned in several documents in 1216, 1230, and 1238. Only parts of the defence moat remained from the fortification made of wood and earth waves that surrounded the church placed in a dominant position in the middle of the village. After the Tatar invasion of 1241, the fortress was destroyed in a fire (most probably put by Tatars). In the first half of the 14th century the fortress was reconstructed by the order of Carol Robert de Anjou. It appeared again in documents only in 1324, when King Carol Robert was near Cetatea de Baltă on July 16. A first castellan was mentioned in documents in 1331 - “magister Ştefan called Pogan”, and two years later (1333) Toma, Prince of Transylvania, issued a document in the aforementioned fortress: ”datum in Kukulewar”. From 1347, the fortification, which became a royal fortress under the Transylvanian princes, appeared under the name of “castrum Kukullevar”.
In 1462, King Matei Corvin conceded Cetatea de Baltă together with the entire estate to Ioan Pongratz, Prince of Transylvania, for an amount of 8000 gold florins. In the ninth decade of the 15th century, Matei Corvin conceded Cetatea de Baltă to Ştefan cel Mare (Stephen the Great), as a fief. Chronicler Grigore Ureche mentioned this: “So after a short time ended the enmity between the Hungarian prince and Ştefan Vodă, as they saw that their enemy and the enemy of the entire Christian world, the Turk, is harrying them and trying to mesmerise them into being taken in the toils… seeing such a deceit, Prince Matei and Ştefan Vodă made peace and settled together. And after the peace both of them tied a strong bond, and Prince Matei presented Ştefan Vodă with two fortresses in Ardeal, namely Balta and Ciceul”. Cetatea de Baltă included 14 villages, and Ciceul, 61 villages. A document from 1504 refers to the rights of Bogdan III, son of Ştefan cel Mare, over villages Veseuş and Boian, which belonged to Cetatea de Baltă. Following Bogdan, Cetatea de Baltă is owned by Ştefăniţă Vodă, then by Petru Rareş. The latter lost the fortress in 1538, but after he returned to the throne in 1541, he insisted to Queen Isabella to be handed over the fortresses in Transylvania. From 1538 until 1544, the fortress was ruled by Ioan Zapolya, who presented it to his wife Isabella. Petru Rareş’ unsuccessful attack of Cetatea de Baltă is mentioned in a statement made by Baltasar Bornemisa in 1543.
Honterus’s map of Transylvania dating from din 1532, printed in Basel, makes reference to Cetatea de Baltă, which attests the importance of this locality in its time.
Following Petru Rareş’ campaign of 1542, the Transylvanian Diet decided that the estates belonging to fortresses Ciceu and Cetatea de Baltă be returned to the Moldavian Prince but that the fortifications thereof be demolished. The implementation of that decision was assigned to the inhabitants of Mediaş. In 1557, Christian Schesäus sadly described, in “Ruins of Panonia”, the arson of the fortress.
The fortress estate further belonged to Moldavian rulers Ilie Rareş and Ştefan Rareş, until 1552. Between 1552 and 1556 it was owned by the Habsburg empire, later it was controlled by Alexandru Lăpuşneanu until the end of his reign.
Archaeological researches were rather difficult as the inhabitants of the village considered the fortress ruins as a ceaseless quarry, sometimes taking stone from the very foundations of the walls.
The Bethlen-Haller Castle was constructed in the Renaissance style over 1615-1624, according to the pattern of compact rectangle, without interior courtyard. The circular towers in the corners, without a defensive role, loom over the central part, thus giving the construction the aspect of a mediaeval fortification. The entrance outpost has a seashell decoration and a porch in its upper portion. The general arrangement of the compound reproduces at a small scale the central portion of castle Chambord and was meant from the very beginning as a dwelling. Over 1769-1773, the building was modernized.
Oral tradition mentions that the stone from the ruins of the old fortress was used to construct the castle. It is located on the slope of a hill parallel with the national road, a side road climbing towards it with no indication that you are on a private property. You are brutally notified by the guards of the Jidvei Wine Enterprise, which owns the castle and in whose cellars the famous champagne is produced. The castle cannot be visited without the special authorisation of the enterprise management.
In the middle of Cetatea de Baltă village there is the Reformed church, a highly interesting monument, which originally was a Roman construction with two towers and a rostrum in the west. In the first half of the 13th century, the building was modified in the early Gothic style, and the nave and the choir were altered in the 15th century. During the reign of Ştefan cel Mare and Petru Rareş, when Cetatea de Baltă was a fief of Moldavia, the church was given to the Orthodox cult, being painted in 1525. After the introduction of the Lutheran Reform in Transylvania, the church was whitened. Fragments of mural paintings were restored on the northern wall of the nave. The altar was painted by painter Veress Matei, who worked in Căpleni, Cetatea de Baltă and Cluj.
Nowadays only a few elements remind of the old church. The Gothic windows in pointed arch and the two-step buttresses represent clear evidence of the construction period of the church. The choir was partitioned from the nave and changed into a storeroom, while the nave became a room that, with little leniency, could be assimilated to a coffered-ceiling cube. The organ rostrum is made of wood, and the access staircase leads farther to the room of the tower bells. The roof of the bell tower was replaced with a sheet-metal pyramidal roof with pointed slope. A portico with semi-cylindrical arches and baroque fronton was constructed on the western side. The western façade has decorations reminding of the Moldavian period, while on the southern façade there is an ossuary, probably remains recovered from a cemetery having previously existed on the site of the church.
Folklore-loving tourists can visit, in the close vicinity of Cetatea de Baltă, Săpânţa village, where girls “walk with an attractive sway”. To west, the region opens to commendable tourist attractions: Bălcaciu - fortified church, former cathedral chapter, Jidvei – homeland of Târnave wines, Tătârlaua – where, according to tradition, a group of Tatars settled during invasions and had the habit of robbing until the 18th century, farther Blaj – the cradle of Şcoala Ardeleană (Transylvanian School), Câmpia Libertăţii, the cathedral of 1749, etc.