History of Oradea

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Varadinum (Oradea) in a 1617 engraving by Braun & Hogenberg

Oradea, 12 km from the Hungarian border, dates back to a small 10th-century castle, while its bishopric was founded during the 11th century by King Ladislaus I of Hungary. The first documented mention of its name was in 1113 under the Latin name Varadinum ("vár" means fortress in Hungarian). The city flourished during the 13th century. The Citadel of Oradea, the ruins of which remain today, was first mentioned in 1241 during the Mongol invasion. The 14th century was one of the most prosperous periods in the city's life. Statues of St. Stephen, Emeric and Ladislaus (before 1372) and the equestrian sculpture of St. Ladislaus (1390) were erected in Oradea. St. Ladislaus' fabled statue was the first proto-renaissance public square equestrian in Europe. Bishop Andreas Báthori (1329–1345) rebuilt the cathedral in Gothic style. From that epoch dates also the Hermes, now preserved at Györ, which contains the skull of King Ladislaus, and which is a masterpiece of the Hungarian goldsmith's art.

Georg von Peuerbach worked at the Observatory of Varadinum, using it as the reference or prime meridian of Earth in his Tabula Varadiensis, published posthumously in 1464.

In 1474 the city was devastated by the Turks. It was not until the 16th century that Oradea started growing as an urban area. The Peace of Várad was concluded between Ferdinand I and John Zápolya here on February 4, 1538, in which they mutually recognized each other to be king. In the 18th century, the Viennese engineer Franz Anton Hillebrandt planned the city in the Baroque style and, starting from 1752, many landmarks were constructed such as the Roman Catholic Cathedral and the Bishop's Palace, presently the Muzeul Țării Crișurilor ("The Museum of the Criș-es land").

After the Ottoman invasion of Hungary in the 16th century, the city was administered at various times by the Principality of Transylvania, the Ottoman Empire, and the Habsburg Monarchy. In 1598, the fortress was besieged and, on August 27, 1660, Oradea fell to the Turks and became the capital of Varat Province. This eyalet had Varat (Oradea), Salanta, Debreçin (formerly part of Budin and Eğri Eyalets), Halmaș, Sengevi and Yapıșmaz sanjaks. The siege is described in detail by Szalárdy János in his contemporary chronicle. The city was seized by the Habsburg-led German-Hungarian-Croatian forces in September 1692. The Hungarian Revolution of 1848 played an important role in the city's history. It was the home of largest Hungarian arms factory while Debrecen was the temporary seat of the Hungarian government.

In the second half of the 19th century literary nicknames for the town included "Hungarian Compostela", "Felix civitas", "Paris on the River Pece", "the City of Tomorrow", "Athens on the Körös", and "the City of Yesterday". These nicknames are not widely used today, although "Paris on the River Pece" is still utilized sometimes.

As a consequence of Hungary's role in World War I, the Treaty of Trianon awarded Oradea to the Kingdom of Romania. Under the Second Vienna Award brokered by Hitler and Mussolini in 1940, Hungary reoccupied North Transylvania, including Oradea, but, being on the losing side again, had to relinquish claims to it under the Treaty of Paris concluded on February 10, 1947.

In 1925 the status of municipality was given to Oradea dissolving its former civic autonomy. Under the same ordinance its name was changed from Oradea Mare ("Great" Oradea) to simply Oradea.

Ethnic tensions sometimes ran high in the area in the past but the different ethnic groups now generally live together in harmony, thriving on each other's contributions to modern culture. There are many mixed Romanian-Hungarian families in Oradea, with children assimilating into both of their parents' cultures and learning to speak both languages.

After December 1989, Oradea aims to achieve greater prosperity along with other towns in Central Europe. Both culturally and economically, Oradea's prospects are inevitably tied to the general aspiration of Romanian society to freedom, democracy and a free market economy, with varied initiatives in all fields of endeavor. Due to its specific character, Oradea is one of the most important economic and cultural centers of Western Romania and of the country in general, and one of the great academic centers, with a unique bilingual dynamic.

