Bonțida Bánffy Castle
|Castelul Bánffy (Romanian)
Bánffy Castle under heavy restoration in July 2014
Location within Romania
|Location||Bonțida, Cluj County|
|Design and construction|
Joseph Emanuel Fischer von Erlach
Bánffy Castle is an architectonic Baroque monument situated in Bonţida, a village in the vicinity of Cluj-Napoca, Romania. It was owned by the Bánffy family (of which Miklós Bánffy was a member). The owner is Katalin Bánffy, who has two daughters, Nicolette and Elisabeth.
Bánffy Castle is attested from the beginning of the fourteenth century. In 1387, buildings and surrounding land came into possession of Bánffy family as a gift from Sigismund of Luxemburg. In 1437, during the unrest in northern Transylvania caused by peasant uprisings, Albert II of Germany granted Bánffy family the right to build a fortress in Bonțida, to protect the residence of the domain. According to a military report in 1680, there were fortifications surrounding the mansion, comprising Renaissance buildings and corner bastions.
Between 1745 and 1751, at the order of Dénes Bánffy (1638–1674), Committee of Dăbâca and Cluj, counselor of Prince Michael I Apafi, the castle suffered modifications, being rebuilt in Baroque style. Dénes Bánffy initiated the construction of a large fortified ensemble, with bastions at the four corners and a strong gate tower, under the coordination of Venetian architect Agostino Serena.
In the eighteenth century was realized the reconstruction of the castle in Austrian Baroque style, work being coordinated by architect Joseph Emanuel Fischer von Erlach. At this stage the castle have been given a new configuration, by disposing the constructions in an U shape. Also now were realized the court of honour, the manege, the stalls, the shed and servants' houses. An important achievement was the park on the bank of Someș River, with walkways, statues and fountains. In the integrative concept specific to Baroque art, the mansion and the environment were in a relationship of close interdependence and mutual influence. Based on this concept, the park of 70 ha was set up after a project by architect Johann Christian Erras, which transposed into this space forms of a classicist clarity, dominated by a strict geometry. The sculptor Johann Nachtigall made grandiose stone statues inspired by the ancient poet Ovid.
József Bánffy, the descendant of Dénes Bánffy, decided the demolition of the gate tower in 1820, uniting the Renaissance courtyard with the Baroque one, and from the resulting stone was built a water mill for the villagers in Bonțida. In 1850 was realized a new wing of the building, under the direction of architect Anton Kagerbauer (1814–1872), which reorganized the park after the English Romanticism model. One of the attraction points of residence was the equine school inside one of the buildings.
In 1944, the castle was transformed into a field hospital. German troops plundered and devastated the castle, as retaliation against political attitude of its owner, count Miklós Bánffy, which has initiated negotiations between the governments of Romania and Hungary for the return of weapons against Germany. Thus, the furniture, the library and the gallery of paintings were destroyed.
During the communist regime, whole building was used as a driving school, cooperative farm and hospital for children. In 1963, Bánffy Castle was used as decor for filming Pădurea spânzuraților, directed by Liviu Ciulei. The film comprised a short scene with fire, thus scenographers lit one of the buildings, causing massive damage to the building.
In 1990, the castle was declared a historic monument, and in 1999 began the restoration and rehabilitation works, with the support of several Romanian and foreign institutions and organizations, under the patronage of Prince Charles of Wales, who visited the castle several times.
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Bonţida Bánffy Castle depicted by Cserna Karoly in The Austro-Hungarian Monarchy in Word and Picture, volume 23, 1902
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