Mikó Fortress from Miercurea-Ciuc (Today Szekler Museum of Ciuc)

The Mikó fortress from Miercure-Ciuc is located in the southwest part of the city, near Zsigodin. The territory was broken off from the former village of Mártonfalva, by its builder, Hídvégi Mikó Ferenc (1585-1635), who had a brilliant career, being the loyal follower of Prince Bethlen Gábor, in 1613 the prince named him the captain of the three chairs: Ciuc, Gheorgheni, Casin; from 1622 he became a member of the Transylvanian Principality and Treasurer’s Council. The constructions in Miercurea-Ciuc started after he became the captain of the three chairs, but the construction of the fortress began only in 1623.
Known in public consciousness as the Mikó fortress – being mentioned in contemporary sources as Mikóújvár – the ensemble’s primary function was not the protection, but the residence.
The almost rectangular castle with four bastions was completed in 1631. The builder did not spend much time in the fortress, because his obligations in the country linked him to Alba Iulia and his home there. He died here in 1635. The wealth was divided between his widow, Pókai Anna, and his son’s widow, who died a year later after his father, in this case, in 1636 the fortress became the property of Mikó Józsefné Macskási Ilona. At the end of the 1650s, the fortress became the property of Mr. Petki István, which he probably obtained for the salvation of Tamás Damokos from Tatar slavery. In 1658 Mr. Lázár István, the son-in-law of Petki István, lived in the fortress. In the autumn of 1661, the Turkish-Tatar army invaded Transylvania and destroyed the settlement and fortress, punishing the captain for his opposition against the turks.
The Mikó Fortress has been in ruins for decades, informations about its reconstruction existing only from the period when Transylvania entered the Habsburg jurisdiction. Count Stephan Steinville, Commander of the Transylvanian Imperial Army, reconstructed the castle, but expanded with new fortifications and turned it into a military base that aimed to secure the Gyimes Strait and stop any Tatar invasion. Most of the works took place between 1714 and 1716. Thus, the embankment of the fortress was created with a square look, with bastions in the four corners. A dry cave was created around the castle, the outer wall of which was partially covered with stone. In addition, a so-called covered road protected by a palisade has been developed. The construction of the walls of the outer walls and the palisade lasted until the thirties. The most valuable source for this period is the plan and description of the castle by Johann Conrad von Weiss in 1735. That’s how we found out everything about the arsenal reserve tower next to the southwest bastion. The wings of the castle were designed for barracks.
In 1750, a detailed study of the castle was realised, led by the imperial engineer Von Rebain, which marked the contemporary ground floor and the castle’s upper rooms, the two western bastions of the castle were not finalized at that time.
The role of the castle was enhanced by the Szeklers’ border guards. Since 1762, the commander of the future border guard has settled here. Those who refused to go to be part of the Szekler border guard, were forced to submit to the prison of the castle.
In the summer of 1773 Emperor Joseph II. visited the Mikó Fortress. In his diary, he reports a small castle with four small bastions and a ditch. He mentions a larger castle, which is also surrounded by four bastions and ditches, which was not yet fully built at that time. The castle functioned as a barrack in the nineteenth century. In 1837, found out from the memoirs of Mihály Szentiváni, the first officers from the Szeklers’ infantry lived in the castle, and a military institute (the normal school for boys) also functioned here.
During the Independence War, between 1848 and 1849, the fortress took an important role. In January 1849, Sándor Gál (1817-1866), appointed by Colonel Bem, came to Mikó Castle in the head of a small detachment. He drove away the commander of the regiment and the Imperial officers and around January 22 took over the leadership of the Border Guards. Bem, assigned the armed forces of the Szekler Land to Colonel Sándor Gál and Mikó Fortress became the center of the fight for freedom in Szekler Land. In April, two cannons were built in the fortress, but the casting of the missiles in Ciuc failed because of the intervention of the tsarist troops. On 5th of July, the Szekler division suffered a serious defeat from the Russians, after which they confiscated the Mikó Fortress in August. After the war of independence, the austrian authorities settled in the castle, thus leading revenge actions.
From 1887 until 1961, the formation functioned again as a barrack. Later, he hosted various institutions and, in the end, in 1970 moved here the Szekler Museum of Ciuc. In the early 1970s the monument was rehabilitated under the leadership of John Paul.
The castle built by Ferenc Mikó has survived so far, but the outer defense formed in the first half of the eighteenth century, largely made of earth and wood, has been destroyed. The only exception was the outer tower of the gate, which stood at the end of the bridge that passed through the outer ditch of the fortress.
The castle has a square scheme (70 x 75 m), its wings surround an approximately square courtyard.
The wings of the building are complemented by towers in the form of bastions at its corners, next to the western exterior façade, joins the former depot of gun-powder, with an octogonal and one floor scheme. The formation with corner bastions and inner courtyard of the Mikó fortress followed the Renaissance plan of the castles, popular during the reign of Bethlen Gábor, whose history is undoubtedly rooted in the architecture of Italian castles.
Its spread in Transylvania is most likely due to Giacomo Resti, being related to the activities of the architect in Verona. The corners of the castle’s exterior façade – apart from the south wing – were made out of wood sculptures. On the sloping bastions of the front walls there are two windows, the last floor having the role of protection, which are currently invoked by canonists.
The main entrance of the castle lies in the central axis of the eastern part. Also above the exterior tower of the gate, and the semicircular entry, with rustic stone frames, there is an inscribed board, which reminds us the construction of the period of the german-roman emperor Karol IV. (1711–1740). The wings of the east, north, west and bastions have two floors. In the 1970 survey, the southern wing is shown as having a single level, which was raised with two more floors. We do not have information about the interior of the castle from the 17th century, in contemporary sources, only the golden bastion and the dining room are mentioned.
In 1730 a chapel was built in the south-western bastion, of its former ornament remained only stucco ornaments of the modest baroque ceiling. In the south-western façade, gothic windows were placed, which were put there in the 19th century. The building retains a wide variety of types of bolts in its present form: the oldest ones were usually dong bolts, dong-strap or dong bolts with drawers, and later these were generally Czech bolts. This diversity, as well as the results of the archaeological research, suggests that the 18th century constructions largely restructured the internal allocation of the building, built by Ferenc Mikó in the 17th century.
The castle was once surrounded by a dry ditch, which was filled, but the southern section of the outer ditch that surrounds the castle is still identifiable.
Mikó Fortress is one of the best preserved Renaissance monuments in the Szekler area. A few years ago, archaeological research and wall research began, which was preceded by restoration work.
These restoration works started in 2010, thanks to the efforts of Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania. As a result of the support of Hunor Kelemen, Minister of Culture, Mikó Castle regained its old glow and splendor.