Timeline[edit]

  • 10th century founded Várad (vár = castle, -ad = diminutive suffix (cf.Herend, Kermend, Kövösd, Fertőd, Városd, Jobbágy, Hortobágy))
  • 1082–1095 Várad Bishopric was founded by King Ladislaus I of Hungary.
  • 12th century the second cultural and religious center of the Kingdom of Hungary.
  • After the canonization of Ladislaus, his gravestone became the place of many ordeals.
  • 1208–1235 REGESTRUM VARADIENSIS is the oldest documents concerning Oradea.
  • The city flourished during the 13th century.
  • The Mongol-Tatar attack against the city. The city's destruction was described by Rogerius in his work entitled Carmen Miserabile ("Sad Song").
  • 5 kings were buried here, during the centuries: St. Ladislaus, Stephen II of Hungary, Andreas II, Mary of Hungary, Sigismund of Luxembourg
  • 14th century one of the most prosperous period in the city's life. Statues of St. Stephen, Emeric and Ladislaus (before 1372) and the equestrian sculpture of St. Ladislaus (1390) erected in Oradea. St. Ladislaus' fabled statue was the first proto-renaissance public square equestrian in Europe. (The statues were torn down and melted by the Turks in 1660) The Kolozsvári brothers only work which has survived the centuries is the Statue of St. George in Prague. Bishop Andreas Báthori (1329–1345) rebuilt the cathedral in Gothic style. From that epoch dates also the Hermes, now preserved at Györ, which contains the skull of King Ladislaus, and which is a masterpiece of the Hungarian goldsmith's art.
  • Sigismund King of Hungary and Holy Roman Emperor intercede with the Pope on behalf of letting Oradea Cathedral having patronal festival rights. Same as only two Basilica had at that time in Europe: St Mark's Basilica from Venice and Santa Maria Portiuncula from Assisi
  • 1437 Sigismund died and was buried in Oradea Cathedral.
  • 1445 Bishop John Vitéz of Zredna took up the duties of bishop. He was one of the most distinguished and active promoters of Humanism in Hungary.
  • 1474 The city was devastated by the Turks
  • Matthias Corvinus met the Sultan's, the Emperor's and the Pope's ministers in Oradea Castle.
  • The peasant uprising from 1514 led by György Dózsa have sacked and burned up the city
  • 1526 Bishop of Oradea Francis Perenyi was killed in the Battle of Mohács
  • Friar George Utyesenich took up the duties of bishop.
  • 1538 in 1538, Zápolyai’s ablest adviser, the Croat Franciscan, Friar George, mediated the secret agreement of Oradea, under which each claimant (Ferdinand of Habsburg and John I of Hungary) recognised the other's title and the territorial status quo.
  • The population of Nagyvárad numbered around 15–20,000
  • 1541 fall of Buda, refugees arrived to Oradea.
  • 1557 Queen Isabella's captain Tamas Varkoch captured the fortress. The bishopric's estates were confiscated and the members of Oradea's chapter scattered all over the country.
  • 1565 Saint Ladislaus' grave was ruined.
  • 1570–1596 a new fortress was built in late Italian Renaissance style
  • 1598–1606 Oradea seceded Transylvania
  • In 1598, the fortress was besieged and, on August 27, 1660, Oradea fell to the Turks.

Jewish community[edit]

The chevra kadisha was founded in 1735, the first synagogue in 1803, and the first communal school in 1839. Not until the beginning of the 19th century were Jews permitted to do business in any other part of the city, and even then they were required to withdraw at nightfall to their own quarter. In 1835 permission to live at will in any part of the city was granted them.

The Jewish community of Oradea was divided into an Orthodox and Neolog congregations. While the members of the Neolog one still retained their membership in the chevra kadisha, they started to use a cemetery of their own in 1899. In the early 20th century, the Jews of Oradea had won prominence in the public life of the city; there were Jewish manufacturers, merchants, lawyers, physicians, and farmers; the chief of police (1902) was a Jew; and in the municipal council, the Jewish element was proportionately represented. The community possessed, in addition to the hospital and chevra kadisha already mentioned, a Jewish women's association, a grammar school, an industrial school for boys and girls, a yeshiva, a soup kitchen, etc.

The following are among those who have held the rabbinate of Oradea:


According to the Center for Jewish Art:

The Oradea Jewish community was once the most active both commercially and culturally in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In 1944, twenty-five thousand Oradean Jews were deported to concentration camps, thus decimating this vital community. Three hundred Jews reside in Oradea today. In the center of the city, towering over other buildings in the area, is the large Neolog Temple Synagogue built in 1878. The unusual cube-shaped synagogue with its large cupola is one of the largest in Romania. Inside there is a large organ and stucco decorations. In 1891, the Orthodox community also built a complex of buildings including two synagogues and a community center.[1]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Uncovering and Documenting Jewish Art and Architecture in Western Romania". Center for Jewish Art. The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Summer 1998. Retrieved March 5, 2007. [dead link]

References[edit]

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainJewish Encyclopedia. 1901–1906. 
By : Gotthard Deutsch & G. Kecskeméti (JewishEncyclopedia.com – GROSSWARDEIN (NAGY-VARAD))